An Open Request to the Topps Chewing Gum Company…

I spent part of my weekend sorting through the complete 2009 Topps set.  I’ve got more than 30 years of Topps cards – they are the only cards I collect, in part because I started when there was only one brand and because with so many other brands out there, you have to pick one anyway.

I’m not completely done going through them.  I sort them alphabetically, give each a good look-see (front and back) so as to feel like I have at least seen the card, and then I either put each card in a sheet within a binder or in the “everybody else” boxes I have.  Any player that is either famous or has at least eight baseball cards gets a sheet and is in one of the 24 binders of baseball cards.  That way, if I want to see every Ryne Sandberg or Hanley Ramirez baseball card, I can do it.

Anyway, having done this, and knowing that Topps signed an exclusive deal to produce baseball cards for Major League Baseball, I just wanted to put my two cents into the process of determining next year’s production.

  1. Let’s stop putting out three or four different versions of cards and focus on a single set that is REALLY good.  We don’t need an Opening Day set, or some “retro” look card, or all that.   And stop with update sets.  You can offer some of that with series releases (see below).  What we need is something worth collecting – and interesting to the kids who will collect them.
  2. With #1 in mind, let’s make the complete set a bit more complete.  This year’s set is 660 cards.  However, there’s an update set that you cannot buy in its complete form (it comes out later).  And, with 30 teams and at least 10 – 15 cards dedicated to leaders and what not, that’s like 21 players on a team.  The 2009 set doesn’t include Jonathon Broxton.  We’re talking about the closer for the Dodgers – and he doesn’t get a card???  I’m not sure that I am advocating a 1200 card set (the 40 man roster for all 30 teams would be 1200 cards), but how about 1000 cards?
  3. 1000 cards is a lot of room for some fun stuff.  You get 24 players and the manager (team checklist on back) on all teams (750 cards).  You can have all the first round draft picks (30 cards), and five prospects per team (150 cards), events and records (10 cards), League Leaders and Award Winners (20 cards), and still have room for 40 cards that can be retro – meaning players or re-released cards or special events (Hall of Fame inductees), Mickey Mantle (who seems to appear in every set now), and what have you.  1000 is a great number.
  4. If you went with 1000 cards, let’s bring them out in waves.  They can all be available at the same time by October, but if newer cards were coming out every 10 weeks, it would give reasons to keep buying packs of cards throughout the season.  Get the first 250 ready by March 1 and sell them during spring training.  These would be managers, a bunch of guys you KNOW are going to be on the team, and go from there.  The May 1 set could get the next 250 out there, then you have the July 1 set,  and finally the September 1 set – which has your draft picks, hall of famers, and maybe a few prospects and anybody that should have been included but was missed.  Don’t offer complete sets until 9/1 – but allow for pre-ordering.
  5. Instead of offering different types of sets, offer different ways to buy the cards.  With and without gum.  10, 30, Teams, Specials.   Clear packs so you can see the top and bottom card before buying them as well as the foil packs.  However, they are ALL part of the same set.
  6. Cut the prices to make it possible for kids to get them with a minimal allowance.  Get them in big stores, grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores where kids can find them.
  7. And let’s work on the quality control.  In the 2009 set, there were TWO Mike Cameron cards.  Josh Beckett’s stats box was missing a column of data, and the columns themselves were out of order.  Geovany Soto’s rookie of the year card misspelled his name on the front.  There are at least two cards that have player summaries (the two or three sentences about that player) that are about the WRONG guy.  If you need someone for that job, give me a call.
  8. Since there are so many collectors cards with games on them, I’d like to see them go back to something they did in the middle 70s, and that’s put some baseball game outcome, or a player ranking system, on the back so kids could play a game against each other with the cards in some way.  Combine your baseball cards with a simple board game – and it would be like collecting cards and playing Strat-o-matic all at the same time.
  9. Put a code on the back sending them to the website for more cool stuff – like a lottery contest or something.  Get people excited about buying packs of cards for a chance to win a cool prize.

2 thoughts on “An Open Request to the Topps Chewing Gum Company…

  1. Paul:

    In the August 24, 2009 issue there is a great article about the card industry titled, “The Last Iconic Baseball Card”. The articles stated a sad fact that although the the card collecting industry’s sales peeked at $1.2 billion in sales in 1991, by 2008 those same sales had dipped to $200 million.

    As a former card collector, I reached a point where collecting cards had lost its fascination in about the late 1990’s. Over produced sets, to many companies, and an over abundance of inserts; not to mention sky rocketing prices were all factors in my slow fade towards collecting other memorabilia.

    Part of the fun of collecting was building the sets, going back to my childhood, and enjoying a hobby that cost little but was all part of enriching my baseball experience.

    Anyway, I would like to see the card industry go back to the basics. I am especially opposed to the subsets where they cut up uniforms, bats and gloves to create special cards. I see this as a desecration of baseball history.

    One thing that I found interesting in the SI article was the fact that by 2001 there were 43 Albert Pujols rookie cards available on the market. In 1989 Ken Griffey Jr.’s rookie card was his only true rookie card.

    I agree with you Paul, and all of your suggestions. When I was a kid, Topps released cards in a series that continued through the Spring and Summer, and my friends and I would mark-off our checklists as we purchased and traded cards throughout the Summer. As the Summer turned into Fall we hastily made trades to complete sets before the Football and Basketball sets started to hit the shelves of the stores.

    My jaw is still sore from chewing that wonderful pink-powdered gum, but I would give anything to see its return.

    In my excitement, reviewing your 9 suggestions, I can find no fault in all of your suggestions and if I could I would recommend that you, Paul Proia, be put in charge of marketing for Topps.

    Thanks for the thought provoking ideas. You’ll have to excuse me while I pull out my collection and longingly gaze at some of my favorite cards from the 1960’s and 1970’s.

  2. Thanks for the endorsement. I share some of the same memories – the checklists and racing to Mark Drugs to spend my allowance on packs of cards. Back in the day, I’d trade cards with Chris Noie or Pete Leuszler to complete sets. (Sadly, those sets are gone having given them away to friends in my youth. Oh to have those cards back!!!) Each spring, and occasionally through the summer, I buy a few packs…

    BTW, I saw that article and was amazed by the Pujols rookie count. 43!!!

    I remember that in the 1980s, you could buy the update boxes (132 cards) as a set. Topps put Griffey in one (I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think it was 1989 – and I got three boxes of ’em), and I have the Donruss rookie Griffey in a case.

    Wonder if I can send that list directly to Michael Eisner.

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