Sunday, March 11, 2012

OPINION: REDEMPTION CARDS

A couple of days ago, I was reading a little 'back and forth' between some people regarding redemption cards. Specifically, how In The Game is able to release product after product without any (I repeat - ANY) redemptions.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what these cards are, it's pretty simple (in my eyes anyways). Card companies come up with a concept for a product which includes a number of different elements (be it base cards, inserts, autographs, memorabilia, etc.). During the design and production process it is determined which players will be required to sign what cards for the product (or stickers if that's the way the product goes).

Obviously, if there is a product with (for the sake of this example) a Trevor Linden autograph in it and the cards (or stickers) haven't been signed and returned to the card company in time for packaging, they are left with 3 options.

Push the release date of the product until the signatures come in. Remove the player's card from that product release. Or issue a redemption card.

The redemption card would give the person who pulls it from a pack the ability to communicate with the card company and set up a way for the card to be delivered to him once it's finally produced.

Seems simple enough right. But what if in this redemption ocean, the waters become a little dicey.

A lot of collectors have become increasingly frustrated by the redemption process. Issues pop up such as the card not ending up being produced (for whatever reason), the length it takes to redeem some cards (and we're not talking weeks or months......we're talking years of waiting) and in some instances where the card isn't being produced - what the replacement card (or cards) will be.

Redemption cards make me a little nervous. Essentially, until you get the redeemed card in hand you have nothing to show for it except a piece of cardboard with a serial number on it.

Those aren't the kind of cards I like to collect.

Now, back to the discussion over the past few days. In The Game has had a policy of not including redemption cards into their product. Plain and simple. The biggest reason they are able to do this is that they only include the autographs received by the deadline into their product. It makes things very black and white. If it's in.......you're in. If it's not - you're not.

So does this mean if the product (let's say a Vancouver Canucks tribute set.....for the sake of this example) is being released on April 1 and Trevor Linden's autographs make it back on April 2 his autograph is not in the product? That's right.

So does In The Game have late returned cards or stickers from various players for various sets just sitting on a desk somewhere - ready to go out? Yup. And how does In The Game respond to that? Dr. Brian Price, President of In The Game says "Hard signed autograph cards that were never issued, don't go bad."

Again, plain and simple, I think that these cards will eventually find a way to be utilized. It could be show promotions, used in update sets, freebies - who knows. But I do believe that ITG has the mindset of 'not wasting any of the meat on the bone'.

I can appreciate ITG's attitude towards redemption cards. They seem to treat the players they deal with well (based on the statement, again made by Dr. Price, "I have NEVER paid a player for autographs he did not return."). That success rate shows me a company that works with the player and places realistic expectations on them.

Do other companies do that? I don't know. But something is off when a player is constantly appearing on redemption card after redemption card. Why is that? Is the request too big (too many signatures needed)? Is the time required to get the signatures back too short? What is the situation regarding how the player is getting paid for the service? Did the company blow all of their sticker inventory too fast or in too few products?

There are a lot of elements in play - and I don't claim to know any of them. I just am speaking what I see. And right now, it's a company with no NHL license having ZERO redemption cards in their numerous yearly releases while the two companies with NHL licenses utilize redemptions to a point where there is some frustration among collectors.

So what's the answer?

That's a good question. If all companies adopted a 'no redemption card' rule, I believe that the overall depth of some products would suffer. That said, I also believe that after a year or two of this 'drop' in size, stature or dynamics in products, most people would see the 'new normal' as...........normal.

I think that redemption cards are a 'false promise'. There's no 100% guarantee that I'm going to receive the card that I may have just pulled from my pack of cards. It's artificially raises the expectation and 'value' of the product it comes in.

Until companies can bat a good .900 or .950 in redemption returns, I think collectors will become increasingly frustrated with the entire structure and optics of these 'cards'.

So my answer to the problem is eliminate the redemption cards completely. Include only the cards you have in hand into the product. If the set suffers, then that's a good indication that you have to try harder to get your signatures.

For the record, I have redeemed a whopping 2 Trevor Linden cards in my 15 years of collecting his stuff. Both times I was concerned (but confident) about the process and did eventually receive the cards. At the same time, I have passed on buying redemption cards of Trev, instead deciding to wait until a redeemed card surfaces before pursuing it.

What are your thoughts on redemption cards? Are they just 'part of the hobby game'? Can anything be done to curb the increasing frustration? What would your policy be on redemptions if you called the shots?

7 comments:

  1. I loathe redemption cards. I am waiting on two Tough Times autographs from LAST YEARS Pinnacle release. I've emailed Panini twice with no reply.

    Redemptions used to be a rarity, used only one perhaps a single player/card was stuck somewhere in manufacturing/signing process. Now it seems as it's become a regular habit of card companies. They promise these cards and sometimes, they fail to deliver.

    In the Game does SO MUCH RIGHT in the hobby and with collectors that it is an absolutely joke that the NHL won't give them a license. Instead, the Mickey Mouse operation known as Panini continues to churn out garbage cards loaded with redemptions that may or may not ever be filled.

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    1. But tell me how you really feel.

      Here's a perfect example of that frustration I was mentioning.

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  2. Redemptions, at their best, should appear maybe one per set and only in dire circumstances (signer was hospitalized, in the middle of the playoffs, etc). Instead, as in Panini's case, they are used as a substitute for around a dozen or so cards PER SET. I doubt collectors buy packs and get excited about a white slab of cardboard with instructions on it. If up to ten cards or whatever aren't ready for a set, then it shouldn't be released until it's complete.

    It is sloppy and lazy. In the rush to release new garbage, we are given substitute garbage that, when redeemed, gives us other junk in the mere space of 6 months to over a year.

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    1. I gotta agree. Thanks for your take.

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  3. my rather limited experience with redemptions is this. Two really crappy redemptions of players you've never heard of let alone did they actually ever play a game or even mnake the roster.... no problem. Got 'em inside a week or so.
    Two redemptions of really good cards with good players on them..... still ongoing. Over two years later.
    Coincidence? Probably. But still... not a fan. I would never buy one or trade for one. I think that's why you see them pop up more and more in trade boxes as well as at shows.

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    1. My opinion on redemptions is that they have become a necessity. Collectors demand more from each product and the companies have to try and get more in the products. The companies do sell sheets on products featuring mock-ups of the cards. What if one of the featured players from the mock-ups doesn't return the auto's on time? Do they omit the card from the set? They will get bashed more for leaving a crosby card out of the set than having a redemption for it.

      I tend to give Panini a break on the amount of redemptions in their products, for the simple fact that this is there second year in hockey. They do not yet have the backstock of stickers that Upper Deck has. In the Game features mostly retired or junior players who have the time to sign. NHL players have busy schedules and can be a little difficult to deal with.

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    2. Some good points there.

      I won't go so far as to say they're a necessity, I do believe that redemption cards are here to stay.

      I'd like to see the trend swing more towards an improvement in the whole redemption process. I think it's been on a bit of a downward trend for the past 2-3 years.

      Thanks for the comment.

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