Topps Series 2, like all the Topps series since 2006, I think, maybe 2005, has sticker autographs. I erroneously stated that I thought the tide had turned, however, with a Ryan Perry autograph that appeared, somewhat awkwardly, to be on-card:
I had mixed, but skewed positive feelings on this. On the one hand: ON CARD AUTOGRAPHS WOOOO!, on the other, this is the aesthetic equivalent of a sticker, almost looking worse, as though they ran out of stickers and just went "oh, just sign in this huge white box instead." Still, I was excited for the future, with the appearance that on-card autographs were in the offing. Nope:
Indeed, this is a clear sticker, which means that Topps has officially caught up with early 00's technology. Still, the clear sticker is an improvement, in that it gives you the ability to design a card in which the autograph enhances the design, or at least unobtrusively comes into play, instead of yelling "BAM! I'M AN AUTOGRAPH" the way the old cards did. As Upper Deck proved time and time again, stickers can be done nicely:
The plus side, of course, is that stickers do give the flexibility to more easily produce cards of stars without having to worry about signing schedules and production dates and the like. The downside is that they are still stickers and help contribute to the overpopulation of autograph cards as a whole, foster laziness of design and pigeonhole a company to use the same players over and over again to get their money's worth.
But there is one other upside to stickers that made itself apparent in Topps Series 2:
Some might say that this is everything that is wrong with stickers, I mean, the signature is completely crooked for goodness sake. Well give George Kell a break. He is dead after all.
Seriously though, I like that we are graced with a George Kell autograph--an unexpected surprise from beyond the grave. There is a certain beauty in this. The clear stickers are also an unambiguously good move and can only lead to better things. However, Topps needs to make sure that they don't treat these new stickers as "The Answer." They are not. They are an improvement--a low-end card solution--but should be used only when necessary. I think that everybody agrees that collectors would be happy with fewer autograph cards if the ones that were out there were nicely designed and signed on-card. Topps Chrome (2009), 206, A&G, Chicle, Bowman and Heritage have already gotten the memo. Let's just hope that they stay the course.