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 firstname.lastname@example.org.