I Am Still Fighting the Sticker War

A few comments were hurled my way recently about products getting good reviews despite card companies using sticker labels for autographs instead of having them hard-signed by the athletes.

As anyone who has read Wax Heaven knows, I have been one of the biggest anti-sticker guys in The Hobby. I have been preaching my beliefs on why all brands should feature on-card autographs since 2007.

Today, I still feel this way but have to accept reality. As much as I’d like to see companies toss aside labels, I know it’s just never going to happen and no amount of complaining is going to help.

Yes, we can form a group to boycott a product like Triple Threads which costs nearly $200 dollars per box and features labels but take a look around. On forums and other blogs, collectors absolutely love the brand and will continue to support the companies.

I believe if a product offers something great but features sticker autographs, it should not be punished. One example would be Upper Deck Basketball, which features labels but also 300 cards for $60 dollars, including three “hits”. That to me is a winner, even with stickers.

Now, should I review a product that costs $400 dollars and has labels …. there’s just no way I could defend something like that. But for a low-end release like a flagship, I am really not bothered by it any longer and will just look for the positives like great photography and designs.

For the record, I believe in baseball, Topps killed the competition in 2009 and producing several brands with on-card autographs didn’t exactly hurt. From Topps & Bowman Chrome, to Heritage and Allen & Ginter, I believe Topps went out of their way to appease collectors as much as financially possible in 2009.

When the end of the year awards arrive, I believe they will be rewarded for their on-card baseball releases. I truly believe that come 2010, Topps will make an effort to produce 50% of their baseball releases with hard-signed cards.

To a collector who has pulled hundreds of sticker scribbles like the one you see below, something is better than nothing.



  1. Considering the number of products out there and the numbers of autos in the products stickers are necessary so that every auto that’s pulled isn’t a redemption. Granted, there are brands that have, and will hopefully continue to have, on card autos but how far in advance are those brands planned out? When do those cards get sent to the players? I would imagine that it’s possible for everything to have on-card autos while minimizing redemptions, but I would also guess that products would be delayed far too long thus creating even more hobby frustration.

  2. How much extra per box/pack/case are you willing to pay for stickers?

    I dislike stickers but have gotten to like them because of the value end-result of the few boxes that I buy.

    An example I’m trying to illustrate – imagine if in 2000, Topps got Albert Pujols to sign thousands of autos for $5 each. If Topps still had those stickers today, they could continue to produce Pujols auto cards at a very reasonable cost.

    Imagine if it was hard-signed. Topps would have to pay quite a bit to produce each Pujols card and that really extra cost vs. a 2000 sticker cost would get passed to you in the price of the box of cards. The cost involved probably would even limit how much Topps would release.

    Imagine if a Triple Threads on-card product cost $500-600 a box because superstars command a lot of money nowdays to sign, compared to if today’s $150 box price was because the stickers were signed when the superstars were nobodys, prospects, or early in their MLB career that they didn’t command as much per auto to obtain.

  3. Agreed. People who don’t review products simply don’t get it. You can bash every product simply becuase it has sticker autos. there are numerous elements that go into judging, grading and reviewing a product and whether or not a product utilizes stickers or hard signed is simply one component.

  4. My biggest issue with stickers if how they are being used. Simply slapping them on the face of basic looking cards, or ones with piss-poor designs are bothersome. In a product like Triple Threads I actually find them to look pretty neat.

    There are drawbacks to stickers as we all know — the most problematic is when companies mix up the signatures — but Mario is right: something is better than nothing.

    For collectors, the influx of stickers is actually a good thing as players are more than likely to sign hundreds or thousands of those labels in just a few instead of spending more time fumbling around with cards — which also could be damaged in the process. The result of sticker graphs is more signatures available to the collector. Seriously, did anyone think we’d be able to get autos of Griffeyor David Wright for like $40? That’s a pretty good deal for a certified card (sticker or not) considering the prices other signed items of these players would cost.

    My preference is for on-card, but a sticker works OK in some cases. My one and only Albert Pujols auto is a sticker (2002 Diamond Kings “Diamond Cut Collection” /200) and I was able to get it for like $100 BECAUSE it is a sticker. If it was on card I’d have to pay more.

  5. The cost is actually more for the stickers because players dont differentiate. Not only do you have to pay to fly someone out to view the signing, but you also have to pay the workers to affix them. Thats definitely an extra cost. The only prohibitor is planning, which as we saw with Triple Threads and most sticker products, remains terrible.

  6. Not sure if I’m a fan of the sticker or not. Yes high end products should be on card, but again I can’t see thousands of cards and no stickers. I would think that companies have a machine to affix the stickers, but then again they are sheets. I would be happy to have a sticker auto of a player I wanted, but most of the time I pull a nobody who is happy just to be paid.

  7. It costs pretty much the same amount to make on card autos and sticker autos. The companys problem is that they must send out the finished auto cards way in advance to the atheletes, who more than likely could take monthes to return the cards because of all their other endorsement/ autograph responsibilities thatmust be taken care of. But luckily I have come up with a solution to solve the problem. Lets use upper deck as my example. So most likely upper deck will come out with a few products that feature autos as one or more of your hits in a box. And usually they can get 1 or 2 products out that have on card autos.so my solution is create a 50 card set entitled Star Autos, but hopefully a name more creative. Then have all these autos hard signed. Then distribute these autos through all your products with autos, so theorectically you could get the same auto in say spectrum and sp authentic, then you could include the set specific autos as well, but they would probably have to be stickers.

  8. One person alone won’t stop stickers from being made. Seriously, it will take many of us complaining. As for the idea about on-card autographs, you only have to go back to 1996 and do what Skybox did with Autographics. They were all on card and inserted into various products. I still think the key is to hire people around the country to do signings for UD. The cards would be shipped to them and they should be able to get them done faster than the current process. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I’d rather have an on-card redemption that I have to wait for than a live sticker autograph.

  9. I’m fed up with stickers. I want a signed CARD not a f’ing sticker. This is lunacy that we are collecting signed small ass stickers that cramp anyones signature into looking terrible or simply falling off of the sticker that just happens to be attached to a card.

    The ONLY way companies will change using stickers is if the hobby community demands it, and stands up to their use. And not to sound rude towards you Mario, because you know I respect you, but I just can’t imagine giving a product great ratings with stickers. I know you are looking at the product as a whole and its price structure, but how can a product receive the highest grade yet have a sticker?

    I also think (opinion here) that the cost per autograph is no different or incredibly small for a player to sign a card verse sticker. Players don’t differentiate, or know the difference of doing either makes towards their cards. I’d wager 95% of them could give a damn what you ask them to sign as long as you pay their fee.

    @VOTC – Reviewing products doesn’t have a damn thing to do with knowing how to judge a product based on stickers or not. A product simply shouldn’t get a A+ for stickers, it logically doesn’t make sense. You would be saying a product is the top of its class, superior to its peers, but has a major character flaw that the majority of the hobby recognizes as a bunch of crap.

    However, I will say, one thing the companies could do to lessen the harsh view of stickers is provide some type of proof/research as to how these stickers will last over time. The size and uglyness can be fixed and worked on with creative design, but the issue of them becoming brittle or peeling really worries me. To the point where I sold all of my sticker autographs, which was a enormous collection of Premier/Prime Cuts cards that I just didn’t want to bother taking a risk on.

  10. I just wish Topps would move away from the tacky silver stickers and use some kind of clear sticker.
    The shiny silver stickers stuck out like a sore thumb.
    A clear sticker doesn’t take away from the card design or auto and can make it look like the actual card has been signed.

  11. They use the clear stickers in basketball & football. They look good.

    I guess they want to finish the silver ones, which aren’t fun to look at anymore.

    PS – I think they looked great in 2007 Finest.

  12. Personally, I think cards are only truly auto’d if they’re hand-signed. If I hand in my rent with a check with a sticker on it I’ll be on the street in a week.

    That said, in most cases I don’t mind stickers. If I’m stockpiling autos from a bunch of players I don’t care about, or buying a lower end box where the auto is a bonus, the stickers would be cheaper. In something like Topps Chrome FB, the boxes are still pretty cheap and the auto’s actually look nice.

    However, if I’m specifically targeting a rookie or favourite player I only look at hard-signed. There’s no way stickers should be on higher-end boxes, but I never buy those kinds so don’t really care either way.

  13. I personally dont mind the Cheep sub $100 – $150 dollar stuff with sticker autos as I understand that its quicker for the card companies to get the player to sign, get back to the company and send out.

    After all I’ve been waiting for 11 months now to get a redemption back from UD for a KEN GRIFFEY JR Auto:

    However, I think the prime/ high end product should have on card autos. Be real, if we are going to shell out some real paycheck $$$ at least reward us with on card autos.

  14. I’m in general agreement with Beaverman. A big part of the problem is that there is a huge backlog / library of autographed stickers just waiting for some hobby brand to glom on to. It’s even worse than that, because the autographed stickers, are in most cases I would assume, a sunk cost.

    The problem is compounded by the fact that any card company routinely overpays to get those autos, whether driven by Player’s Association extortion, or competitive pressure from other card makers (or both).

    I mean, really, what is any person or company going to do with (I don’t know, stab in the dark) 5000 Raja Bell autographed stickers?

    Especially now that sport licenses have consolidated, I’d think that each card company now has a library of auto stickers for certain sports that they can’t even really use anymore. That almost makes them more of a liability, and not just a sunk cost. If I were card company, I might try to sue to recover those costs originally made with an understanding and basis of agreement. Removal of those licenses basically makes some of those thousands of stickers practically useless.

    Just more reasons why auto stickers production “conveniences” are clearly now not worth either the headache of holding on to unusable inventory for the foreseeable future, or worth acquiring new ones.

    Plan ahead, run a tight ship, and get autos on the card, or don’t include them at all. If card companies either reduce, or stop asking for player autos, those players and their agents are going to wonder where the money went.

    Players may be more amenable to lowering their fees, being responsive about signing, and signing like a grown-up, if the opportunities for autos goes down from 40 to 3 (or 1?).

    Nothing like easy money taken away to stir the pot.

    On-card autos or nothing.

  15. Something just crossed my mind that I havent read. The idea that card companies can “vault” the stickers to be used years from now say 10-20 years. For example now they are buying signature items of well name players then cutting the auto off and inserting them into products as “cut signatures.” Well the sticker autograph if it doesnt fade allows card companies in the future to use the stickers in their vault not having to spend more money attaining items signed checks or other items. Instead they can pull from their vault.

    Now, weather card companies are actually doing that remains to be seen, but its an interesting idea if they are/intend on doing that.

  16. I love the “Vault” concept. Of course, the company who has them would have to stay in existance for 10-20 years or if they went out of business someone else could buy them.

    I personally like the sticker cards over the on card autos. My feeling is that I am getting 2 items, one, an actual card and two, an actual sticker that was signed by someone.

    The Topps stickers look real cool, but the on card auto don’t seem to have the same effect.

    A comment about one player: Chris Johnson of the titans. He signs his cards CJ, I wonder how much topps paid him for his auto. However, they way he signs he could of signed 10s of thousands stickers. If Topps wanted to they probably could flood the market with his auto. A CJ auto in every box. Now it might reduce the value but I bet anyone who got one would be happy to get one instead of say Marcus Monk.

  17. i remember seeing a johnny podres auto pulled out of 09 triple threads and he died last year so obviously they are stockpiling stickers.

  18. Stickers are a neccessary evil. We all know that, and there are times when the incorporate reeasonably well into the card design.

    To the person who said on-card autos don’t have the same effect.
    You haven’t looked at enough cards.

  19. “A few comments were hurled my way recently…..”

    Why does it seem that you attempt to characterize any criticism sent your way in a negative light, Mario?

    As if you’re exempt from criticism?


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