Friday, November 16, 2012

The 38-star club

A couple of days ago, Topps released news of its new "Five Star Club," an exclusive club for super-high-end collectors who spend an average of $10,000 on Topps products each year.

There was a lot of hue and cry about this and understandably so. (Here is a well-thought-out rundown and rant). I was part of that, and I'll try to explain my feelings here.

First, I'm not a fan of clubs. Never have been. I like things that are inclusive, not exclusive. Clubs can get ugly real fast. And here is the part of Topps' Five Star Club press release that got me going:

"Introducing the Topps Five Star Club, an elite club for our most passionate collectors." (Emphasis mine).

Here was my Twitter reaction:

A typical editor reaction to get worked up over word choice.

But, still, it annoyed me. "Passionate" is not buying thousands of dollars of product in order to sell it or discard it. "Passionate" is not holding on to one card despite opening hundreds. "Passionate is not disregarding the minor details and nuances of cards, the appreciation of which DEFINES a passionate collector.

To me, "passionate" is staying with a hobby for decades, finding cards you love, and babbling about it on a blog. That is "passion."

There are other things not to like about the Five Star Club -- the "vow of silence," the high-school-style essay that's required, all of that. But that doesn't apply to me, because I have no chance of being in this club.

I really don't have an issue with Topps starting a club. A company has a right to recognize the people that generate the most money for the company. It can set the parameters however it wants.

I'm not upset that I don't get to be in a club.

My problem is related to how long I've been in this hobby, what kind of collector I am, and how that type of collector is treated as if it doesn't exist. How "passion" is redefined by Topps.

My tweet did get a reaction from Topps:

I guess they do know what "passion" is.

I nearly fell over when it appeared on my timeline, just because I've made several references to Topps on Twitter and never received a reaction (The response does have a "now run along, little collector" edge to it, whether that was intended or not).

I don't expect to be recognized by Topps as a longtime collector. In terms of priorities in the hobby, recognition from a corporate entity ranks probably about 758th on the list. It just would be nice, at some time, somehow, somewhere, for a company to say:

"Hey, you've been collecting cards since 1975. We think loyalty like that should be rewarded. Here's something that we're giving only collectors who have sunk 30 years of cash into our company."

Dream on, I know. It's not really a dream anyway. It's just a nice thought. That's all.

Because it occurred to me: This all matters even less than I think it matters.

I don't need Topps to invite me into a club to justify my collecting existence.

Whether I was aware of it or not, I am already part of a club.

I call it The 38-Star Club (even though my tweet mentioned "37 years," upon recalculation, it's actually 38). Each star is for how many years I've been collecting cards.

My reward for collecting this long?

Well, I started a blog and people paid attention to it and read it and are still reading it (I think). Thanks to 38 years in the hobby, I know at least a few things about it, can convey it well enough, and my enthusiasm continues to grow the more I am involved in it. People respond to that.

One way people respond to 38 years in the hobby is by sending me cards and stuff.

An example:

I received this giant Donruss Zenith Sandy Koufax 8-by-10 promo thing from Captain Canuck. Totally unexpected and very cool. The amount of oversized Koufax stuff I've been accumulating is starting to stack up.

He also sent me this awesome Burt Hooton autograph with his Tom Lasorda-inspired nickname added to his signature.

The Captain sent it to me because he knows I like the Dodgers and can appreciate '70s Dodgers espcially. Because I've been collecting for 38 years.

Here's another example:

Adam from ARPSmith's Sportscard Obsession sent me one-quarter of the 1990 Target Dodgers set.

If you know about the Target set, you know that it's like 1,000-plus cards.

So that means Adam sent me 250 Dodgers cards!

The cards arrived on six-or-seven perforated sheets (I don't have time to count them now), and are filled with the Dodgers you all know, and Dodgers only I know, and Dodgers nobody knows. I can't wait to find out about Elmer Klumpp.

I think I'll keep these cards intact -- and start investigating how to find the rest of the set.

So Adam, a Giants fan, sent me all these Dodgers because he knows I have a passion for the Dodgers and for cards. As a fellow collector, he gets that.

Some more cool stuff that he sent. Stuff Topps won't send me. But that doesn't matter. Because I'm part of a blogging club that does things like this.

One more example:

This is a 1975 Topps mini wrapper from Jim, aka, mr. haverkamp.

Out of all the people who I correspond with, he really is especially gifted at tailoring items to my specific wants.

Items like ...



And he sends cool Sportscaster cards like this one.

And because he reads my other blog, he'll send upgrades like this out of the blue.

And terrific items like this:

The very last issue of The National, the daily sports publication from 1990-91 that I paid tribute to just a few posts ago.

(He also sent me another issue. Can't wait to read them both).

Gifts like this show me that you read what I write, that you share in the enthusiasm that I have for this hobby, and that you recognize something in me that maybe you see in yourself:

A passion for the hobby.


  1. Terrific post, I'm with you 100 percent there.

    I haven't gotten that overly worked up about this "Five Star Club" thing either. The "big spenders" can have their club, but I know where the true passion for the hobby lies.

    Right here in the blogosphere.

  2. my point was to prove to Topps that us bloggers and average/long time collectors are just as passionate and obsessive than anyone else. I didn't want them to get away with thinking anything less about the ones who can't afford $10,000 of cards per year. I wouldn't care about clubs if they had it for all demographics and different collectors, but don't run it in our faces we aren't passionate.

  3. Here here. And thank you. Believe it or not you are one of the reasons I started blogging and I was happy to see another one started blogging again too. I've got a five star rant in me somewhere too, just gotta find it.

  4. I saw your tweet and Topps' response the other day. I was actually waiting for a post about it.

    I also remember reading the National when it was published..was the only paper at the time I would read cover to cover.

    Great post

  5. Great post. Well stated. At the National one company had a promotion for those who bought $10,000 of their new product. I saw someone opening endless boxes of cards to fulfill this requirement. Didn't see any passion there.

    Congratulations on the 38 stars. Here's to 38 more.

  6. Well Night Owl, I don't quite qualify for the 38-Star Club, how about the 35-Star Club?

  7. My first pack of cards was 1974 Topps football that I begged my mom for at the grocery store when I was 7. I had just been to my first college football game at Michigan Stadium.

    I'm proud to be a fellow 38'er.

  8. It is punk (which is a good thing) when you say that "I'm not a fan of clubs. Never have been. I like things that are inclusive, not exclusive. Clubs can get ugly real fast." Glad to see others are like-minded. Also, what a chump move by Topps.

  9. There's a big difference between a "community" and a "club."

  10. I think my issue was with the word "most" more than "passionate." I love my rinky dink collection just as much as the big spenders love their $500 boxes.

  11. When I saw that, I really laughed at their choice of words. "Passionate"? Seriously? Their website, their "public face", is the antithesis of baseball card collecting passion. Possibly one of the worst websites I have ever seen.

  12. I think of Groucho from Duck Soup:

    "I've got a good mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it."

  13. Great post, right there with you on the clubs.

    I got those cards at a Dodger Stadium give away - I think I was in college - and have been trying to figure out a way to mail them out intact since we started trading. Figured you wouldn't mind the fold and glad you are keeping them in tact. I would do the same thing if there was such a set of Giants. Enjoy!

  14. i've been meaning to get back to posting cards from that target set. there are a lot of unknowns even to me. ebay is probably your best bet for finding the other three sga packs.

  15. I think it's cool that Topps wants to reward their customers. However they screwed up by equating dollars with passion. Great post! And congratulations on 38 great years!

  16. Woo hoo, I can join Night Owl's band of passionate collectors. 38 years here as well. Didn't realize what all this 5 star club nonsense was about until reading this post. I am hoping and praying that another license will be issued when Topps exclusive expires. "Passionate" collectors want more choices.