I've been thinking about gimmick cards the last few days and about a comment left on a previous post. The comment asked how I could label something both 'tiresome and predictable' and 'fun.' Here's what I meant.
Gimmick cards, when handled individually, are fun. Whether a dopey parody, a card written in Japanese or an obviously doctored photo, it's fun to get a card that's different from the rest of the set.
But then step back and look at the Gimmick Card Era our hobby has fallen into. It's an idea that's now central to the livelihood of the hobby. Every year there's a new handful of cards that don't really have anything to do with the rest of their sets. Their presence feels a little cheap to me. Like maybe the hobby's hit hard times.
It makes me think that maybe companies have lost their focus and are a little too in love with generating publicity. That maybe instead of (or most likely in addition to) resorting to gimmicks a company should invest more in making their product(s) better. By 'better' I really mean 'less sloppy': cutting out unintentional errors, using higher quality photography and greenlighting a more cohesive card design.
By elevating the overall strength of the set, gimmick cards don't have to do too much of the heavy lifting and collectors don't feel as disappointed if/when they don't find one in their pack or box.
To summarize: Gimmick cards: Fun (individually). The Gimmick Era: a tiresome and predictable skein of publicity stunts that hides the true sloppiness of the products involved.
The title of this post refers to the current year in the Gimmick Card Era. I'm torn as to when the era starts, so I've slapped 'Modern' on the front and had it start in 2006.