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.