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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Stadium Club is Coming Back!

Topps released this image recently. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. And not because it's Bryce Harper.
Stadium Club hasn't existed since 2008, and it's been over 10 years since the set before that was issued. I have been saying for a long time that I would love to have Stadium Club back: I miss high-quality, full-bleed, borderless, interesting photographs on my cards with minimal design elements.

The design reminds me a little of the 2003 and 2008 issues, with some differences, of course. I'm happy with the design above, though a little more color in the banner would be nice. But what will 2014 Stadium Club look like as an issue?

I'm hoping Topps learns from its past mistakes and keeps it simple. I want an obtainable complete base set - a return to the sets of the 1990s with a few hundred cards and no short prints. Especially not 33% of the set being short-printed. No silly variations, rookie SPs with two different versions, or 25% of the cards in the base set sporting autographs. Seriously. Short prints don't belong anywhere but Heritage if it's recreating something from the original issue. I hate them. 99% of the sets I collect are complete in my mind without the SPs.

I know they'll do parallels. The card above has a Members Only logo. First Day Issue and gold parallels were pretty standard back in the day, too. I don't care much about parallels, but they really need to cut out the rainbows because there are plenty with Bowman, Chrome, Finest, and these days flagship Topps. And I really hope they avoid Chrome and Finest.

If Topps wants to make Stadium Club Chrome or Finest again, that should be a separate insert with its own design. I liked the inserts Topps did for TSC Finest in the mid 1990s.

Speaking of inserts, Stadium Club hasn't had any really super-awesome insert sets. I liked the jumbo box toppers with the larger photos from 1993, and now they can be even nicer given improvements in photography. And as a photography-based set, Stadium Club should have some more awesome photos that fit into some categories - maybe celebrity photographers (Pinnacle's Brinkley Collection comes to mind), unique angles, fun dugout shots, and so on.

It could turn out that Stadium Club is an online-only product like Turkey Red or Minis. It could be a limited promotional issue that is used as a prize for the online game. Or it might be an insert in some other release. If it's attainable and attractive, I'll chase it any way. But if Topps goes nuts and makes it super high-end, I will be completely disappointed.

Topps, if you're out there listening, I hope you consider the real collectors when creating this product. I know you have to put the crazy 1/1s and super-limited autographs and patches that I'll never get to appease the money-throwing gamblers that drive your marketing strategy these days, but make sure the rest of the product - the stuff those gamblers don't care about - is great for the rest of your customers.

What do you think? Are you interested in a return of Stadium Club? On what conditions?


  1. For me, Stadium Club has always been something I've appreciated after the fact. I probably have bought fewer than 10 packs over the years, but I have a lot I've bought from dime boxes and at shows. I sometimes look at the cards and say "You know, these really ARE nice", but that never translated to anything more than random acquisitions.

    If they bring back Stadium Club, it will probably be the same way for me... Maybe I'd try to hunt down Mets & Orioles team sets.

  2. I loved the 1990s version of Stadium Club - big sets with nearly every player in baseball, unique photos and gorgeous cards. I even had fun collecting the parallels of my favorite players thanks to Sports Collectors Digest ads.

    Stadium Club killed the last vestiges of set collecting in me in 2008. Between the high number of shortprints and the autographed cards numbered as part of the set, it was impossible to complete for any sane amount of money.

    Give me a 600+ card set with 10 cards in a pack for $4 or less, limit the parallels to some kind of one-per-pack design and one-per-box First Day Production cards and avoid stuffing in a million insert sets... I'd be tempted to try to collect the whole thing if I can afford it at the time it comes out. (Topps would be ill-advised to actually do this, since set collectors seem to be a small minority of the remaining card-buying market.)

  3. shlabotnik: I enjoyed SC in the mid-90s, when I could finally afford it. I talked my mom into buying me a couple 1991 packs but I was a kid and didn't really start to learn about set collecting and such until 1992. I now have almost all the complete sets, except 2003 and 2008! (And '97 and '99 but I haven't started those yet.)

    Paul: When I saw some 2008 Stadium Club boxes in WalMart, I didn't really do anything. It wasn't until 2011 that I started my set run of Stadium Club, and learned about the 2003 SPs and the 2008 insanity. It's proven to be quite a challenge, but since I have so many other projects I just get what I can when I can. I haven't really bothered with the autographs; with a few exceptions I don't regularly build the SP parts of sets. I've even accepted First Day Issue parallels to build the 2008 set to help it go faster - a Frankenset is much easier than a regular base set, it seems.

    I agree that a simple release geared toward set builders would be a huge hit, but I think Topps gets most of its profit from the chase aspect and the mark-up they can make because of it. If they simplified things but kept a couple insert sets and some hits, they could probably appease most people.