Buybacks – are they something new?

17 12 2015

First off – happy Star Wars Release Day!  I have a ticket for 11:00 tonight, but because of my appendectomy, I can’t go.  Getting 3-4 hours of sleep just isn’t in the cards.  I’ll see it this weekend, however.

Star Wars

Back to baseball cards.  Most of my posts are scheduled and thought out.  When I’m doing posts for my next year of Topps for the project, I do the overview as my first post.  It takes a while, and then I open the boxes I bought.  Then I do those posts.  After that, I have all the info I need until I get to the Traded set and the “what happened in baseball that year” writeups.

But sometimes I do want to weigh in on the current state of things.  A lot of times, I see a post and start to comment, then realize I’m writing so much I should post about it.  This is one of those cases.  I read on a couple of blogs yesterday that Topps is doing a buyback program for 2016 Topps.  That in and of itself isn’t news, as they do it just about every year across multiple products.  However, the difference this year is that they’ll have different stamps based on how many cards they bought back.

In the past, the buyback cards looked something like this:

2015 Topps Update box 1957 Zimmer buyback

Or this:

2015 Topps Update box 1980 John Curtis buyback

It might be a little tough to tell – but there is a 2015 in that stamp so you can tell it was purchased back in 2015.  That is something of a recent development, as I have buybacks from earlier years that don’t stamp the year of buyback.

Now, I’m guessing Topps bought back a few more cards of 1980 John Curtis than they did of 1957 Don Zimmer, but I have no way of proving it.  I just consider it basic common sense.

In 2016, this will change.  As part of their largest buyback to date, Topps will have different stamps.  The most common buybacks will have a black stamp:


Red will be rarer than black, and blue will be rarer than red:


Silver will be rarer than that, and gold will be 1/1.

Now here’s where the opinion thing comes in.  I read a couple of places (blogs and comments on the news stories) opinions that Topps was just trying to create scarcity where it doesn’t really exist.  And, to be honest, that was my first reaction.  Because, unfortunately, my first reaction to something coming from Topps is a little bit cynical these days.  That’s probably unfair – I always try to remember they are a company trying to make money.  They could and should do things better, but they aren’t a non-profit.

So here’s how I am viewing it after rethinking.  I kind of look at the buyback thing differently.  I view it as Topps giving us a little more information.  They’re just telling you how many cards they bought back.  Not exactly, because only the gold are serially numbered.  But it’s more information than you had before.  So while I assume Topps purchased back fewer Don Zimmer cards than John Curtis – now I will know.

I never viewed buybacks as a “new card”, just as something of a “bonus” that you get in packs.  And I kind of like that they have a stamp, because it’s nice to remember “that’s the 1970 card I got in a 2012 pack”.  Some collectors wish Topps didn’t stamp them; I do see the other side.  But I like they do the stamp.  I once pulled a 1985 O-Pee-Chee card of Ryne Sandberg from an Upper Deck O-Pee-Chee product.  I know it was a buyback, but if I put it in with my other 1985 OPC cards – I’d never know!  That’s tongue in cheek – it’s the only 1985 O-Pee-Chee card I have.  But you get my drift.  It’s kind of cool when you pull it from a pack to have the stamp.

So – for this product – you know from the stamp color that they bought more ’84 Mattingly cards than ’64 Clemente cards.  Even though that’s common sense, I do think it’s actually a good thing to confirm.  And you know they only bought one ’65 Hank Aaron.  To me, that’s more information, which I consider a positive.

I do understand why it appears Topps is creating artificial scarcity.  The problem probably crops up most frequently when someone wants to sell those buybacks.  They will try to treat that Hank Aaron as a 1/1, put a bunch of exclamation points on the eBay auction.  And, like the stamp/no-stamp issue, I understand both sides.

But, for me it boils down to this.  That idiot seller who claims to have an eBay 1/1 won’t get the exorbitant asking price.  I believe the market for these cards has dictated them more like an old Topps card than as a new rare product.  Assuming condition is equal – If someone sees a 1964 Hank Aaron card on eBay and a “buyback 1/1” Hank Aaron on eBay, I think the buyback card will carry only a slight premium (if any at all).

So while I get the sentiment – in this case, I’m actually glad Topps is doing what it’s doing.  I like getting old cards packs, it’s certainly more interesting than a good chunk of the inserts produced today.  Just my thought, anyways – let me know what you think!




2 responses

18 12 2015

I agree. Personally, I’d prefer no stamps at all, but as you say, it’s kind of cool to be able to look at the buybacks and remember when you pulled them as buybacks. If they are going to stamp them, the colors are a nice touch. There’s only a finite number of these anyway, we just had no clue what the numbers are. We still won’t (other than the 1/1’s) but at least we’ll be able to compare levels of rarity.

They’re just fun extra cards anyway (at least, in my mind) so there’s no use getting too worked up about them IMO.

18 12 2015
Mark Hoyle

Not new. But still cool to get. Remember pulling most as originals back in the day. Only keep the guys I collect

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