Baseball cards have been given a digital upgrade for the current 2016 MLB season.
It’s all thanks to the Topps Company who has given fans of their American classic the possibility for immediate gratification.
The company began selling baseball cards 65 years ago mainly as a ruse to increase their candy sales, particularly for their bubblegum. Inside a pack of cards came a slab of their gum, though it wasn’t always the easiest to chew on.
“Depending how long the card was at the candy store, some of that gum could crack in half,” Michael Bofshever, 65, said.
As a child, he would regularly head to his local candy shop in Brooklyn, New York to buy a pack of cards with his dollar allowance.
The front of Noah Syndegaard’s Topps Now card.
“You’d shuffle through your cards to see who you got and you’d read the statistics,” Bofshever said.
There would be a picture of a player on the front and his statistics on the back, making the cards invaluable for fans looking to learn more about the national pastime.
But in this modern era where practically any information you want can be found online in seconds, baseball cards have become all but obsolete. Which is why Topps came up with a new idea for the 2016 season: Topps Now.
They’re taking the best moments from yesterday’s games and turning them into cards available for purchase online the next day for just $9.99. But buyers beware – they’re for sale for just a mere 24 hours.
So far this season, there’s been one moment seemingly designed for this modern twist on the old baseball staple. Mets’ play-by-play announcer, Gary Cohen, called it “one of the greatest moments in the history of baseball.”
It all focused on a player who’s lovingly come to be known as “Big Sexy:” Mets’ starting pitcher, Bartolo Colón. On May 7, the then-42 year old hit his first ever Major League home run.
“It was kind of a no brainer, that situation,” Susan Lulgjuraj, Topps’ marketing manager, said. “There was no, ‘Should we? Shouldn’t we?’ It was like, ‘This is definitely happening.’”
It paid off for Topps. Nearly 9,000 cards featuring Colón’s surprise hit were sold in the brief 24-hour window it was available online. That’s over 5,000 more than the next most popular card. And the demand has continued: it’s still available on eBay, sometimes going for over $50.
Many traditionalists, though, aren’t fans of the update. Like Ian Wenick, 23, who is a long time collector of conventional baseball cards because of the potentially monetary payoff. You can make major cash from some of the uber rare cards – sometimes over $1 million. And as for Topps Now, Wenick called it “a bit of a gimmick.”
But the next generation of collectors – like nine-year-old Mets fan Avery Rosen –think it could be pretty cool. He’s hoping to order a Topps Now card featuring Mets success later this season. And who knows, maybe his hopeful card or Bartolo Colón’s improbable hit will be among the rare classics going for the big bucks in a few years.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.