Ever since Bunt brought the sig to the app back in 2013, they have been a driver of the trade economy like no other sets. Although other cards like Limited can be more valuable because of rarity, they dont have the same draw as the signature series cards released every Wednesday.
Baseball and autographs go back more than a century, with many of the game’s biggest pieces of memorabilia being signed items from before 1900. In the 20s and 30s, Babe Ruth became the game’s first real celebrity, and with his iconic stature, many people took autographs to a whole new level. Babe was notorious for signing baseballs by the hundreds, more than any other player of his time. Since that point, the autograph has become synonymous with sports, even to the point of parody.
Because autograph culture is woven into the fabric of the game, it was only a matter of time before trading cards got involved. Around 1990 and 1991, the first autograph baseball card was inserted into packs. Before then, fans took it upon themselves to get autographs on their favorite cards, but they were never available in packs. Fast forward to 2015, there are baseball card products that are almost 100% dedicated to bringing autograph content to collectors, some costing as much 500 dollars per pack.
When Bunt launched in 2012, it was a while before inserts really took hold. As the insert availability grew within the game, it should come as no shock that they would want autograph content to be a focus of that part of the experience. Even though its digital, the history of its necessary inclusion is well documented.
Being that it was one of the rarest inserts in the game during the first years of Bunt, and remains so today, the community puts a value on the cards above and beyond 99% of the other cards in the game. Sigs are a pure collection piece, many of which have zero gameplay advantage. They are status symbols within the app, which means that a top collection of sigs will warrant all those ooohs and ahhhs that fuel collector’s vanity based existence in the collecting world.
They are also the cards that have the longest odds, which means that it can take a lot of effort and money to obtain the ones you want. With the added Variant sigs to the pool of chase cards, it only gets crazier.
Now, that doesnt mean that all sigs have the same value as the ones that populate the main set. Some of this is due to the marathon chase of collecting all the cards, but it also has to do with a bit of over-saturation. For many of the sigs that arent part of the main set, there isnt that chase that drives people to build a huge collection over the course of the entire season. The community of Bunt traders can be quite fickle about which sigs are valuable and which are less so, but overall, if a card has that signed name, its going to be desired.
The secondary part of the value comes from the rarity of the cards, as many of them remain the lowest count among many of the marathon inserts that are available. So far in 2015, there have been no sigs above 400, and even the dual sig is low at 660. Rarity always adds an element of trade value, as there arent as many floating around.
Chasing the Dragon
If you are like me, sigs drive your existence in the collecting part of the game more than anything. Its a rush to get the newest card, and its rare that one of your collection goes without a lock. Trading away sigs is a cardinal sin, and with every glance at a trade offer, that scan of the person’s card sheet for new targets becomes a habit.
Not everyone wants to get involved, though. Because of the cost, there are a lot of users who just cant afford to chase the most valuable cards in the game. To them, quantity can be just as important as quality, meaning their sigs will be traded to get a better collection of cards they like too.
It is an addiction of sorts. Its a way to stay on your toes, and when award card day rolls around, its like a second birthday party. I love that feeling, almost too much.
Transition to Other Apps
The success of the signature series program was immediately transitioned to Huddle and Kick from their inception, leading to a very similar culture among the new communities. Although Star Wars does not have a sig that they can use (actor’s likenesses are likely not covered or not desired under their digital license), that did not stop all the crossover traffic from deeming the Vintage series as the “sig equivalent.”
Huddle has a unique situation, as the gameplay is almost more important than the collecting aspect due to their licensing. Sigs on boosted cards take more precedence in that environment, but the concept still holds true. What is a Topps sports game without sigs?
Last year during the playoffs, we got our first taste of Parallax sigs, as well as a few other concepts that played really well. There are a lot of opportunities before we reach a point where people just dont care any longer, and I believe that Bunt will definitely take some enormous risks in that space. Sigs are their bag, and it makes more sense to build and strengthen that brand rather than just maintain it.
I would guess some really fun stuff is going to be coming down the pike, and I would love to see stuff like animation and sound be brought into the equation. Of course, that opens up a few complicated licensing issues, but nothing insurmountable.
Ultimately, it lies on us and our desire to keep participating in the sig game. I know Im on board this wagon until the wheels fall off. Time will tell for everyone else.