A regular complaint amongst collectors is the increasing cost for many of the products available. While it does not negate the higher costs associated with modern collecting, NPN, or "No Purchase Necessary," is an intriguing budget route to explore. Seasoned collectors are very aware of the NPNs offered for most product releases. However, new or casual collectors may see the curious information on the back of wrappers or boxes and wonder what it is all about.
Most major card companies, like Topps, Panini and Upper Deck, offer an NPN program, which gives collectors a shot at free baseball, football, basketball, hockey and entertainment cards. Although each state has different sweepstakes laws and there are also federal requirements, some of the smaller companies do not currently offer NPN cards.
To be clear, NPNs are in no way a charitable gesture by card companies. Because of the nature of card collecting, where an element of chance is in play, card companies are legally required to offer the cards at the same pack odds to everyone, regardless of purchase. It does not extend to all products, as some super high-end products are excluded, but most products are covered by the No Purchase Necessary program.
In terms of the actual process, it is fairly simple. The most important thing to do is follow the rules found on the back of the wrapper/box exactly. This normally involves writing your name and address on a 3 x 5 index card, and then mailing it in a #10 envelope to the address referenced in the rules.
The rules will also specify the number of entries allowed per household. Do not exceed this amount because it could disqualify your entires. Also, in the event that multiple entries are allowed per household, you will still need to submit them separately, so don't make the mistake of putting multiple index cards in the same envelope.
Just like redemptions cards, NPNs have an expiration date. The window is pretty short, sometimes ending just a few months after release, so make sure you don't dawdle.
Although most of the NPNs include the United States and Canada, the rules change slightly for Canadian residents. Residents of Canada must also include the answer to a simple mathematical skill-testing question. An example of this would be to answer this question: 22 x 5 +11 - 3 = ?
Also, due to a rather strict sweepstakes law, Quebec is normally excluded from participation in many NPN options. A solid explanation and summary for this can be viewed here. While the end goal is intended to protect citizens, it does seem somewhat unfair, especially if you live in Quebec. The specific rules for Quebec lotteries and sweepstakes can be seen here.
Upper Deck NPN
While most of the major card companies adhere to the process outlined above, Upper Deck has adopted a more modern and convenient method for handling NPNs. Instead of worrying about stamps or envelopes, Upper Deck has embraced a digital process. After registering for a free account, collectors are able to select from the current products listed and submit each NPN, one at a time, as seen in the image below.
This is the website - sports.upperdeck.com/npn/entry.aspx
Please note that the page URL can revert to HTTPS, which blocks it from loading. You need to make sure it reads HTTP.
Cryptozoic does not have an online program like Upper Deck, but is still offers one of the better collector resources available for their NPN program. The Cryptozoic NPN website features a full listing of products, including notations about which products are expired for NPN submissions. They allow one entry per day, per household. View the Cryptozoic NPN page here.
NPN Success Rate
Given the cost of the supplies required for sending in NPN requests, No Purchase Necessary might not be an entirely accurate term unless you are only submitting NPNs through Upper Deck's online program. Regardless, the nominal investment amount required can be justified if some free cards eventually arrive. But therein lies the problem. There is no guarantee that anything will ever arrive, and stamps are not cheap.
In my personal experience and from what I have seen online, Panini and Upper Deck appear to be some of the most consistent options for NPN cards. However, each collecting experience is different, so there are likely many success and failure stories for each NPN program.
Many collectors may wonder what kind of cards arrive from an NPN submission. I cannot speak for the experiences of everyone, but I have received a wide array of cards, including relics, autographs, parallels, inserts and base cards. Base cards and inserts appear to to be the most common, but that should be expected given the whole program is based around the odds.
It is also important to realize that this is not a quick process. The best way to handle it is to submit and forget. That way, if something arrives, it is a pleasant surprise versus the disappointment that comes from obsessively checking the mail box and fruitless mail days. It can also be useful to track your submissions. Whenever you send out an NPN, just make sure to note the date you drop it in the mail and the specific product. And when something arrives, again mark the date and whatever cards are sent. That way you can see over time if the overall results justify the $0.55 or so in materials that each NPN requires.
Let us know in the comments if you have had any success with NPNs.
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