This will be the first blog bat-around I'm writing about. 2009 will be the first year since 1995 when I was collecting cards at the beginning of the year. I got back into collecting sometime in July last year so a lot of the base sets were already out and I wasn't (and still am not) aware of the history of certain sets.
What type of sets would you like to see produced in 2009 and beyond? What sets from 2008 and past years do you want to see return?
I would've liked to have Masterpieces return in 2009. I do have to say that discovering that set after I returned to collecting was a breath of fresh air. I hope Upper Deck can figure out a way to get these cards out to people. Even if it's a subset of another set then so be it. Masterpieces has a very "collectible" feel to it and that is exactly what you want to put in collectors hands. Topps Allen & Ginter has the same "collectible" feel. That set has a unique design, contains a variety of images (players and non-players alike), and most of all is aesthetically pleasing.
Unfortunately, the sets I would like to see return are sets from dead or non-licensed companies. Donruss's base offerings in 1994 and 1995 are probably my favorite sets. They have a good design and their inserts and parallels range from easy to find to limited in number and harder to find. Leaf and Leaf Limited were also sets I enjoyed collecting. I'm saddened by the fact that the Pinnacle brand is no longer around. Their mid-tier products were very nice and I always enjoyed collecting them. Fleer Ultra is another set I collected religiously when I was young. Sure their "insert in every pack" was blatant overkill but the product always seemed fresh to me (I'm still talking 90's).
Which brands would you like to see killed off? How could existing brands be improved and what new types of card sets would you like to see created?
I think these ideas go hand in hand. You need to destroy some product lines that aren't or repackage them to make them more fresh or modern.
It wouldn't break my heart to see Upper Deck X die. That is definitely a set that should have never of seen the light of day. I'm not even sure what they were thinking when they created that set. The only aspect of this set I would keep is the Exponent insert design. Maybe not the tier level aspect, but certainly the card design.
I think Goudey should be laid to rest. It doesn't really connect back to Upper Deck very well. They would probably be better off taking their O-Pee-Chee design they insert in their base set and made a set of those. I know Goudey is Upper Deck's answer to Heritage but Topps just has them beat with the amount of sets it produced so it can reach back and create retro sets with ease. Goudey seems like a stretch to me. Although I really liked Dave's idea of rehashing Fleer designs.
Ultimately, Upper Deck needs to reconnect with its own heritage and re-release some of its designs that were popular in the past. Timeline was trying to do this but it was poorly executed. They jammed about 6 different designs into one set. And to make matters worse, they just kept using the same players over and over in the set. What a set of wasted potential Timelines turned out to be. That 1993 SP design itself could've been made into a Heritage set all by itself. Maybe they could've rehashed the 1993 base card design and then used the 1993 SP design as the inserts or short print rookies. Something along those lines.
Upper Deck's claim to fame in the 90's was their holograms and foil technology even before Topps debuted their chrome technology. I don't know why they don't try to leverage that as their "signature." To me, Topps as a company has major impact points. They include some aspect of Chrome in almost all their sets which is their staple. Their Heritage set has major notoriety because of its nostalgic and universally recognized designs. Allen & Ginter has become a major flagship for Topps and it seems to draw in collectors of all types of cards. I can say that I'm probably one of the only people that has not collected that set (that's mostly because Kim is collecting it). But I've seen everyone else have Topps A&G on their wantlist which tells me that this brand is universal for collectors. They got it right with that set and I hope they don't screw it up in 2009 (assuming it's released).
Should new sets be geared more toward set collectors, or should the number of hits (autographs and game-used relics) be increased? What about short prints? Parallels? Inserts? Gimmicks?
I don't think all sets should be geared for set collectors but I do think that that aspect should be available. Think SP Authentic, does the base really matter? Honestly? No, people are going after those By the Letter autograph patches. But what about combining a set that's collectible with a powerful insert concept. What if you put letterman auto patches in base Upper Deck on a very limited print run? Sure you won't get 3 in a box, to be honest you may not even get one in a box. But maybe 1 in every other box? Does it make sense to produce a base set around an insert set? Look at Ballpark. What purpose does its base cards serve? It's a product that's entirely hits, base cards are completely out of place there.
Card companies seem to be producing sets geared toward different people. Relic collectors (Ballpark), Auto collectors (Co-Signers...stop laughing, Stadium Club Hobby), insert collectors (...drawing a blank), player collectors (Heroes) all have some product geared toward them. Oh yeah, and base cards and parallels for set collectors (lots).
Should it be like this? I don't know. A product like Sweet Spot certainly has a large following and high end products like Sterling and Prime Cuts seem to have a large following. So that model must be working for somebody.
I'm going to abstain from going too deep into Short Prints, Parallels, etc just because I think that's a very large topic that would take up more than just this one blog. I started to write about Short Prints and realized it would be bigger than what I've already written. So I will tackle those at another time.
What do you love about current cards, what do you hate, and where should the card companies go from here?
What I love about the current cards is the photography and player selection. If a player played in the majors during the year, odds are there's at the very least one card of him (and that card will have parallels). There are rookies and up-and-comers who are knocking on the doors of the majors that have cards. Those guys may be the breakout star of the year next year. You may be holding their rookie autograph card a full year before they hit it big and what a surprise it'll be when they do. You may have felt like an idiot when you pulled it but you'll look like a genius when he makes it big and you still have the card.
The photography is sensational. I think Upper Deck base has some of the best photography I've seen on a card. Stadium Club also has some stunning shots. But I think Upper Deck really should be commended on their photography for their 2008 set. That was one of the first things I noticed when I started collecting the '08 base. The photos are crisp and clear.
I hate the having a parallel or autograph insert in a set just for the hell of it. Seriously, you don't need to put a bloody parallel in every single set you make. It's okay to skip out on it if it doesn't fit with the rest of the set (read: Timeline). I don't like the overload of relics. You can make them harder to find, it's okay. This isn't the "no child left behind" where every person HAS to have a relic when they buy every product. We can make it without them in certain sets, I promise. Crappy autos are another one. What happened to exclusive autos of Derek Jeter or Ken Griffey Jr limited to 5000 produced randomly inserted in packs? Shiny cool technology inserts that can be cheaply made can replace the glut of "this guy isn't even good" autos. While I think it's cool to pull an auto, telling me there's an auto in a box doesn't get me excited. I know the chance of pulling something good is slim to none.
Instead, why not make a product people are interested in, throw some pretty cool inserts that are hard enough to get that they aren't overkill, and throw a fancy patch or auto 1:N boxes. That way, you can have that excitement when you actually pull one of those because they're so limited. You don't get auto and patch burnout. It really isn't exciting when you're tossing relics to the side like a cheap overproduced insert. Limit the autos an inserts, save yourself some money and then pass the savings onto us so we can buy more packs, boxes and cases.
It's up to card companies to listen to all the different types of collectors and gauge what people are asking for. If Topps can get it right with Allen & Ginter then I know there's hope. Now, it's also the card company's responsibility to be looking to the future. I'm sure Upper Deck didn't think about creating a product like Ballpark when they put the first Game Used Patches in their product over a decade ago. Much like any other entertainment driven product (like videogames), it's very hard to get the formula right. Sometimes you stumble across it and other times you anticipate and deliver ahead of time. But there's such thing as product burnout and people can easily turn on a very successful or beloved product if you tinker with it too much.
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