Inside the Pack: Topps Introduces NFTs

Topps wasted little to no time after announcing their intent to go public before jumping into the NFT game, a widely anticipated move that came perhaps sooner than most expected. An NFT, or non-fungible token, is a digital object stored on a blockchain, which authenticates it and therefore can be bought and sold as a unique item. NBA Top Shot has had huge success in recent months with its NFTs, which it sells as video clip “moments” of players sequentially numbered just like a card would be.

The news that Topps is entering the NFT arena was met with generally positive reviews, with most consumers and investors excited about a new vehicle for collecting. I was (and am!) excited myself, but also have a few concerns that, as of now, are unaddressed or yet to be answered.

First, the good stuff.

The timeline of this offering is perfect. Capitalizing on the industry buzz that they created by announcing their plans to go public, Topps announced its NFTs a few short days later to remain the topic of conversation. Despite multiple releases like Topps Tribute, this time in the calendar is typically seen as a lull between the releases of Topps Series 1 and Bowman, so Topps was able to stay at the forefront of people’s minds.

The time between the announcement and the live date for the NFTs is perfect, too. The announcement came on April 13, with an on-sale date of April 20, allowing customers a week to prepare, set their accounts up, and so on. It’s also a week of press coverage, a perfect amount of time to generate excitement but not enough time for folks to be distracted by something else.

Topps also did a tremendous job of explaining exactly what the product would be like, how much it would cost, and what “cards” were possible to get. The product is officially called Series 1 and is an exact design match for the physical product of the same name. Topps is releasing 50,000 standard packs at $5 a pack and 24,090 premium packs at $100 a pack. There’s no doubt that both will sell out, resulting in a nice little $2,659,000 payday for Topps and its blockchain partner, WAX. One really cool feature of the product is the “Burn to Earn” promotion, allowing collectors to trade in 5 base cards over several weeks in order to receive special 1952 redux cards.

Not everything is always rosy, though, so I have some concerns as well.

My biggest takeaway is that NFTs that simply parallel physical sets are fine for now as Topps finds its footing in the NFT space, but ultimately, collectors and investors will demand more. Whether it’s video clips or unique designs, there will be a strong desire to see something different from Topps’s NFT offerings. What this release is resembles Topps Bunt much more closely than it does the successful NBA Top Shot product. It’s cool to have animated Independence Day parallels or foil cards that digitally shimmer, but ultimately those sorts of things aren’t different enough to attract interest. Topps has done these things in the Bunt space for the better part of a decade already, so the allure of paying big money to get them on the blockchain isn’t really there.

Another concern I have is the functionality. I’m pretty tech-savvy, but I’ve had a difficult time figuring out how the purchasing works. I had to scroll down and eventually click on a fairly small button to set up my WAX Wallet. When I did, I got an activation email with a verification link, but when I clicked the link I got a “token not found” error, forcing me to eventually set up my wallet by linking my Google account. Once on my WAX Wallet, I had difficulty figuring out how to purchase the cards when they do go live. Clicking the Topps image in my wallet simply brings me back to the main Topps announcement page.

All in all, I’m extremely excited for this launch. There’s no doubt in my mind Topps will be successful in the NFT space, but I do hope that they push the boundaries a bit more in the future as they become more established. I’m also hoping the ordering process goes smoothly on April 20th. My first NFT purchase will be Topps’s first NFT, and that’s poetic in a way that I appreciate.