Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A 'Million' lessons for Topps Diamond Giveaway

The Who told everyone "they won't be fooled again" and we've been warned not to ignore history for fear of repeating it.
Collectors, in general, aren't always quick to recognize learning experiences - or adjust because of them - making for what's become a gripe-filled hobby world.
Consider Topps Million Card Giveaway in 2010 and this year's Diamond Giveaway programs as a good place to call the class to order and pay attention.
There's probably little dispute both code-based promotions have been widely considered popular, if not successful. Opening the Topps' vaults to expose collectors to six decade's worth of cardboard - and a chance to get some of those cards in your hands - has been a great way to promote company and hobby history, not to mention drive Web traffic.
The complaints about unlocking meaningless modern duds plagues the concept, but no one really could expect Topps to only give away Mantles, Aarons and short prints from the 195os. Technical glitches on the MCG site were also a popular thing to pick on, but shipping costs took the crown for biggest criticism.
Shipping rates were lambasted early and often, continuing into the launch of the Gridiron Giveaway program. It become so prominent a complaint, even Beckett - in the soft-touch way it acknowledges hobby controversy - published a letter in the May issue of Beckett Baseball from a collector who essentially accused Topps of a bait-and-switch.
Ironically, the May issue's content was predominantly a celebration of Topps 60th anniversary.
My own order of MCG cards served to further the Beckett letter writer's point: The package of 31 cards, which cost me nearly $19 to ship, arrived with $3.09 in postage on it.
More irritating was that two of my cards were listed as "backordered."
A Topps representative told me via email this week that all shipping is handled by a third-party and that Topps lost money on it. Although the representative offered to expedite shipping of the missing cards - admittedly, not the point of my email - he didn't touch on my questions about whether Diamond Giveaway will operate the same way as MCG.
The Diamond Giveaway site does not yet have shipping information on it.
The other part of MCG that got folks chirping was the cards themselves. Topps clearly explained during MCG that the card you saw online wasn't necessarily the one you'd receive. Fair enough. That doesn't mean some folks weren't bumming their 50s and 60s "treasures" showed up dinged, creased and well off-center.
Sorting through my stack made me think it would have been a good idea to trade the fair-condition 1954 Ed McGhee rookie card in one of the hundreds of offers that came my way.
OK, so pop quiz time to see if anyone was paying attention.
Will you be more or less likely to participate in the Diamond Giveaway based on your MCG experience?
Knowing the cost and expected card conditions, will you be more or less likely to actually order cards you unlock?
As important, will Topps apply what they learned during MCG to make Diamond Giveaway (and future programs) better for collectors?
Class dismissed.

Campana's Corner is written by Dan Campana, a media consultant, former newspaper reporter and longtime collector living in the Chicago suburbs with a sports-minded 6-year-old and an understanding wife.

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