Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On-card vs. sticker

I received this autographed card of Ricky Nolasco from Matthew of Bob Walk the Plank. It's a terrifically designed card made all the more powerful by Nolasco's hard-signed signature.

Ricky Nolasco didn't exactly have a long and proud history with the Dodgers, but the card is so nice that I'm very happy to own it.

I was so impressed with it, in fact, that I asked myself this question: "Why do I have sticker autographs in my collection?"

It seemed like a reasonable question. I'm not really an autograph collector. I don't seek out autograph cards. I view them as a perk, but not the basis of a collection. And if I'm treating them as a perk, shouldn't I accumulate only the autographed cards that look the best to me? The on-card, hard-signed cards?

I've also started thinking about possibly selling some of my cards online. Possibly COMC or, shudder the thought, ebay. Sending off some of those sticker autographs would be a sensible first step.

I mean, I don't think I would miss these much:

Who are these guys?

(Then again, who would buy them?)

So I started looking through the collection and pulling out all the stickered autographs. They would be the first to go.

One of the first cards I came to was this one:

Oh, man. Dee Gordon. I don't want to get rid of an autographed card of Dee Gordon. Even if it is a sticker.

So I put that one aside. I won't be trying to sell that.

Then there was this one:

Chris Withrow? Hell, no. I'm not selling my only autographed card of one of the Dodgers' only reliable bullpen members just because it's a sticker.

And then I realized that I was having a difficult time parting with the stickers.

Three of the four autographed cards I have of Johnny Podres are stickers. I don't know how I feel about selling or trading a Podres autograph.

Two of the four autographed cards I have of Duke Snider are stickers. And this one was pulled for me in a group break. Get rid of the Duke and the memories of group break luck all because of a sticker? I don't think I can do it.

Yeah, it's a sticker. But some stickered autograph cards feature tremendous designs.

Sure, this is the only one of three Burt Hooton autographs that I have that is not on-card. But it's also the only one in which he signed his name "Happy."

Get rid of an autograph card of the best pitcher in baseball because of sticker? I don't think so.

And then there are these over-the-top things. I'd have to be stone-cold to try to sell these.

So that's when I knew that this was yet another area where it is not cut-and-dried. Not all hard-signed cards are fantastic and not all sticker-auto cards are terrible. It's up to your personal preference. And now that I've looked, I definitely enjoy some sticker autograph cards.

That doesn't mean I don't think hard-signed cards shouldn't be the objective of every card company. And it doesn't mean that some day all of the above sticker autographs may end up being sold off anyway.

After all, I'm pretty much a base-card guy.

But there's more to the story than whether your favorite player has touched the card or not. For me, it's all about the card, not the person or even the signature. I guess some collectors said the same thing when I was thinking of ditching most of my relic cards (turns out I've only gotten rid of a few).

If the card looks good (or creates a connection), that's all that matters.


  1. On card always trumps sticker, but like you said it is all about the connection. Some of my favorite autos are cards that I pulled out of packs or have a cool photo.....many of these are stickers.

  2. Great post. I've echoed the same sentiments- it's all about aesthetics for me. And...I don't mind plain white swatches on relics; it's about the card, the photo, for me.

  3. I'm firmly in the on-card is best camp. Do I own a bunch of sticker autos. Yes, but they all seem like a compromise. I love the Nickname Greats autos but every time I look at them I wish they were hard signed.

  4. I am OK with most sticker autographs as long as they fit well within the design. But then there are on-card autographs that are poorly designed too. There are a couple of issues that you experience with stickers though; stickers occasionally peel off, some stickers (mostly older cards) are so shiny you do not see the signature and the dreaded "half" autograph where the athlete signs and part of the signature is off of the sticker so when it is placed on the card part of the autograph is missing.

  5. I'm at the point of my collecting cycle where storage space is an issue... so I'd rather have one cool autograph card I really enjoy, instead of ten "okie dokie" autographs. That typically means I'm going to purchase that of the "on card" variety. But you said it well. "It's up to your personal preference."

  6. To me, it's a question of the design choice that the company made - sticker vs. on-card - rather than whether those that were made with stickers are unacceptable. It's just that "they could have been better" if made without stickers. The down side is the added expense and higher incidence of redemptions that bypassing the sticker method creates.
    I'm like you, NOwl, in that autos and GUs are an extra bonus, rather than the main point of my collecting. So if the design works well with a sticker auto, it's just as valid and desirable as an on-card example.

  7. I too am in the On-Card camp that allows stickers on special occasions. As several have said there are some sticker cards that are very cool looking and are designed well. I have thought at times of purging some of the sticker autos but have the same sort of problems of a sticker being of a PC player or the design is just way too cool to get rid of.

    This reminds me of my GU/Artifacts dilemma. For the most part I am against them, but I have many of them for some of the same reasons, cool designs (or the patch is cool), it's one of my super PC players, a combination of many reasons etc...