UPDATE – MAY/JUNE 2014
Collectors started to receive their Gold Baseballs in late May – early June 2014. The first one listed for sale on eBay was priced at $5,000 or best offer.
Letter of Authenticity
THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC.
This letter certifies that this MLB Baseball was Autographed by Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr,.
An official representative of The Topps Company, Inc. witnessed the signing of this MLB Baseball.
This letter – with the below signature and holographic sticker – certifies the authenticity of Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ken Griffey Jr. signatures on this MLB Baseball.
This letter coincides with the Serial Number on the ball:
The Topps Company, Inc.
The Hype – January 2012
When the calendar rolls around to February each year, baseball fans can start to sniff spring training. It might be cold outside, but thoughts of sunshine, green grass and heading out to the ballpark are shared by many. Topps will wet the baseball appetite by releasing it’s first baseball card product of the new year around this time. It’s one of the best days of the year for me because it seems like hobby forums and sports card tweeters come to life to give an opinion on the new set.
In 2012, Topps was very active in promoting the Series 1 set that released on February 1st. There were special release day Gold Rush Rip Parties at select hobby stores. The hobby stores who did the Rip Parties got a special “Gold Rush Kit” with pins, stickers, balloons and other items. 10 of the hobby store Gold Rush Kits had a special Gold Rush Ticket that was to be redeemed for a 24K gold infused baseball autographed by Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. In addition, inside hobby packs of 2012 Series 1 were 10 randomly inserted Gold Tickets for the same ball.
The Gold Ticket – February 2012
Hobby stores and collectors began finding the Gold Tickets. Some hobby stores gave the redemption ticket away to customers. Many Gold Tickets were listed on eBay with the prices ranging from $1,750-$3,395. It’s got to be exiting pulling a redemption like this. In fact, on the back of the card, Topps suggests the lucky person should “Tweet Topps and include a picture of yourself with the front of your winning ticket”.
The tweeting wasn’t really needed to get the ball. All the person with the Gold Ticket had to do was:
Follow detailed instructions on ticket back, send ticket in, wait patiently for 8-12 weeks and your prize ball will arrive!
Photo: Beckett Article
When 8-12 Weeks turns into 52 Weeks – January 2013
As 2012 rolled on Topps released many more baseball products and if you weren’t one of those with the lucky Gold Ticket, you could probably care less about the ball. The people waiting for the Gold Ticket redemption though, started to wonder what was going on. They waited the 8-12 weeks but no ball showed up. When the clock struck 2013 many were going on a full year waiting for the Griffey Jr/Mays/Aaron ball. Topps isn’t the easiest company to get a hold of in regards to customer service. I don’t think it’s a reach to say that. While it is possible to get someone on the phone during east coast business hours, the wait time can be long and many people don’t have time to call as they are more than likely working themselves. Emailing Topps customer support can be very spotty at best. Topps has various social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook, but in general, the employees in charge of running those accounts are not involved in the customer service side of the business. While these employees can be of assistance at times, it could take many tweets and Facebook messages to get a response.
In January 2013, on sports card forum Freedom Cardboard a collector recounted a story he heard from a hobby shop owner who had a Gold Ticket and also knew of another customer who had two Gold Tickets. While it’s unclear which person got fed up with waiting for the ball to get signed, apparently as a replacement for the ball, Topps sent the Gold Ticket holder “cases” of 2012 Topps Archives Baseball. Archives is a mid-low end product that appeals to collectors who like the card designs from the 1970’s and 1980’s. Many posters on the Freedom Cardboard forum, a well respected community of collectors, didn’t seem to think that was a fair replacement for the Griffey Jr/Mays/Aaron ball.
On January 17, 2013 a collector who was waiting on the ball emailed me about his frustration. Despite numerous attempts to contact Topps customer support, through phone calls and the internet, the collector’s questions were falling on deaf ears. At one point the collector even mailed a letter to the Topps office in hopes of a response only to be let down once again. On the back of the Griffey Jr/Mays/Aaron ball Gold Ticket it says to: “Smile, celebrate, make some noise!!” This collector wasn’t smiling as he was going on 50 weeks waiting for the ball to appear on his doorstep.
Topps Has Balls – February 2013
Through some prodding of fellow collectors, and maybe a little jab from myself, a (now former) employee of Topps uncovered a picture of the ball. It had been freshly signed by Willie Mays and the hopes of Griffey Jr and Hank Aaron signatures awaited.
Hank & Kenny out to Lunch…. Kinda – May 2013
I continued to correspond with the collector who emailed me from January. In hopes of getting some news on the ball I put in a call to Topps to see what was going on. Indeed the balls had been signed by Mays but Griffey Jr and Aaron had yet to sign them. There are only a few decision makers at Topps and generally speaking they aren’t the ones picking up the phone. It’s best to treat the few Topps customer service reps they have with respect as they can give you some information on your redemption or issue.
One interesting thing of note is that Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr and Willie Mays have “live” autographs available on the market that were redemptions in the original product in 2012. Meaning some redemptions for those three players have been fulfilled. Unfortunately Topps has not been able to get all three to sign the 2012 Topps “Gold Ticket” 24K Baseball. Many collectors experience this frustration with other cards and players. At times collectors can be waiting for a redemption, but the athlete has signed cards that are going into new products. Topps doesn’t fulfill it’s past obligations before cranking out new sets.
Take the Summer Off – June – August 2013
Topps had a staffing shakeup in the summer of 2013 that saw several employees leave the company. On the customer service side, the impact appeared massive. Topps began telling customers that redemptions would take an extra 5-6 weeks to be fulfilled because of the staffing need. Many collectors were already waiting over a year for some redemptions so the 5-6 week message was perplexing. Communication coming out of Topps is poor. While they have a strong following of people on some social media sites, they generally use those for promotional purposes only. Getting nuts & bolts information out of Topps can be like trying to crack a safe. If you have an issue with Topps it can be difficult to know what to do. The customer service employees only have limited information on items waiting to be redeemed. The customer service employees can’t get Hank and Griffey to sign the ball. There are employees at Topps who do have that obligation and job title to acquire autographs. Mays, Griffey and Aaron have signed cards for Topps since 2012. There might be a somewhat good reason why the ball hasn’t been signed but Topps has not communicated with it’s customers what that reason might be.
Around this time period Topps sent out, what they said were 10,000 “replacement autographs” to customers waiting for redemption cards. Doc Gooden, Gary Carter and other mid-tier athlete sticker autograph cards were sent out in mass. Some collectors got the better end of the deal, happy to get something for a card they were waiting on. Others were disappointed and wanted the item they were originally promised. Collectors did not have a choice to get their cards redeemed for the replacement autographs. Topps just sent out the replacement cards without first contacting the customer.
Not every collector waiting for a redemption card got one of these replacement autographs. Thousands of collectors are still waiting for cards to be redeemed by Topps, including those waiting for the Griffey Jr/Mays/Aaron ball.
We Have No Balls – September 2013
I put in another fresh call to Topps in early September to see if there was any update on the 24K ball. Perhaps Aaron or Griffey had signed it and there would be good news to share with the collector who had been emailing me. Unfortunately there was no news on the ball. In a few months it will be 2 years since many collectors got the Gold Ticket. It’s got to be incredibly frustrating waiting for Topps to come through on their end. What a shame that in nearly 2 years only Willie Mays has signed the ball.
It doesn’t give collectors or those involved in the industry a very good feeling about the employee talent level at Topps. And I’m not talking about the people who pick up the phone. They do their job as well as they can. It’s the upper level management and decision makers at Topps who don’t empower their lower level employees to help customers. The decision makers at Topps also don’t have a grasp of the costly nature of redemption cards. Having a “backlog” of redemptions (liabilities) is not a good way to run a business. That is why Topps sent out the 10,000 replacement redemption cards. They knew it was dumb on many levels to have those cards waiting to be redeemed. It was probably more of a business move than a customer service gesture. Funny thing is, 2013 Topps products are filled with redemption cards. The problem hasn’t been fixed or solved for the end customer. In another couple years they may have to do the same thing and issue a bunch of other replacement cards if decision makers continue their laziness. I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy a Topps redemption card. They’ll just send you whatever they see fit in a couple years.