Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Recycling history

For me, recycling is the biggest problem facing the hobby these days.

Topps apparently has no shame about reusing the same images over and over again in their current products. It's a grim epidemic.

From a fiscal standpoint, I guess it makes sense for Topps. In the past, they'd hire their own photographers to take photos for an upcoming set. Now, it appears that Topps is simply buying images from Getty secondhand instead of using their own originals.

Less photos equals less money spent. Less money spent equals more profit for Topps. It's a business. I get it.

From a collector's standpoint, however, less photos equal pure laziness.

Take the saga of Josh Reddick, for example.

I have three different cards of his from last year that feature the same exact picture.

Heck, there may be more that I don't know about. There's a fine line between trying to save money and being cheap. Topps crossed it with Mr. Reddick.

Maybe talking about the whole recycling fiasco is like beating a dead horse by now. A lot of other people have already addressed it. And, as much as I'd like to think otherwise, I don't think Topps is going to change their ways anytime soon.

Not while they have a stronghold on the hobby, anyways.

It angers me that Topps can get away with using the same exact photos again and again. Such repetitiveness wouldn't fly at most other companies.

It's at times like these when I have to step back and remember that recycling isn't anything new.

Topps has been doing it for decades.

One of the first examples that comes to my mind involves this pair of Dick Allen issues. Topps used the same unspectacular profile shot for both his 1970 and 1972 cards.

Never mind that one lists him with the Cardinals while the other features him with the White Sox. On top of that, I'm about 99 percent sure that this particular photo actually comes from Allen's days with the Phillies.

Topps capitalized on him playing for two other squads with red color schemes.

The 1969 Topps checklist is littered with recycled images.

I later found out that Topps and the player's union were in a bit of a rift at the time, which prevented Topps from getting the rights to print current photos that year.

Even so, I imagine Topps would have a decent amount of archived alternate shots they could've used. Nope. They took the easy way out and recycled in a lot of cases.

Rod Carew, one of the game's brightest young stars at the time, saw the same images used on his first two solo cards. It's a nice shot, and one I like quite a bit, but I would think Topps could've at least tried to change it up in 1969.

I guess Topps thought people wouldn't notice if they gave him the extreme close-up treatment.

We did.

Tommie Aaron is perhaps my favorite (is that the right word?) example of recycling.

His 1963 rookie card features a perfectly nice posed shot of him appearing to be camped under a fly ball. When I pulled Aaron's 1969 Topps issue out of a discount box years later, I knew I'd seen that image before.

Oh, right.

It was the same photo Topps had used six years prior. Aaron turned 30 in 1969, but Topps magically transformed him back into a 24-year-old for his card that year.

This is recycling at its best.

Or worst?

The '80s saw a big dip in recycling, but that's not to say it wasn't around.

Topps tried to play it coy by slipping a few older images into their 1985 Circle K checklist. This reused shot from Yogi Berra's 1965 "sunset" issue is one of a few I've found.

Strange things were definitely afoot at the Circle K.

It's not like this was exclusively a Topps thing, either.

Upper Deck dipped into the Conlon Collection archives for this shot of a young Christy Mathewson. They reprinted an image for their 2001 UD Hall of Famers release that had already been used in a Conlon product a decade earlier.

I can't say I blame companies for wanting to reuse those beautiful Conlon photos.

They'll spice up any baseball card.

I guess this long history of recycling has sort of played with my mind.

I still get excited to see nice photos in recent sets. It's a big part of why I try to stay current with the hobby.

Still, there's another part of me that can't help but wonder if and when Topps is simply going to toss the same image on another card. I don't want to think that way, but all the reused photos as of late has made me a bit of a skeptic.

Recycling makes images watered down, which takes away from their beauty. It's as simple as that.

Thankfully, Topps has restrained themselves with this terrific shot of Miguel Cabrera. I haven't seen it pop up anywhere else.



Tony L. said...

And, to think -- I thought it was a big deal when both Topps and Fleer had the same photo on their "In Action" and base set card in 1982 for Rod Carew!

petethan said...

Cabrera will end up on a "Sliding Stars" card next year... watch.

The Junior Junkie said...

^ this

Reds Card Collector said...

bogus, heinous, most non triumphant