Saturday, March 26, 2011

eTopps T-206 is back. Excited?

eTopps announced that T-206 cards are back for 2011.  Does this make you excited or does it make you sick?  It fascinates me that a brand can do more to polarize the collecting hobby than to help it.  Collectors either seem to love the eTopps cards or they hate them.  And, perhaps that isn't quite right.  I'm sure many collectors like the cards themselves, but can't stand the manner in which the cards are produced and distributed.

eTopps cards are released in an "IPO" setting, where members buy potential copies of a certain card.  For example, eTopps releases a Shin-Soo Choo card.  The print run is known at the time of the offer.  Let's say the print run is 750 cards.  Potential buyers know there are "only" 750 of these cards in the world.  eTopps sets an offering price (say, $7.50).  Members put in bids for how many cards they would like to TRY to claim.  So, let's say I put in a request for 3 of the cards.  Why three?  Because, buyers are not likely to get all the cards they ask for.

eTopps uses an unpublicized method of distribution.  It is a lottery of sorts.  Supposedly, every buyer gets one card and then if there are more cards than buyer names, each buyer then gets additional cards based on some kind of lottery formula.  In reality, though, some people receive multiple copies as others receive nothing.  It is a flawed system that has been in place (though tweaked) since eTopps first came out 10 years ago.

Once cards are bought and distributed, owners can sell or trade the cards.  Ancillary sales are done through eBay.  Some cards can reach $100 or more in the aftermarket.  More likely, however, cards sold after IPO drop off the map and can be had for pennies on the dollar. 

The lottery distribution and the resale effects of the cards drives the polarization of collectors.  It has been quite some time (probably a year or so) since I even put in a bid on IPO eTopps.  I have learned that if there is a particular card I want, I just go to eBay and buy it cheaper than the initial price.   Some cards (like some of the Bob Fellers) are more than the initial offering, but if it is something I want for my collection, then I have to decide if it's worth the asking price.  Often times, it is not.  At least not during baseball season.  I have never seen anything like the seasonal price fluctuations that eTopps cards exhibit - baseball cards sell too high during the season then drop off dramatically once the season is over.  Same for football, etc. 

One thing I forgot to mention about eTopps: Card owners can request delivery of the cards they buy.  A lot of collectors leave their cards in the vaults of Topps.  The theory is that Topps can provide a better environment than most collectors: temperature control, humidity control, lack of human interaction with the cards, etc.  I prefer to add the cards to my personal collection, so I have mine delivered to me.  To each his own, I suppose.

So, back to the original question: Are you excited about T-206 coming back to eTopps?  Do you collect eTopps?

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