Folks who shop around on eBay for baseball-related memorabilia are probably familiar with items in the so-called Topps Vault – the on-line auction sales arm of the Topps Company.
The “Vault” originated as a way for Topps to effectively clear out old photos, negatives, proofs for sports cards, and so on, from its six decades of existence. I imagine it has been fairly popular among the collector crowd and fairly lucrative for Topp$!!!
But, we’re concerned that once all the “old stuff” has been cleared out of the Vault, Topps will find a need to create “new stuff” to stuff the Vault to keep the cash cow alive. An example of this is now available on eBay: 2011 Topps Baseball 1/1 blank backs that have been created “exclusively” for Topps Vault/eBay auctions. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with Topps electing to manufacture a licensed MLB product and sell it in any legal manner it chooses. We have to assume these 2011 1/1’s are “licensed” because the licensing information is missing since these cards were purposely created with blank backs.
Naturally, we ask, where does it end?
The proof cards and all of the other Vault items from years past were of a truly limited variety. Former Topps executive, Sy Berger, has lamented on many occasions the decision to dump the now extremely rare and valuable 1952 Topps Baseball high number series cards in the trash to avoid a storage issue. This, of course, happened 30 years before the baseball card industry caught fire. Now, the folks at any card manufacturer are acutely aware of the potential value of any product they create; especially proofs, prototypes, samples, wrong backs, blank backs, etc. Unlike 60 years ago, there has to be strong temptation to create the prototypes knowing that there is a potentially large market out there for these “limited” editions; some of which would be best classified as printer’s scrap. Somehow, it doesn’t seem right for any licensed manufacturer to purposely create and sell cards that, in reality, should join the ’52 Topps high series in the New York City dump.