Trading cards have become a bit of a struggling hobby as of late. As someone who has collected everything from comics to action figures, when it comes to trading cards, I get a bit leery. The reason is because it’s fairly hard nowadays to know what cards are worth, especially if players are still active. There used to be a time when, as kids, many of us blew our allowances on packs of cards just for the sheer idea of having our favorite players near to us in some form. This was all before cards became about possibly getting a game used jersey, or a coveted autograph card. Additionally, there was the excitement of pulling these cards and finding out that they were part of a low print run. But what happens to these cards once we pulled them from a pack? We would put them into a binder or a card case and put them up to possibly never see the light of day until we decided to trade or sell them. That’s when some of the problems come in, as we may wind up sitting on a few cards of a player who we thought was a breakout star, and whose card was worth $100. However, we’d find out later that we couldn’t even move it now for pocket lint. Heck unless you have a low print run of a Brady auto card that glows only when the sun is in the right place in the sky, on the 3rd month of the year, you may not move it. But the worst part about the hobby now is that some card sets are prohibitively expensive and the average collector won’t get good cards unless they may be willing to sink hundreds of dollars into boxes (not packs) of cards in hopes of finding one or 2 cards that will help net a profitable return.
So, what would happen if you found out that there was a way to get trading cards and find a way to actively collect them and put them to use? The catch however, is that they are digital.
Topps, one of the biggest sellers of trading cards for as long as many of us can remember, has been slowly but surely pushing the idea of digital cards for a few years. Let me break down what they have.
Topps has several digital products that includes baseball, football, and even mixed martial arts, and these apps can be installed on nearly any phone or tablet. Also, if you are fans of the WWE, Star Wars and The Walking Dead, as they say, “There’s an app for that.” Once you download the app and sign up, you can get free coins and start getting cards to trade.
At this point, some of you are wondering what makes this so different over how cards have been collected? Here is the rub, not including the Star Wars, TWD or other cards like these, the apps have a pseudo fantasy sports/RPG element to them, thus giving collectors a reason to keep coming back to buy cards. Here’s how it works: as you collect cards, you can use them towards real life games being played. Most of the cards will also have a boost value denoted on the card. The app will set up weekly contests in which you can use cards that you have based on actual games being played. Based on the actual player’s performance during the course of a match, the card earns points based on its boost value. At the end of these matches, players with the highest points can win coins, unlockables, and other in-app prizes. Even if you don’t win the match, you still may earn something, depending on the contest.
One of the things to note is that the more you play, trade, and buy, the more XP you earn. The more XP you earn, the more access you get to opening certain packs, as well as possibly getting some of the cooler cards available. Does this mean you may have to spend money? Not necessarily, but it you want to advance faster, then yes. In order to purchase packs, you need in-app coins to do so; and based on the packs you can pick and choose how much you want to spend. Just like any physical card pack, you can buy a pack and get a lot of nice cards but one maybe 2 rare cards. Of course the more you spend, the more chances you have of getting better cards, so spend wisely.
As far as card designs go, as I have been using the Kick app. the variety of the designs are wide and far-reaching. There are nice inserts, cool parallels, and memorabilia cards, as well as some nice sigs. In many ways, even if you don’t want to spend tons of money buying cards, just being able to peruse people’s collections may amount to hours of lost time.
Of course, what would trading cards be if you couldn’t trade? The apps include trade aspects in which it’s really simple to go in, find someone you want to trade with, and do a deal. The best part is you can trade with anyone in the world who has the app. While it’s simple, this is where things get wonky. Of course because these cards are digital, as of now, there is no trading guide out which would tell someone how much a card is worth so it’s mostly up to the traders’ whim as to whether or not a card is worth a trade.
Now keep in mind you won’t be able to foist someone with a 1.7x Aaron Rogers bronze common card for a 4X rare Tom Brady auto card unless some special deal is being worked out. However, there are a few YouTube videos which actually break down some cards, in order to give collectors some idea of how to valuate them. Another issue (which I hope Topps fixes) is that there is no way one could casually tell what cards are tradeable. Unless a collector specifically locks a card, you may not be able to figure out what cards you can or can’t trade until you try to push a trade through and you get a cryptic message that a card can’t be traded. I wish the app would allow collectors to actually set up a separate section for all of the cards that one wanted to trade. It could sometimes take a long time to sift through a collection; and if there was a separate trading section, it could make it easier for collectors to find cards to trade through.
On the up side, I do like the way this app handles duplicate cards. One of the biggest headaches to having physical cards is when you run across that random common Cam Newton card for the 8th time. You can’t do much with it as it’s useless. However, with these apps, there are usually built-in card that will enable you to take duplicate cards and trade them in, which allows you to get a better card than the 6 crappy ones that you are saddled with.
The biggest issue, however, is with the potential that these digital card apps have, Topps has done a piss-poor job in not only marketing, but also explaining the apps and how they can be used. Again, thank YouTube and some of the collectors who have taken the time to really break down these apps and show how they can be used because the FAQs are useless.
One other way I wish this app could improve is by allowing collectors to set up their own contests within the app. Just like when I was younger, we made our own contests on who could win or lose cards, it would be cool to have the same here.
One last thing before I close, even though I have stated that there are no guides out there to tell what cards are worth, there are people who have posted cards on Ebay and shockingly, they do sell and some of them go for insane amounts.
So, if you want to actually spend money on a particular digital card, the risk you take is yours. Whether you are getting cards to flesh out a collection of Baltimore Orioles only cards, or trying to find that last piece to get a 5x boost card, there is something there for everyone. Keep in mind as well that most of the apps may or may not have actual physical cards you can collect. Don’t be surprised however, if your local card stores either don’t carry them or carry them in short supply. So if you really feel like you absolutely need physical cards, this may not be for you.
While there is a lot to be fixed on Topps’ side of things to help newcomers understand how the apps work, this is an interesting way to find something to do with all of those cards that we collect without having sizable binders and boxes of cards cluttering up the attics of our homes. The most important aspect is that as long as Topps keeps updating the app and adding new features, collectors may opt in to this. It can be every bit as addictive and fun as pulling and opening physical packs. The addition of actually being able to do something with these cards during the course of games makes it more enticing.