The gorgeous card you see above you comes from 2004’s Topps Originals Signature Edition and believe it or not, is quite rare. This card is what’s referred to as a “buyback”, which is essentially the process in which a card company buys up their old releases, adds a fancy foil stamp, and has the player sign it. The now “new” card is then inserted into a high-end product with a premium price tag. At the time of its release, 2004 Topps Originals was a one card per pack break which sold anywhere between $75-$100 per pack depending on how generous your card shop owner was.
Topps appeared to strike oil with this idea as the buyback was well-received and eventually became a regular fixture for Topps in a product called Archives. As is usually the case with Topps, however, they did not create this idea. Much like Topps was second in producing the pack-inserted autograph (1990, Upper Deck) and the game-used relic (1997, Upper Deck) Topps took the idea of another, IMO, much greater company. This time, Topps borrowed from none other than Donruss’, Recollection Collection, which was produced in 2001.
Recollection Collection absolutely carried the card industry on its frail back for a couple of years and won the hearts of very fastidious collectors, young and old. Donruss R.C. was a product that was somehow universally beloved. Unfortunately, it alone could not save Donruss, as the company was soon purchased by Playoff L.P. and things went downhill from there. By 2009, the magic of the Donruss brand was long gone and the memory of Recollection Collection, tarnished. Eventually, Panini America swooped in and purchased what was left of Donruss and attempted to carry on their legacy but without logos or team names, nothing was ever the same.
I got off the subject, forgive me. This is about a company so artistically and now likely financially bankrupt that they stole an idea that was beloved and absolutely beat it to within an inch of its life over the past decade. What made Recollection Collection so special is that due to Donruss’ impending doom, the company never had an opportunity to re-hash the idea over and over again. That in turn has made the card above (’86 Donruss RR) highly valuable and incredibly hard to find. These Recollection Collections are the equivalent of finding an ultra rare Pokemon in the wild, which in this particular case, would be eBay.
If you add in all the reprints, buybacks, and buyback autographs, there are over 40 different 1987 Topps Jose Canseco rehashes. There are identical (minus the stamp) buyback autographs released in 2016, 2017, 2020, and 2021. This move ultimately waters down the market and lowers the value of all of these buybacks, meaning that if you pull one fresh out a pack of 2021, you’re in the red almost immediately. I’m not an investor nor do I have a store to sell cards but for the price unopened baseball cards sell for these days, making some money back should be a priority if you want to continue thriving in this so-called hobby.
I can understand continuing to re-release buyback autographs of an extremely iconic card like Jose Canseco’s 1987 Topps Rookie Cup but the company has gotten so lazy that it is now repeating the same buyback of much less memorable Canseco issues with the only difference being the serial number and foil stamp. If you’re a collector who can barely afford a product like this, sure, it’s great pulling a 4th year Rookie Cup buyback but how about a 1998 Topps Chrome buyback that was in the previous two Archives releases?
I’m sure the usual Topps White Knights will come to the company’s defense but if you think about it, there’s just no excuse. Topps Chrome made its debut in 1997, that’s over 20 years of releases to choose from not even counting inserts. Stadium Club has been around even longer and I’ve also seen the same card from that brand featured more than once in Archives. Surprisingly, Topps did something right by including the much lesser known ’87 Topps Mini buyback but sadly that card is a 1/1 meaning that it sold for over $300.
Now the fun part will be waiting to see 2022 Topps Archives. My theory is that this “1/1” will be featured in their checklist but this time with a print run of 70-80 copies. They’ve done the exact same thing so often that there’s just no way it doesn’t happen again. If I’m right, the poor fool who spent way too much for the 2021 Mini will be left holding the now worthless bag. I get the history and brand loyalty but if there’s one thing Topps has not done since the monopoly started, it’s look out for collectors and their own customers.
Hopefully, Fanatics works a little harder for us.