I'm a middle of the road type of collector, so I grab stuff that catches my eye - not because I'm going to 'rip and flip,' but because I'm a baseball card junkie who strives to keep up his one last link to his adolescence.
Topps and Upper Deck need to put out more product that isn't going to insult the collector - it seemed like I didn't bother with most of Upper Deck's products because there was no greater appeal with brands like Spectrum, SPX, X, Heroes for example.
I busted some 2008 Upper Deck Timeline packs and like the product - but quality control problems hindered the appeal.
With Topps, they always put on a show with their sell sheets for their products [an average collector has access to these online] - but actual, nice pulls seem far and few in-between in their products.
For 2009, here is what I'd like to see Topps, Upper Deck and other companies - possibly producing baseball cards.
1.) Have more cards per pack like 2008 Upper Deck with 18 cards - it seemed like the collector got a little more cards to flip through for a $3 pack.
2.) While mediocre 'hits' are par for the course, tighten up the insert checklist - what happened to the superstar certified autograph or super patch card? Collectors don't like pulling plain swatch material cards of middling players and certified autograph cards of middle relievers and utility guys because collectors can sniff out when companies are trying to be cheap.
It is nicer to try and complete a set of inserts - knowing it has some value and knowing there are marquee players to chase.
3.) No 'weird' autographs - leave the 1980s hair bands or the D-list 'celebrities' alone Upper Deck. No one needs autographs of subjects whose notoriety rests on the fact he or she is going to be in rehab and it is going to be filmed for a reality show. A Donruss Fans of the Game type of insert would be nice, where you have celebrity baseball fans featured on cards.
4.) Don't manipulate a type of insert set to produce a cheaper type of card that people typically associate with a big hit - certain card types should retain a certain appeal and to find the quad autograph card or quad material card worth little, because there are a billion of them takes the fun out of busting packs like 2008 Upper Deck Ballpark.
5.) Quality control - opening a pack of cards and seeing roller marks, nicks and dings is something to shy away from.
6.) Have some fun thinking up a retro themed set - and find a way to incorporate a 'vintage' design for one product and make it a stand alone set [at least 200 cards] with a comprehensive player checklist. There are a lot Upper Deck and Topps can do in-between.
While Topps Heritage and Topps Allen and Ginter are set builders' staples - a quirky product like 2008 Upper Deck Timeline was more fun to bust because it had a little bit of something for everyone.
7.) Have minimal subsets - one subset per base set is fine, but having all sorts of manager, team, leaders, checklist cards dilute from the base set.
8.) Include a checklist sheet/card per box - it may not be a new concept for a set builder, but I'd like to figure out what I've pulled, what I have and what I still need.
9.) For non-memorabilia, non-autograph cards - create better parallels and not cheap inserts to include as hits.
10.) Old faces, new places - planning for product takes some time, so Topps and Upper Deck need to figure out how to print old players' cards with their new teams i.e. get all the off-season trades, signings and other transactions.
A second look -
2008 Topps Stadium Club - it is kind confusing how the product is put together with the hobby and retail variations in the base set. Hobby was priced as 'high-end' even with midlevel specifications. I think retail was an appropriate way to get these cards if you kind of wanted to see what this was all about. The product was nice even though every other collector was looking for different things, when the news Topps was bringing back SC first came out.
2008 Tristar Projections - a two-series set of 400 minor league player cards [including New York Yankees' failed prospect Billy Crystal, who had one spring training at-bat and was let go] was hard to ignore for an in-person or through the mail autograph collector who needed the cards signed. Many of the players are obscure [isn't that the point with a minor league product] and the better names already have cards produced by Donruss, Topps or Upper Deck. On the other hand, you do get eight hits per box, including four autographs and numbered cards.
2008 Prime Cuts IV - maybe prices for individual cards have leveled off in general and the inclusion of first-year and rookie type players is unecessary filler, but based on sell sheets alone, Prime Cuts IV takes the prize as the best high-end product of 2008. The kicker is it isn't even a licensed MLB/MLBPA product.
2008 Topps Sterling - maybe the worst high-end product, just because you are locked into a player once you open your box and if you don't a really big name, then you are likely to pull a less than stellar card.
2008 Razor - was supposed to be a radical product that leveled the prospecting playing field. People are sitting on this product now because singles have not exploded in value and people don't want to sell their average hits for $2-$4each.