Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Look At Redemptions

I have never been scared by a redemption, let me say that right from the start. I don’t know why, but I never really had too much of a problem with my patience in waiting for a card I wanted. However, I know for a lot of people that isnt the case, and most have very ill feelings towards the companies they patronize who have redemption problems.

Back in the early part of this decade, Upper Deck became notorious for failed attempts at getting their redemptions out in a timely fashion. Months would pass between updates, sometimes years, and a good portion of the time, you would get stuck with replacements. Although they have improved dramatically from those days, sometimes a dramatic improvement from crap is just a bridge to poor. Upper Deck has made strides in the way redemptions are handled, being the first to institute an online redemption program. This made a lot of people optimistic about the times they feared their submissions were being lost in the mail, but most of the time it caused as many problems as it solved.

Other companies have latched on to the online redemption program, most recently Panini, followed slowly, as always, by Topps. These programs have brought about sweeping changes in the ways old redemptions are handled as well as brought newfound confidence to the floundering redemption programs of each company.

Recently, I decided to take another chance on a redemption, this time with Panini for the first time. I have had huge amounts of success with Upper Deck, getting all of my Adrian Peterson cards filled in a very short time, so I thought it was worth a shot on a Percy Harvin that I liked. I redeemed the card about a month ago, hoping to get a nice auto and nice patch on the Limited Phenoms card I thought was the best of the year so far from Panini. Lucky for me, it came yesterday, and I am very pleased with the results (pic below).

This led me to go through a discussion of the different pros and cons of each, under the auspices that I could maybe inform a few of you about everything I have experienced.

Upper Deck

Cards Redeemed: Adrian Peterson National Chicle Auto, Adrian Peterson Exquisite Auto, Adrian Peterson Sunday Stars Signatures, Sidney Rice SPA RPA, Adrian Peterson SPA SP Authentics, Joe Mauer SPA By The Letter Auto

My Experiences: As you can see, I have had a lot of redemptions that I have bought through eBay. I did not pull any of these cards in packs, and I knew there would be a wait on some of them. When I first was introduced to the Upper Deck Redemption system, I was pretty impressed. Create your account, enter the code, see the card and updates right there on the screen. For the Mauer, a card that was the first redemption I worked with, I didn’t understand that it would take so ridiculously long. It took about seven months, only because I redeemed it at the beginning of the season, and we know that players have a tough time signing during the season. The problem was not that it took so long, but because I had no clue. That was the only time I had a problem. The other cards got to me in less than a month, sometimes in less than a week if they were already in stock. None of the cards were damaged, though it was annoying to have to trek to the fedex office to get the signature on the package.

Others Experiences: Im sure you have heard of the stories. The horrors, the horrors! Redemptions taking years upon years, awful replacements, everything that one could imagine. The worst I have heard was someone getting a five dollar card for a card that sold for over 150 due to equal book value or some crap like that. Upper Deck has said to me that they have switched to using what cards sell for in addition to the guide, as well as collector requests and rarity. It doesn’t always work out, but I have seen people get Flacco RPAs from SPA as well as a Chris Johnson for a card that didn’t sell for much. I guess it works both ways. In all reality, I think the horror stories create very vocal people, while the success stories do not. However, I do think that Upper Deck did earn their stigma pretty early on, and much of it is still sticking, rightfully so in some cases.


Cards Redeemed: Harry Douglas Bowman Chrome Auto

My Experiences: I loved when Topps switched to online, and decided to try out the Douglas as a test. At most I was losing ten bucks, so I didn’t really think of it as too much of a risk. Again, a very user friendly site, and the design of the cards you pull is very helpful with name in big bold letters. You don’t need a magnifying glass or a checklist, which is clutch. As for the card itself, it came in about four months, and didn’t have any big problems. Again, I was pissed that a guy at the rookie premiere had to have a redemption, but at least I got the card I redeemed, even though others have had a lot of issues.

Others Experiences: I have stood by the fact that you shouldn’t spend any significant money on any Topps redemption because there is a good chance that any replacement you get will be total and utter fucking poop. I have heard of people getting low end packs as replacements for a redemption, and that just isnt right. I have also seen that Topps' track record on filling redemptions, despite using all stickers, is quite a bit lower than I expected, with some major cards going unfufilled. Having unfufilled redemptions is just as much a player problem as a company problem, but any replacement problems are all on their shoulders. Topps is notorious for that, no doubt. One addition recently has been redemption updates on Twitter, and that is beyond awesome. I applaud Topps for that part of this whole thing.


Cards Redeemed: Adrian Peterson Limited RPA, Percy Harvin Limited RPA, Shawn Nelson Base Auto

My Experiences: I wont talk much about the Peterson RPA, because it was a write in before the new online system was started, and it turned out pretty well. The Harvin and the Nelson are newer ones. Starting with the actual redemption cards themselves, they could be the most annoying things in history. You always will need a checklist, and that can be problematic if you are opening them in a shop from loose packs, when they threw the sheet away. I don’t understand why they cant print the names of the players on the cards like everyone else, just seems completely useless. The site itself is a little more complicated than the others, especially if you have multiples going at once. I had two at once, and I couldn’t tell which was which without clicking through a few menus. Also, they call everything a "request" so your files may not be redemptions, as damage and missing card replacements are filed under "open requests" as well. The Nelson hasn’t come yet, but the Harvin showed up yesterday as I explained above, packaged nicely. It came via USPS which may cause more problems if there was damage. With Fedex like UD uses, there is much more accountability for damage because of national policies, which is very helpful. USPS is practically nothing in terms of those types of policies. There was not even insurance on the card.

Others Experiences: Other people have had generally normal experiences with both good and bad replacements and fufillment stuff. Since Panini is pretty much all stickers as well, they have a luxury that on card stuff doesn’t have, however, that doesn’t always mean you get what you paid for. There were a lot of problems last year with Chris Johnson's Contenders cards, with some people getting shafted. However, most of them were able to work it out with customer service, which is a good sign. I wonder what happened for those collectors who didn’t know what to do, though. Panini is generally regarded to have a mid range wait time, with some being quick and others taking forever, but their strength is in expired cards. They are notorious for keeping back stock of expired cards, and will usually fufill something, even if the card is years old.

I don’t really think that there is a clear cut best company here, as each has their strengths. I would just advise you to ask people before purchasing redemptions, especially old ones, and really see if past ones have been fufilled for that player. If there is documented success, it may be worth a chance to try with one. Otherwise, stick to the live cards, as a bird in hand is much better than two in the bush.


  1. i bought a bunch of redemption cards on ebay a few years ago for one of the fleer greats issues (one was for a garvey/valenzuela dual auto or patch) that were never issued due to the bankruptcy that came shortly after i mailed them in. instead i got a bunch of basketball autos and some single swatch bat relics of players i didn't care about.
    having said that, my most recent experience with redemptions (topps) was very pleasant. surprising even, as i submitted the card after the expirations date.

  2. I haven't ever had a problem either. I got two redemptions last year for Ultra Hockey and one from Artifacts. All three were for rookies and they all arrived within 3 weeks. I also sent in a O-Pee-Chee buyback auto from last year at the beginning of summer. I think it came sometime at the end of was a Luc Robitaille auto on a 90-91 OPC base card. Crappy card but sweet auto of the new HOFer.