Another Take on the Redemption Discussion


Just the word itself can make people want to take a card and drag it across their eyeball. This goes doubly so if the redemption is for a big card. The subject is so touchy with collectors, that it is brought up at just about every public Q&A that is offered. People really just dont like any bit of the concept of the IOUs that redemptions represent.

In fact, it is so polarizing, that I really dont like talking about it too much on the site. Its a subject that many people refuse to think logically about in many cases. It breeds very personal resentment over situations many of have experienced over the last few years. Most of it is warranted.

Even though recently, Topps has even tried to take a new step forward in trying to do all redemptions on card, it doesnt matter much to the people who have been waiting months and years for their cards. Stickers or on card, people want their goods, and they deserve to get them.

The reason I am bringing it up again stems from a twitter post that Topps recently tweeted this morning. For the first time in about 4 years, Julio Jones is signing on card for his cards in 2014 Five Star. He was a redemption in the product (as he has been since his rookie year), and it looks like Topps nailed him to his chair and forced a pen into his hand.

Julio is a popular and dynamic player from a top college program. His cards sell for a lot, mainly due to lack of availability:

2011 Crown Royal Julio Jones Silhouette Auto Patch

2011 SP Authentic Julio Jones Auto Patch RC

2011 Topps Julio Jones Rookie Premiere Auto

2011 Topps Chrome Julio Jones Variation Auto BGS 9.5

If you remember back, Panini offered redemptions for Julio Jones in their 2011 Contenders product that some people have been waiting years for. Not figuratively, literally. When I retweeted the picture, I was met by a few collectors who tied the event back to their own outstanding redemptions with Panini. I started to think about what would possess someone to wait THAT long for a redemption that was likely never coming.

Think about it – Julio Jones had zero on card 2012 autographs, zero in 2013, and only the Five Star redemptions in 2014. There were a few stickers here and there that were likely leftovers. He was likely added to the autograph blacklist back during 2011, and it takes a lot for the companies to trust the players again. For whatever reason, Topps thought it was worth the risk, and today it paid off.


I have always taken the stance that I would wait for an autograph of my favorite player for as long as it takes, and I believe that applies for many people in this specific scenario. Maybe I cant fault them for holding out hope. There is also a calculation of risk that needs to be taken with redeeming a card, and Im not sure if Julio ever met the positive that situation being that he had signed SO little.

It wouldnt be the last time that a player surfaced after many years, as Chris Johnson returned a batch of stickers to Panini a few years ago that they were able to use for his long outstanding 2008 Treasures stuff. Those redemptions were outstanding for a very long time. Julio is in that same boat as of now.

Does one wait or does one opt for replacements? That question brings about a completely different discussion, as I believe the redemption piece isnt really the part of the process that collectors hate. I am of the group that believe that a solid redemption replacement process would do wonders for the reputation that plagues missing autographs. If we had the opportunity to replace unfulfilled redemptions with cards we wanted, there might not be such a fear around redeeming cards for players where they are a huge risk to not sign.

Even that is a touchy situation, because value is so subjective in its own right. Player collectors and certain individuals place certain added cost on their own cards vs those that are sold online, and that creates a problem of valuation and “fairness.”

Panini was actually onto something in creating the points system, but the design was such a clusterfuck, that it negated any progress that was potentially available. Instead of offering points to fix the actual problem of redemption replacements, they offered points to fix redemptions – which really arent even a big deal in 95% of the cases where they are used. Inventory and processing of orders were also a joke, but that’s just Panini for you.

I mean, in an ideal situation, every player wouldnt be Julio Jones. Instead, the players seem to be just as much of a problem as anything, and they will NEVER be anything different. The card companies need them exponentially more than the players need the card companies. When you have no leverage, redemption situations happen.

Luckily, the NFLPA requires rookie year signatures as part of their licensing deal with the card companies, so they will usually provide a big help if players dont want to play along. Agents can also be favorable too, especially if they understand how much autographs can be a part of their client’s branding. Its rare, but it does exist.

More times than not, players tolerate autographs. In the case of some, they hate it so much, that they decide to find ways around it. Unless a company rep is present, there are too many stories of unverifiable fraud. This only makes on card autographs even more of a logistical nightmare, especially if you are like Topps and want to send someone to 9 out of 10 signings. Sure, that prevents what happens to Panini more times than any other company, but its a bigger burden of cost and resources as well.

Because collectors will likely never understand the behind the scenes situations that contribute to autographs (nor should they be forced to, really), it creates a hugely negative experience when something doesnt work out right. Its true, they should have a right to the content they were promised, and historical accounts have provent that when things go wrong, they go very wrong. Companies have become increasingly horrible at handling customer service, only further exacerbating a bad issue.

I do not support the abolition of redemptions. Too many players would not be available for products, and it would force more sticker autographs. On the other hand, I completely support collectors having more of a voice when a player flakes. If we cant get what we are promised, we should be able to be paid back for the trouble. What is worse, is that the cost to do this may be prohibitive at this point. Budgets are already TIGHT, unless you have a blank check from your Italian sugar daddy. Considering that most redemptions are filled eventually, is the opportunity cost too high to take this on? Maybe.

It serves as a reminder that Julio Jones is just one player. Most of the time, he isnt going to be afforded the trust to continue being a part of the hobby. He doesnt care, though. For every Julio Jones, there are three Mike Trouts, who will sign anything that Topps puts in front of him, and in a timely fashion. It might not be a good idea for us to get caught up in the extremes of the availability spectrum.

However, that doesnt excuse the companies from working on new processes to help collectors when a new Julio Jones comes around.

4 thoughts on “Another Take on the Redemption Discussion

  1. Pingback: Around the Carding Blogosphere for June 5, 2015 : The Baseball Card Store

  2. My Topps account is sitting on a 2010 Five Star redemption of Dalton and AJ Green dual auto patch booklett ##/15. I also have 6 or more cards Im waiting on that are at least a year old.

    Not to mention the 20+ redemptions I have that are not entered yet for the 2014 product season. 2014 Strata and Five Star had several redemptions per case.

    Now shame on me for sitting on these for so long but I rarely have a free 2+ hours to sit on hold to actually talk with someone at Topps and the last time I did, it was obvious the person I talked to knew very little about cards, redemptions or what Topps process was. First I was told they never got anything back, then it was they were signed by Dalton but all got damaged in the process. To me these responses are interesting as for about 6 months out of the year, I pretty sure I could tell you where the both players would be for at least 5 hours a day..

    It will be interesting to see what they would offer in return. I dont know how they would assign a replacement value. Is there a similar QB WR rookie combo since 2010 that could be offered up? Maybe I can combine all my outstanding reds. into one class action and get something really big…

    I also returned a whole case of 2013 Five Star for quality issues and the alternative replacements were not what Id classify as equal book value. If I return a card there is only 5 or 10 of I dont expect the exact same card back but to me a Geno Smith Matt Barkley booklet is not equal to a book card #/5 of starting RBs…

    The thing I find disturbing is that AJ Green was in 2014 Five Star with live cards..

    Points could work if they were paired with unique content that was only for the redemption pool and the perceived value of the players involved were close.

    Overall I dont have issue with redemptions as I see them as part of the deal. Ill take the chance and wait for an on card auto as opposed to stickers or trapped paper or fabric swatches.

    But most of this is a non issue for me as 2015 is the last year Im involved and even thats at a significantly reduced level. I only buy Topps products so Ill take my big spend to a different hobby or earlier retirement…

  3. The amount of redemptions I received from Panini products (when I used to support them) still far outweighs the amount of Topps redemptions, and I’ve exclusively bought high-end Topps BB/FB and Bowman BB products since Flawless Football.

    The thing Panini has right is fulfilling old/expired redemptions, but the Rewards site is still a joke, and I think they bank(ed) on that to justify putting in as many as they do.

    I used to be an advocate for the Rewards site, which was a good idea, but the execution is about the worst it could have been. I miss the old redemption program. Letting Panini basically control the points ‘market’ – by deciding what to put in what products and by arbitrarily pricing the cards on the Rewards site at their choosing – is a step backwards to fixing the problem.

  4. Unfortunately, Panini didn’t design the “rewards” program to reward anyone but themselves. It would have been completely logical to have a pool of cards online and allow people with redemptions that went unfulfilled for 12 mos to then pick a replacement from the pool.

    Make the redemptions for a specific player OR a specific point value after a date 1 year in the future.

    It would have given relief to customers waiting longer than they should for a card to be fulfilled while also rewarding Panini in a way for getting redemptions fulfilled. Why they didn’t do this is beyond me.

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