Never Tell Me the Odds: Searching for a New Vintage Han

A few weeks ago, Topps launched their fifth app, second in the entertainment space. After launching four sports apps with a great amount of success, the new direction seems to be off the playing field and onto the silver screen. With a new license and entertainment license to play with, immediate comparisons were drawn to Star Wars Card Trader, and how the direction could shake out in a similar way.

For those of you who werent around from the beginning of the journey into the force, things were MUCH different. Digital was doing well, but it wasnt on the radar for a lot of people in the sports trading card world. At Topps, it still took a back seat to everything they were doing on the physical side.

When Star Wars launched, the app drew nothing but question marks from a lot of the users who were already familiar with the apps on the sports side. How could an app survive without gameplay? Would the Star Wars community embrace this platform? Can Topps make this work without a huge amount of support from the physical card sets that had yet to really take off?

Within a matter of months, all those questions would be replaced with new ones. How far can they take this? What happens when the movie hits? Can they handle the massive traffic? Will these cards continue to be worth hundreds of dollars? Frankly, it was a perfect storm. A huge collector base, all rooted on the internet, with a new movie that was decades in the making.

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More importantly, the app saw a surge of traffic in the first few days, where a lot of new users unfamiliar with the digital scene joined the fray. After seeing what it was all about, a good portion of them left, to be replaced with hundreds of thousands of others who saw the tidal wave coming and got swept up. In those first few days, the flagship sets of the app launched, with cards in packs that cost close nothing to open.

When those individuals left, so did their cards. You can still see the ghosts when trying to blind trade from the main sheet. Lots of users own those initial inserts, but more often than not, they have low collection scores and very few trades.

This is one of the main reasons why the Vintage Han, or the other first week inserts for that matter, are so valuable, even to this day. Although things have dropped considerably since the set has ended, the cards remain a part of the lore of the app. So many people came to SWCT during the second and third month, none of which had the opportunity to try to acquire those cards. Demand was huge, and supply was quite limited.

Now that Walking Dead has launched, there are people who are immediately looking for what card could end up being that unicorn. Obviously, sets like Chop and Vintage have a lot of value in their first week cards, but we have yet to see any real value close to what we saw with Star Wars.

Some of that could be that the base of users is not the same size, nor the following as big in the real world. Walking Dead is sure popular, but no one is going to stand up and say its even close to what Star Wars means to the fabric of our entertainment identity in the US and abroad.

Topps will launch more apps, that is for certain, but I am looking for a way that another Vintage Han could happen. To be honest, unless Marvel comes on board, there might not be a user base large enough to support that kind of demand. Additionally, with so many eyes from the giant Topps Digital community on any new app, user attrition will be a fraction of what it was during those first few weeks of Star Wars.

Because everyone has a desire to acquire the next big thing, in some ways, that works against the proposition of value towards the greater community. With so many people looking for the Vintage Han in every app, there might not be one. What made Han so wonderful was that so few people knew what they had. That is part of the allure – extreme value in something that wasnt valuable to start.

I think its clear that Wave 1, Week 1 will always conjure memories of that golden age of Star Wars Card Trader. As someone who experienced it all first hand, it was special. It was like watching something unfold in a tremendously exciting way. However, that doesnt mean that without a Vintage Han, the TWDCT and the future apps will have any less importance to the digital community. In fact, the success of the apps despite the absence of a crazy phenomenon like what we saw with Han actually speaks volumes. It shows how far we have come in the last year and change.

As mentioned prior in all those questions I asked when SW launched, none of those were present this time around. All we wanted to know is how we could get going and get going fast. We knew that the new app would have its moments, even though it was pretty obvious that Han wouldnt be making an appearance. Ive since come to terms with the fact that it might be a one time thing. It might be that certain parts of the hobby arent meant to happen more than once. At the same time, we cant discount the extreme progress made since the original lightning strike happened. Yet, we cant keep looking to the sky expecting it to strike the same place again either.

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