2014 Topps Tribute BB Review

Topps released 2014 Topps Tribute Baseball last Friday.  There were a lot of eyes on this product because the last few high-end baseball releases from Topps (Five Star, Triple Threads, etc.), haven’t exactly set the world on fire.  I think we were all hoping that Topps would make the adjustments on this product and have it rock.  Sadly, I think they dropped the ball on another high-end product.

Topps continues to increase the price on many of these products.  This one was no different.  Topps raised the cost on this product by nearly 5%.  I’m sure they’ll tell you that it’s because it went from 3 autographs to 4.  However, they took 2 base cards outs of every pack.  Base cards don’t sound like an expensive addition, but a lot more goes into it than that.  These specific base cards are definitely more expensive to produce because they are on rainbow foil plus they are thicker card stock.  In addition to that, the boxes and cases weight significantly less so it saves them on shipping.  Each case will weigh about a pound less.  Doesn’t sound like much, but consider there are over 1,000 cases of this and you’re talking about a significant savings.  I would imagine Topps saved whatever the extra autographs cost them by taking out those 2 base cards.  Plus, it’s not as if the 4th autograph is extra.  It’s replacing a memorabilia card, which isn’t free.  And if they took out memorabilia pieces of guys like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth, than they probably saved money by making it 4 autos instead of 3.

There simply isn’t enough content to justify the $250+ price point.  They added Greg Maddux and Mark McGwire autographs this year.  You know how many Greg Maddux Tribute autos have shown up on eBay so far?  A total of 4.  And they are all the same card #ed to 25, so I’m guessing there are 25 Maddux in the entire product.  There has only been 1 McGwire on and it was #ed to 5.  Topps simply has to do a better job beefing up the checklist.  I realize that costs more, but I don’t see how they have a choice.  I had a customer break 4 cases and he got as many as 8 of one player.  I said it before in my write up about Five Star BB, but I’ll say it again.  There are SO MANY good players out there who aren’t in these high-end Topps BB products.  Topps needs to do 25 cards of 300 guys instead of 300 cards of 25 guys.  That’s just an example, but it’s similar to what they do in products like Five Star and Tribute.  No question it costs more to do it my way, but you can’t cut corners on high-end stuff.

Here is one thing that Topps should do for next year’s Tribute.  This doesn’t cost Topps ANYTHING extra.  There’s no excuse them not doing this.  The Parallels of the autographs should be signed in the color ink that corresponds with the card.  Chipper Jones did, for some reason, this year.  He appears to be the only one.  And it sells for a ton because it looks awesome.

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Those are some nice looking cards.  Why not do that with every parallel?  Have the base signed in black and then all the other parallels in whatever color the card is.  That would add so much collectibility to the cards while not costing Topps a dime.  Again, this is a simple fix.  And more needs to be done than just this, but it’s certainly a start.

These other ideas aren’t nearly as easy or cheap as the ink variations.  Yet, they are needed just as much to make this product vibrant again.

The first thing Topps has to add is some super high end chase.  This can be in the form of cut autos, MLB Logo autos, Bat Knobs, Bat Barrels, Booklet cards, jumbo patch autos, etc.  They have a very small amount of that stuff in there now.  However, it’s not enough.  There needs to be a hit like this in every case.  That’s right, every case should have a “case hit” that is one really nice card.  Right now they tell you that you get 1 patch card per case.  So you’re supposed to pay $2,000 for a case and get a David Freese 1-color patch #ed to 24.  Thanks Topps.  I’m not saying you should get a Mike Trout Tag Patch in every case, but give me 1 card like that in every case.  Make the checklist large, that’s fine.  At least give customers the idea that there will be 1 really nice card in every case.  It might not always be the best player, but at least you know it’s in there.  Simply having a bunch of low numbered autographs doesn’t cut it.  How hard would it be to have one of these cards in every case?  And if they don’t have enough memorabilia to do that, then put either one of those or a true A-level autograph #ed to 10 or less like Koufax, Aaron, Mays, Trout, McGwire, Maddux, Chipper, Griffey, etc.  And don’t slip guys like Don Mattingly and Ryne Sandberg into the A-level.  They were great players and they do sell, but not for enough to be a case hit.

The other issue I have are all the memorabilia cards.  There shouldn’t be anyone who is not a superstar in the relic sets.  These packs have a $50 SRP for crying out loud!  Here is a list of a few of the names on the relic checklist: Tony Cingrani, R.A. Dickey, Jose Fernandez, Shelby Miller, Taijuan Walker, Gerrit Cole, Aroldis Chapman, Zach Grienke, Roy Halladay, Chris Sale, Billy Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, Wil Myers, Matt Moore, Andre Dawson, Travis D’Arnaud, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Matt Harvey, Felix Hernandez, Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Dominic Brown, Chris Davis, Phil Niekro and Justin Verlander.  Okay, you get the idea.  Many of those are great players.  Some are not.  Either way, none of them should be in a product that costs this much.  If Topps can’t get only the best jerseys, then at least use patches only of the lower tier players.  That way every relic is either a superstar or a patch.  Again, this isn’t base Topps.  You can’t fool collectors into thinking a jersey card of Justin Verlander is worth $30.  He’s probably the best name on that list above and you’d be lucky to get $10 for him.

This next thing is a step that Topps will never take.  However, it’s one that could tremendously help this (and any) product.  If you’re going to stick us with a $10 jersey card, at least make sure that pack has a decent parallel.  Let’s collate this product so that the worse hits all come with a nice parallel.  Some of the parallels from this product out sell the hits anyway.  A Derek Jeter Blue /99 sold for $17.51 yesterday.  I guarantee that’s more than the majority of the relic cards.  A Gold /25 sold for $95 BIN.  Why not breakdown all the better parallels and pair them up with all the hit cards that will sell for next to nothing?  This is a lot of work, but again, you can’t cut corners on high-end products.  Each player has 181 parallels this year.  Just think if you took only the 10 best and put them with the worst 1,810 hits.  Obviously that doesn’t fix the product, but it certainly doesn’t hurt it.  I realize this is asking a lot, but does Topps not owe it to the consumer paying $250 to try their best?

The reality is that Topps takes content/value out every year and continues to raise the price.  Some of this isn’t their fault.  An autograph of Bob Gibson in 2014 Tribute isn’t worth as much as it was when they made 2012 Tribute.  As these guys have more autographs, they will certainly become worth less and less.  Topps can’t, entirely, control this.  However, can we not at least change the photo from year to year?

2012:

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2014:

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Why would you buy the 2014 version if you already have the 2012 version?  These cards look almost identical.  You can’t change the design more or put the photo on the other side?  That’s just laziness if you ask me.  In 2013 they took all the cards out of the cases.  This year they took out 2 base cards. I realize they’ve added things like bat knobs, a 4th autograph, more parallels, etc.  However, they’ve taken out more than they’ve put back in.  In addition to that, they haven’t ever really updated the checklist.  They use the same core of guys every year.  They should put Bob Gibson in the product one year and then retire him from that product for a few years.  You can’t use the same guys every single year and expect to keep getting the same value.  Greg Maddux is selling for about $100 this year.  But if they use him every year, he’ll be selling for $50 by the time the 2016 version comes out.

Simply put, these high-end products require more attention to detail.  Topps has to take the time and effort to make sure they are adding and changing enough to make each year new and exciting, while delivering strong content.

If you have any ideas or wish to add anything, I’d welcome any comments.  Maybe one day Topps will read some of this stuff and make the adequate changes.  Until then…

 

 

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