The other day on Twitter there was some minor discussion about the same photo of Pirates catching prospect Elias Diaz appearing in both Topps Heritage and on a Panini Donruss autographed card. Another Twitter guy rightly explained that this isn't the first time this has happened and offered up the famous example of the same Rod Carew photo being used in 1982 Topps (the in-action card) and 1982 Fleer.
I went a step further and showed the magazine blurb about the Carew card from the old Baseball Cards magazine from the spring of 1982.
Have I mentioned how many times I miss that magazine?
The scan also included a bit of the next article on the right, with the heading "Collectors Say, 'That's All," and that intrigued a couple of people.
In fact, that particular item has been on my mind for awhile as a potential post (I actually addressed the topic once already when I covered that particular edition of the magazine). With what's been going on in new cards lately, I thought I'd discuss it a little more.
Here is the rest of that article after the jump:
If you don't want to read that, here is a brief summation:
The writer is discussing what was then a recent phenomenon of "intentional errors." The 1981 Fleer Graig Nettles card -- which included an error version in which his name on the back was spelled "Craig," -- had been a sensation, with some collectors paying what was then an exorbitant amount of $15 to land the error version. Because of this, the writer says, Fleer in 1982 purposely created errors on the backs of some of its cards to attract more buzz.
The writer is appalled by this, stating:
"Disappointed with the generally poor quality of the photography on Fleer's 1982 cards, hobbyists are even more turned off by what they view as a deliberate attempt to force them into hunting for obscure variations to "complete" a set of 1982 Fleer cards."
Flash forward to 2016 and we have this. And this. Opening Day has variations for crying out loud. We're now at the point where card companies are almost incapable of issuing sets without intentional variations. (And the ones that don't have variations, have parallels). But the thing that concerns me the most is that with the last couple of products that have been released, I have actually heard about and seen the variation cards before I even get to see the base cards -- you know, the ones that make up the set? There is so much noise about variations now that it's pretty obvious that set collectors are dying. And the number of collectors disturbed by the sight of collectors throwing base cards in the garbage at the local card shop is dwindling.
Three points to remember: the variation craze is not new, it's not going away, and it's getting worse. Or getting better, depending on your point of view.
I'm not condemning manufactured variations exactly. I kind of like them. ... OK, I like them a lot.
When I heard in 1982 that the Fleer Al Hrabosky card featured three error variations, I really wanted them all.
The one I own shows Hrabosky's height incorrectly as 5-foot-1, which is the dollar version, and not the rarer "All Hrabosky" version.
How I wanted the "All Hrabosky" card!
But at the time, there was no ebay, and being a paperboy didn't pay much anyway. So I knew I'd never land it and I went back to the main goal at that time -- finding all the Dodgers and completing sets.
That was the objective at the time for most collectors: finding all the cards in the base set. This pursuit of variations was viewed as silliness. You can see the contempt in the magazine writer's words.
I don't know who wrote that article. Bob Lemke was the editor of the magazine, so it could have been him. The article implies that the author talked to a number of collectors and others in the hobby to come up with his statement that collectors were turned off by what Fleer was doing. It's interesting that the first reaction then was "it's a gimmick!" and now it's "how many variations can you find????????"
The article then implied that collectors were "all through" with chasing Fleer errors. That proved to be far from the case, reaching a crescendo with the 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken card.
Meanwhile, my attitude is kind of the same as it was back then. There's a good chance I will never own or even know about all of the variations. I'm just happy when one lands in my lap.
Andy of the new blog Ain't Nobody Got Time For Cardboard! (more about the cards he sent in a later post) recently sent me the Joc Pederson variation from last year's Topps:
Pretty cool. You can see how the difference is exciting to a collector. But I rarely include cards like this in my want lists. Not only do I not want to search them out, but I don't expect people to find them for me, and I also don't want to get into the mindset that they need to be included for me to complete the set.
If I get one, "cool," otherwise it's best forgotten.
The underlying disturbing point to this is that thing that veteran collectors have mentioned over and over. Variation cards, as well as parallels and inserts and "hits," are not innocent extras that collectors can choose to chase or ignore, as many say they are. They actually reduce the value of the base set. They reduce in collectors' minds the interesting aspects and the love for the process of completing a base set. Over the last three-plus decades, it's been reduced so much that people are automatically dismissive when you talk about collecting a base set. It's as if you've announced that you've figured out a way to pasteurize milk. Get out of the way, old man! I think I spotted Correa in a throwback!!!!!
And you can say, "so what?" and "collect what you want" and "just change the channel if you don't like it," but there's still that pachyderm in the pantry:
If nobody cares about the base product anymore doesn't this lead to an inferior base product?
I think there are enough examples out there over the last 20 years or so to say, "yes, it does."
As a set collector, I don't like that, and I have a hunch that in the long run this is all bad for business. I know it's certainly partly to blame for driving me to vintage. But I'm just one guy. And I don't have access to Topps or Panini's financial records. Nor do I want to.
I just think it's interesting that we've gone from "manipulation of the hobby" to "what would Topps Heritage be without a boatload of variations?"