Back in the day Topps actually did dabble in direct sales to customers. They did some different things with The Pit which is some sort of stock market for sports cards and they also had eTopps. The latter worked a lot like Topps Now.
Cards were available for a limited amount of time online, customers could buy the cards, and then either keep them in a portfolio or pay a little extra to have them mailed out. Some of them were even based on specific events during the season, such as the top vote getters in the All-Star Game, or Postseason games.
I have a few eTopps cards from the early 2000s, but I mainly just picked them up if they featured Albert Pujols. I also had them mailed out, but I really abandoned that scene at some point in the mid 2000s.
I guess I could go back and fill in the Cardinals cards that I missed from that era, but I am not sure it's a real priority. In the meantime, I picked up a copy of a former Durham Bulls who was featured in the 2007 set on a 1985 style card. Basically cost me a whole lot of nothing, so I couldn't pass it up...
Elijah Dukes was on the Durham Bulls around the time that I first moved to North Carolina a little more than 10 years ago. Tremendously talented player, but he had a lot of off the field issues which eventually caught up with him and basically ended his baseball career.
I collected Elijah Dukes cards a few years back before he had run himself out of the league and had some really cool parallels of him out of sets like Finest and Triple Threads. I missed this one back in the day, happy to add it to my collection.