For Topps, as well as other card companies, adding new brands to their product lines has its share of challenges. For the “direct to consumer retail” division that challenge is even trickier as the “hobby/retail (read Walmart/Target) area has to come first as their sales volume is far more than the direct to consumer at this time. People like me, who grew up purchasing cards in stationery stores or drug stores and later, card shops, are still used to actually buying cards in person while the next generation of card collectors will probably be just as happy buying cards from a major manufacturer through the mail and not worry about going out to buy cards or worrying their packs had been tampered with.
And in case you wonder, change like this is a natural evolution in the scale of doing business. Heck, when I first started at Beckett more than two decades ago, a great majority of our business was through card stores with a much smaller percentage through retail outlets. I would say by about 1996 due to the reduction in card stores as an effect of the baseball strike/hockey lockout of 1994-95, the “retail” outlets were, on a cumulative basis, outselling the hobby and that has continued to this day.
In case you ever wondered why the Beckett covers are much “busier” than the old school covers of the 1984-1992 period that is why. Text sells on the newsstands but not so much at card stores. So for the direct to consumer part of Topps, they are still in the same general position retail was in the early 1990’s in terms of selling Beckett magazines (and obviously sports cards as well).
So what is the best course of action for direct to consumer? I think we have seen the answer in the past couple of years. And that answer is to establish their own product lines and continue to grow them an possibly add to that total.
Personally, I would love to see Stadium Club return and if enough good photos exist, that might be a natural for the direct to consumer product line. It might even be a major hit as those collectors who spent the 1990’s with Stadium Club would probably appreciate the spectacular photography intrinsic to that product.
The reason we discuss this is the direct to consumer branch of Topps has recently released the 2013 Topps Mini Football Boxes available only through the Topps “retail” channel. These boxes are still available from Topps for $52.99 and each box contains 24 packs with 10 cards per pack. That means the cards are basically costing a collector about a quarter each.
The design is the same as the basic Topps set and each box, just as with the regular Topps base brand, has one jersey or autograph card per box. The parallels are limited to three and the 1959 mini throwbacks represent the only other subset. Each box promises one autograph or relic.
Here’s what came out of our box:
226 out of 440 or a little more than 1/2 the base set. This means with perfect collation a collector needs at least two boxes to finish a set
Gold Parallels (#d to 58): Zach Ertz, Cobi Hamilton, Miami Dolphins, D.J. Swearinger
Black Parallel (#d to 5): Paul Posluszny
Mini Relic (#d to 57): Joseph Randle
You know, for what it is, the mini brand provides exactly what the regular brand does which is that you’ll get a lot of base cards for the money, a few inserts and parallel cards and one “hit” per box. If you don’t score a decent autograph, the value is often questionable but as long as a collector understands he/she will likely not get rich from opening up the Mini boxes, it’s a simpler product with a respectable number of cards for the price and a distribution that would seem to be a fraction of the regular flagship product.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]