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Is there a right way to do sticker autographs?

TRISTAR's new line of autographed Total Nonstop Action wrestling photos appears to use stickers. Does it make sense? Perhaps.

There’s no question that the sticker autograph is a sticking point for many a collector.

They often loathe them because they want something that someone held signed, because they want an autograph that can accentuate the image that it is affixed to, because they want a signature that is not cut off by the edge of a sticker that’s smaller than the item it’s affixed to.

But collectors also don’t want to wait on redemption cards — an inevitable byproduct of on-card signatures. But collectors also don’t want to receive cards with dinged corners, either. (This just in, many athletes don’t treasure corners on their cards as much as you do … ) This, in turn, has spawned the letter patch autographs, the manufactured logo autographs, the Sweet Spot autographs and so on …

There are advantages for companies to get stickers (and non-card items) signed — primarily pertaining to the issues above — but it’s also one of asset management. What does a company do when there are cards left over after redemptions are fulfilled (something that also costs money)? They’ve cost the company something — yet aren’t necessarily usable in a future product.

Stickers or other types of autographs on the other hand can be used later down the line if a lineup changes or a deadline is missed or if redemptions go unfulfilled — something that saves the company money, which is more important than ever as a shrinking industry continues to weather a poor economy in a world where costs for autographs aren’t shrinking. (Even though they probably should be.) Every company uses them — and it’s become en vogue to tout when they aren’t, likely when it’s time to move some products.

So, we have to ask — is there a right way to do sticker autographs?

Read more after the jump.

TRISTAR recently launched a line of autographed photos as part of its TNA Wrestling lines — images that appear to use sticker autographs based on the sizes and the consistent size and locations of the autographs. Several top TNA stars like Sting, Mick Foley and Knockouts like Velvet Sky and Tara are available on the limited-edition photos found on ShopTNA.com. (See a full gallery of the images below.)

Does it work? In many ways it probably does — particularly when managing the company’s inventory of autographs. (After all, wrestling gimmicks and storylines change much more than players change teams in traditional sports.)

Think about it. What is in more demand for a company when a big trade like, say, Alex Rodriguez going from the Rangers to the Yankees? His autographed Rangers photos or his autographed Yankees photos? And what is a company to do when they can’t move items that aren’t hot — sell at a loss? (That could put a dent in business, if not end it, depending on the subject of the autographs and the volume of them.)

So, ultimately, isn’t a big portion of an autograph’s appeal the item that it is affixed to, whether its via a sticker or direct application? Of course it is — just look at the price differences between a signed jersey and a signed baseball — then compare the quality of a majority of those autographs. (Some might be more in favor of a cheaper, cleaner autograph even if it’s on a lesser item.) Most veteran collectors will tell you that without having to read anything written here — otherwise we’d all just be collecting the traditional autograph on a random item or (gasp!) piece of paper.

Now, this writer isn’t advocating widespread sticker use — or slapping stickers on items like baseball bats or movie posters — but there is a place for them if they’re done right — one of those things being that the items are designed with the sticker’s aesthetic limits in mind. And that varies from sport to sport, product to product.

Stickers and wrestling make sense more than other sports because they’re traveling more than the typical athlete with no off-season and multiple stops per week. It’s not realistic to get a full checklist of cards printed, mailed off in bulk months in advance to several addresses and then hit a deadline a few months later when it’s time to sell a product. (Well, presuming that those pricey printed cards ever arrived… were ever signed … or ever returned.)

Yes, there have been products in the past with on-card autographs and deep checklists. They were either produced with longer time-frames to work with (which costs money as costs mount and return time is months, years later) or with a lot more legwork to get stuff signed with runners (which also costs money). Remember that whole shrinking industry and poor economy part?

TNA will reportedly be going under several changes very soon as Hulk Hogan will be joining the company’s ranks next week and its main television show is moving (on occasion) to Monday nights to compete with WWE, which by the way does not regularly sell autographs of its wrestlers on its website — despite the fact that they could do quite well doing it. (There must be a reason… logistics?)

There will be plenty of changes for TNA — storyline, gimmicks, even reportedly the wrestling ring’s dimensions. It wouldn’t shock this writer to see even more dramatic changes down the line to branding, logos, names, etc.

With a company that could be changing so much so soon, stickers make sense — even when affixed to photos. (Though this writer thinks the design and the stickers’ use looks acceptable on the TNA photo mock-ups. We’ll see in person. And ultimately, it’s truly about the quality of the photo as well.)

Let us know what you think about stickers — we have a feeling you won’t be afraid to voice your opinions on this one.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com.

9 Comments

Larry

On a somewhat related note, Tristar was selling Albert Pujols ‘autograph bats’ earlier in 2009.

Unfortunately what the company did was purchase sticker labels that were already signed and then place them onto generic bats engraved with Pujols name [and not likely game-model style].

I don’t know if Tristar made enough to justify sales, but the bats seemed like an extreme example of how not to use autograph stickers.

Posted December 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
Kevin

please Chris, stop defending the card companies here. They use redemptions on sticker autographs just as much as on card graphs, the real issue is companies selling products based upon certain key auto, then when the product comes out it is a redemption. Upper Deck did it all the time with Jeter and MJ, I can assure you that 99.99999% of collectors would rather take their chance with a dinged card and pull a real autograph of those guys rather than some “promise” which many times does NOT get filled.

The card companies need to stop putting guys in products that they know won’t sign just to sell product. If you can’t get them to sign the cards before the product hits you take him off the checklist, its that easy. If your product doesn’t have the big guys in it then it isn’t going to sell and next time there will be a sense of urgency by the card company!

I might say that the real issue here is that card companies are getting lazy. They won’t want to travel to get new photographs and they don’t want to track down athletes to get autographs. We are seeing football products released in late December and January with photos from the photo shoot, that doesn’t excite anyone!

If you must use stickers, and it appears that UD and playoff are going to continue that trend, clear stickers are the best. If you have to look at a card close up to see if its sticker, then that is a good thing. 05 UD HOF’ers comes to mind. The silver stickers sometimes work, I think they look great on contenders. Too bad Panini is going to mess that up this year with that foil background. I like the idea of on card for those, but the sticker ones are going to look awful.

Bottom line, to me sticker autographs tell me that the card company that made them doesn’t really care about the collectability of the product that means I won’t collect it. Is it any wonder why the most popular brands over the years, bowman draft baseball, heritage baseball, ginter baseball and SPA football all have on card sigs? I think so.

Thanks
Kevin

Posted December 28, 2009 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

I don’t like sticker autos, so I won’t support the use of stickers by buying any cards with stikcers. Those cards pictured don’t look too bad though. That first picture is tremendous. I was mesmerized for a couple of minutes.

Posted December 28, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

From a recent interview with Hogan:

“Well, brother, I’m going to do everything from change the logo to try to get new, and more, sponsors. I’m going to do everything from change people’s gimmicks to get rid of people. I’m going to bring some people in with me. I’m going to change everything that needs to be fixed. And you know what? It’s not like I have a magic wand and $20 million and I can change it all overnight. It’s going to be a gradual progression.”

Posted January 2, 2010 at 11:21 am | Permalink
Andy K

While I’m not crazy about sticker autos, it seems like most products with on-card autos are either more expensive or are very stingy with the autographed hits (think Topps Heritage). I’d rather get 2 or 3 times the amount of autos (even if they are stickers) than get 1 auto otherwise. While the on-card autos generally look better they don’t normally sell for that large of a premium over sticker autos.

Posted January 3, 2010 at 12:58 am | Permalink
Kevin

was that supposed to be funny Chris? Are you saying everything is gradual? These are problems that have been in place for many years, probably longer than you have been collecting cards and if not certainly longer than you have been working at beckett. It comes down to money, its cheaper to use sticker autos. Until collectors
and dealers, what few remain, say no to these other crap products, then that isn’t going to change. You see even today people paying big bucks for on card autos, that isn’t going to change. If you want to ask a legit question then come in with some legit answers, these fabricated reasons why things are done are just dumb.

Kevin

Posted January 4, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Dude, I’ve been collecting cards since the days long before autographs in packs was a reality.

I think the examples presented here are pretty clear. And I thought it was quite interesting that Hogan talked about some of those same things I did. (Obviously he’s not talking in a cardboard context — but many of those things can affect TRISTAR’s products.) But it’s also worth noting that TRISTAR has also since unveiled at least one multi-signed on-photo item since this was written.

If you think Hogan’s comments about the wrestling profession somehow translate into the bigger card world? I guess I missed something there.

Then again, I guess we are supposed to point out that a guy is signing stickers when a guy is signing stickers in the photo with a story, right?

Posted January 4, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Permalink
Kevin

your question was, “let us know what you think about stickers” was it not? I know you are trying to give tristar, I mean, TRISTAR, some press here, but no one really cares about their products, the real issue should be reeling back in collectors who have left the hobby. If you aren’t going to take on the top reason on the list (redmptions), then how about the second reason…stickers autos, and the lack of effort by topps, pannini and UD? I guess showing a picture of Velvet Sky’s @ss up in the air and a silver sticker graph below it is supposed to make us go out and buy a csse of tristar or suddenly like those ugly steel colored stickers…..sorry not going to happen. Cmon Chris, how about some real reporting here? Yeah sure I know you get calls from the card companies daily saying, hey please put some press up about us, but the hobby will only benifit by getting these problems out in the open and taken card of.

Thanks
Kevin

Posted January 5, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Tell me more … you’re on fire!

Posted January 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

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