Ramblings: Topps Kickoff Promotion

By Rich Klein

Last weekend was a rough one on many levels. The biggest issue was my wife’s hemoglobin blood count was about half of what it should have been. Her doctor called her on the way home and asked ‘how near are you to an ER?’ Well, that usually does not make for a good way to spend one’s evening, even if Baylor Hospital in Plano. Texas has the best chocolate cake I ever had in my life. At the same time, my mother-in-law was in rehab for a recent back surgery. The second surgery went better than the first as well as the second rehab stay going better than the first.  I would consider both of those situations real-life problems.

On the other hand, there are hobby problems, big and small, which I was reminded of when Topps did their recent “Kickoff” promotion. The idea of the program is terrific for hobby stores. People buy boxes, and inside are redemption cards they can take to their local hobby store for exclusive five-card packs with random autographs inserted. By the way the player selection is good and there are autographs: here is just one example of an autograph from one of those packs.

This was an absolutely terrific idea in theory.  However the delivery left something to be desired. First off, there were some dealers and shop owners selling these packs before the day they were supposed to be distributed to collectors who came into shops. There is nothing wrong with selling packs; however, there is 2012 Topps Kickoff RG 3something wrong with selling packs before your customers have a chance to get their redemptions. Topps took to Twitter to publicly embarrass violators and I’m told contacted at least a couple.  I would hope that any future purchase from Topps will be denied to those who were defiant.

The second problem was even thornier. Since these cards were available in hobby and jumbo boxes at the very least (I’m not sure about retail), collectors were able to amass a decent quantity of these cards before the promotion began for the dealers. There were reports in Dallas of people having 100 or more of these cards and calling the local store owners to check on quantities of these packs available. My local card store (Triple Cards in Plano, TX) had to put up a sign limiting how many packs everyone could get from him. He informed me that the other local store I sometimes go to (Nick’s) also had to do something similar.

We were chatting the night before the cards were to go live and the owner mentioned to me what was going on with this and I said that reminded me of the mid-late 1980’s when I was managing various card stores and all the calls were about if you had the new products and how much were they. If you had the product a day or two before other stores you could sometimes have a huge day just in selling out that one product. And on top of all of that, in the 1980’s in North Jersey there was seemingly a show or an auction every night so anything new was going to be HOT for at least one day.

I did go back to the store on Wednesday to redeem my one card. Al had put up a sign saying ‘sold out’ but he had kept a few packs for people like me who are regulars and may not have been able to get to his store on the very first day those packs were redeemable.

I got my five cards, no autographs and enjoyed the chats with the people in the “trade group” all of whom follow the hobby (and most of them this web site) avidly. Sure enough, with the store closing in 15 minutes, three different people came in, all of whom none of us remember as ever being in the store and all asking about the Topps Kickoff packs.

For a day or two. I was transported back 20-25 years when stores,shows and collectors could go into a frenzy with something new and exciting. However, for the local store owners in Dallas, this promotion while it did bring customers into their store, did not bring customers with a couple of redemptions who then spent money.  Instead it brought people who simply had a lot of redemption cards and their sole interest was getting their packs and moving on. So for the store owners, it became a problem that while short-lived, one that hopefully will be better thought out in future years.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]