I’ll show you mine…
If you’re like me, you have more cards in boxes than you know what to do with. Small boxes, large boxes, multi-row boxes, toploader boxes… For most cards, their final resting place (before the inevitable trash can or recycle bin of fate) will be a cardboard box, never to be seen by human eyes ever again. It’s an efficient method of card storage, but efficiency often comes at the price of emotional connections. Sometimes, we want to keep cards viewable, even if we are the only ones who ever view them. And for that, we have binders.
Binders can hold a great number of different things. You name it and there’s a pocketed binder page made for it. Comic books, coins, postcards – if it’s flat, it fits in something. Nothing though, aside from a single sheet of paper, fits better than the 9-pocket sports card page. There’s just something about pages of plastic-encased cardboard that just feels right. Some people put every card in pages. Others limit the honor to a select few. In any case, I have just one question: what’s in your binder?
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Unfinished business (scanning last year’s cards…)
Well, it’s that time of year again… Florida is relevant for baseball, prospect lists are coming out left and right, and I’m still digging through a backlog of 2015 cards to scan in the hopes of closing out 2015 before Opening Day (probably not happening…). But the card releases don’t stop, so I have to let you know what to expect in 2016. One thing’s for sure – there’s going to be a lot for Mets fans to chase in 2016.
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Back in packs, RCs are stacked
Heritage and I have a strange relationship. When the debut edition became the hottest product of 2001, I chose to sell while it was hot rather than chase the set. I skipped the next decade of Heritage and have bought some each of the four years since, never quite finishing any sets and always falling short of getting my money’s worth. Still, I keep coming back to be somewhat disappointed the next year…
Heritage High Number is a different story. I skipped it in 2012, bought a set at about full price in 2013 and made most of my money back on the autograph, and then never got around to buying a set in 2014. When I finally did pick one up the next year at a steep markdown, I still made back about half the price on the autograph. Not a bad track record, but there’s only so much you can get out of the 100-card factory set format. 2015 Heritage High Number though returned to a standard pack format and in the process became a strong contender for the hottest product of 2015.
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Buybacks are back, alright!
It was a dismal year for Topps Archives, so the announcement of another Archives product at the end of the year was a bit confusing. Would this be a second helping? A non-card product like those Tristar autographed 8x10s? Or something completely different? As it turned out, 2015 Topps Archives Signature Series was the second coming of 2004 Topps Originals and brought with it everything good and bad about that release.
2004 was the height of the retired player autograph boom. In addition to the usual retired player products that were all the rage back then, buyback autographs took center stage with 2004 Topps Originals and 2004 Donruss Timelines. All four (yes, four, such a foreign concept today…) licensed manufacturers had done buybacks previously (though Fleer didn’t get the autograph part and just slapped handwritten serial numbers on some old cards and stuck them into packs), but these products merged the concept with the one-hit-per-pack insertion method. The end result was a pack that, for about $50, would yield a $5 autograph from a minor ’80s star on a card that was far from pack fresh.
Archives Signature Series takes that model and, um, does the exact same thing. There are some notable changes though. First, cards are packed in magnetic holders instead of cheap snapdowns. Second, players who were active in 2004 and have since retired are now included. And third, the choice of cards is more like Donruss Timelines with all sorts of oddballs in the mix, many as 1/1s. And that’s really all that’s changed in 11 years.
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A Case of Redemption
After a dismal 2014, I’d had enough. This just wasn’t fun anymore. My plan was to back off of hobby boxes and go with breaks whenever that made more sense. As plans go, it wasn’t necessarily a bad one. It lasted 8 months. Despite a strong start to 2015, I stuck with my plans to cut back, limiting myself to whatever retail I could find and an occasional hobby box for a select few products. Team and player breaks filled in the gaps, along with the usual purchases on the secondary market. And then this happened.
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Old hobby formats die hard
If you look at the biggest failures of the last few years for Topps, two factors are recurring themes: mini cards and novelty factory sets. Topps Mini was a no-show at this year’s national convention after last year’s version hit 75% off at the Topps web site. Bowman Chrome Mini has been a tough sell even at 50% off the wholesale price (and shows no signs of coming back for 2015). Topps Heritage High Number ditched the factory set format after two years of dismal sales and turned into one of the best products of the year. 2015 was the year of Topps learning its lessons, apparently.
But old habits die hard. Unable to resist temptation, Topps dipped back into the well of failure twice in late 2015. Topps Mini returned in factory set form, embodying the worst of both worlds and trying to make work what even Bowman Chrome couldn’t succeed at. And Topps Heritage ’51 Collection came seemingly out of nowhere, adding a fourth 2015 Topps baseball product to the Heritage lineup. The only one in factory set form. And with lots of minis! This is not the product the hobby needed or wanted, though it isn’t without redeeming value. Not entirely.
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