In my line of work there are Union Organizations that have come into Work Agreements with the Carrier. When there is an alleged violation of those agreements the organization has a right to file a grievance, also known as a complaint. There is a process and procedure established to respond to these complaints in an effort to keep good labor / management relations. Well I want to file a grievance against Topps Now!
I believe there is a violation of the 2006 Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Card Manufacturers concerning the definition of a “Rookie Card.” At the turn of the century there was lots of confusion within the hobby so the MLB assisted manufacturers on defining the terms of “rookie card” which according to Wikipedia says,
“A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete after that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her sport. Collectors may value these first appearances more than subsequent card issues.”
In 2006 Major League Baseball instituted a set of guidelines which defined which cards could and could not be branded with the official MLB rookie card logo. I get into the definition in much more detail in my post, “Sports Card Lingo: The Basics” The issue was the industry had to differentiate what was a: rookie card, extended rookie card, 1st Year cards and prospect cards. There are some collectors who agree with this and others who don’t but the majority of collectors can agree that to be a true RC the card must be numbered as part of a product’s base set. And inserts, subsets or the like can not or should not be stamped with RC.
But yet this is exactly what’s happening. It didn’t happen right away, there was compliance (somewhat) for many years but now very subtly we are stamping cards with the RC logo that in my opinion shouldn’t be. In hindsight the last few years I’ve had moments that made me wonder but I never followed up with my suspicion. That was until the blatant foul in 2017 via the Aaron Judge craze and Topps Now.
Now let me say this about Topps. I am their biggest fan. I believe that they are the pillar of the card industry. I grew up with and appreciate their history, their card designs, and the nostalgia they’ve created over the years. I am in no way throwing mud at them, belittling them nor am I bantering them. What I am doing is making a complaint (or grievance) on an observation that I’ve made and I’m asking them, what’s up with that? This would be a legit time to quote Bill Cowher, Phil Simms, Deion Sanders and Boomer Esiason on the CBS NFL Show when they say, “C’MON MAN!”
Did you know? 2017 Topps Now printed 46 different cards of Aaron Judge. C’MON MAN!
Did you know? 39 of 46 Aaron Judge cards were branded with the RC logo! C’MON MAN!
Please note Exhibit A:
The agreement says, “A rookie card is a trading card that is the first to feature an athlete after that athlete has participated in the highest level of competition within his or her sport.” In my opinion card number 87 is a legit RC in the Topps Now set because it is the first card of that set featuring Aaron Judge.
Topps Now is an amazing set. I love the concept and purchased many of them when my Chicago Cubs started their run in 2016 and I continued to purchase the first few of Aaron Judge cards but then I got really discouraged about it. “Another RC!” I told myself. And they just kept coming.
For those who don’t know Topps Now is a print on demand set. When memorable events happen throughout the season new cards are printed and released the following day but collectors only have a 24 hour window to make the purchase on Topps website. After that 24 hour window the printers are fired up and only the number ordered in that 24 hour period are printed and distributed. By capturing these highlights as they happen the set begins to mimic a historic documentary.
The 2017 set has 863 cards in it and when you factor in the $9.99 price it would cost you $8,621.37 to build the set (shipping is free for those who are checking my math). It would be amazing to build this set and be able to read the highlights and relive the experience of how the season unfolded years later. Again, this concept is amazing. But my grievance isn’t about price, set design nor distribution, it’s about branding so many Aaron Judge cards with the MLB RC insignia.
Please note Exhibit B:
What do these three have in common? Yes, there all Topps product. Yes, there all of Aaron Judge. Yes, there all stamped with the RC Logo. BUT ALL THREE ARE INSERT CARDS! Since when do we stamp RC on insert cards? C’mon Man! This practice frustrates veteran collectors and confuses the novice collector and I can only assume that this is not what Topps wants to do.
I understand why this type of thing happens, at least in my realm. Over the years there is new management changes, sometimes frequently. Over the years if left unchecked the working agreements get watered down and if neither side enforces them they become obsolete all together. But there are many benefits to the working agreements, they provide structure and stability. And when followed they provide boundaries, quality and profitability. And when we stray too far to left field there is a process established to get us back to center.
Topps I realize you’re the Big-Dog in town, your the Boss of the industry. But lets tighten the belt in this area, that’s all I’m asking. I understand you were riding the Aaron Judge wave but you over did it. You violated the agreement. Collectors everywhere are curious how your going to handle the Ohtani craze. Please. Keep it simple.