When they were putting the plans in place, Topps never could have imagined the launch of Project 2020 would coincide with a global pandemic. While it wouldn’t seem like an ideal formula for success, it’s become fairly obvious the timing was actually pretty good. Collectors were stuck at home, yearning for fresh products. There was no live baseball with current players. A lot of new and reengaged collectors entering the game again. Gamblers with nothing to bet on and money to spend.
If you’re out of the loop, Topps commissioned 20 artists to recreate– in their own style and flavor– 20 of Topps’ most popular rookie cards from all eras. They actually went outside the traditional “artist” box, though, as jewelers and designers were also asked to be part of the process. The commissioned artists weren’t all from the United States either.
Certainly, one of the original goals was to merge art, pop culture and baseball cards. Not only has that happened but there have been some additional, perhaps unexpected impacts, too. In interviewing some of the artists for my podcast I’ve learned that many of them have become deeply involved in the project, from buying each other’s cards to running giveaways on their social media accounts and even some hitting secondary markets to reacquire favorite cards from their childhood collecting days.
My Rickey Henderson card drops tomorrow at 1pm on @Topps
Who’s ready!? pic.twitter.com/Zm7ydRbSKO
— Blake Jamieson (@blakejamieson) May 3, 2020
Californian Blake Jamieson who now resides in New York City does a YouTube live stream where he interacts with fellow 2020 artists, promotes their releases, opens product given to him by Topps and gives away signed prints of his art. Jamieson told me during our chat on the Sports Card Nation podcast that the project has reinvigorated his passion for the hobby. He’s planning to give his favorite card store owner from his youth one of every Project 2020 card he does upon completion.
Fellow Brooklynite Gregory Siff is now is based in Hollywood but grew up a huge Mets fan and even celebrated with the 1986 World Champion Mets when his Uncle was hired to cater the team’s championship party. Siff still has a home plate signed by the team. He says creating art featuring the New York City players in this project has taken on added significance and he wants to “come up big for New York.”
Ben Baller isn’t hurting for money–and isn’t shy about offering to spend it on his own cards.
ATTN: Please don’t forget. Anyone who gets the Mike Trout 1/1 card (gold borders) make sure you hit me. I’ll give you $8,000 cash. And if you get a Rickey Henderson 1/1(gold) card I’ll pay up to $2500 for it. You have to buy regular cards to get a chance to win a 1/1. Thanks.
— BEN BALLER™ (@BENBALLER) May 13, 2020
Secondary market activity on the 2020 Project releases has been pretty intense. Artist Proofs numbered to 20 sold on eBay have sometimes doubled and tripled from their original price. The 1/1 variations Topps slips into random orders are fetching four figures with ease and even some base cards– depending on print runs and demand– are selling for as much as eight times the $19.99 release price.
Tyson Beck’s 1985 Dwight Gooden, with the lowest print run at 1,065, easily garners $350. As SC Daily reported last week, the highest print run card thus far is Ben Baller’s 2011 Trout Update, checking in at 34,950 copies, but has still been selling for nearly double it’s initial offering price. Print runs continue to rise and the weekly auction market has grown considerably.
Will the interest hold up? It’s hard to say, but Project 2020 has been receiving a lot of media attention and not all of it from sports-oriented publications and websites. The artists continue to promote it, bringing in new fans and collectors on a weekly basis and the quality of the cards themselves appear much better in hand than on a screen. Buyers seem to be happy with them.
The platform will continue into December and we won’t know if the cards will have long-term market value for quite a while, but for now at least, Topps has proven there’s a market for putting a new spin on old cards.