August 10, 2010

Topps talks about sticker autos

Upon arriving at the National one of the first things we did was make sure we got a ticket to the Topps Panel because it was said to be limited to the first 100 people, I believe. While I will admit I was a little skeptical of what could come out of this meeting, I was pleasantly surprised by how forthright the answers from the executives were.

The meeting was held upstairs in the convention center, with complimentary wet bar and hors d'oeuvres. Before the start of the meeting each guest was asked to write their name on the back of their ticket to be entered in some of the raffles they were doing later on.

The panel started the meeting with an introduction by each of the executives and a background on what they do at Topps, whether or not they are collectors, and what they have done in the past. It was followed by Mike (@toppscards on Twitter) telling us he cleaned out the closets in the office and brought stuff to give away. He started by raffling off some OMLB baseballs signed by Strasburg. Then back to business.

After the intro's they floor was open to ask questions and they took a great deal of them, and pretty much let people ask them stuff until no one else raised their hands. One of the questions that was asked was why they stopped producing some sets and not others, leaving people who enjoyed one set year in and year out with nothing to enjoy. Obviously this came down to profit, if they set bombed chances are you probably won't see it again. If it did well for a year or two and slowly declined (Turkey Red), they did away with it. It also seemed that this would be a one shot deal for Chicle if anyone liked that set.

One of the things that was very clear during this meeting was the significance of Stephen Strasburg and that Topps but all their eggs in one basket with this guy, so to speak. All of the guys seemed to be in agreement across the board that the Strasburg rookie cards and this years Bowman has been bigger than 2001 when Pujols and Ichiro were rookies. That alone should tell you how much product has been sold.

After all was said and done, they raffled off some more products and autographed items, and I was lucky enough to win a 2009 Bowman Football Draft Picks & Hobby box and the guys from Freedom Cardboard collectively won the last Strasburg ball they had.

After the meeting the guys stuck around so if you wanted to speak to them personally or introduce yourself you had the opportunity. Since I am not big on shouting out things, I waited until this point to ask Clay Luraschi, Topps' director of product development something I really wanted to know.

Sooz and I walked up and introduced ourselves to Clay and told him about our blog, but he was already familiar with it (score!). I told him that I needed to know why Topps continues to use the ugly silver stickers on their autographs rather than having the players sign the actual cards. He told me it was a matter of logistics and the accounting department, more or less. Topps has so many sheets of those stickers and they need to be used - otherwise, they would take a hit on the stickers already bought and signed - as unfortunate as it may sound to the collectors.

Luraschi also said that they have been trying to get more on card, which I have noticed, but there are instances where they just can't get the player to sign the cards or they pre-sell so much of a product, they try to get more players into a product to make sure the collector who purchases it gets as much value of out their money as Topps can provide.

While there were a great number of things talked about at this meeting this was the one thing I had been wondering about for years now and was glad that I had the opportunity to ask someone about it.

I think this panel was a great idea and that it should be a part of the convention again next with some of the other companies joining in as well. If each company did a panel each night after the show or at some point during the day I think it would really do wonders for both the company to listen to the collectors, and for the collectors to have a chance to voice their opinions and maybe learn a little bit about where the company is currently and where they plan on taking it over the next few years or so.


  1. I hope they eventually run out of those sticker autos. That would be great and then it's on card or nothing.

  2. Exactly, that would be the best. Although, they have started transitioning to clear stickers (Topps s2 has some) which is a positive move forward and hopefully a sign that their silver sticker supplies are starting to dwindle.

  3. What was the story behind Allen & Ginter?

    HA HA Word Verification: Uppreck


  4. The stickers will be more tolerable once they finish switching over to the clear ones.

  5. They will just drive down to Office Depot and buy more.

    WV = "evilnese"

    as in the Evilnese of sticker autos...ironic isn't it?

  6. Jay,

    I don't think anyone asked about A&G specifically. Definitely not during the Q&A session. If someone asked afterward, I do not know.

    I didn't buy any A&G this year, but reading your blog, I am guessing you wanted to know about the quality control issues. I hope Clay writes back to you soon.

  7. I think that this explanation has been deductively supposed for a while, and not only of Topps. It is nice to get calm and thoughtful confirmation straight from the source, to be certain.

    They are right, by the way. If I were Topps, I'd be trying to burn through those stickers in product as fast as reasonably possible, before the finance department has to do their audit. That's got to be a pile of sunk cost on the books.

    I think the key follow-up question, unless you got the answer already, is have they continued to get new stickers signed--clear or shiny--and why, if there's such a backlog of existing inventory?

    I hope the answer is "near zero", and that existing inventory is being used only when on-card doesn't make logistical sense.

  8. 1) of course the products with strasburg have been hotter than 2001 Pujols/Suzuki. The hobby is much different now. Topps puts out product and it gets to sit and be devoured for awhile before the next product comes along. In 2001, there were probably 2,500 releases so even in the hobby hotness of Pujols/Suzuki, product wasn't desired for very long because there were multiple releases one week or the next release was next week.

    Put one release per 3 weeks in 2001 and I bet Pujols/Suzuki products would have been just as hot/desirable as Strasburg stuff is in 2010.

    2) IMHO, another reason of accounting comes into play with silver stickers that Clay didn't mention. It's much cheaper to get autos when the player is not as popular or known. If you can pay $5-10 for Heyward's auto in 2008 or 2009 before he blew up, that's a lot of savings compared to the several tens or maybe a hundred dollars he might be able to command now to put his signature directly on a card now.

    I doubt they got any break with strasburg since he's been heavily touted and hyped from day 1 and didn't have a typical career-path of going from known just by hardcore hobby prospectors to exploding into national hobby love.