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 (Toll Free)

Topps Bunt players create real demand for virtual baseball cards

THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC. BUNT 2014

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

There’s a whole new type of collector out there with more than a million users and 75 million sports cards that you simply won’t find in the best of hobby shops or in any retail store aisle — unless you’re on a smartphone.

Some of these fans are paying real money on eBay for virtual collections of cards — collecting pixels if you will — while others are using their real money to buy tokens for virtual packs all contained on the app. In fact, more than 50 million packs have been sold.

They’ve been sold to collectors of  cards on Topps Bunt, the virtual card platform and application from Topps, which has seen plenty of growth in its two years on the field.

“It’s remarkable. We knew these digital cards would have value like physical cards, but things have picked up very quickly,” said Chris R. Vaccaro, who is the head of app operations for Topps Digital. “It’s a credit to the platform and the Topps name holding weight in the digital world.”

Today, Topps launched Bunt for Android, further expanding its possibilities for growth. We caught up with Vaccaro to learn even more about Bunt.

Bunt3

Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout is a spokesman for Topps Bunt.

 

Q: First, some basics. How long has Bunt been in the works to where it is now?

A: Topps BUNT launched in April 2012, so the app has been out for more than two years. We’ve changed the app drastically year over year in terms of design and overall look and feel. Over time we’ve built up our existing platforms, added more staff members at Topps Digital and have really been able to bolster our products (Topps HUDDLE and Topps KICK as well) since they’ve launched. We’re also in the mindset of constant improvement. Every season we look to grow each app and make it better for our fans.

Q: How well do you think it has been received? 

A: We’re very happy with the fan reception of all three apps. It hasn’t been an overnight process. It has taken time to build a community of users and also assimilate the Topps brand to digital platforms. We have around 1 million users between the three apps. In terms of volume, there are more than 75 million cards in BUNT all-time. We’ve seen more than 35 million trades across our three apps, including more than 5 million in BUNT. The Topps’ digital collecting app portfolio, including Topps BUNT, Topps HUDDLE and Topps KICK, has collectively sold more than 50 million packs of digital trading cards in 14 months on iOS. Topps BUNT 2014 was also recently named a “Best New App” on the iPhone by Apple.

BuntCoins

Q: As part of the game, people can use actual cash to buy virtual coins to build their collections? (They also get a daily reward for playing.) What percentage of players would you say do this?

A: Yes, our fans can purchase coin bundles within the app and those coins can be used to open packs. We don’t offer specifics on our financial data, but we can say that during the baseball season Topps BUNT is consistently one of the top-grossing apps in North America. The app has exceeded our expectations, consistently ranking in the Top 50 grossing apps on the U.S. iPhone, and peaking as high as No. 25 in The App Store.

BuntSignature

Q: I’ve watched and played the game for a while now — what would you say are the hottest/most in-demand cards?

A: Signature Series cards have been the hottest and most sought after by far. It doesn’t matter if it’s a current star, a prospect or a retired player; their digital signature is the most desirable piece of media we offer in all three of our apps. Additionally, we’ve tried to create a balance between regular physical Topps designs and new BUNT exclusive designs that can only be purchased in our app. Some fans collect the sets they are used to, others love to see new designs and really build their card sheet with unique items.

Other inserts, aside from the Sigs, that have done well are our Editor’s Choice collection which features new and trendy young athletes, and our Player of the Week set, which is literally dictated by the players selected by Major League Baseball every week. Personally, I love the Golden Moments set we offer because the images are directly from the Topps Vault, yet the design is modern. Many times, these photos were never used on other Topps products, and are being brought out of file cabinets for the first time in decades. The BUNT cards released in 2012 and 2013 are also very valuable because they are no longer being released in packs. Fans who were with us from the beginning have them and they are very valuable collectors items and trade pieces.

Additionally, I’m also a big fan – and our users can attest to this as well – of the milestone cards that are released when something special happens in baseball. It’s rare that a player reaches a big milestone, so we honor the feat (i.e. Albert Pujols reaching the 500-home run club) with a fresh card, an award, pack sales and news stories about the release. We can act fast, sometimes within minutes of an event happening, and use our team effectively to produce digital media.

BuntEbay

Q: Some people have been selling the rights to rare cards in real eBay auctions. How common is this?

A: We’re seeing this more and more everyday. Some cards we’ve seen are going for upwards of $200. On any given day, there could be 450 or more items from BUNT for sale on eBay. It’s remarkable. We knew these digital cards would have value like physical cards, but things have picked up very quickly. It’s a credit to the platform and the Topps name holding weight in the digital world. People care about cards, whether digital or physical, and the selling of digital cards on eBay is enough reason to believe that our plan here is working. We’ve created a piece of sellable media, a tangible item that people desire and crave. They collect them, they admire them, they talk about them, they sell them and they are making them a part of their world and lives.

Q: Does Bunt have a lot of sports competitors on the gaming platform? Or is this just applying sports to other online game-type formats?

A: From a fantasy sports perspective, there are a bunch of apps where players earn points based on real-life performances. There are also many digital trading card apps, but not with the legacy sports factor that Topps brings to the table. We’re combining the competitive spirit of fantasy sports and the nostalgic feeling of collecting baseball cards and we feel we offer a unique experience to our fans.

Q: How has Bunt done compared to its football counterpart?

A: All three of our apps are very similar in terms of the game play and collecting. We operate as the current sports season is in full swing, so BUNT has gotten a redesign and re-launch prior to 2014 Opening Day, whereas HUDDLE is still in the 2013 build. We’ll be updating HUDDLE this summer prior to the 2014 NFL Opening Kickoff. Interestingly, the communities tend to vary a little bit between the apps. There may be some fans who only like football or only like baseball. There are also many familiar user names who pop up on both. Fundamentally, however, they are very similar and offer almost the same experience just with different sports.

THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC. BUNT 2014

Q: What would you say is the most-common collecting approach in the game?

A: For people playing the app to earn points, most seem to go for Super Rare base cards because they earn the most points compared to common, uncommon, rare and scarce. The more Super Rare cards they can start on the play screen, the better their team will perform on a given night. For those collecting and not playing for points, many are in the market for inserts and limited edition cards. Just like you’ve become accustomed to over the years, people have their favorite sets by design or theme, the sets they collect just as trade bait, and sets they like because of the pure joy of the chase. Our apps really have a balance of all these collector types.

Q: Have any of the collecting trends that have developed in the game surprised you? (Example, people hoarding pitchers to start all the same guy.)

A: Your example is spot on. Plenty of our fans collect many of the top-scoring players, pitchers specifically, so they can score as many points as possible during the week. Reason being, the more points you earn, the higher you will land on the leaderboard, and that means you could be rewarded with free cards for your performance each week. Fans also collect as many Super Rare cards as possible because they score the most points each week. It goes without saying that many super collectors in the app try and collect as many inserts as possible, especially the Signature Series. Looking at it territorially, we’ve noticed that plenty of fans stick with collecting their favorite team’s players as well. For instance, a Dodgers fan, who only collects Dodgers cards. There are people who use the app for various reasons and we are always very interested to see why people play, how they collect and what their goal is. It’s all important to us so we can meet the needs of our users and make the experience that much better.

Q: What’s next for Bunt?

A: BUNT 2014 [is now] available for Android users, so we’re bringing in many more people to our platforms that can experience our apps for the first time. We’re excited about that. We also release at least one new card basically every day of the season, and sometimes more. Everyday there is something to do whether it’s play the app for points against other fans, build your collection of cards or chase awards and get rewarded. There are still hundreds of players left to be added to the card sheet and literally hundreds of inserts and chase sets that have never been produced by any Topps division to date.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

25 Comments

Larry

It sounds like these people have more money than sense. I want tangible cards for my hard earned money.

Posted June 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink
Jonathan W. Iwanski

The downfall of many a group has begun when members give tangible items in support things that don’t physically exist. Think: Religion.

Posted June 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
Brian

This fluff piece paid for by…

Posted June 4, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
Dan

I must be getting too old. Why anyone would pay real money for a virtual card is beyond me. Heck, I can’t even grasp the entertainment value of a virtual collection. I guess there are people having fun with it though, more power to ‘em.

Posted June 4, 2014 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
CJ

Can I transfer my worthless ETopps portfolio to Topps Bunt? That way in five years all my wasted money will be in one place.

Posted June 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
David

Whatever happened to the sound of the first pack of cards being opened up for each new sports season, and the smell of the cards freshly printed from the manufacturer. The excitement of discovering what the new brands look like and the enjoyment of assorting numerically your freshly opened cards.
As a card collector since 1964, this Topps Bunt idea saddens me; ( along with the $500.00 a pack cards) and makes me long for a nostalgic time in collecting………..

Posted June 5, 2014 at 2:00 am | Permalink

I don’t see how people can jump in with both feet to buy a virtual card using real money. At least with eTopps we had the option to have the card shipped to us (for an insane shipping charge) where with Bunt we get to look at a screen and regret paying $500 for a digital Mike Trout signature card.

Posted June 5, 2014 at 3:38 am | Permalink
Scott Coish

I can go on my phone and look at cards on ebay or trade sites for free all day long. Not sure I see the appeal of these. Like most I want to hold the card esp if it has an hardsigned auto.

Posted June 5, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink
Badger

Dumbest. Idea. Ever! anyone want to trade or buy pictures of cards? not pictures on cards, pictures of cards. yeah not happening

Posted June 5, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

More importantly, what happens 10 years from now when the technology these are based upon is long since out of date and you can’t even do anything at all with them any more? Kind of like the old CD-ROM cards which don’t really work on today’s systems. But at least with CD-ROM cards you still have some kind of tangible product.

Posted June 5, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
Nick

I understand where everyone is coming from. I would love to see tangible cards back up each one of these digital cards. What baseball card collecting is missing is a great trading element. Now that I am in my 30′s I don’t have my old buddies to trade with. Bunt fulfills the trading element, but not the tangible. Now, if we could just combine the two, I’d be happy. What some people are forgetting about though, is the fun factor. Not everyone collects cards for their future value. I love ripping into packs, whether they are physical packs or digital. It is a lot of fun. People spend money on all sorts of fun activities. Why not digital cards? I’m interested to know what people think of Zistle. Is it a good trading site? The idea is spot on if it is a good site and works.

Posted June 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Permalink
Phil

Not sure where I’ve been but I have never heard of this until now.

Posted June 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Brian: Not the case at all.

Posted June 6, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink
Ed

WOW!!

This is Serious Business

“with more than a million users and 75 million sports cards”, “has collectively sold more than 50 million packs of digital trading cards in 14 months on iOS.”

How do the above quoted numbers compare with what we will now call “hard card” collecting?
Has hard card collecting sold 50 million packs in 14 months? Can Topps count on a Million users of one of there product lines, (Topps series 2, Platinum, etc.) ? I don’t think so. But with these numbers I can see why Topps would spend alot of time on this project.

It looks as though the future is here….Maybe sooner than we think Topps will go all “Green” and stop printing completely.

Peace

Posted June 6, 2014 at 11:59 am | Permalink
Bilbo

Talk about a load of crap, no where does this clown mention it’s ILLEGAL (per Topps TOS) to buy and sell these virtual junk cards. If you even dare post you are looking to buy cards they will ban you from the app..Hey Beckett, how much did Mike Bramlage pay for this fluffy article? Let me guess, a brand new Bunt account with unlimited coins, right? Beware honest people, this app is ripe with fraud, false advertising and ZERO customer support. It’s pure GAMBLING with fixed odds so you can’t win!

Posted June 6, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

Jonathan W. Iwanski, I guess the Church’s and all the people don’t physically exist. Think:

Posted June 6, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink
Trolling Troll

Funny how the head honcho of Topps’ Apps says that these cards are sellable on eBay, yet the Terms of Service for Topps’ Apps (Bunt, Huddle, and Kick) indicate that users do not own ANYTHING; instead, Topps has granted a “revocable” license to fans that can be revoked at anytime for any reason. Also, selling cards is against the express written rules of Topps Bunt, Topps Huddle, and Topps Kick, and users get suspended if they solicit the sale of cards.

I know people that have spent thousands dollars on Topps Bunt, Topps Huddle, and Topps Kick. They all regret it. Topps has perfected the art of enticing users to “chase” special insert cards and have made the ability to pull the cards more and more difficult without informing the user that the odds were changing for the worse. Finally, just a few weeks back, Topps started publishing some odds on BUNT, but often times the odds are labeled in a confusing fashion, and sometimes the cards are not in the packs when Topps says they are.

Take a look at the description for any of these apps in the App Store. They all say there is “mild simulated gambling.” Yes, it says that! The big differences between these apps and gambling is that Topps’ Apps record users’ results and users will never win anything that users will own from Topps.

The above is all true. If you do not believe this Trolling Troll, check out the Apps for yourself. Many users complain about Topps’ “bait and switches,” “false advertising,” and sheer greed by enticing users to become vested in the Apps, addicted to the Apps, and to overspend on the Apps using various techniques. It really should not suprise anyone though since Topps acknowledges there is “mild simulated gambling.”

So, if you do sign up for any of Topps’ Apps, be careful. They are addictive. And, if you find that Topps has mislead you too, the Terms of Service say that you only have 1 year to bring any claim against Topps, that it cannot be filed in Court, and that it must be arbitrated confidentialy in New York through the American Arbitration Association on an individual. In other words, no court action and no class action. Of course, 80% of the users are minors, so those Terms of Service might just voidable for that 80%.

Finally, I doubt that this fluff piece was paid for by Topps, but I would not be surpised if it was primarily written by Topps.

Posted June 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

Hey, Bilbo: Nobody pays for anything in this section. Period.

TTroll: Not the case.

Posted June 9, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink
IHateBunt

So, why doesn’t ANYONE from Topps Digital come to address these serious allegations? They are notorious for running and hiding when people dare complain about their shady dealings on this GAMBLING app. I invite anyone to contact Apple/ITunes support and ask how many people have requested and got 100% refunds because of the fraud of this Bunt app. You are a thief Mike Bramlage, your new baby must be so proud of daddy!

Posted June 9, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink
Joe

People complained about sticker autographs. Now we have virtual autographs. IT’S NOT REAL. I don’t get it.

Posted June 9, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Permalink
Disgusted former Bunt player

Phew! What a load of mularky! This puff piece doesn’t tell the real story. That story centers around how an American institution, baseball card collecting and trading, has been transformed, through use of modern technology, digital photography, and social networking, into a modern day gambling platform directed at children. The only reason Topps doesn’t get shut down for running a gambling site is because of their TOS policy and our individual local state governments, especially New York (where Topps is located), turning a blind eye. The Apple store has refunded tens of thousands of dollars of players online purchases of digital Topps currency because of numerous protests and complaints by both players and their parents. You, as a parent would surely be upset, if your 12 year old, spent $800/month buying (actually NOT buying anything) digital playing cards (actually just a picture of a playing card dressed up in a nice app). Get it?

Posted June 28, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Permalink
Neil

I’ve had a lot of fun with Bunt, and I haven’t spent one thin dime.

Posted June 30, 2014 at 11:34 pm | Permalink
Ishkabibble

I still login periodically to Bunt. A “million users”? That’s a stretch to say the least. Possibly a million accounts established since inception in 2012 but no way a million users active on Bunt at this time (or at any time for that matter). At any given time, I would say there are 500 – 1000 users online. The majority of users are in the 14-21 year old age group I dare say with some users a bit older. All are big time baseball fans. The app churns through users on a regular and recurring basis as the majority of players find out, sooner or later, that to collect cards on Topps Bunt, just like physical cards, one has to spend real money. Most players of the younger age group don’t have the resources to play so they quit after a few months.

Posted July 1, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
Keith Williams

Buyer beware in this app. Yesterday the BUNT team announced fundamental changes to the way cards score points within the app, simultaneously disrupting the in-app economy of card values. So players who have been investing time and money building a collection based on the rules Topps set forth for their digital card marketplace had the rug pulled out from underneath them mid season.

Posted July 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

The conspiracies and complaints about the game have gotten really old. I am closing this thread.

Posted July 17, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink