If all you can remember getting with your baseball cards is a stick of hardened bubble gum, then maybe you were born into the wrong generation. Or the right one, depending on your outlook. Today's baseball card collectors know nothing of the chewy goodness that came with the hobby years ago, and instead are being encouraged to sit in front of their webcam to bring their cards to life.
It's all part of Topps' new 3D Live series. Place one of the special cards in front of a webcam and a three-dimensional avatar of the player appears on the computer screen. As you rotate the card, so too does the avatar. By going to ToppsTown.com, you can play a catching or batting game with the cards you acquire. There's a term for this meshing of real-world and computer generated data, and it's called "augmented reality."
"This is the 'Beam me up, Scotty' version of a baseball card that will get kids to buy more," said Steve Grimes, chief digital officer at Topps. "We see this baseball season as a redefining moment for us."
And not a moment too soon, either. The sports trading card business has plummeted from a $1 billion per year business to a comparatively small $200 million per year. Technology is seen as hurting the industry, as collectors can easily and quickly look up sports facts online for any player.
On a related note, if you happen to score a 3D Live card of Manny Ramirez and find that his avatar refuses to play on your PC, nothing is amiss - it's just Manny being Manny.