Topps has gotten lean and mean with its 2011 Topps Magic Football card release. Bypassing hobby shop dealers and retailers, the company announced Wednesday that the product would be sold only through the company's store and consist entirely of rookie cards.
Topps seems to be cutting right to the chase of what drives collectors these days: rookies and guaranteed autographs at a fairly reasonable price point. Magic will be sold at $19.99 (plus shipping) for a mini box that will consist of ten rookie cards and one base rookie auto parallel.
Cutting hobby shops out of a potentially profitable issue didn't sit well with some, however. This year's NFL rookie class has been part of the reason some have experienced strong sales since the start of the season.
“My store would have gladly taken cases of this product were they to have been offered,” said Mike Fruitman, owner of Stadium Sports Cards in Aurora, Colo. “Any attempt to circumvent sales through hobby shops is an affront, whether it is with a low, middle or high-end release.”
Late this fall, Topps took a similar route by creating a glossy version of its Allen & Ginter baseball set, offering it only through its own online store at $99.95 each.
“With the A&G, they kneecapped an incredibly popular release that many of my customers broke entire cases of just to collect," Fruitman said. "With the Topps Magic NFL, they have only served to continue weakening what is allegedly their bread and butter, the hobby shop.”
Don Joss of D.J.'s Sports Cards in Renton, Wash., echoed that sentiment.
"I have spent 23 years promoting Topps products and building a large clientele that have provided their names and email addresses to Topps via redemption cards," he told Sports Collectors Daily. "It saddens me that Topps, who had been the most supportive manufacturer when it came to hobby stores, seem to be going down another route to sell products that don't include us."
Assuming that collectors will pay no more than $11 to have their Topps Magic box shipped, they'll be guaranteed one of 68 different NFL rookie autographs for less than $31 plus 1/11 of a complete set if collation is good.
Autographs, it seems, will be on stickers, however.
The 110-card base set will include ten short print variation parallels. Autographs will consist of Base Rookie Auto Parallels, Black Magic Parallels (A black-bordered autograph version sequentially numbered 1/1), and Black Magic Cut Signatures (Silver-inked, cut signatures).
According to Topps, all of the top rookies have signed including Cam Newton, AJ Green, Andy Dalton, Julio Jones, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, DeMarco Murray and Randall Cobb.
Topps will begin taking orders next Wednesday.
You can see a gallery of images from the product and a 2012 Topps Magic Football checklist here.