Oh, Topps (brief thoughts on Topps and Strasburg)

11 06 2010

There’s a lot of hand wringing going on about Topps and their decision to issue a Scott Strasburg rookie card as #661 and then make it exclusively available on their lottery of a website.  I just wish I were surprised.

It’s sad when disappointment becomes your base emotion when dealing with Topps.  But I think this was a predictable turn of events.  This is the company, after all, who’s been pumping out gimmicks for the last five years and the most creative things they’ve come up with are photoshoping, a squirrel, flipping press plates, and short prints.  I’m actually quite surprised that Topps didn’t gimmick up the gimmick even further.

This should be obvious by now, but I’ll say it anyway – Topps is not concerned with the set builders like me.  They figure guys like me will always be around and continue to pad their bottom line while they make sets more and more difficult to complete.  There are probably even a few hard-core collectors who will not consider their set complete until they land the Strasburg. 

The average non set collector just won’t care whether Topps numbers the card 661, SP1, or even XJ-47.  They want their shot at cardboard gold, and this Strasburg fellow is their lottery ticket.  These are the people who Topps is courting now, and they’ve got them hooked.  But I don’t think realistically that this is a sustainable market to tap, and I hope Topps realizes the same. 

Of course, they’ve been tapping that for the last five years now, so maybe it is sustainable.  Or at the least it’s becoming the new norm.  So set collectors will have to find themselves adapting to the new reality, if they haven’t already, and part of that adaption is the expectation of gimmicks.  And that means the next time Topps fails to meet my expectations, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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