Since I’m a Millennial, I’ll admit that I value my computer, my smartphone, and the Internet more so than my parents do. I grew up on these things. These are my babies, my first loves, my girlfriends on some lonely nights in high school when no asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Good times.
I find myself though hanging on to a few things from yesteryear as an aspiring hipster would do. One of those is my appreciation for sports cards. Yes, inside this 22-year-old man is the heart of a 50-year-old man in the middle of a mid-life crisis he can’t seem to get out of.
In order for sports card companies like Topps to appeal to my generation, they have made sports card collecting digital. One app is known as Topps Kick which is where soccer fans can trade digital cards of players from the Premier League, Bundesliga, and MLS (AMERICA!).
I’ve never really felt comfortable with Topps Kick being someone who collects physical MLS cards (ones who can hold in your hand and touch and stuff). I don’t understand the value in digital cards. So, after giving Topps Kick a go yesterday, here are fore reasons why I am frustrated with Topps Kick.
1) It Gives Way Too Much Milk Away Up Front
I downloaded the Topps Kick app in order to properly write this piece just after lunch yesterday. When I opened it up I entered the basic information apps need to create you a profile, chose my favorite soccer team (sadly Cascadia or Lane United FC weren’t available), and was on my way. As with most apps that involve some sort of card collecting, I was given a free pack where I got twenty or so players including a super rare card for a Premier League player I had never heard of. As I was looking at the interface and where everything was, I found the store where I can buy more packs. This is where I found more milk then I could handle.
On top of the 1 large free pack I was given during the tutorial, I had found out that I had also been given 50 free 5-card Premier League packs and 25 free 5-card Bundesliga packs (would’ve gladly traded for 75 MLS packs but whatever). That’s a total of 375 cards that you get for free just by swiping down and left for about an hour in order to open all of the packs. I know this might be weird to say but that’s too much of a free thing. After getting 375 cards, what value do you think I consider these cards to have individually on the open market. It actually pains me to even consider buying a pack of 3 common BPL cards for 1,000 coins when I just got 50 5-card packs for 0 coins. In my mind, common cards are rendered worthless after getting 375 of them for free which leads me into my next reason for being frustrated about Topps Kick.
2) What’s Considered Super Rare Is Still A Really Big Number
For each card you collect on Topps Kick you get to see how many of it exists which is rather nice since you never really get to know how many common cards for a particular player there are. So, randomly I picked a common Sergio Aguero card to see how many of his cards exist on the app. Looking at the back of my digital card I see that there are a total of…1,609,923 common Sergio Aguero cards in the world. That’s a lot. You know what’s as unique and as common as that: elementary school homework. How matter how smart you thought you were, a million other kids found out how to multiply 10×10 the quickest too.
Over a million of just one common card seems like a lot to me. Thinking that at least the super rare cards have to be exponentially fewer and far between, I looked to see how many of my super rare Daniel Sturridge card I got out of the 50 free packs there were. The number of super rare Daniel Sturridge cards that exist is 40,215. Also, after looking at a few other super rare cards I pulled, the number that exists for each varies widely. Out of my super rare cards, the number that existed for each varied from roughly 35,000 to just over 65,000. That is not super rare people. There should be revolt in the streets over this inflation rate. Then again, as I discuss next, I don’t think the Topps Kick community knows what inflation is.
Side-note: After looking at some of my MLS cards, I recently discovered that the common Octavio Rivero card I just traded for has a total of 468 in existence currently…so there’s that.
3) Market Is Over-Saturated By Variants/Inserts
One of the most significant causes for the collapse of the sports card industry was the massive over-saturation of the market. Too many sports card manufactures made too many of the same type of basic sports card at once which caused the value of these cards to collapse. In the present-day, Topps Kick doesn’t think a million of a single card is too much so no wonder they’ve also flooded the market with numerous variants/inserts/limited edition card sets.
On the surface, this looks like a good thing. These cards sell out very quickly due to demand for them in the market and the lower than average number of cards that exist. The problems occur when too many of these variants and insert sets get published in a short period of time. For example I looked at Wayne Rooney to see how many cards one of the most popular players in the Premier League has of him since Topps Kick’s creation two years ago. It’s 42. That seems like a lot for just one player.
Scrolling down, I do notice a few are 1/1 cards. On top of those half dozen cards are more than a handful of cards that are numbered in the double and triple digits. Still, I can’t help but wonder how someone would distinguish the value of one card over another if the numberings are the same which is the case in numerous occasions. Is one card more valuable than the other? Well, no. Theoretically, if there exists two different cards for the same player with the same number in existence (say /200), then it shouldn’t really matter what insert set each one came from.
That’s sort of the problem with too much variety in a short period of time for a single player. In the end, the overall value of each insert/variant would in fact decrease unless each new set as a lower and lower number. This isn’t the case though. Topps Kick and sellers are constantly banking on a new crop of buyers to purchase these cards without doing extensive research (something you can’t do on Topps Kick with the inability to search what a card was successfully traded for in the past) into how many cards of this player exist. I also don’t buy into the “new is always more valuable” thought process many collectors have. A Frank Lampard autograph card from 2007 should be the same value as one from 2012 if the same number of them exist.
4) Values Don’t Translate To Physical Sports Cards
When I downloaded the app just after lunch yesterday, one of the major cards that was wanted in fan feed by many people was a Darlington Nagbe Signature Series card that had a limit of 800. As someone whose kept up with MLS from a sports card standpoint ever since Topps took over the license, this was very encouraging to see that a globally-minded soccer audience wanted the card of an young MLS star with no real international footprint.
Looking to see what the value of one of these cards was on the open market, I turned to eBay. There I found that this card was being listed at the $10 range. I think “Wow, this is great that a /800 MLS cards is thought to be worth $10 by so many people,” and then pull myself down back to reality that is the divide in value between digital and physical goods.
The Darlington Nagbe Signature Series /800 card should not be worth $10. It should be worth $1 if that based off of the market value for a physical card of Darlington Nagbe with equal attributes. That’s insane to me. Imagine if these same people willing to pay this much for a /800 Darlington Nagbe “signature” card then imagine how much they’d pay for a physical Darlington Nagbe card he actually signed himself that’s only /10 or even /25. You’d be lucky to get $10 for a /25 Darlington Nagbe Topps MLS auto card as a seller.
Maybe I’m just old-school but I feel like physical property should be valued more than digital property when comparable. I understand digital goods have no real expiration date on the surface but just imagine the Internet and computers a decade or two ago and imagine how many of those files can actually work on your present day computer or smartphone or tablet. With a physical card you have complete control over what condition the card remains in which makes those in perfect condition all the more valuable. In Topps Kick, all the cards are in the same perfect condition and they always will be that way because zeros and ones don’t deteriorate. Here’s hoping that ten years down the road people realize those zeros and ones get put on an equal playing field as paper and ink.
Wait…Topps Kick is a fantasy sports card game. What the hell are you talking about?