Wednesday, May 18, 2016

In Defense of the Stamp: 2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buybacks


I like stamped buybacks, okay? I know a lot of folks don’t, but I’ve never hidden the fact that I can’t get enough of brands reminding us about all the massively overproduced cardboard they gave us when I was in my formative collecting years. And the fact that these are the genuine article as opposed to inserts a la Berger’s Best or Cards Your Mom Threw Out makes it even more fun.

FUN, I say!

But regardless of how you feel about buybacks, there remain a few mysteries with this insert, one in particular that’s bothered me since I first heard about the new-for-2016 tiered stamp system.

First, here’s what Baseballcardpedia says about the 65th Anniversary buybacks:

“As an added twist, each buyback has a foil stamp that is color-coded with differing tiers of scarcity. 

The color codes in order of most to least common are: 
Black (most common) 
Gold (one-of-one)”

From the moment I first I read about how the tiered stamps work, something bothered me. What were the criteria that decided what stamp color each buyback received? How do they quantify this?

Is it based on the scarcity of the stamp itself? In other words, did Topps stamp so many of a specific card silver, then more in blue, more in red, and the most in black? If so, does that mean you can pull the same card in multiple stamp colors? Are there stamp color rainbows?

Silver vs. Red

Or is it based on desirability of the card? As in popular players like Nolan Ryan and Tony Gwynn got all the silver and blue foil while the Pat Sheridans and Chris Bandos of the world got stuck with red and black? If this is the case, which cards got which stamps had to have been based on somebody’s gut feeling. So who made those calls?

It turns out both of these are kind of right.

Go on COMC and search “2016 Topps 65th” and any of the foil colors, and you will see a parade of answers.

Black: overproduction-era commons, mostly from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s
Red: commons almost exclusively from the ‘70’s with a few semi-stars mixed in from all decades
Blue: 70’s commons plus your bigger stars such as your Jeters and Ripkens
Silver: dime-box-grade or better cards of popular stars with a few inserts and autographs mixed in
Gold 1/1’s: stars or lovely vintage base cards from the 60’s.

Based on the sample from COMC, we know the stamp system is based to some degree on the desirability of the card itself, but the criteria for each tier still seem awfully loose. I would guess there is a room full of people at Topps HQ in New York sifting through boxes of cards and putting them into one of five bins for later stamping. My guess is the decisions are made quickly and based on personal whim.

Allow me to show you why I think that. Ladies and Gents, my secret shame:

Four Blues and Four Silvers

That's FOUR TIMES the same card received two different stamp colors. Are there reds of these same cards to be had? Golds? I’m not sure. All I know is that whoever sent these cards to be blue-stamped should be fired. Silver or bust!

And Lord help you if I find out you red-stamped a Griffey.

Wait, there's more:


Yeah, I've been scooping them up like free samples at a Baskin Robbins. Don't judge yet - instead, allow me to try and defend my love of buybacks to you.

First, there are people out there who prefer inserts such as Berger’s Best and the popular Cards Your Mom Threw Out in lieu of stamped buybacks. My response to this is: WHY? Here’s the real card with a stamp to commemorate it. It’s not a ’52 Mantle. Nothing is being ruined forever here. There are 500,000 copies of some of these cards floating around, but this one is special. Why is that worse than a reprint with an ugly back?

On top of that, value in this hobby, especially when it comes to popular players, is based on scarcity more than anything else. So the question becomes how many of each card made it out into the world through buybacks? Are there 100 of that 1990 Topps #336 to be had? Or ten? Sure, there are 1/1 gold stamps, too, but even for the tougher colors I can’t imagine there being that many. I would guess that it’s probably something like a handful of each issue. Congratulations! That’s one rare…, him.

These are not unlike those unnumbered 2015 Stadium Club First Day Issue cards. There were no clear production numbers, and then someone figured out that there are actually just seven of each card and suddenly everybody wants them. I recently paid $15 for a #/99 Griffey (high, but I really wanted it) and $5 or less for most of these buybacks. There’s no way there are 99 of each of these floating around.

I believe those foolish enough to appreciate stamped buyback junk wax (e.g., yours truly) are getting a lot of bang for their buck.

Or we’re just sick, sick people.

Here's my list of Ken Griffey, Jr. cards bearing the Topps 65th Anniversary Stamp:

2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1990 Topps #336 Silver
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1991 Topps #790 Blue
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1991 Topps #790 Silver
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1991 Topps #392 All-Star Blue
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1991 Topps #392 All-Star Silver
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1992 Topps #50 Blue
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1992 Topps #50 Silver
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1993 Topps #179 Blue
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1993 Topps #179 Silver
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1996 Topps #230 Star Power Silver
2016 Topps 65th Anniversary Buyback 1999 Topps #100 Silver

Oh, and if I was the guys at the Topps factory whose job it is to stamp the buybacks, I would sneak so many other Griffeys in to get stamped. O-Pee-Chee and Tiffany versions, random overproduction-era commons from every brand, and maybe even a few ’89 Upper Deck rookies. Now THAT would be some crazy backdoor action.


  1. I don't mind buybacks like this. I actually think it's pretty cool to pull one of them out of a pack. Most of the ones I've seen are from the 70s

  2. Buybacks aren't for me because I collect cards, not foil stamps. Except for '75 Topps Buybacks, and then THEY'RE ALL MINE! MINE FOREVER! MINE!!!!!!!

  3. I was initially on the fence but I gave in and started chasing them too.

  4. I don't mind buybacks as they're more of a fun curiosity than anything else. I'm not rushing out to buy any of them but I'm not against them or anything. I have a few Heritage buybacks that I've accumulated over the years, and I've hung on to them. Like you said, it's not they're stamping up '52 Mantles.

  5. I think my buyback franenset speaks for itself.

  6. i am a fan of the buybacks - i am glad they are stamped rather than just inserted into packs the way they were back in 2001 or in 2009 o-pee-chee. i am just chasing 2015 dodgers though. plus any garveys from 2014-16.

  7. thats a ton. Fun chase though. I don't have any of those.

  8. Wow. Very impressive collection. Bottom line for me... buybacks are cards, so I collect them.

  9. No interest in them whatsoever. I'd keep it if I pulled one, but I wouldn't buy one on purpose.

  10. "Now THAT would be some crazy backdoor action."

    That line pretty much slayed me. I don't even remember anymore what I was going to write in the comments about buybacks.

    I don't mind buybacks, but I haven't really chased any down yet.

  11. I like the multi colored foil of the same card. I'm with Fuji, I collect them (1975 only) but just to have a sampling nothing like what the Owl's doing. So I'm after a 75 silver, gold and black. If anyone has one, let me know.

  12. I think Fuji summed it up best. Buybacks are cards, cards are awesome, collect cards!

  13. I like them. Have over 250 different ones from various years. Ninety percent of them are cards I own the original. The stamps are also placed on varying spots on cards.