by Rich Klein
Each year, perhaps the most important sports card product released is Topps Series 1 Baseball. It has more tradition than any other because of the long history of Topps, which has issued its base set each year since 1952 and began in the baseball card business in ’51. A 2011 Topps baseball box break is something every collector looks forward to, if only to see what the new baseball cards look like.
Sixty consecutive years is by far the longest run of a hobby product. Topps is once again the exclusive trading card partner of Major League Baseball. So, not only is there the standard pressure of producing a set collectors like, but there is also the pressure of creating a product which concentrates on the present but honors and remembers the past.
Every collector has different memories of collecting the basic Topps set. In the 1980s, Topps would release its cards in the Northern New Jersey area on New Year’s Eve. For baseball fans and collectors anxious for spring, there was nothing like spending New Year’s opening the first packs of a new product. Now, due to agreements with Major League Baseball and the Players Association, Topps’ release date comes just before players start reporting to spring training.
That great baseball writer Thomas Boswell once wrote a book entitled: “Why Time Beings on Opening Day”. For baseball card collectors one could say that “Time Begins when First Series Topps Baseball is released”.
There’s no doubt that basic Topps enjoys extra attention as the product that begins our “card year” in most collectors’ minds. Although many collectors do not purchase this product in hopes of “hits”, if there is not enough “collector value”, popularity could be an issue.
It’s Topps’ 60th anniversary and the company is using that as its major theme, giving away diamond rings, celebrating its six-decade history with vintage cards and hosting more games and giveaways on a special website. There are a wide variety of insert sets, parallels, variations and other gimmicks, but it’s that sort of stuff that provides another level of interest for collectors. It’s hard to keep track of at times, but the good news is that in the secondary market, Topps has again delivered a very solid product for hobby stores.
I now live in Texas and my local shop, Triple Cards in Plano, went through 11 cases of this product at $59.95 per box before having to raise the price to $85.50. I should also mention that leading on-line retail outlets are currently between $70-75 per box as well.
Each 2011 Topps hobby box has 36 packs in a box with 10 cards per pack for a total of 360 cards and one autograph or relic card guaranteed.
When I went to Walmart this past weekend, they had 72-card “packs” with one diamond card giveaway guaranteed at a cost of $9.97. If I purchase five of those packs, I get 360 cards with 5 diamond cards for $50 and if I purchased a wax box, it would have been 360 cards with six diamond cards and a relic or autograph card for $60. That price is now $90. The extra $10 certainly wasn’t an issue since you’re getting the extra Diamond Giveaway card and the one guaranteed relic or autograph card (and probably better collation). But is the value difference the same when you’re paying $30 more for a box?
Now, the owner of the local card shop has to do what he needs to do to make his margins, but it does bring up an interesting dilemma for the card stores in terms of competition with retail. It also creates some decisions for the collector as to how and where they want to spend their money.
We opened one box of 2011 Topps Series One to see how things unfolded. Here’s what came out:
Base Set: 256 of 330 cards with NO duplicates. Awesome.
Diamond Parallels: Gregor Blanco, Andrew Cashner, Ian Desmond, Evan Meek, Melvin Mora, Chris Narveson, Jon Niese, Barry Zito, NL Home Run Leaders (Albert Pujols/Adam Dunn/Joey Votto)
Gold Parallels (#d to 2011): David Eckstein, Neftali Perez AL ROY, Jeff Keppinger, Kurt Suzuki
Black Parallel (#d to 60); Stephen Strasburg (nice score there)
Vintage Great Shortprint: Jimmie Foxx
Topps 60: Ryan Braun, Clay Buchholz, Billy Butler, Robinson Cano, Lou Gehrig, Barry Larkin, Dale Murphy, Frank Thomas, Troy Tulowitzki
60 Years of Topps: Ernie Banks, Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Phil Niekro/Nolan Ryan (78 Strikeout Leaders), Tony Perez, Pee Wee Reese, Albert Pujols, Ozzie Smith, Tom Seaver, Frank Thomas.
60 Years of Topps Original Back: Robin Yount
History of Topps: 1951 First Cards are Sold, 1989 Return of Bowman
Dynamic Duos: Carlos Gonzalez/Troy Tulowitzki, Tommy Hanson/Mike Minor, Rogers Hornsby/Matt Holliday, Ryan Howard/Jason Heyward, Clayton Kershaw/Mat Latos, Evan Longoria/Ryan Zimmerman, Tom Seaver/Aroldis Chapman, Frank Thomas/Manny Ramirez, Joey Votto/Adrian Gonzalez
CMG Reprints: Ty Cobb, Johnny Mize/Enos Slaughter, Babe Ruth (1916 Sporting News), Babe Ruth (1921 National Caramel), Honus Wagner
Topps Town: Billy Butler, Miguel Cabrera, Aroldis Chapman, Shin-Soo Chin, Matt Garza, Carlos Gonzalez, Vladimir Guerrero, Roy Halladay, Josh Hamilton, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, Josh Johnson, Jason Heyward, Mat Latos, Evan Longoria, Nick Markakis, Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Buster Posey, David Price, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, Jose Reyes, C.C. Sabathia, Carlos Santana, Ichiro Suzuki, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Verlander, Joey Votto, Brett Wallace, Vernon Wells, David Wright, Kevin Youkilis, Chris Young
Diamond Collection: These were the original cards that were redeemed by using the codes online. 1967 Ken McMullen, 1973 Bob Montgomery, 1988 Rafael Belliard, 1988 Richard Dotson, 1990 Willie Fraser, 1991 Mike Scott, 1997 Bill Pulsipher (We received an extra code as a bonus for reaching the first hurdle in the Diamond Card Giveway–entering five codes)
Diamond Collection Rings: Again, these were redeemed via the online game. Chicago Cubs, Louisville Cardinals, Montreal Expos, New York Giants, Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays
Topps 60 Autographed Relic (#d to 50): Hanley Ramirez
Wow, that’s a lot of inserts and special cards from one 2011 Topps box break. More inserts are available in the retail product, which apparently doesn’t include autographed cards. What’s our take? Well, like the past several years, it’s enough to keep us interested. The design is solid and the online games and giveaways keep your box alive even after the packs are opened. You can buy complete sets cheaper online from those who open cases, but it’s not nearly as much fun.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]