Sunday, January 25, 2015

The future of sticker autos

[This is just here for the first line of the song.]

Everybody hates stickergraphs, right? It's such a cop-out when a card manufacturer offers "autographed cards" in their product that are more precisely "cards that have an autographed sticker placed upon them." The person who signed it never touched the card nor even laid eyes on it. Stickers tend to be smaller than typical signatures require, resulting in scrunchiness, or incomplete autographs that couldn't be contained within the sticker boundaries.

Stickers have benefits for the company, sure. It's probably a lot cheaper and easier to have a guy sign a few sheets of little stickers than it is to have them sign a few hundred cards. The companies can "stock up" on auto'd stickers and ration them out as needed. If a guy changes teams before the sticker gets placed, they can hold off and not be stuck with an outdated card.

But the majority of the time, stickers simply look ugly, as if a piece of scotch tape was stuck onto a card. Ask a collector and I bet 10 out of 10 will tell you they much prefer on-card autograph cards. Some do their best to avoid stickergraphs all together. Others tend to stay away, but make a reluctant exception from time to time, often because sticker autos usually cost less than on-card equivalents (like me when I bought a Mike Trout sticker auto a few months ago).

But as more and more collectors are turning up their noses at sticker autos, card manufactures are looking for alternatives. One of the best ideas so far has been autographed pieces of clear acetate.

A signed piece of plastic like this gives the card maker a lot of flexibility, much like a sticker. I'm sure it's not as cheap and easy as slapping on a sticker, but the consensus of collectors is that, while still not as desirable as a real on-card autograph, these acetate autos can be pretty cool when done right, and a definite step above a sticker.

Let's take a look at a couple such cards I picked up recently.

Odrisamer Despaigne ("o-dree-sa-mehr des-pawn-yay") pitched some impressive games for the Padres last season. Topps has pretty much ignored him, but Panini got him into a couple of their late 2014 releases. This is a pretty sweet card with a little piece of patch and a cool "see-thru window" autograph, #'d 3/25.

Just when I think I've bought my last Gavin Escobar card, another neat one at a decent price catches my eye. This one is even #'d 12/25 (yes, it's the 25th of the month and I've snuck a Christmas Card into my post as I like to do). Topps had Gavin sign a thin square piece of plastic and built it into a card with it placed over a photo. Similar concept to a sticker, but a lot better looking finished product.

While I still prefer on-card autographs, I do appreciate when card companies make an effort to do something beyond an ugly, boring sticker.


  1. So true. I really like those see through window ones. Stickers suck.

  2. Poorly-designed baseball cards stink. Upper Deck's old Chirography series featured on-card autographs, but you were looking at a whole bunch of white space with a tiny little photo in a corner. Stadium Club's 2008 Beam Team cards used stickers, but they made the silver foil look like it belonged with the rest of the card design. All other things being equal, guess which set I'd rather collect?

    But when it comes down to it, I collect autographed baseball cards for the autograph - it doesn't matter that much to me if the player signed the card, a sticker or another piece of cardboard/paper that's displayed in a cutout window. (Just stay away from fabric & simulated leather, where we know we're at risk of bleeding & disappearing signatures in a relatively short time.)

    1. I agree with Paul. I'm usually after the auto in general. Card design plays a part, but usually the sticker autos are more in my price range.

  3. Agree. These are the wave of the future. Wonder how Topps will respond to the acetate plates.

  4. totally agree with the sticker autos. i've never really enjoyed them but understand that it allows product to get in the packs and boxes on time and i would much rather prefer getting sticker auto today than waiting 15months for a redemption. that said, i love the increase in acetate autos and hope they can replace the generic sticker in the near future.

  5. I guess my issue generally with getting autographs in a pack of any kind is one of feeling. The autographs that I collected in my past mean something to me -- even the one where Rex Hudler signed the back of a Fleer Baltimore Orioles sticker and even the ones that I got through the mail that are of questionable veracity. Maybe it's just that I made the decision what to get signed, who I wanted to sign, and I had to make the effort to get the signature, but current inserted autographs -- whether on-card or on stickers or on acetate or on plastic ball parts or on 24-karat gold with encrusted diamonds -- leave me cold.

  6. I'm one of the few who doesn't care how it's signed- on card, on sticker, on plastic, whathaveyou. To me, it's getting the signature that's important, not where's it's signed.

    A couple of caveats though- I don't like when part of the signature goes off the sticker and is then lost- and I don't like when glue stains mar the signature area from where the card was put together. Upper Deck had that a lot in the early 2000s.

    One plus to sticker autographs- the player's death does not preclude them from future autograph issues. I just saw it in the NBA in 2014-15 Panini Prestige, two players that passed away over a year ago were included in the set.