After reading many of the wonderful baseball card blogs out there, I detect a similar collecting pattern history from many bloggers: Heavy collecting in the 80s and 90s, a drop off in the early 2000’s, and a recent re-entry to the hobby with gusto. That’s pretty much my story, except from 2004-2009, while I didn’t really collect much cardboard, there was one product that I paid a lot of attention to: Etopps.com. I thought then and now that this was an exceptional evolution of the hobby, and could be enjoyed with limited resources. I assume most of you are familiar with Etopps, but for those not in the know, here is a quick overview:
· Every Monday at 1 p.m. eastern, Etopps.com posts a handful of new card “IPOs.” They list the cost per card and the maximum print run. Right now, Etopps is offering Minor League Baseball, and in a few weeks will start the 2011 Baseball offering.
· Once the offerings go online, Etopps members can select which cards they would like to purchase and place order requests. The sooner you enter your order, the better your chance of getting a card.
· The following Monday, Etopps allocates the cards (and lists a new offering). If the card has a maximum print run of 799 cards, the first 799 people who ordered get one card each. The folks in line after that do not get a card, but can try to acquire one later through various means. If say, only 350 people order cards, then the print run will be only 350. However, if cards are still available, Etopps will snake around again to the front of the queue and start fulfilling orders for people who requested multiple copies of a card. Typically, cards are sellouts, and each person only gets one card. The folks who order latest are the ones who get left out.
· Once your card is in your portfolio, you have several options: sell it on Ebay, cardtarget.com, put it up on the trade market, or take the card for delivery. Or you can just keep it in your portfolio. It usually takes several months before a new card is actually printed and ready for delivery.
· All cards are sealed in a thick plastic card holder and kept in the Etopps warehouse until the buyer requests delivery.
There are a lot of other nuances with Etopps. There is a “point” system where you can obtain points from players performances over the course of the season, daily jackpots (for example, if a player in your portfolio from the current season offering hits a grand slam, you receive 5 points for each card you have), or you can trade cards for points . These points can be traded for other cards, used in a weekly merchandise catalog (I have purchased several factory baseball sets, additional Etopps cards, and wax boxes with my points), or used to pay for deliveries of cards.
This past year, I gutted my Etopps collection pretty hard to give my self funds for getting back into cardboard. But I still have a decent portfolio. I also have taken a lot of these cards in hand. They are pretty slick cards.
If you read the message boards on Etopps.com , there seems to be a lot of negativity toward the Etopps program. For all of its flaws, I am still a big fan. So each week, I will post the upcoming offering as soon as I can before the IPO begins. A rule of thumb: most of the IPOs can be purchased later on Ebay or Cardtarget.com for less than IPO price.... eventually. But sometimes, it’s best to get in at IPO to take advantage of the points opportunities.