2012 Topps Series 1 Baseball 60-Case Recap with brentandbecca
2012 Topps Series 1 Baseball has been out for two weeks now and it has seen many interesting developments. Case prices quickly rose only to flatten out just as quickly. However, they are still $100-$150 above pre-sell prices. The squirrel card was met with varying opinions, but no matter how you look at it, a base SP found about every ten cases yielding $275-$325 for several days is good for business. Even now, $70-$90 is nothing to complain about.
Production is up a bit this year and that has impacted some of the pulls. I broke 60 jumbo cases and was, overall, quite pleased with the product. Personally, I would have liked to have seen some things done differently, but I will touch on that before I review my original article and the potential numbers I ran for a multi-case jumbo case break.
2012 Topps Series 1 Baseball Review
I always look forward to this release. For me, it sets the tone for the year, which normally is nothing but pure excitement. I understand why some look at base Topps and say it is boring, but many of those folks are after one thing: the big hits. Topps does have big hits but they just don't come in every pack. Or box. Or case. In some instances, you can come up short across multiple cases, but the hits are there.
Unlike many high-end sets, base Topps has very little risk. And while the reward may be in the eye of the collector, there is a lot of value packed into the set. Heck, even the wrappers are selling this year.
For me, base Topps is anything but boring. Sure, it takes me weeks of sorting, and that might get old, but I knew I what I was getting into. The 60 cases brought about 180,000 cards, so it's my fault. So no complaining here.
As expected, I did miss the numbered Gold parallels and the short-printed legends this year but I am holding out hope that Topps could bring both back by the time Update Series rolls around. I appreciate all the little things that are new this year, including the gold theme and the one-of-one Wood cards. While they are very difficult pulls, landing one is a very nice experience. I enjoyed the new insert themes and like the wrapper redemption program. The inclusion of 24K and 14K Gold cards is very welcomed as well.
Overall, I was pleased with this release and was excited to open it. There is a lot of different content and value for everyone and I think 2012 Topps is a winner, with or without the squirrel. There were a few things that stood out that I wanted to touch base on before getting into the numbers again.
I can understand the production increase if the demand called for it, so I do not want to spend much time on it as I'll be repeating myself. However, it is worth comparing the odds for similar items from 2011 Topps Series 1, which are up approximately 55%. From 2011 Topps Update Series, production is up 175%. Take it how you will. I base these numbers from the Black parallels and Printing Plates, both of which are hobby exclusives. This year, the black-bordered cards, which are numbered to 61, are 1:31 jumbo packs. 2011 Topps Series 1 had them at 1:20 while they were just 1:11 Update Series jumbos. Printing Plates are 1:465 this year versus 1:299 2011 Topps Series 1 and 1:169 in 2011 Topps Update Series.
Topps says they print to order. I am not saying this is bad business on their part, just pointing out that hits will come far less often, so it may have been nice if Topps could have added more hits or at least increased the print run of the cards numbered to 5 or 10 to something like 25.
This is a flagship product and should not set out to be limited. Rather, it should reach any and all baseball card collectors. That is smart on Topps' part, even if us breakers may not like it as much.
Base Card Design
This is an area that I usually don't get too up or down for. I enjoyed both 2011 and 2010. For that matter, I usually enjoy them all. There is nothing wrong with this year's design, but it doesn't seem to vary much from the past few years.
I do hope 2013 has something different in store, even if it's something as small as a colored border. However, then you can have very condition-sensitive cards since these base cards are not made with the best card stock. Even colored backgrounds, like the 1950s designs, could work. Whichever direction, I'd just like a design that has a fresh feel to it.
Autographs and Game-Used
I liked that Topps increased the game-used relic checklist (Golden Moments this year) to 100. For me, this meant not seeing the same jersey and bat cards very often, which helps values hold.
I wish the same had been done with the autographs. The set was 40 cards compared to 68 in 2011 Topps Series 1. Missing in the basic autograph set were superstars from past sets like Albert Pujols, Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, and Hank Aaron. At first I thought it was not a bad thing as Topps spread out the more desirable autographs to the other autograph sets that I was excited about early on (Golden Greats, Gold Standards, Classic Walk-Offs, etc). The only issue I had here was that these were all numbered from 15 down to 5, making them very difficult pulls
Last year guys like Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan not only had what many consider base autographs (Topps 60), but also special autographs #/60 in the Topps 60th Anniversary Reprint Autographs (also with a relic autograph version #/6). The chances of pulling big-name autographs was much better last year. I do enjoy all the different inserts having nicer autographs and relics to pull and collect. I know collectors are happy to see them too. I just wish there were more of them or at least base Golden Moments versions too.
One last thing that would have been nice to see and add value would be parallels of the autograph and game-used Golden Moments cards. Last year Topps had parallels of their Topps 60 autograph and game-used sets. The manufactured relics also have had parallels and 1/1 versions. These would have been nice to have this release as well, and it appears Series 2 will be bringing back some of these parallels.
I applaud Topps for trying to change things up a bit. The Rally Squirrel card and the two SSP cards of Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes were very well received. I even enjoyed the other short prints. But, as I said, I really missed the SP legends. They remind me of pulling and collecting the guys of yester-year only on today's designs. I would love to see SP inserts too or short-printed subsets that focus on league and non-active leaders.
Other than the three big ones, the new short prints have not been in high demand and are decreasing in value rapidly. In the past, Topps had these in addition to the Pie Face or Diamond Sparkles. They also had SSP of new team members like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford last year. Why not have both again? Rather than having two short print sets, we are left with just one. Bummer.
I want to start by saying I am happy there is a code program and how Topps wants to structure it is fine by me because it is value-added content. That said, this year's program does not seem to be as strong, although it just went live.
You no longer receive a buyback card with each code. That takes away some of the thrill and trading aspects. Also, many were disappointed that the Diamond Giveaway site was down often, especially towards the end. The site and its contents will be taken down eventually. I understand expiration dates on codes, but it's too bad Topps can not keep the site going and hold one's collection of items.
All said, I am thrilled to see a code giveaway program back. Over time, we will be able to see if it goes more like last year's or with the underwhelming enthusiasm that met the 2011 football program.
Recapping the Numbers: A Look Back at My Original Article
Crunching the numbers, you may want to reference my original predictions of where the value from 2012 Topps Series 1 Baseball would be coming from.
As a reminder these numbers were for sellers that did not pre-sell sets or sell off eBay. Plus, they do not consider any shipping costs (see the conclusion for more on that). Obviously numbers can vary here or there, but I based the original numbers on an average multi-case break. The production odds were unknown when I wrote it and were based on last year's release. Below is what I originally said, plus new comments giving price ranges. For the most part, the averages still hold. As always, much depends on the players pulled and when the item was sold.
(6) 330-Card Base Sets Per Case
At Release: $120
At release, sets were still selling in this range. If you pre-sold sets for any higher that was a big plus as sets are now flooding eBay and starting to drop.
(1) 595-Card Master Set with Inserts
At Release: $100-200 (depending on how sets were sold)
Some went for a bit more for a few days. One big key here was to not sell the master set as a master set. If you sold each set (base and inserts) individually, the master set was worth around $125. If you sold the master set as team master sets, you could get $175-$200.
One other nice bonus, some sellers broke up the 75-card Golden Greats insert sets. They had 15 different legends with 5 cards each. Collectively, player lots of five were selling for over $100 for many days. Essentially, you could take in more money for the one insert set broken up as you could for an entire master set.
(60) Gold Code Cards
At Release: $120
When I originally priced these, I based them off of my thoughts of holding the codes for a couple of months. In the past I've held onto them until they dried up in April or May, just before Series 2 and a new wave of code cards hit. Saying this, individual codes have hovered around $2 mark when sold in bulk lots. The program does not appear as strong as it was the past two years. They might not ever reach $3.50-$4, but $2.50-$3 could still be a possibility.
(60) Golden Moments Parallels
At Release: $30-45 (depending on lot size and player selection)
Collectors just aren't liking these, especially compared to the traditional serial-numbered Gold cards. They look good in person, but they're not the same. I understand with production up, it would be impossible to put a serial-numbered to 2012 and keep them at the same ratio as previous releases. That could have been a factor here. It looks like about 3,000 of each parallel was produced. Complete 330-card sets sold for $250-$300 initially, which was low. However, they've since dropped to $150.
(60) Wrappers for Redemption Program
At Release: $60
I based my price off last year. But when Topps increased the number of wrappers needed for their wrapper redemption, they sold better than anticipated the first several days. Even now, some wrapper lots go for $10-$12, which is not bad for a bunch of trash.
(12) Prime 9 Redemption Cards
At Release: $10
These are easy to pull and aren't the most desired cards. Collectors may not have a local HTA store to redeem them at. They are time-sensitive. However, for those who find it convenient, it is an affordable program that you can include with your son or daughter in where they can collect a Home Run Legend each week for nine weeks.
(18) Hits - 6 Autos, 6 Relics, 6 Manufactured Pins, Rings, Coins, etc.
At Release: $100-300 (Depending on the player and type of card pulled)
The $180 is an average of $10 per hit. I averaged double that on my hits this year, but I broke many cases so I saw some nicer pulls. Some cases didn't have the best players or rarest hits so that is why I went with $180 and will stand by that.
Most jerseys sold for $2-$5 with some earlier sales of popular players going higher. The autographs saw a range of prices, but most went for $8-$15 the first couple days. The tougher and better players yielded more.
The manufactured relics were the surprise. While the rings have outperformed the pins, both easily averaged more than $10 per hit. Most pins sold for $10-$25, where the rings were moving at $10-$50. A few were higher but, again, we are talking averages and range.
(2) Black Border
At Release: $20-$40 (Depending on the player pulled)
At just under two per case, these were tougher to pull than ever. However, they also sold better. We all expect to see the superstars sell for $40-$80, but some commons were going $20-$40. Others fell between $10-$20, so a $15 average is still a good number. Of my 118 blacks, I averaged just over $18 each.
(2-3) Short Print Variations
At Release: $20-? (Depending on if you pulled a squirrel)
Short prints were two per case, with a third popping up from time to time. While the lack of legends caused the average price to drop, the squirrel made up for it. If you sold every short print, other than Pujols or Reyes, you would still average over $10 per card, which is similar to the legends. However, the range this year is very wide.
(1) Silk Collection
At Release: $10-$30 (Depending on the player)
Some do go a little lower, some a little higher, but most average around $15.
There were the SSP Pujols and Reyes cards, rare autographed relics numbered to 10 or 5, Golden Moments 24K Gold Parallels out of five, Golden Greats 14K Gold 1/1, Platinum 1/1, Wood 1/1, Sketch Cards and other items that could swing a smaller break in big ways, but I never count on those. I am thankful for what I pull and consider them to be gravy.
Based on the above averages, most multi-case breaks would recoup around $745 per average case (again, before fees and shipping). If you consider shipping a wash, and you sold everything on eBay at release where your fees are 12-15%, that would mean giving up $90-$110 in fees per case. So after costs, you are looking at $635-$655 in return, on average.
If you locked in between $500-$525, that leaves you $110-$155 profit on a large multi-case break. Some did have pre-sales or direct sells outside of eBay (via email, web sites, card shops, card shows, etc) where prices can be a little higher and fees are much lower. This would mean a better return.
As far as the breakers are concerned, this series appeared to be less profitable than any of the three series from last year based on a per case average. The combination of higher direct costs, higher production, increased competition among big breakers and some traditional values missing (Gold Parallel Cards, SP Legends, a stronger Code program, and lack of autograph and relic parallels). Whereas last year most breakers saw average profits between $200-$400 per case, this year it appears most fell between $100-$250 per case after fees.
Overall, for me, it was still very fun and worthwhile. Even if I were to break even, I love doing this. I love collecting and keeping some cards for myself. I hope you can all say the same.
I realize the article focuses largely on the dollars and cents of busting cases, but I never started doing this for money. And as long as it is fun, that's all I ask.
Some people ask me what I'd make if I factored in hourly wages. To me, this is irrelevant because it does not factor into what I do or why I do it. I go have fun at the movies and lose money per hour. Busting cases entertains me. I am also pleased to sell cards so others can build their collections.
Cards are meant to be enjoyed. That's why we're in this hobby.