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Posted May 19, 2017 by Scott Gerhardt in Trading Cards

Wait…he collects what?


o I’ve been wanting to write this article for a very long time now, but kept getting distracted by something else here and there; what a shock.    The ironic thing, is the thing that has most kept me from writing this article is the very thing I am going to cover:

Digital Collectible Cards

In short, these are online baseball cards.  We

Hundreds of digital baseball cards to collect on your iPhone in Topps BUNT 2014. (PRNewsFoto/The Topps Company, Inc.)

ll, there are 9 different sports or collectible universes spread out over 10 apps from 2 companies, Topps and Panini.  Topps is definitely the major player in this, with 8 different apps which cover:

  • NFL (Huddle)
  • MLB (Bunt)
  • NHL (Skate)
  • UFC (Knockout)
  • Various international soccer leagues (Kick)
  • WWE (Slam)
  • Star Wars
  • The Walking Dead

Panini has two apps themselves covering NFL (Gridiron) and NBA (Dunk).

Now, while I have downloaded and poked around the Panini apps a bit, I have not used them too much.  I know they have some differences with Topps, but both companies inherently do the same thing: make digital collectibles you can buy and trade.  I have been using the Topps apps for a while, and am just now starting to get into the idea of buying, selling, and trading these on a more professional level.  As such, with my currently singleness, desire to date, and unwillingness to lie to said dates, I have had to explain what this concept is on many occasions, often to very mixed results.  So, I’ve come up with my own little FAQ here:

Q:  What are the differences between these and other sport/non-sport collectible cards?
A:  Inherently, not much.  They look like sports cards on the front, even to the point of having signatures and/or relic cards as well.  The back tends to be more dynamic for sports cards, as it often will show the stats from a player’s most recent game and his scoring in said game.

Q:  Scoring?  Is this a collectible thing or a game thing?
A:  Well, it’s both, or at least for the sports-based ones.  Most cards in each game can be used in fantasy-like contests.  These cards will scores at various multipliers depending on how rare the card is.  Each day there is a new contest based on which teams are playing that day (or which fighters are fighting).  Some contests are free, some use coins, the in-game currency.  I initially got into this because of the gaming aspect to it.  I quickly found that it is difficult to be a competitive player without being a somewhat serious collector, so I set it down until one day I was clued into the fact that these cards had value, so I picked it back up again and took a look further.

Q:  Wait…value?  Like real money?
A:  Yes.  Go to ebay and do some searches.  Or, I can help you out by showing a few sample ones for Huddle, Bunt, and Slam

Q:  That’s dumb.  They aren’t even real, how can they be worth money
A:  Welcome to the digital age boys and girls – just because you can’t hold something physically in your hand doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  This one actually took me a long time to reconcile in my head, but I eventually came down to the following explanation:   Let’s say I have a physical Derek Jeter signed relic card limited to 25.  What is that worth?  Well, what is a piece of cardboard that someone grabbed a sharpie marker and scribbled on then attached a piece of fabric?  Inherently, nothing.  But, the laws of supply and demand would say it’s worth is what one person is willing to sell it for, and another is willing to buy it for.  If I say that card is $50 and I want to sell it, and you say you’ll pay $50 for it, then it’s worth $50.  Well, digital cards are the exact same thing.

Q:  Well why would I want something I have to hold my phone to look at vs real things I can hold?
A:  Digital actually has a ton of advantages over traditional physical cards.  For one, they take up no space and require no supplies.  You don’t have to get boxes to put them in, then find places for those boxes.  Secondly, you can’t damage a digital card.  You can throw your phone against the wall and stomp on it, and that card is still in mint condition (though I don’t recommend throwing and stomping).  Third, you can actually use the cards in aforementioned contests, giving them a gaming value as well as standard collectible.  The fourth one is they can release cards for sets as soon as things happen.  The Topps Now series chronicles things that happened on a particular day.  You can buy “now” cards the day after it happens.  No chance that’s happening in paper.  The fifth thing is are award cards.  As they are able to do small releases (sometimes releasing a single insert, or one per week, or a small set), they often will give you “award” cards, which are given out at a specified time after the set is done.  If you have collected all the cards needed for the award, the system at that time will grant you an additional card(s) as an award for collecting that set.  The last one I want to mention I personally find coolest:  you can meld them.

Q:  Meld?
A:  Yep.  It allows you to take a set number of cards (often 2 or 3, sometimes more) and transform them into a single card that is of higher rarity than the other ones.  This only pertains to the base set of cards.  For example, in bunt there are 10 rarities on the base set, each one corresponding to a multiplier:  White (1x), Green (1.2x), Red (1.5x), Blue (1.7x), Orange (2x), Teal (2.5x), Purple, (3x), Black (3.5x), Silver (5x), and Gold (10x).  I can take 2 green cards of the same player and meld them together to make a red one.  The two green ones are removed from my inventory and a red one is put in.  Let’s see you do THAT hocus pocus with physical cards.  I mentioned that was the last I was going to cover, as there are a ton of other advantages as well, but those were some of the biggest.

Q:  What keeps someone from just taking a screen shot or printing it out and saying “here, I have it now”
A:  What kept someone from making a Xerox of a physical card and doing the same thing?  Because its obviously fake.  Plus, all cards reside server-side, so they are in Topps or Panini’s control.  Besides, the fun part of it is having the cards in the app so your friends and strangers can trade with you.

Q:  How can something be “limited to 25” or a “1/1” if it’s digital?
A:  This goes back to understanding that something doesn’t have to be physically held to have worth.  Bitcoins have worth.  Your paycheck that gets direct deposited into your account has worth.  Understanding that making something digital doesn’t make it “not real”, from there, it is the trust with the manufacturer that it is actually limited to the numbers it says it is.  Topps and Panini are not exactly market newbies; they have a reputation to uphold, and as such aren’t going to lie about stuff like this.

Q:  What keeps Topps or Panini from shutting down the servers and just taking everyone’s stuff?
A:  Nothing.  They legally could do it.  That said, you would be dealing with a major consumer confidence issue, and these are long-standing reputable companies.  This concept works because they are established industry leaders in collectible cards.

So these are the basic concepts.  I intend to do a few more articles over this, but this one is the introductory article just to get you guys up to speed with what exactly this stuff is.

Until next time, keep playing (and collecting)!

Scott Gerhardt

Scott has....thoughts. They can be about this, that, or just about anything. Seldom at a loss for words, you can find his thoughts chronicled here