Variant Crazy – Looking At Execution and Value of Paralleled Inserts

As someone who collects as much as I do, any opportunity to have more opportunity to pull inserts is usually a good thing. Everyone hates spending money, cracking packs with the coins and coming up empty. There is no worse feeling in any app than getting skunked on a bundle, and I want every opportunity to have a better chance at the good stuff.

Over the last few months, its been pretty obvious that the Topps team has become obsessed with Variants. Basically, taking one insert or card and adding different colors or content to create another example of said card. In the physical collecting world, these cards are called “Parallels,” and they are done almost exactly the same way as they are done in the digital world.

The question created by their existence is a pretty simple one, but has a very complicated answer. Do they help things or hurt things? In fact, this might be one of the more difficult things to come to a consensus on. Personally, Im relatively indifferent, except in very specific circumstances. I just want the Variant to mean something more than just creating another card for me to spend more money. That statement in itself is really a loaded one, as every card created is done so for me to spend more money. However, with some Variants, it can be something that adds a ton of value to BOTH cards.

Looking at the Variant Sigs in Huddle and Bunt is a great place to start – as they seem to be an example that creates a lot of value in the way the cards are presented. Because so many people love the signature series cards, adding a VERY rare parallel is a pretty good thing. It actually serves to put the normal sig in value context even more clearly, as the variant is usually so much more desired that it increases the chase for the base version. Similarly, because there is usually only one parallel, and its easy to decipher, many people can latch on.

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Taking this to the far end of the other side of the spectrum is the Shadowbox and Luminaries cards in Star Wars. I just dont see a need to create so many different versions that have so little difference in their availability. Those situations are ones that actually detract value and dilute interest, because there are so many versions to go around. Adding 25 cards onto a sig run of 250 doesnt do much to the overall availability. It keeps the value in tact.

Creating variants because you can is not a reason to do it. Just because a card is able to have a variant doesnt mean you should make 5, or even 2. The simpler the better, the more easy to follow, the better it will be on the secondary market. That’s not saying variants dont have a place, it just has to make sense. There are a number of examples where they have worked really well, even in a very complex release format. At the same time, there are examples when the cards just look like a way to add cards to the sheet because its available.

The last thing I want to see is for people to become apathetic to any parallel that exists. In the physical world, save a few very specific situations, that is exactly what has happened. Serial numbering and contrived scarcity was the way to increase value in a product line without adding more cost to the set. It was very successful at first. So successful that it became commonplace to parallel the crap out of any card that was released. Each insert had to have 4-6 different numbering parallels, all the way down to 1 of 1. It has gotten so out of hand, that cards that only have 10 copies are sometimes worth as much as those that have 50. People have almost completely written it off.

My concern is that this is exactly what will happen in the games. I sincerely hope variants and parallels remain as valuable as they are in most circumstances. However, Im getting the sense that things might get out of hand very quickly. I guess time will tell.

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3 Responses to Variant Crazy – Looking At Execution and Value of Paralleled Inserts

  1. John J. Wall says:

    My gut is that these will fall into threes – ultra-rare, rare, and enough so most who want it can get one. Even jumping from 3 to 4 you start to take a hit on cognitive load, don’t get me started on the Shadowbox 8: 2 pinks and a white for a purple? Is that fair?

  2. Henry says:

    Great post. In SWCT it’s got out of hand. I’m not against variables but I get brain ache trying to decipher their explanations given in the transmission posts. In Kick, they have executed it a lot better with the MLS signature series.

  3. BaseballFan says:

    I’m not a fan of variants whatsoever. To me, as a favorite team collector over all else, I don’t like the fact that I have to collect the same card (just different color) 2-5x at varying difficulties to maintain having all of the cards for a specific team in my collection, when I only had to work towards 1 previously.
    What this has done is put me into a situation of “ignoring” certain low count cards as part of the entire team set similar to ignoring the 1/1 diamond cards, or doing less additional things I enjoyed in bunt, like collecting an entire series, because money doesn’t grow on trees for me, and that’s the only way to say I’m reaching my goal given my conditions and the conditions BUNT has set with this plan.

    Finally, the combination of that and the decrease in Quality with regards to paying attention to detail (examples: copy & paste news articles and not making sure they removed/updated all remnants of the previous article or releasing an article saying the next two cards of the series is out a day after those two cards had sold out, etc) while trying to increase profits for their business has left a bad taste in my mouth with regards to spending as much as I have in the past. I understand it’s a fine line for them as a business, but they really should focus on a higher quality product with less of the common mistakes that they shouldn’t have any of, or they will start alienating more fans/spenders like me.

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