High Numbers, Low Expectations

Posted: November 19, 2014 by Crackin' Wax in Heritage, Topps
Tags: , ,

Topps Heritage High Number has been, for the last few years, only available as a hobby boxed set with each containing one autographed card—some in red ink and numbered to 10. The set is composed of 100 cards (401-500, extending the base set from earlier in the year) full of rookies and veteran players with their new teams. According to Brent Williams of brentandbecca, there were just 1000 sets produced in 2012 with an uptick in production in 2013 and 2014. Topps has produced 7500 Heritage High Numbers sets for this season which, to me, indicates a steady increase in demand.

While the set may be becoming more popular, it seems Topps is facing more trouble with packout and/or shipment of these sets. Late last night, the word spread that many of the sets arrived to distributors damaged and unsellable.

click to view full size

click to view full size

While it seems that the damage thus far hasn’t been severe, it has been enough to cause concern among hobby retailers and collectors alike. I myself have a box of this product coming in for @literalquirk‘s Ladies Night break and may end up having to eat the cost on any damaged cards—perhaps even the entire box.

Of course, Topps does have a system in place in regards to damaged cards, so long as you can provide a claim form, letter of explanation, copy of receipt, pack wrappers, and proof of purchase. You also have to accept that, especially with a set of limited production, you likely won’t get another copy of the exact same card back. Instead, you’ll likely receive “a replacement of similar value.” That value, of course, is determined by Topps, not you.

When I asked how damage like this could happen between Topps and delivery to distributors, one answer I received made the most sense and made me the most concerned.

To me, this is an indication that Topps could have done a better job in protecting their merchandise. These sets don’t necessarily need to be as protected as packs of Tier One, but obviously something more could have been done to keep these cards safe. When sending out cards from my breaks, I use thick, sturdy BCW storage boxes, packing peanuts and team bags. The team bags act as pack wrappers in keeping the cards from flying around loosely. The packing peanuts fill in any voids to allow slight, soft movement within the box, and the storage boxes provide cushion and sturdiness to protect everything inside. Sure, it’s not the cheapest way to go, but I’ve yet to hear of any cards that I’ve shipped in this manner arriving damaged.

Spending a little extra money on protecting their merchandise in transit will save them money—it may even make them more money. The chances that distributors will trust Topps to deliver this set safely in 2015 and beyond has likely diminished to some degree, even with their damage claim policy in place. Online and brick & mortar hobby shops certainly don’t want to waste their own time and money on product they can’t sell to consumers who could then in turn shy away from those shops and that product simply because the cards were not protected properly. Of course, this may be an extreme scenario, but it certainly is plausible, especially if it continues to happen in the future. If shops can’t sell the product, they won’t order as much from their distributors. If distributors can’t sell to shops, they won’t order as much from Topps. If orders of an already limited quantity set such as HH decline, then Topps may be forced to scale back or even cancel the product all together.

But that’s the great thing about Topps. If they have to cancel a product, they’ll just invent another new, shiny product to grab our collective collecting attention and make back the money they may or may not have lost on the cancelled product (anyone remember Moments and Milestones?).

Topps has already experienced enough of a backlash in regards to customer service. They certainly don’t need a clustermuck like this adding to their problems. They’re in a good spot right now where it will take a lot more than just this to lose significant dollars. However, if these pestering little common sense issues continue to crop up on a consistent basis, they’ll either snowball into something severely damaging to the company or the trading card community will just accept these problems as the norm and continue on collecting and spending hard-earned money.

I’d rather see Topps continue what they seem to be doing—making things right for collectors (so that we’ll continue to buy from shops, shops will buy from distributors, and distributors will buy from Topps). What I’d prefer to see most, however, is Topps doing what they can to prevent issues like this from happening in the first place.

If you are like me and are waiting on a set or a case (or more) of 2014 Topps Heritage High Numbers, keep your expectations in check. I won’t know the condition of my set until sometime in December when our Ladies Night shipment arrives. Until then, like just about everything else in life, I’ll hope for the best and expect the worst.


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