Featured Card: 2013 Topps Stickers #168, Cole Hamels
Earlier this week, I visited the local Target to check on the availability of 2013 Topps Gypsy Queen. No dice. However, they did have 2013 Topps Stickers albums, which meant I could finally complete my team set. However what I saw lowered my overall opinion of Topps just a little bit more: I couldn’t find a single album with a Hamels sticker in a condition I would call better than just VG-EX.
The problem rests in the way the perforated sticker sheet is placed in the album. It was adhered by one of those rubber-like adhesive strips to the first interior right-hand page and placed really close to the spine. (I should have taken a picture before starting this post, but, alas, I wasn’t thinking ahead when I extracted the Hamels sticker from the album I purchased.) Given Topps’s chosen method, I don’t know what they could have done to better protect the condition of the sticker sheet in the production process. However, the Hamels stickers, which were on the edge of the sheets closest to both the spine and the center staple holding the albums together, I saw all had the same set of problems, to varying degrees:
- A very noticeable notch on the left-hand border (see scan above);
- At a minimum, some damage to the surface gloss on the front of the sticker; (some stickers showed discernible paper damage from the machining process); &
- A slight, oily stain left by the adhesive strip on the backing of the sticker (a problem common to the type of strip used by Topps).
All this in addition to the fact that having a card with four clean edges is next to impossible without the use of paper-cutter, and even then, you would actually need to slightly trim the sticker in order to ensure that no perforation marks are visible at all.
I understand that most likely Topps feels their stickers are primarily a children’s product, so that quality control probably isn’t that big a priority for them. However, they must know that various collectors are interested in acquiring NMMT+ of every sticker in the set. From what I saw at this particular Target, and knowing that the album is the only way to get acquire one, it is impossible to obtain a collector’s quality Hamels sticker. For all I know this location just got a bad batch and there are plenty of albums out there containing Hamels stickers in much better condition. However, I didn’t want to count on this, and I had a team set to complete. So, I chose the best one I could whilst cursing Topps under my breath.
I sincerely doubt that Topps cares about the gripes I have with this product. Their monopoly to produce MLB-licensed baseball cards was just extended through 2010, and they know that the overwhelming majority of the hobby will only purchased MLB-licensed cards, so they have no incentive (at least not until renewal of their license starts to become a concern) to actually pay attention to collectors such as myself. For reasons I won’t get into here, I don’t considering walking away from the hobby an option. Still, it would be nice to know if there was someone — anyone — at Topps who will recognize this problem for what it was and see that it doesn’t happen again.