My Thoughts on the Topps Five Star Club

OK… Where do we start?

This week has seen Topps release its latest high-end Baseball card product, Topps Five Star Baseball. I’ll post at some point in the future about my disdain for high-end card products, but let me clear up something first – THESE CARDS LOOK AWESOME!!

A gorgeous design coupled with some amazing relics/autographs, this product is also saddled with the unfortunate price of around $500 per box, each  containing the following:

(1) Autograph (Active Player) – (1) Autograph (Retired Player) – (1) Autographed Relic – (1) Autographed Book or Autograph – (1) Jumbo Jersey Relic, (1) Patch card, (1) Bat card

But as much as I’d like to go on about the price point, along with the issue being reported around the web of a number of cards being pulled fresh from packs with chips (due to the quality of the card? or the way they are packed?), I’m afraid I must show some restraint!!

The purpose of this post is to look at another Topps promotion that has emerged on the back of this release – the Topps Five Star Club - which I’ll now be referring to as T5SC!

Rather than me explaining what T5SC is all about, here’s the official bumf straight from Topps…

Topps Five Star Club Info Sheet

Wow!!! Very nice, I hear you all cry!!

Well, all the details are now available, including how to sign up, and this is where the fun really starts!!

Before I go any further feel free to click on the link below to open up a pdf of the Application Form…

Topps Five Star Club Application

Read through that? Digested the contents? Good…

Now here’s why I think that the whole programme is an absolute load of bollocks! Firstly, lets recap…

There is no fee for membership. To be considered for Membership, collectors must submit the attached application with the following items. Membership in the club will be limited.

> A letter of reference from your hobby store or online retailer

> Evidence that you spend $10,000 or more on Topps product per year (evidence can include receipts, pictures of your collection, or a specification in the letter of reference from your hobby shop)

> A 500-word essay explaining why you should be a member of the Topps Five Star Club

And from p.3 of the Application Form

By submitting an application, you certify that all information contained herein is true and correct, under penalty of law.

And from p.4 of the Application Form

> Members are admitted into the club for one year, and it is at the sole discretion of Topps to remove a member at any time

> Members are expected to remain in “good standing” for the duration of the year, or they may be removed from the club at Topps’ discretion.

Good Standing includes:

> Members must attend most Five Star Events (Conference calls, meetings, events)

> Members must present Topps in a positive light in any statements made by Member, including but not limited to, press, blogs, and social media postings on sites such as Facebook and Twitter and cannot bring Topps or its products into disrepute (e.g., conviction for felony, etc.)

OK (takes deep breath)… So why do I have an issue with all of this?

What about the kids, Michael, WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?!?!?

When Major League Baseball awarded Topps the exclusive right to produce officially licensed trading cards, Topps owner Michael Eisner was quoted in the New York Times -

“This is redirecting the entire category toward kids. Topps has been making cards for 60 years, the last 30 in a non-exclusive world that has caused confusion to the kid who walks into a Wal-Mart or a hobby store. It’s also been difficult to promote cards as unique and original.”

So, it’s all for the kids, is it Michael? Which ones in particular?? Well, the ‘kids’ who spend $10,000 a year on Topps cards it would appear!

It’s pretty bloody obvious that the T5SC was never conceived with the ‘average’ collector in mind, whether they are kids or adults! What Topps has done has created an exclusive little members-only club that panders to those individuals who are willing spend crazy amounts of money to fuel their Hobby obsession. The whole T5SC setup reminds me of those exclusive Gentlemen’s clubs that littered Victorian London, like The Hellfire Club! With ‘exclusivity’ of this kind comes snobbery and elitism, and that can never be a good thing!

10 Grand a year?? Did he just say 10 Grand a year!?!?!

So, who are these ‘collectors’ who have 10K to spend on sports cards?? Not you or me for sure! To those individuals (who are not retailers) that spend that amount of money a year on sports cards, collecting isn’t so much of a hobby but more of a lifestyle choice!

And will these individuals still be ‘collecting’ in 5 years time? Who knows?? But you’d hope that one day they’ll wake up and work out that the Hobby isn’t just about acquiring the latest Ty Cobb Bat Knob from a sealed case of ’2013 Topps High-End Baseball’! It strikes me that its these types of collectors are just the sort of folks that Topps are looking for when recruiting for their ‘exclusive’ new venture.

“… under penalty of law”!

WTF?!?! Come on Topps!!!! Heavy-handed, much?? We are talking about joining a ‘collectors club’ for sports cards at the end of the day, not lying on your tax returns or falsely applying for credit! Collecting Baseball cards shouldn’t be that serious (unless you intend making money from it)… It should be about fun!! Fun!! Fun!! Fun!!

Somewhere along the way (I’ve not been back in the Hobby long enough to appreciate when) Topps appears to have lost touch with the ‘real’ collectors who have built the Hobby up over the years! This saddens me more than anything but there’s too much evidence out there to suggest anything otherwise, from a continuous stream of high-end, unaffordable releases, to ridiculous limited releases for popular products (I’m looking at you 2012 Topps Heritage High-Numbers!), to misjudged programmes that will do nothing more than divide the collecting market between those who still love it because of what it means to them on a personal level, and those who love it because they carry round a plastic card that clearly separates them from those who don’t have one!

Topps supports your 1st Amendment rights, as long as you don’t have anything bad to say about Topps

This is the best one. Not only are you shelling out 10K a year for the privilege of entering this Faustian* pact with Topps, you also have to tow the company line and not even dare say anything defamatory about the Mother Company!

And what happens if you do?

Well, they reserve the right to kick you out of their gang! The last time (that I can remember ) that I had to deal with this kind of mentality I was probably around 11-12 years of age! It’s nothing more than a form of playground bullying aimed at trying to keep you in line. Is Topps so insecure at this point in time that they’re worried about some constructive feedback about their products??

Although to be honest, if you’re prepared to go to the lengths that Topps requires you to go to become a member in the first place, then you’re probably just one of the sycophantic Topps apologists that they’re after in the first place!!

——————————————-

There’s so much more that can be said about the T5SC, but it’s still early days. Thanks for sticking with me this far… I was worried that I’d worn out all my good will by now!

I’m interested to see how it all pans out and what type of ‘collectors’ actually join up, but I doubt anything is going to change my mind about the programme as a whole. As it stands I can’t think of anything more anti-Hobby than the Topps Five Star Club! It’s an anathema to real card collectors and Hobbyists and, as far as I’m concerned, has no real place in the Hobby.

I raised a smile at one of Brent Williams’ tweets that I read this morning where he’d noticed the T5SC being likened to Communism in some comments that he’d read online.

This programme couldn’t be further from Communism. It’s actually pure elitism, wrapped up in a thin veneer of sports card collecting for a clique of collectors whose one goal will be to sing the praises of Topps from the highest of heights!

If this phenomena actually deserves a name, and I’m not really sure it does, then a better one would be Toppsunism! Lets’s try and get that trending folks :) #Toppsunism

And if you are reading this and are one of those who are considering applying for membership to this oh-so prestigious of clubs, think about one thing (as I paraphrase the great Groucho Marx)…

‘Would you really want to belong to a club that would have YOU as a member?’

* OK, so I might have been overdoing it a bit with ‘Faustian’ but give me a bit of artistic licence will ya??

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