Top Gear Turbo the £792.00 Basic Set

Issue 1

This week the BBC have released a new product that sees one of the networks most popular shows turned into trading cards. Unfortunately it’s almost imposable to collect. The Top Gear Turbo set is more than a little reminiscent of the successful (read popular) GE Fabbri part works, “Doctor Who Battles in Time”  which was  a great money spinner for BBC Worldwide. These new Top Gear cards are apparently NOT made by GE but in fact by the commercial arm of the BBC itself yet they still suffer from the same problems. They have even maintained GE’s price point (£2.50 per Magazine issue which comes out every two weeks and £1.50 for each additional pack of cards). These are aimed at the youth sector (The 7-14 year old market), and make no mistake the object is to hook as many children as possible into collecting these cards.

Issue 1 (pictured above) became available on the 6th Jan 010 and as an introductory offer it is reduced to £1.50 and comes with 2 packs of cards (instead of 1). Lets cut to the chase, the magazine is 24 glossy pages, mostly photos, two pages of comic strip featuring the Top Gear presenters, a Stig spot the difference, a word search and some posters. There is not a lot to it but the target audience will love it, the cards on the other hand are a little on the weak side. The set is comprised of 276 cards (that’s a big set)  and they break down as follows: 220 common cards 33 rare cards, and 22 super rare cards. In addition to this there is an ultra rare unnumbered Stig card.

This is the interesting part, the odds on this set are so astronomical as to be insane. You get 7-8 commons per pack which is fairly standard, the 33 rare cards drop in at one per pack, so that’s not bad, the super rares of which there are 22 on the other hand pop up only one in every 24 packs, which we can only describe as scandalous.

It’s simple mathematics to work out that assuming for perfect collation which is so improbable it might as well be imposable, it would cost £792.00 in packs to complete this set. We can tell you now that it will be a lot more than that because to put it simply the collation on these cards is a mess.  We know of several box’s that had no super rare cards at all but lots and lots of the same cards… and in fact the two packs we opened on the front of the magazine suffered from this problem. Not only was the rare the same in both packs but so where three of the common cards. That’s a 22.2% margin on just two packs…

The "Rare" Duplicates

More Duplicates

and more...

and even more from just 2 packs..

Perhaps it’s just those two unlucky packs on the magazine then… So to make sure we split 15 more from a single box and assumed that the duplication would drop, sadly  the duplication percentage went up! After 15 packs we found 28% duplication…  That means 2-3 cards in every pack will be duplicated in any other another pack… unlucky box perhaps? It would seem not, I have had reports from all over that this is typical and in many areas it is worse. This duplication makes it an even harder set to complete and realistic for your average 7-14 year old it will not be possible to finish the set. This is detrimental to the slow but steadily growing card industry in the UK, and it will put off not only parents but also future collectors.

It is very cynical to market a product directly to children with the advanced knowledge that it will cost close to £1000.00 or more to complete (we added the extra £208.00 in to adjust for the poor collation of the set and high duplication  percentage discussed above. We still feel that this is a conservative estimation in fact 28% would have given you a figure of £221.76). Expecting 7-14 year old children to spend this sort of money is ridiculous, and we wanted to offer the BBC the chance to respond to our article.  We asked them how they could justify the cash outlay needed to complete a set which was intentionally aimed at children.

About an hour later I received a phone call from a very pleasant young woman named Tara Davies a spokesperson for the Top Gear show, she was calling to inform us that the question had been passed to her in error, and that she had forwarded it to Anna Kingsley a communications manager for  BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC) who is responsible for this area. I would like at this stage to point out that none of the people associated with the Top Gear TV program have anything what so ever to do with these cards,  they are purely a commercial enterprise by BBC Worldwide.

Later in the day Anna Kingsley did respond to my question via email and this is what she said:

In response to your question, the core proposition of Top Gear Turbo Challenge is about offering a great value offer for children: a magazine with great gifts, a great website and packs of trading cards in each issue. The trading cards are designed for children to swap with their friends to build their collection and we would never expect that they spend the kind of sums you suggest.

What Anna Kingsley seems to be missing is simple, I am not suggesting anyone outlay the sums of money needed to complete this set, all of these figures are biased on the statistics that BBC Worldwide published on each and every pack of these cards. THEY are suggesting this sort of cash expenditure to anyone who wishes to complete the set. She seems to be saying they never intended for anyone to BUY the product in the hope of completing it… Thats an interesting business theory.

We felt that was not really an adequate response..  so we followed up with some more detailed questions which I will now reproduce:

The figure of £792.00 is a very conservative estimate assuming that no duplication was found in the packs purchased which I am sure you will understand is statistical improbable to say the least. Exactly how much trading do you anticipate is going to happen when when the ratios for the top cards mean they have a statistical value of £36.00 each?

Do you accept the premise that BBC Worldwide have created a set of cards that it will be nearly imposable for a child within it’s target demographic to complete?

More over do you even accept the premise of a numbered card set ultimately is to complete it?

Are you really happy to defend the statistics on set completion as published by the BBC Worldwide?

Who made the decisions as they relate to set composition and insert ratios?

and we held off on publishing until we had a response. It came and it says:

We stand by our previous comment that Top Gear Turbo Challenge is a magazine proposition with great added value for children in the form of gifts, website and the trading card element. The trading cards have been designed with children’s enjoyment in mind, in each pack is a rare card that activates new content on the website and there are an array of games that children can enjoy from collecting just a few packs of cards. Following successful testing last year, we feel confident that we are offering children the chance to enjoy and engage with Top Gear in a variety of different ways with Top Gear Turbo Challenge.

So that clears that up then…. BBC Worldwide have NO intention of answering detailed and legitimate questions about a product they expect our children to buy. Its a shame, because this could very easily be a great product. The cards are nice, and they have a great interactive application, once you register on the top gear turbo website you can input the codes from some of the cards and it will enable you to play enhanced versions of some on-line flash games. The games are interspersed with sound clips from the folks on the show and fun even if a little basic.

You can also have your own “Cool Wall” on the site full of the cars you have collected on the cards. This is great and innovative stuff, and had the super rares been 1:6 or even 1:10 with marginally better collation this could have been a very memorable set, as it stands at the moment however it is one to avoid if you can because completion is going to cost more than any other basic set in recent history (if not ever) of to complete. If you don’t care about completing the set then have fun. Personally I would hope people would pass on this just so that they don’t carry on with these crazy ratios. The BBC should really know better.

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24 Responses to Top Gear Turbo the £792.00 Basic Set

  1. Graham says:

    Curious about the mathematics of this, I just wrote a quick script to simulate* buying packs until you get all the cards, and ran it 10,000 times.

    The minimum spend was £826.50, the maximum £9,450 and the mean average £2,924. Spending £1,000 gives you only a 0.04% chance of getting all of them. £3,000 gives you a 60.4% chance. If you spent £5,000 you still only had a 96.4% chance.

    But I’m not sure this illustrates BBC greed so much as the shear impossibility of completing the set without trading with other people. Also, if they’re distributing the cards such that certain issues usually come with certain cards, your odds of getting all the cards simply by buying all the issues is much, much better.

    (* Assumptions: no repeats within a pack; a genuinely random distribution of cards; paying £1.50 per pack; special Stig card ignored)

  2. JJ says:

    We took the number of Super rare cards (22) and multiplied that buy the odds ratio (1:24) and then by the price (£1.50) so it went 24x22x£1.50= £792.00

    This assumes that there is no duplication however we know that there is, and as such factored in the additional amount to take the price over £1000.00. I can tell you that the issues do not contain any special selection of cards, they are all random in the same way the boxes are, and in fact the odds on the magazine packs state the same 1:24 odds as the packs available for individual purchase. As you have demonstrated however it can be a VERY pricey set to try and finish.

    Sure trading is a good idea, but even with that you assume that someone will have more Super Rare cards than they need. As I have shown the lowest “value” on these cards according to the rations stated on the packs would be £36.00, now that seems a lot to be letting kids swap around the place. According to the odds you have to buy a complete box to obtain one of these cards.

    We have had reports from customers who have split three sealed boxes and not obtained a single super rare, and one chap assures me he got two in one box.

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  4. jj mac says:

    This is one for Watchdog surely….er hang on, isn’t that the BBC as well? I wonder….? Maybe if enough people write to complain….!

  5. G Silveston says:

    My 8yr old son is an avid collector of trading cards of various sorts , especially Match Attack football cards . These cards are only 50p for 6 cards and are very good value and good quality ,with a good proportion of them different . Imagine my shock when i went to buy his first pack of T G cards £ 1 -50 !!!!!!!! , I thought they had made a mistake and charged for the mag as well . That was his first and LAST ,so i think in these difficult times the B.B.C. have shot themselves in the foot . All i can say is Grrrrrr.

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  7. kiri says:

    well i have been collecting these for a while i am 12 and my brother 7 we have nearly every common card we need 26 more to complete the common cards.BUT i only have 1 super rare and the statistic of 1 in every 24 packs is annoy as i have nearly bought £75 and only had 1 super rare.you might as well buy the last few cards of ebay and wait for circulation of the ultimate stig to rise from 40 to some were in the thousands.the rare cards need about 5 more for completion so i think im lucky to spend only about £75 and be this close i have around 500 cards most of them doubles .but im not that sure on the maths.

  8. VISHY says:

    i have bought 20 of the first issue magazines (40packs!) for half the price! NB:the first issue was £1.50 and came with 2 packs of cards!
    so just buy lots of magazines and then occasionally the seperate packs. BBC these are a rip of should be atleast half the price probably cost 25p to make them so why charge so much.

  9. rob says:

    if any one was clever enough to realise that the sun was giving away a voucher for a free pack of cards a while ago with a voucher,
    i bought 25 sun newspapers at 30p each only had i realised the odds at the time i would of bought 100′s as the price of the cards ( super rare) are £5-£6 each on e bay (stig is over £50) and full set of common is about £15 full set of rare £20, buissness aside,
    30p a pack is very cheap not only that it says o the back of the voucher that bbc will pay the shop £1.50 per voucher, good for u the shop and rubbish for the bbc :)

  10. Top gear fan says:

    So wat if it costs alot I like them and it’s more interesting not completing it in 1 day. I’m 11 and a girl but I like the fact that they appeal to boys & girls!!!!!!!!! So stop being stupid cuz they are good cards!!!

  11. JJ says:

    So what? Well I can see that you don’t have to pay for them yourself then. Also “cuz” is not a word, perhaps you should ask your parents to explain the concept of money and English to you, and if your 11 you should be in bed it’s 10:30 at night!

  12. stickyb says:

    Experience of family and friends is that children (mostly boys) in the target age group will begin to collect such things enthusiastically, then either lose interest or become obsessively hooked. Cynical of BBC Worldwide to cash in on, and ultimately disappoint, the latter group.

    I accept that the promoters are not explicitly telling children they have to collect the set, but the implication is there. I accept that the cards can be used to play card games, but the rules for the card games on the TGTC website are pretty poor.

    The codes on rare cards unlock arcade-style games on the TGTC website. This is fine and dandy, but merely provides more incentive to buy more cards and seek out more codes and hence unlock more games. Worst of all, when you input your cards on the website’s “virtual garage” you are given a coolness rating according to the size of your collection. My grandson’s current rating is “seriously uncool” – I cannot think of anything more calculated to spur a young teen on to spend more of their parents’ cash to improve their image to their friends at a very self-concious time of life.

    These are professional marketing people who know exactly what they’re doing, just as their professional PR spokespeople have and will try to put a kindly “we’re only doing it for the kids” -type spin on the whole thing.

    BBC should be ashamed. Everyone should write to BBC consumer affairs, like Watchdog. I’d be interested to see if they’d pursue it with their usual vigour, or cop out with the line that “BBCtv and BBC Worldwide are separate entities.”

  13. Fished In says:

    The price of the cards is exhorbitant. I bought several of issue one for my son after realising the price of each “booster” pack. Magnificent and yes cycnical marketing by the BBC and TG Team. It’s a great set, with a nice web site, and many great features besides, but the cost of the packs…..shocking. I was expecting 75p per pack, and I’m sure a lot more would have been sold if that was the price, with a more pleasure derived even with the low odds of Super rares etc. I had considered buying a bulk box, after reading above, I will not be doing this and just vary the outlets from which I buy from my son his packs of doubles !!

  14. Emma S says:

    I was absolutely disgusted on Saturday. My 10 year old son bought a pack with his pocket money. He only gets £12-15 per month, and he has to save half. This means that the pack cost him exactly 1 weeks worth of spending money. He looked embarrassed when I saw the cost of the cards, and I’m not surprised. He is being robbed blind! I was going to buy him a subscription to the magazine, but now I’ve decided not to out of sheer principal!

  15. Emma S says:

    I think I might take up forgery… Screw forging bank notes… The un numbered stig card will make me more… Plus hopefully, I can flod the Market with the damn things and destroy the inflated false worth… All joking aside though; we’re in a credit crunch and the good old Beeb is running a shocking profit venture off the back of children! Shame on the BBC. I have always been a strong supporter, but I am seriously disappointed and disillusioned about this!

  16. TJ Peng says:

    I understand totally what you are saying here. It’s going to cost a hell of a lot to complete a set. But, they add a pack in every magazine. That isn’t bad, come on.

    I collect lots of sets of trading cards. At the present time I have all the current Club Penguin cards (I’m 13 years of age. :P ) and I collect some Mario Kart trading cards. I’ve always been like that, wanting to get collections of things I like.

    I suppose this was just pure luck, but I went out and bought THREE packs one day and NONE of these were doubles. I already had 100+ cards in my collection at home.

    I don’t have many doubles, and I plan to sell my doubles from ALL of my sets in the future. If you get so many doubles, why don’t you sell them on eBay or something and make a huge profit?

    If you look on eBay yourself some people have the whole set of common, rare, and super rare cards. How much did it take them to get all that? Send them a message and find out.

    A lot of you are probably adults, and I’m 13. That probably makes my opinion kind of biased as I love them. But that’s my opinion, and nothing is going to change it. I am subscribed to the magazine. I can see how the BBC is making a huge profit out of this and sucking childrens money out of them. I understand all of this.

    I first found out about it because I bought the 200th issue of the adult version Top Gear magazine and that had a free pack with it. I searched it, and I got hooked. Most children would.

    Last thing. Have you seen on the back of the pack that it says ‘the content of the Top Gear Turbo Challenge is subject to change’. Get ready to change your calculations.

  17. Fished In says:

    Common and rare cards are about worthless on ebay. My son has 3 full sets of common and rare. Only the Super Rare command any value on ebay, and those are the ones that are 1 in every 24 packets, shocking. He still needs 13 of those to complete a set. TJ.. if you keep collecting you will soon hit the frustration point where every card you get will be a double, because you will be hunting for the elusive super rares, unless you get bored. The magazine +booster pack is okay value I agree, but the magazine content is lacking somewhat. TG and the BBC are losing lots of revenue now as folks are selling Super rares on ebay, and making a mint. It’s cheaper to buy super rares off ebay than buy a box of 24 packs to get only 1 of them. I’m guessing some of the sellers work for the company that print the cards… there is no way they collected them from buying packets. I have stopped by my son the booster packs now as it’s pointless, he is subscribed to the magazine which is fine, he does enjoy it. If BBC start selling packs with at least 1 Super Rare in ( somechance ), I would buy them again.

  18. TJ Peng says:

    Thanks for that, Fished In. What I’m actually planning to do is collect all the common and rare, and then sell all my doubles (I’ve seen common going for 50p on eBay and rare about a £1) and then use that money to buy some of the super rare. I’m not planning to buy loads and loads of packs. When/if the magazine series ends, and I stop getting the packs through the post, then I will buy the rest of the common and rare through eBay too. At the moment I’ve collected 172 cards of the 276. Not too far to go to collect the commons/rare. Just buying packs gives me the sense of excitement, even if they are all doubles. I’m not too disappointed as just the excitement is pretty cool. If I get a few new ones, that’s a bonus. Teenagers are like that. :P

    If there was a super rare in every pack they wouldn’t be super rare, would they? And there isn’t necessarily a super rare in every box.

  19. TJ Peng says:

    Oh, and, I forgot to say. Three of the four pictures you posted of the doubles are cards I have not yet collected.

  20. TJ Peng says:

    I just got two packs with my most recent delivery of magazines, and one had a super rare.

  21. TJ Peng says:

    Little update, although it’s pretty pointless as no new comments have been added.

    I now have 220 cards, just 56 left to complete my set. I only need to get one more rare (I bought four for a pound from eBay) quite a few commons, and the super rares but one.

  22. TJ Peng says:

    If you guys check the website, there’s been a pretty huge update.

    They said a ‘set 2′ is coming, but they are selling super rare cards for 25p and commons and rares for 15p all plus 1 pound postage.

  23. TJ Peng says:

    That’s under the ‘shop’ part of their webpage, by the way.

  24. TJ Peng says:

    You can get all the super rares for 7 pounds.

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