Topps detailed the Relics that use stadium seats within days of this publishing. See that story here.
We know that Readers Write is an immensely popular department in Beckett’s magazines, so every once in a while we’ll post letters that are pertinent and relate to issues that being talked about. Here’s one …
The Question …
Long-time reader of Beckett and always enjoy your box breaks.
Question: I may have missed it, but is Beckett going to address the issue where Topps is misleading collectors with the Relic pieces that what I believe most collectors thought were bat pieces that are actually pieces of some seat or bench? I know I purchased a T206 Ty Cobb bat card off eBay that I thought was a bat but yesterday when I spoke to Topps they would not confirm if it was a bat or a seat/bench.
I also purchased several packs of Topps Tribute at Nick’s Sports Cards in the hunt for old players that I collect, hoping to pull one of the Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, or Ty Cobb cards. It now appears that the wood on these cards are not game used bats but again pieces of a seat or bench. I pulled two Duke Snider cards and again I questioned Topps about the piece but the customer service person to whom I spoke did not know if it was a game used bat or a seat. He placed me on hold and checked with his brand manager. The brand manager would not confirm the wood piece. Which told me it was not a game-used bat piece.
Several collectors to whom I have spoken all feel that we believe Topps is deceiving the hobby. I would like to know what will be Beckett’s take on this and I would very much appreciate hearing from you. I have been a collector for over 50 years, so I have seen the good and the bad of the hobby but Topps’ action is some of the very worst I have seen.
Thank you and I look forward to your reply.
— Ron Firestone
Get our answer after the jump …
You’re not the first collector to ask us this — but we’ll tell you what we know and present a case for what may have happened.
A Topps official has been contacted on the subject — and Beckett Media has yet to get a response asking whether there is a list of “other” Relics used in the product. (You can read a message from the company’s customer service department below.)
I personally believe that their failure to note the type of memorabilia on cards in Topps 206 and Topps Tribute was likely a decision to help get the cards made faster so each single card template didn’t have to be tweaked during production (time equals money) — not an attempt at sneaking “other” Relics past collectors in the case of the Ruth card (or others).
Why? Because many of the Relics in Topps Tribute are flat-out wrong or mislabeled if they say anything specific beyond just “memorabilia,” which is what the Ruth cards in question say. Case in point, out of 18 Tribute cards I have in front of me as I type this have the following notations on the backs:
— Three of the cards say “This is an Autographed Dual Relic Card of … ”
All three cards are Autographed Dual Relics, but one of these cards has a wood chip and a material swatch, while the other two are dual-material swatches. So, in this case Topps did not note the types of Relics on these cards but they are otherwise correct.
— Six of the cards say “This is an Autographed Jersey Relic Card of … ”
Just two of these cards has a material (jersey) swatch, while four of them incorrectly have wood chips. All but one is of a current MLB player who all have readily available memorabilia pieces in plenty of sets. So, in this case Topps used specific notations — but a majority of the cards were wrong. I bet that’s consistent with examination of more cards from this set.
— Nine of the cards say “This is a Memorabilia Card of … ”
Four of them are cards with two-or-more pieces — a dual Duke Snider wood (bat) card, a dual Tommy Hanson material (jersey) card, a Ryan Braun wood/material card and a Mickey Mantle triple that has two pieces of wood and a piece of material. The remainder of these cards — all with just one Relic piece — includes a Babe Ruth wood card, a Thurman Munson wood card, a Whitey Ford material card, a Nolan Ryan material card and a Roy Campanella material card. In this case, Topps labeled nothing specific for any of these cards.
So what you have out of the equivalent of three boxes of hits and there are just three types of blurbage for five different sets — and of those cards that attempt to be specific there are a lot of flat-out wrong. The fact that many of these cards were wrong was something we noted in our Box Busters video (which unfortunately suffered from technical difficulties).
Can one absolutely call them all bat and jersey cards? No, because one of the players in the group, Ruth, does apparently have a stadium seat Relic pieces used in Tribute (those cards definitely aren’t bats because they have different colors of paint on the Relic pieces). We know that much. But had there not been any cards with paint on them? We’d likely never know — though the triples that have two pieces of wood do at times appear to have different types of wood in them. (Ash has a wide thick grain, while maple has a small somewhat dotted grain and the pieces that could be stadium seats look more like plywood than maple or ash.)
And that’s what rightfully plants the seeds of doubt for many. And that’s the unfortunate drawback of Topps not specifically labeling all cards and including different types of Relics like stadium seats — obviously something that they have done in the past. (Those cards were labeled accordingly.)
However, it’s worth noting that the blurb on the Ruth we pulled was consistent with all of the other cards of its type (single-piece Relics) — and is consistent with the other Ruth cards available from the product. That, to me, reinforces to me a cut-corners approach moreso than an intent to deceive by being vague. If only Ruth’s cards said “memorabilia” then I would wonder a lot more. Either way, they are Ruth “Relic” cards whether they are a bat or a stadium seat, etc. That can’t be argued. However, the difference in those two types of cards’ appeal would be something collectors could spend hours discussing.
But don’t get us wrong — this remains a case where Topps botched it. A decision to not specifically label the pieces in a high-end product that relies heavily on Relics has us where we are today — a lot of collectors’ knee-jerk reactions (not necessarily from you) that all of the Relics in the product are somehow bad and plenty of well-fueled conspiracy theories convinced of something worse.
You can bet Topps didn’t want that. And you can bet that the feedback they have received might lead them to not do it again — however, I’d also be willing to bet that the company was working on those two products at around the same time (and that there could be others with similar issues to come).
However, just because Topps has not replied to our questions doesn’t mean that they are avoiding the topic overall. (The fact of the matter is that they may not be able to tell you what went into your card — a lot of things change during the production of a product, particularly when more than one product is being worked on simultaneously.) Below is the reply to the question one collector received via email from Topps’ customer service:
Thank you for your inquiry, please be advised these are memorabilia pieces and may not necessarily be bat or jersey relics, however the majority of the items are indeed jersey and bat pieces. Some of the items including the Ruth relics are seat relics from that era.
Thank you for your interest in Topps.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact our Customer Service team (By Phone: 800-489-9149, or by Email:email@example.com) if you ever have any other questions, comments or suggestions. A customer service representative will be available to answer your questions between the hours of 8:30am-4:30pm (EST), Monday through Friday.
Sincerely, Consumer Relations The Topps Company, Inc.
I do firmly believe that the pieces with paint on them are obviously not bats — and it should be obvious to most collectors that is the case. However, it’s disappointing that the pieces are included alongside what could be bats and the labeling is not there. If the seats are cut where no paint is showing, they’ll mostly look like any other bat piece — aka a piece of wood. But it’s that discrepancy that does lead to questions that many a collector has had.
And it’s a fair question.
Hopefully, Topps will get back to us with some answers on the matter.
— Chris Olds
Editor, Beckett Baseball