01 February 2016

Seeking Redemption 15: The Replacement

edit 3/5/2016: Topps has resolved this issue to my satisfaction. You can read about it here.

Way back in 2013 or maybe early 2014 I pulled a redemption card from 2013 Topps Archives for a Real Heavy Metal Autograph of Winger/Whitesnake guitarist Reb Beach. These were different from the regular Heavy Metal autographs in that the cards were to be made of metal and limited to a print run of 25 copies. So, a pretty cool card. After a couple of years of waiting I decided that the card probably wasn't going to be made, so I requested a replacement from Topps through their customer service e-mail address. That led to a ticket being opened and they came back with a valuation of $20-25 on the card. They won't tell you which card they are sending as a replacement, just that it will come from the same sport as the original redemption. I accepted the $20-25 value and this is what I got in my envelope from Topps:


It's a 2013 Topps Archives Fan Favorite autograph of Bob Welch. I don't have anything against Mr. Welch, but since November this card has sold 8 times on eBay for an average of about $10.80. That is significantly less than the value Topps quoted me, and this card just plain doesn't match up. Topps made it pretty easy for me to compare the two cards because they both hail from the same product. Going back to the pack odds in 2013 Archives, the Fan Favorites Autographs were a 1:14 pack pull while the Real Heavy Metal Autographs fell at 1:2,250 pack odds.

In the end it is just cardboard and ink (or Real Heavy Metal and ink), but I can't help being disappointed that Topps replaced a pretty rare and cool hit with the most basic hit in the product. I wasn't expecting the moon, but I was hoping for something in the same realm of rarity as the card I pulled the redemption for.

23 comments:

  1. You got pooned on tops valuation of Bob Welch's on-card signature. What do they take us for, Smuckers? Anyhow I have a great deal of interest in this card as it hails from an often underrated design. 90's Topps on today's stock and quantity makes for a highly desirable collectable in my estimation. Heavy Metal Bob Welch would be next level if Topps could pull that off. Let me know if you'd like to work out a swap.

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    1. 1990 Topps is the first set I remember receiving cards from. I am also pretty fond of the design for that reason, because for me that set is what set the standard for what a baseball card is. I'll have to think about a trade. This card is part of my personal collecting history now.

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  2. Just on the pack pull odds alone Topps should have been able to realize that you needed a better replacement. That stinks.

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    1. I agree. I think their formula is designed to discourage collectors from redeeming their redemption cards.

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  3. It looks like you got... wait for it... "welched" by Topps right there. Hopefully that terrible pun brought a little bit of a smile to your face to soften the disappointment of this replacement.

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    1. That was a terrible pun, which means it was right in my wheelhouse as far as humor goes.

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  4. Send them a link to this post on their Twitter. Maybe they'll see that enough of us read your blog and think their replacement is ridiculous (and this is coming from an A's fan who has fond memories of Welch).

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    1. I followed through on your suggestion. My tweets don't tend to reach out very far (probably something I am doing wrong), but at least it feels like I'm doing something to advance my cause.

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  5. That's BS and one of the reasons people don't like Topps. It's basically a bait and switch tactic.

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    1. Yeah, I've heard the horror stories but I naively held out hope that in my case things would work out fairly.

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  6. Man that stinks. Just another example that shows Topps not following through like they should. How do businesses get away with this kind of stuff anyhow?!

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    1. Because they can, I guess. When you've got a monopoly on content that people want, there's no real money to be made in improving the customer experience. Topps knows that baseball card collectors want officially-licensed baseball cards, and they are currently the only source for those. I've heard of people with high-end redemption cards getting decent replacement value after opening up a Better Business Bureau case against Topps, but that seems like a lot of work to go through for the difference in sticker price that I'm dealing with here.

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  7. I am guessing Topps uses Beckett's theory on prices? If they truly wanted to be fair (even slightly fair) they could have at least sent you the base Reb Beach Heavy Metal Autograph

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    1. Yeah, something besides a base autograph from the same product would have been nice. I am sure they have plenty of legitimate $20-25 cards sitting in their redemption replacement bin. But it makes sense to Topps to send me the cheapest card they think they can get away with, because how hard is the average collector going to go after them over ten or fifteen dollars?

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  8. I had something similar happen. I also got what I felt was a bad replacement. I actually called Topps, and after a few minute yes, they admitted the replacement was incorrect. I had to send the card back, but in the end, I received a card that was a better fit. You may give it a try.

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    1. Yeah, I've explored a couple of avenues. I just hate phone calls so much, especially when it has to do with a customer service issue. I reopened my help desk ticket at the customer service site and I'm going to see where it goes from there.

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    2. Gotcha. Good luck my friend, I hope this gets fixed for you!

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  9. I have had a few bad redemptions with Topps over the years. It is so frustrating because you think the employees would have a better pulse on the market. The redemption you had was for such a unique card and they send a run of the mill Fan Favorites auto.

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    1. I think that is the main frustration for me. I pulled a card that was a 1 per 90-ish box hit with a cool gimmick and low print run and it got replaced with the most basic 2 per box hit in the product. Adding to my frustration is the fact that as the customer I have little to no control or input in the process.

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  10. I've only once sent in a replacement request to Topps and got a replacement instead. Instead of a Hall of Fame Steeler (Mel Blount) autograph, I was sent a Tarvaris Jackson rookie autograph. Even as a Browns fan, I was looking forward to the Blount autograph. I didn't buy another sealed Topps product for three years after that exchange.

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    1. There are really no winners in the redemption game, and the redemption replacement game just compounds the frustration that is already there. Every collector put a different value on things, and as a customer service rep it would be difficult to cater to the wish list of each individual. I wish I knew what their service center's volume of tickets per day was, but that's not likely to be something they release to the public. I don't think that locking the collector entirely out of the replacement process is the right answer, though. Even a list of five options for replacement or telling the customer, "Select an item from Tier B on this list of available items," would give the customer the chance to feel like a part of the process and to get whatever it was in that range that was most valuable to them personally. But the ability to do that really depends on how many replacements Topps is processing in a given time period. Someone else might be thrilled to get a hot rookie autograph instead of some crusty old player, but for you that was a terrible exchange.

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