On Card vs. Sticker Autographs

It seems like everyone has an opinion when it comes to on card autographs and sticker autographs. And it seems like everyone is just hating on sticker autographs on trading cards. Well let’s talk a little about both and then you tell me what you think.

Sticker Autographs

For those who don’t really know the difference, sticker autographs are the autographs that are basically signed on a sticker and then placed on the card. You can see the little company logo in the background as a form of authentication when you angle the card around.

Sticker autographs are needed in products to fill out what companies are dishing in products. With the large number of products that come out during a long period of time, it makes things extremely difficult for an athlete to sign already fully printed cards. The stickers provide some sort of relief to the company as they can create a product, design an area for the sticker, and just place the autograph on the card.

However, sticker autographs aren’t very aesthetically pleasing to the eye. They kind of get in the way of the design sometimes and sometimes just look out of place or just ruin the whole look of the card. Some people also find sticker autographs to be…less special then cards signed directly onto the card surface. There is no personal contact between the card and the player. The player, in essence, has no idea what they are signing. It’s just less of a personal feel for the collectors whom companies are trying to bring closer to the athletes.

On Card Autographs

On card autographs are those autographs that are signed directly on the surface of the card. The athlete has to physically touch the card to sign it and handle the card themselves. This leads to a few issues.

The card could get damaged in transit or by the athlete. You are paying the athlete per autograph, and in turn, may not be able to use that card. It’s a slightly higher risk of losing money when cards are signed on the actual card unless they are done in the presence of a representative who has the proper tools to make sure the card itself isn’t damaged.

However, the reward is outstanding. Cards look better when they are signed on card. You would have to see a comparison in person to really get the feel of what I am saying. For instance, my recent review of 2011 Contenders football really shows this. I pulled a Jake Locker on card autograph and 4 sticker autographs. If you can look at the Jake Locker autograph and then look at the others you might be able to see what I mean.

Not only do the autographs look better, you can design the card around where you want the autograph to generally be, but also have the room for additions. Topps Five Star football does this extremely well as they have a whole subset based on cards with autographs and inscriptions on the card. Inscriptions may cost more for the company, but it raises secondary value of the cards themselves as well and collectors eat that up. Would you rather have a plain Albert Pujols autograph or an Albert Pujols autograph with the inscription “El Hombre”, “The Machine”, or “2003 ROY”?

But sticker autographs have their place in trading cards. They are needed in products on some level, but they are at the point where it seems like the majority of products are just filled with sticker autographs and on card autographs are just a secondary thought.

I have seen the trading card companies try and get more on card content into their products, and that is great to see. But it shouldn’t be a selling point for their products, it should get to the point where it is expected that you will find these more often.

Hell, even a redemption to get the autograph on card may be better for a super star or top rookie. But I won’t even go back to how I feel about redemptions as that is an entirely different story.

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6 Responses to On Card vs. Sticker Autographs

  1. Kevin says:

    Chris Carlin from UD had some interesting thoughts on stickers and redemptions when I interviewed him, http://mojobeardy.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/young-gunning-a-hobby-heavyweight-interview/

    He basically says you can’t have all on-card with out redemptions.

    Interesting insight from an insider.

    • Logically, you could make a set with no redemptions and all the autographs are signed on card, but the checklist would suffer. And redemptions because of hard signed stuff is not the reason redemptions are so terrible. I’ve gotten plenty of sticker redemptions in my collecting career. (Even from Upper Deck) I feel it’s more about getting the athletes to sign on time and the companies getting on their backs to sign on time. But as I said, that’s another story. :)

  2. Matt Gilman says:

    I dont have an issue with sticker autos or on card. redemptions I dont care for much to be honest. And I know others feel the same. But without redemptions auto sets would be awful. Esp if certain players don’t sign on time and are excluded. I would rather wait to land an auto of lets say Lebron James then to have his spot taken by Landry Fields in the auto roster.

  3. mfw13 says:

    It’s a double edged sword.

    As has been noted, on-card autographs generally look much better than stickers. But at the same time, players are pretty damn busy, and therefore usually don’t have time to make multiple trips in a year to the manufacturers to hard-sign cards.

    • Most definitely. However, I’ve seen more of the manufacturer going to the athletes recently. I’ve seen them meeting up at team hotels around the country, or even when they come to visit the local team of the manufacturer.

      I know they are busy, but I generally don’t like to use that as an excuse. They are getting paid for their services. They need to be able to do what they are getting paid for, or just don’t do it at all. There has got to be time while on the road, at the team hotel, after practice, etc. to sign these autographs…whether on the card itself or the sticker.

  4. Danny says:

    As a significant collector who only will collect on card autos, this is what I don’t understand. Would collectors accept basketballs, baseballs or footballs that were affixed with an athlete signed sticker. Sticker signed memorabilia would be a ridiculous notion. Then why on earth do collectors accept stickers on cards? Because it is more convenient for the card companies to produce these cards? Nonsense. Sticker autographs should be refused by collectors. These autographs should not even come close to the value of on card autos. It is shocking to me that they have been and continue to still be accepted

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