Sudden eTopps Closure Leaves Questions and Confusion – UPDATE
UPDATE: Last night Topps posted an update on the eTopps page, which should reassure collectors for the time being. In the update, which is written as an FAQ, Topps confirms that collectors will not be forced to take shipment of their cards--at least in 2012. It also explains their reasoning for the large price jump in shipping costs and offers vague details on some of their thoughts for future online ventures.
After more than a decade of production, the eTopps program is coming to an end. Sort of. Maybe. While Topps has confirmed they will no longer be producing new eTopps cards, a short, ambiguous note hints that there still might be a future for the online program. But the note raises additional questions, none of which are being answered. As a result, the quiet and sudden closure is leaving a lot of collectors hanging and looking for answers.
A visit to the eTopps home page looks like it would on a regular week in which no new cards were being offered. Everything looks normal. For those familiar with the program who might be browsing, they might even miss the link to Topps' note announcing the end of the program. The announcement reads:
Dear eTopps Community,
Thank you for participating in this year's NFL football release as well as your continued enthusiasm for eTopps card offerings over the past ten years. Moving forward, we no longer plan to offer new cards each week. For now, we will continue to offer weekly catalogs and a baseball fantasy game, and we will maintain trading, selling and shipping services for eTopps cards.
The shipping and handling rate increases announced on December 20, 2011 are now in effect. Additionally, at this time, eTopps rewards points will no longer be redeemable for shipping and handling charges.
We look forward to sharing new digital developments with you in the future, and thank you for your support of eTopps.
The Topps Company
The note itself is a little unclear as it doesn't outright say that they're done making new cards, only that there won't be weekly offerings. There have been plenty of down weeks in the past, so it could also be read to say that things are changing but not ending. However, yesterday on Twitter, Topps confirmed that no new cards were planned for the future.
The note also references a rise in shipping prices. While Topps did send out emails last month to user notifying them of the raise in the change, it wasn't specific and didn't raise much alarm. But when the change came, it wasn't just a small amount. Anything more than three cards starts at $12.75 for the first card and $1.75.
The site's FAQ only adds to the confusion as it hasn't been updated. It states an old rate of $4.25 plus $0.70 for each additional card for the first three and $6.95 plus $0.85 for each additional card. Although it's an oversight, it's one that shouldn't be there.
But that's not the kicker. Those that have supported eTopps over the last year never had the chance to use the cheaper rates or redeem their points. That's because none of the 2011 cards are even available for delivery yet. Almost a year ago Topps started offering the cards, yet they still haven't gone to print. I have a handful of 2011 eTopps Baseball cards and a 2011 eTopps T206 Sandy Koufax sitting in my portfolio that I wanted to have sent to me. Unfortunately, I can't. I scoured the site to see why this was and I couldn't find an explanation as to why the cards have seen such long delays. I've had friends become pregnant and have their baby in the time since my Koufax was allocated early last April.
Printing delays have long been a part of the eTopps program. However, when it was business as usual, collectors could be patient knowing that they wouldn't be penalized other than not having the cards in-hand right away. It was little more than an inconvenience that collectors could either accept or opt not to use the program. The dramatic shipping increase certainly a penalty that will likely leave many feeling burned.
Although eTopps is ending new card offerings, the site continues to operate. A new rewards catalog was added today with plenty of cards and merchandise available to those who can not longer use them for shipping. In their notice, Topps also said they continued to have fantasy-style games for the upcoming baseball season. What that will look like is anyone's guess.
It's been a wild ride for the eTopps program. The idea was that collectors would buy cards at a set price during a limited window, usually one week. After that, collectors could build their portfolios by buying and sell their cards on eBay. They were held until collectors requested delivery.
A soft football launch in 2000 was plagued by server crashes and outright chaos. When a full slate of offerings followed in 2001, prices on many cards soared. Some saw the online offerings, which aimed to mirror a stock market mentality of buying and selling, as the future of the hobby. It was a small-scale gold rush where cards were going for ridiculous sums not because of the player on the card but because of the print run.
For more than half of the life of eTopps, the program's Holy Grail wasn't Alex Rodriguez, Brett Favre or Derek Jeter. It was Tony Banks. His 2001 card had the shortest print run of any eTopps offering at just 186. According to the eTopps price database, the card traded for as much as $879. The last recorded sale was for "just" $61.01.
In the early days of eTopps, there was plenty of opportunity to make good money with savvy trading. The program, which was heavily promoted, brought in collectors from outside the hobby. But these wild early prices led to unreasonable expectations. With so many people looking to get in on the program, print runs went as high as 10,000. By the end of 2002, prices were plummeting and eTopps lost a lot of their regular customers. Today, many cards can be found for less than a dollar. A handful of cards still trade for solid amounts, but they're an exception.
With the end of the program, collectors are now wondering what's next and if their holdings are in jeopardy. We've tried multiple contacts at Topps to find some answers, but have yet to get a response. We'll be sure to pass along any updates as we receive them.