Rich Klein: First Baseball Cards Are Like Core Cirriculum

by Rich Klein

Last weekend, I spent a fun-filled dreary Saturday interviewing prospective Columbia University students. Almost all of those I interviewed were incredibly bright, well-behaved and far more qualified for college than I was at the same age. However, there is one important difference between when I went to college and today.

That difference is the commonality of how we all grew up.

Jumbo Box 2013 ToppsIn the 1970’s, FM radio was just starting to become popular but AM radio still ruled the roost and I felt fortunate in the New York Metropolitan area that we had 11-12 TV stations (although a couple were in Spanish) to choose from. The paucity of that information brought an easy way for all of us to discuss the same events, the same songs, the same TV programs and even the same publications. Of course, nearly 40 years later, all of these numbers are far different.

One aspect of the Columbia College experience that has not changed in nearly 100 years is the core curriculum in which freshmen and sophomores take many of the same classes. That brings a commonality to the campus as I am fond of saying.   Imagine at any event being able to discuss who your teacher is as an icebreaker and then go on to talk about other fun things.

Well, in many ways Topps I baseball is the core curriculum of baseball cards. Each year the first hobby product released is Topps I and the buzz generated is designed toBryce Harper 2013 Topps get the card season off to a great start. From the traditionalist who just needs to see this year’s cards to the case breaker who realizes there is always a profit to be made, Topps I is the common experience to start everyone’s season.

Even the hobby distribution has not changed in recent years. Each box contains 36 packs with 10 cards per pack and one hit (autograph or relic) per box and the only difference is that there has not been a hook to really increase demand. This year, my local card shop (Triple Cards, Plano TX) reported decent but not overwhelming sales at $64.25 per box while leading on-line retailers are currently at the $45-55 level.

As usual, there is a large insert/chase element with nearly every pack offering a couple of those subset cards, some of which are far more rare than others.  Parallels include the popular camo borders as well as gold (# to 2013), pink, black and several more variations from the white border base cards.

So far, the biggest hype of the 2013 Topps set has been bloggers and mainstream media noticing the exclusion of Pete Rose’s name from the product. Well, if that is the biggest hype (and not something new), then you can see why for the first time in many years, Topps basic series 1 product is very inexpensive on the secondary market.

Eagle eyed collectors will also notice about 15 math errors in the Career Chase cards and it doesn’t appear as if those will be corrected.

Topps also opened its Million Dollar Chase website on Thursday as collectors have another chance to win prizes through the online component that’s been a fixture the last few years in one form or another.

So how did we do from our hobby box?

Base Cards.  298 of 330 with no duplicates which is about 90+ percent of the set

Emerald Parallels: Dexter Fowler, Jerry Hairston, Chris Heisey, Jed Lowrie, Kevin Millwood, David Robertson.

1972 Topps mini StantonGold Parallels (#d to 2013): Dustin Ackley, Ryan Howard, Ian Kennedy, Hunter Pence

Black Parallel (#d to 62): Joe Mauer

1972 Minis: Adrian Beltre, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Tony Gwynn, Ian Kennedy, Evan Longoria, Jose Reyes, Carlos Santana, Giancarlo Stanton

Calling Cards:  Aroldis Chapman, Albert Pujols, C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Youkilis

Chasing History: Roberto Clemente, Bob Feller, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Cal Ripken Jr., Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez, Nolan Ryan, Cut to the Chase SchmidtTom Seaver

Chasing the Dream: Brett Lawrie, Matt Moore, Mike Moustakas, Chris Sale, Drew Smyly, Giancarlo Stanton

Cut to the Chase: Yu Darvish, Mike Schmidt

The Greats: Mariano Rivera, Mike Schmidt

Chasing History Relic: Evan Longoria

No huge hit here.  The Longoria Relic and Mauer Black Parallel were my two top cards but in other boxes, I did pull autos and in one case it was the same card no less: Dwight Gooden Chasing History Autograph.  In a Walmart $10 box, I got a Joel Hanrahan autograph.

Topps wisely uses their inserts to bring in the retired players while featuring today’s stars in the base set. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, theyis able to do to reverse the trend and goose up the market value of the first series boxes. I don’t think there will be any more “Derek Jeter” surprises in this year’s basic Topps set. However, for what it is, Topps 1 is just going to be fine for about 90 percent or more of all collectors who want that link to their collecting past and to those who use Topps as the starting point for the card season.

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]


  1. […] the hardest issue for Topps to market may very well be its Series 2 baseball boxes.  After all, Series One kicks off the collecting year after a cold, hard winter. Collectors are excited to buy a fresh baseball product.  Casual fans […]