It’s no secret that 2018 Topps Stadium Club has been my favorite product of the year. I am no longer a box breaker, though, so my word doesn’t mean much these days but judging from collectors on forums, blogs, and Twitter … it is right up there as a favorite right next to ’18 Bowman, which was solely carried by a man named Shohei. My all-time favorite brand, Finest, barely made a blip while this year’s high-end releases have been completely eviscerated by everyone but group breakers trying to make their money back. Don’t even get me started on the flagship, which used boring photos, removed full career stats and in its place added social media handles.
The other day, @WatchTheBreaks posted a poll asking if The Hobby has gotten better or worse in the past five years. To me, this seemed like a risky move because unlike his “Everything is great” outlook, collectors on Twitter are fed up with Topps’ lazy efforts, redemption turnaround time, quality control issues, and other problems. Ivan went out on a limb asking this question but considering how one-sided his agenda is, even I was surprised by the results. With well over 300 votes, 51% chose “Worse”, which should come as no surprise to many. Collectors are fed up.
Has #TheHobby gotten better or worse in the past FIVE years?
— The Breaks (@WatchTheBreaks) July 5, 2018
Let me get it out of the way: I like Ivan. He is one of the few on Twitter who regularly supports collectors, bloggers, and anyone looking for help. He even reached out to me when I began writing again. However, it has been my experience that Ivan also marginalizes anyone who speaks out on what is wrong with the card industry today. It’s no surprise, given that he is the co-host of GoGTSLive, “The Hobby’s Web Show”, which regularly tosses softballs at important people in this industry and plays more like a 45-minute infomercial for trading cards. One segment is literally the two hosts reading sell sheets and swooning.
As well produced and entertaining as this show is and as likable a character as Ivan portrays, it didn’t take long for me to “turn the channel” sort of speak. If you’re looking for hard-hitting journalism related to our hobby, GoGTSLive is not for you. However, if you love FREE cards .. every major card manufacturer has made sure to provide a never ending supply, helping their viewership boom thanks to the world of Twitter prize hounds. One has to wonder how many viewers they would be able to keep if they stopped handing out prizes.
Look, I get it. I am not new to the inner workings of this Hobby. If you critique people in OR anyone with a glimpse inside the secret world of trading cards, expect to see the shills out in full force. In fact, while going off on Twitter earlier this week … I was shocked to get a response from Gellman of Sports Cards Uncensored, who in the early days of card blogs literally attacked everyone in an almost comically, “Boogie2988” like manner that made his early stuff cringe-worthy and hard to enjoy. His work today, has taken a turn and is much more professional to say the least.
I have talked with tons of industry people from every company that will easily confess when an idea was shitty or a specific product was a dog. There aren’t as many Kool Aid drinkers as you think.
— Gellman – Sports Cards Uncensored (@SCUncensored) July 4, 2018
Unfortunately, his defense makes no sense. Look, we all have our private conversations with hobby insiders. There is nothing special about that and if you have/had an important blog in the past decade, odds are you had many connections. My point was that no card company employee will ever go on record and admit a product was poorly executed or not well-received. The closest we have to an honest card company executive is Brian Gray of Leaf Trading Cards and he’s been rubbing people the wrong way specifically for his honesty for well over a decade.
A web show like GoGTSLive and websites like Cardboard Connection only serve one purpose: To push new product to collectors. In 2018, the only place to get honest opinions to the masses are card forums, card blogs, and to some extent, Twitter. Also, do not get it twisted. No matter how much you express your unpopular opinion, complain, or bitch and moan, these card companies do not care whatsoever. The only thing that matters to them is that they continue to sell out of every single product they produce and thanks to group breakers, this trend will continue for years to come.
Surprisingly, what began this entire Twitter mini-war was my praise of Stadium Club and the amazing photography Topps used. My question was a fairly simple one. Why is great photography a staple in just one Topps product every year? Topps is flooding the market with a new product almost every week, wouldn’t it be great if even HALF of those releases were produced with as much care as Stadium Club? Isn’t the goal to produce memorable baseball cards and keep collectors happy? Just how many cards from this year’s Finest will be remembered a year from now?
For those who missed the Twitter discussions, I have attached them below. At no point, did I ever attack Topps. I simply expect more from the only card manufacturer allowed to produce official Major League Baseball cards. If you’re going to starve Upper Deck and keep Panini and Leaf on the outside, at least put more effort into all your products and not just one. To me, Stadium Club was the proof I’ve been searching for all along. Topps Company can still create magic on card board. So why not do it more than once per year.
The hobby world may never know.
QUESTION: Why does the exclusive card company of @mlb only produce one product per year that actually puts in effort in photography selection and design, while releasing another 20+ that rely solely on Chrome, Refractors, and other gimmicks? #collect #thehobby pic.twitter.com/k4IGygIDeR
— Mario Alejandro (@TheWaxHeaven) July 3, 2018
You can’t tell me that good photography is reserved only for Stadium Club, but not for the flagship. It can AND has been for both in the past. @Topps needs to dump the lazy photographers from @GettyImages and right this ship now. #collect #thehobby pic.twitter.com/SCPtxcjK7N
— Mario Alejandro (@TheWaxHeaven) July 4, 2018
One final note regarding Ivan’s poll. Personally, if I were anything more than a Jose Canseco collector I would have bought a case each of 2018 Bowman, 2018 Stadium Club, and 2018 Finest. What does this mean? I AM A TOPPS JUNKIE. Always have been and always will be as long as they are producing the best Chrome and Refractor cards. It’s all those other products in between that have made me question Topps’ effort in all this and that is why I write today. I don’t expect 1991 effort in 2018 but I’d love to see improved designs, better photographs used, less of the constant errors … Oh, and one official competitor to keep Topps on its toes.
EDIT – At 8:14 AM on 7/8/18, as I was editing this article … Topps’ official Twitter account (and two related ones unfollowed @TheWaxHeaven. Looks like critique is not something that is appreciated in this hobby.