Customer Service is the New Marketing

This post is slightly away from the norm when it comes to sports cards, but I will round it all together in the end. Customer service is the new marketing. This is not a new concept, but a concept in that which has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. In the past, you didn’t have sites like Yelp or Google Reviews or social media like Facebook and Twitter.

With social media getting bigger and wider with more people having the ability to post their experiences to a worldwide audience, a bad customer service review can cost you money. And in the other direction, a good review can make you some additional dollars.

I know most of us have made a decision based upon an online review of a company or a product. Hell, you probably visit this site for an honest review from my perspective on any of the products that I have reviewed, or even previewed. You take a look at my opinions, click some links, view some images, and look at all the details and price. I know I do my best to keep you guys happy. I hold promotions, contests, and try and engage you all in discussion. Luckily, I do this for a hobby and not a full-time job.

But when it comes to actual companies that rely on your hard earned dollar, customer service is more king then ever. Let’s take a look at the card companies and everyone’s favorite customer service department, the redemptions department.

We all know that redemptions are a pain. We all know that calling or emailing someone in that company’s customer service department in order to get our redemptions filled is a pain. But what is it that collectors really don’t like…is it the redemptions or the customer service in order to get our redemptions, or a replacement, in a timely manner?

Has your experience created an environment in which you don’t want to collect a company’s products or are apprehensive about buying a company’s products? How would you improve the customer service aspect of card companies? I’m interested in knowing so if you want to share, please post a comment!

Bring Back the Box Toppers!

It’s time to bring back the box topper. I understand there are a couple of products out there currently with box toppers…Topps Allen & Ginter and Panini Zenith come to mind, but I think the majority of products could use a box topper.

Why should a company take the time and put together a box topper set?

The answer is one word and simple, value. Not only does a solid box topper encourage people to buy full boxes of product, there are so many things that you could do with a box topper to add value to a box.

Let’s just go over some of the box toppers we have seen over the last 10 years or so. We have seen autographed baseballs, autographed mini helmets, 5×7 autographed cards, jumbo patch cards, autographs, memorabilia cards, rip cards, and even parts to complete a set of mini cards.

Why aren’t these more common in today’s products?

I’m guessing it has to do with money, but if a great box topper added more sales to the product line, what’s the problem with adding it in? Topps does a great job changing up the box toppers for Allen & Ginter every year. Panini also did a great job creating some unreleased product designs in it’s Dare to Tear rip cards in Zenith as well.

I know that I have always loved box toppers and I think it still holds well to the collecting community in general. I’ve had conversations with several veterans of the hobby and the majority would love to see more box toppers, especially something like the past Topps Archives with the autographed balls or mini-helmets.

Let’s bring this hobby favorite back to more products and see what the companies can do with it. It may definitely be worth it to at least try some more new ideas.

Countdown: 2010-11 Upper Deck The Cup vs. Panini Dominion

It’s the old versus the new. The veteran versus the rookie. The champ versus the newcomer. It’s less than 2 weeks away from the release of 2010-11 Upper Deck The Cup hockey and less than a month away from the release of 2010-11 Panini Dominion hockey. The countdown is huge and everyone is waiting for this last hockey product of the year from the two hockey trading card companies. What kinds of punches will each company throw?

Well a lot of punches have already been thrown on the Twitter scene. The Panini America twitter has been using the hashtag #TheCupKiller while showing off some sweet pictures of some of the sweet cards that will be in the product. The Upper Deck twitter has been hot as well showing off some sweet patch 1 of 1s of some of the game’s top players and some awesome rookie patch autographs. But which product is going to be the king?

The Cup is released 2 weeks earlier so Upper Deck is going to have a slight edge as those who really want both are going to be getting their boxes of Upper Deck product earlier. Panini originally tried going head to head with a release the next day, but that was shot down by the NHLPA. So collectors will have to wait 2 weeks until Dominion hits the shelves.

So far, the concepts and designs look good on both sides. Upper Deck always includes some of the most beautiful patch cards you have ever seen in this high end offering. While we haven’t seen this type of product from Panini in the hockey arena yet, I would expect them to match Upper Deck with the patches as that is something that fans from every sport admire. Both companies are offering stamped game used sticks with the player’s name on them which is a great piece for all hockey and player collectors.

Something Panini is offering that has never been seen before is autographed tape from the player’s sticks. That is a great concept and idea that is new to hockey cards and something collectors are anxious to see. So the “new concept” edge has to go to Panini in this regard. The Cup seems to have the same types of hits as in years past, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Collectors love The Cup the way it is, so there is nothing wrong with very little changes to a proven hit product. Panini is trying to make a name for themselves in the very high end hockey arena with collectors, so they are doing everything in their power to show off their capabilities.

Price points are about the same but it’s still a large chunk of change if you want to get both. I’m going to be trying to get my hands on a box of each for a head to head style of review which should reach epic proportions. Imagine this: two boxes sitting on my desk, opening each at the same time, showing off base cards one by one, then on to the hits comparing the intricacies of each product as I run down each card. I can see the beauty that would unfold on camera with my jaw dropped pretty much the whole time.

I, for one, am excited for this new offering from Panini and this already top of the class product from Upper Deck. Will it be The Cup Killer as Panini has been advertising? Or will it fall victim to the veteran and have to go back to the drawing board next year? 2 weeks time for The Cup to be in your possession, and 4 weeks for Dominion to make it’s debut.

It’s a great time to be a hockey collector with these two products going head to head.

Who Really Won The Video Trading Card War

First, sorry for the delay! I’ve been busy training and getting some certifications, permits, and such to help me get some sort of job. These will definitely benefit me which in turn benefits the blog. More money in my pocket means more boxes I can break! I think that’s a good trade off, don’t you think?

Anyway, happy Monday! And boy am I tired.

But what is awesome about today is we are finally able to see some of the results of what people are paying for video cards. And honestly, didn’t we all know from the beginning who would win this video card war? Upper Deck had the first video card on the market, the Evolution, but proceeded to fail to give these cards any sort of value besides them being kind of hard to pull, just regular case hits and easily searched by dealers or collectors. The first ones sold didn’t do too bad but right now you can have them for $30-$40 bucks a piece.

But just as I called it when Panini announced their HRX video trading cards I knew Panini would win this battle. Why? Better collectibility. Upper Deck was so caught up with trying to get video cards out on the market first they forgot the key ingredient to make these really want to be collected by collectors. What did Panini do that Upper Deck didn’t? Autographs and rarity.

Firstly, HRX cards are about 1 in every 6 cases of 2010-11 Panini Totally Certified basketball. Rarity is important and with 51 total video cards for each of 4 players, you will have a hard time finding these. With 11 of them being autographed including a 1/1 version, this adds a new layer of collectibility to those video trading cards.

Upper Deck could of had the upper hand if they waited just a little bit and got some autographs slapped on those cards. Instead, Panini’s HRX video cards are selling through the roof on the secondary market. The first Kobe Bryant autographed HRX video trading card sold for $1,000! Blake Griffin? Over $850! And that guy Kevin Durant? Just north of $500. Even the unsigned versions are getting decent money because of the rarity. I don’t think any of the Upper Deck Evolution video trading cards reached heights like those and I expect those numbers to stay higher than the Upper Deck Evolution video cards.

Panini HRX easily wins hands down in the first ever video trading cards, but I can assure you that Upper Deck will be back to the drawing board and will be adding autographs to these cards in the future. Which company will create the first autographed plus memorabilia card? What will they do to improve on the first generation of video trading cards? With secondary values achieved by the Panini HRX, I don’t think these will be going away anytime soon. Do you want to see what these cards look like? Panini announced a world premiere of revealing of the finished HRX video trading cards ready to be delivered to your door if you’re lucky enough to pull one so you definitely need to check that out!

I just noticed another blogger posted about this today as well so many sure you check out Card Geeks Blog and their thoughts on Upper Deck Evolution vs. the Panini HRX video trading cards. Let’s hope my plans for an article tomorrow aren’t the same as his! That would be awkward to have two days in a row.

Now tell me, which ones would you rather collect?

or

Want to see more autographed HRX cards?

My Favorite Themed Set – 2009 Press Pass Wheels Main Event

Themed sets are kind of hard to come by nowadays. I do enjoy a themed set where every card base, insert, game used, autos, are all based off of one central theme. My favorite themed set actually came from 2009 and came from Press Pass. That set is 2009 Press Pass Wheels Main Event.

When you think “Main Event” I hope your minds go to the place mine does. Poker. I love poker. Maybe because I’m actually good at poker. In 2008 I came in 4th place in a poker tournament with the top players in Oregon. I haven’t played much since then because I met a lady I really like spending my time with, but I still love playing poker.

The design by Press Pass really incorporated poker and it really stood out as the main theme. I’ll admit I don’t watch racing that often, but I will watch the big races of the year. I use to go to Stafford Speedway in Connecticut every once and awhile to watch the races when I lived back there. I know the big names and which cars to watch. I just can’t sit still and watch racing. But when I saw this set came out, I knew it had to be my first box of racing cards.

Here are some of the designs from this set.

This first design is really a great idea. Put drivers on 52 cards and insert them into the set. Collect the whole set and you have your very own NASCAR deck of cards to play with. Everyone loves playing cards and has at least a deck of cards in their house. Having a poker game with your beer buddies who love NASCAR? Bring out this deck of cards for your high stakes games and it’s time to rumble.

Jackpot is what it felt like every time I pulled one of these beautiful insert cards. I believe inserts were one a pack so I had a ton of Jackpot moments. These cards highlight those who won races in 2009 with pictures of them holding up their hardware for turning left the most times in the fastest amount of time. Jimmie Johnson has quite a few Jackpot moments and I love the look inside the poker chip with quad aces.

High Rollers are the ones with most money and play for keeps. This card exemplifies that. It has somewhat of a Chrome finish to it with the chips and driver raised off the card. The reflective surface looks awesome and it isn’t overpowering like foil board. This is really a nice looking card. I love the poker chips dumped everywhere across the card. Reminds me of the movie Rounders when he’s throwing some chips up in the air.

What’s a poker themed set without poker players? Phil Ivey is in this set amongst other top poker players. Also randomly inserted were poker player autographs. If you found a redemption, odds are it wouldn’t get fulfilled though. I pulled a Chris “Jesus” Ferguson autograph redemption. I subsequently lost the redemption as Press Pass makes you actually mail it in. I can’t keep track of things. But it’s okay, as Jesus never actually signed the cards. Neither did Phil Ivey. It’s sad for a poker fan like me.

But I love this set. The theme used throughout was amazing. A lot of Press Pass NASCAR fans weren’t happy with the theme that year, but I believe Press Pass uses a new theme every year for this Wheels series. Although I’m not a huge racing fan I think Press Pass did a great job with the design and execution of this set. There are even more great cards in this set as well, I just didn’t take a photo of them as they are in a set box sorted away somewhere. These were duplicates. If you are into racing even the slightest and love poker, this is a great set to see if you are interested in collecting racing cards.