What Case Breakers Need to Know About Early 2013 Topps Baseball Sets
When talking Topps Baseball, 2012 was a great year for collectors, wax rippers, group breakers, and those selling sealed product. For the most part, everything came out strong. Topps really improved on many products adding content and new autograph signers like Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays. Topps even changed the names and tweaked the structure of some less popular 2011 releases by releasing Archives (formerly Lineage) and Museum (formerly Marquee).
After talking to some distributors, they were happy with the changes as they felt some products were struggling and needed the boosts. And if all that was not enough there were three highly collected young players in Bryce Harper, Yu Darvish, and Mike Trout. Over the past three years, starting in 2010 with Stephen Strasburg, there have been some strong young players that have really helped bring a spotlight back to this hobby and industry.
In 2013, Topps looks to continue to build up their many successes. I know many collectors who are excited for spring to arrive. As a collector myself, I look forward to all Topps has to offer in 2013 and look to add to my personal collection. I am a big fan of autographs of Heritage Hall of Famers, Allen & Ginter Red Ink, Tier One Rookie Clear Reprints, and the framed autographs in Museum Collection. I suspect there'll be some other notable surprises as well.
The case breaker in me must also stop and look at content, checklists, and value. This year looks quite a bit like last year. When I compare sell sheet information, I do see new parallels here and there but not as much movement as 2012. I understand that if it isn't broken that you don't fix it. I'm also wondering if it is more of a safe year playing off the recent successes While 2012 saw many changes, so far we have not heard any new autograph deals of big-time players. Heading into the season, there are no super hot prospects or rookies that look to carry products, nor is there much new content added or product overhauls.
Ted Williams is back in the Topps fold in 2013, which is nice to see. On the other hand, it looks as though Topps' deal with Mickey Mantle's estate may be over.
Of course, only Topps knows how the entire year will line up, and they recently announced Bowman Inception based off of the popular Topps Inception Football releases. So, we may see the changes more focused on the Bowman and prospect lines while many wondering if those products can stay strong without the likes of Harper, Darvish or Trout. All this to say that many who break cases or sell sealed wax are not expecting the higher-than-normal results we have been seeing recently. That may not be a bad thing. The hobby tends to cycle and things have been really strong. But having reduced expectations can often lead to some nice surprises.
Reviewing Products for Potential Breaks
Typically when I am reviewing which products I am going to break for the year and the amount of cases I plan to order, I review the past performance of the last three to five years. I look closest at the previous year and compare it with the new set's information. Like any company, Topps can't just keep adding content, value, or great signers without either raising prices or cutting back somewhere else. Looking at what is gone or changing is just as important is looking at what is new. Often new means that something is being replaced.
I also base my breaks off of three other factors. One is if I have high customer demand for a product or not. Sometimes I will open things that are not profitable because my customers want it and I enjoy ripping it.
Second is if I just want to open it for enjoyment and perhaps add some cards to my personal collection. In these situations, I will not opening very much as it is usually not profitable for me and has very little demand from my customers.
The final factor I look at is the release schedule. I do not want releases piling on one another or, sometimes, even within a few weeks of each other. I also look at what time of year it comes out. Typically, as the baseball season wraps up, products become more prospect- or hit-driven. These are generally not as valuable as a case break. The timing has much to do with it, but the biggest factor may be that there were numerous releases earlier in the year with the same rookies or autographed stars.
Even if a player is performing well, his cards may not have the same demand as earlier in the season. One example from last year is Ken Griffey Jr. His first autographs from Tribute, Museum and Gypsy Queen could run $300-$500 or higher. By the time Five Star rolled around, which was a limited and high-dollar release, you could pick his autographs up for around $100. Griffey Jr. had many autograph offerings throughout the year not only from Topps but from Panini, Upper Deck, and even a few Leaf cards. Similar patterns occurred with other veterans and rookies as well.
I jotted down some notes over the first half of the year's announced releases. I like to look at what is returning, what is new or different, what might be gone or replaced, and my initial thoughts. Usually things do not change much year over year but sometimes even the smallest changes to checklist or content can impact a set's overall success for a case breaker. And while Topps may not always show everything about a release up front, we have been given a general idea.
The following nine products are listed in chronological release schedule for the first six months of the year. Please note not every item included in each release is listed as some are traditional mainstays such as base, inserts, or regular hit cards. For more information on each product, you can click the link of each release to see the fully solicited content and preliminary checklists.
It is worth noting that the info provided below is based on early information. Often, things change and additions can be made.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 1/30/13
- The traditional mix of parallels like serial-numbered golds, blacks, silks, and printing plates
- Manufactured Relics
- World Series Autographs and Relics
- In The Name Letter Patch Relics
- Serial -numbered Camo and Pink parallels
- 30 Ultimate Chase 1/1 Hit Cards
- New code program
- Pennant Chase program
- Emerald Foil will replace last year's Gold Sparkle parallels
- 24k Golden Greats
- Wrapper Redemption
- Super Short-Prints
Thoughts: A few things stand out to me when looking at 2013 Topps Series 1 Baseball versus 2012. For starters, there were three big reasons why Series 1 was as hot as it was out of the gate last year that appear to be gone this year. First is a wrapper redemption program. At this time, it does not look like there will be one. Based off of the ones Topps offered last year, it would not surprise me. Programs like this add tremendous value but they can also be a headache. Perhaps a new way to do something similar would be through online codes inserted in a box rather than redeeming the wrappers.
The short-prints and super short-prints have also changed, at least based on announced details. Last year, not only were there tough pulls like the Albert Pujols and the Jose Reyes cards, but the basic short prints included the popular Rally Squirrel card that commanded a premium for quite some time. It will be tough for any short print to match last year's offerings, and initial checklists show no super short-prints.
Finally, how will the code program fare this year? It looks very cool and interactive with a chance to win a million dollars. It should hold interest throughout the season, and Topps will likely promote it heavily. Last year had one nice advantage however. The first 100 people to enter 200 codes into the system won a complete 100-card Chrome Die-Cut Golden Moments set and an exclusive 1/1 Gold-Embedded card. These three factors added up to $150 extra value per case over previous releases and really made Series 1 that much more amazing and profitable for case breaking.
I like this year's Chase theme. I am also glad to see the serial-numbered Gold cards back and the new parallels. I also like the addition of the parallels for the manufactured relics as that will add value. Topps also went out and made some nicer quality insert sets this time around to give some more of a high-end feel. There is even a chrome die-cut insert set. While that may not gain much more value within the sets, it should help hold the value better over time.
Overall, there are some questions as to if the replacements and additions will be enough to keep the value. Adding to this is that we may not see the likes of any one player get as much hobby focus as the young guns of the past three years have. Still, this is flagship, and it is Series 1. It's a first sign of spring, so I am sure we will all be thrilled once it gets here.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 3/6/13
- 500-card set with short prints
- Variation and SSP Cards
- Coin Mint Cards
- Original Buybacks
- Autographs falling at twice previous ratios
- Triple autograph cards
- New Variations such as Action Photo and Color Changing
- 1964 Coin and Postage Relics
- New Parallels such as Minis, Venezuelan, and Gold Chrome Refractors
- Jumbo Box Toppers with rarer relic versions
- Memorable Moments insert set
- Flashback Autographs
Thoughts: This is the one product that does jump out with the number of changes. This is somewhat typical for Heritage, though, since Topps bases the entire release around what they did 50 years earlier. This includes the main set, errors, variations and inserts. This year, Topps celebrates 1964. Some nice items have been added, although most will be difficult to pull as some are numbered to 20 or less like the triple autographs and jumbo topper relic cards. Even the 1964 Mint Coin Relic cards appear tougher than ever, being numbered to 15 or less.
I am unsure how I feel about the autographs now coming twice as often. On one hand, it should make the relics a little tougher and thus hold value better. But it can also have the opposite effect on the autographs as it will mean more copies of many players and, perhaps, a larger checklist of less desirable players. I am on the fence with this one, as more does not always equal or better. But from a collecting standpoint, it will make for easier accessibility to some of these autographs.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 3/18/13
- 220-Card Base Set
- Serial-numbered parallels
- Insert Cards
- Mascot Autographs
Thoughts: I don't have much to say on this release as it is one of the most straightforward brands. Wisely, Topps aims to keep it that way. The new mascot autographs will likely draw some attention. The set is a mix of Series 1 and Series 2 cards and the parallel set is a nice one to put together.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 3/20/13
- On-Card Autographs
- Tribute to the Stars Autographs
- Best of the Best and Timeless Duals Autographs
- Bat Glove, Bat Knob and Bat Plate Relics
- Sepia parallels for the autographs and relics
- Base set parallel structure has changed
Thoughts: Tribute has always been limited compared to many other releases. It has had good success bringing a crisp base set and colorful parallels, while delivering the first higher-end autographs of the season. This year looks to be no different. The production looks like it will be increased slightly or the autograph and relic checklist smaller since Topps has added some new autograph subsets and a new parallel with the Sepia-Tones. The glove, knob, nameplate additions, although tough pulls, will be highly sought after and are a welcomed addition. Of course, as we begin to see more and more of these in different releases, it may lessen the appeal of them over time. But for now, they remain in high demand and rare pieces nonetheless.
The other thing I noted was changes to the base parallels. The parallels are successful with this release and it appears that there will be no Bronze cards numbered to 299. Also, the Blue parallels with be numbered to just 99 copies rather than last year's 199. If production does increase some, this could make for some tough-to-pull parallels this year. Just something to think about as when value is added in one place, sometimes value is removed elsewhere. Also for those that collect the parallel sets, it is good to know these changes.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 4/3/13
- On-Card, Dual, and Triple Autographs
- 1/1 Art Patch Cards
- Mini cards
- 1/1 Bat Barrels
- Mini Card Button Relics
- Mini Autographed Relic Books
- Black Relic Parallels
- Wood and Leather Mini Parallels
- Quarter Relics will replace Indian Head Penny Relics
- Mini Inserts
Thoughts: Last year, this was one release that changed quite a bit but for the worse, in my opinion. The set was confusing as the short prints were not 50 additional cards but 50 variations. Some looked nearly identical to the regular cards only cropped differently. This was further complicated by mini cards that had the same variations as well as 41 more. The fact that the leather minis numbered to 10 and the postage relics numbered to 10 were no longer in the product took away more value. Finally, it appeared hobby production more than doubled based on the odds from 2011 and 2012. All of this impacted value and not in a good way. I do not blame Topps. 2011 was a surprise hit and had a low print run. They had to make some changes and should have increased production, but perhaps some of the popular value-added content should have been kept in or added to. I even wrote an article reviewing the product here.
So where does that leave us in year three for Gypsy Queen? For starters, I love the set. Some of my customers do not as they have enough of their collection in retro, set-building products already. I am a sucker for minis and dig the on-card autographs. The technology of the photos is a change from the norm. Saying this, I really want Gypsy Queen to be great. Topps has brought back some mini parallels but if production is at similar levels as 2012 or higher, they will be tough pulls. Wood Minis are numbered to 5 and Leather cards are one-of-ones. The Indian Head Penny Relics, which were numbered to 10, have been replaced be a lower-numbered Quarter Relic that is limited to just 5 copies.
Short prints and variations appear to be less complex this year, but there are more of them. The base set has 50 short prints plus variations. The mini set has 100 cards total, up from 91 in 2012.
Finally, there are no more mini parallels to the insert sets this year. I am unsure what brought about this change. They were a nice addition to the release brought good value compared to many of the mini parallels.
I hope Gypsy Queen is strong this year so it lasts as a mainstay product. But for now, I think it is a wait and see.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 4/10/13
- Sick patch autograph
- Framed Museum Collection Autographs
- Sepia Autograph parallels
- 1/1 Lumber Bat Nameplates
- Box Loaders, including framed art some with autographs and full-sized jersey nameplates
Thoughts: This was one of the biggest and best surprises of 2012. Topps changed the name from Marquee, added some amazing patches, and kept some of the best features like the framed autograph cards. This year, Museum Collection will be one of the most anticipated products, especially when it comes to high-end releases. Topps has not changed the product much but is banking on last year's success. The biggest addition, although limited, are box topper cards. Hopefully it will see similar success like it did last year and continue to be one for collectors and breakers to look forward to.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 5/3/13
- Bowman Black Autographs
- AFLAC, Perfect Game and Under Armour Autographs
- Ice Parallels
- Lucky 5 Redemptions
- Golden Contract
- Chrome Minis and Parallels
- Blue Sapphire Refractors
- Bowman Prospect Challenge Codes
- Futures Game Relics
- Bowman Top 100 and Parallels
- 1948 Autograph Box Loaders
- International parallels replaced with State/Hometown parallels
- Wrapper Redemption
- Autographed Rookie Originals
Thoughts: It should be an interesting year for Bowman. Back before Stephen Strasburg in 2010, Bowman was difficult to break by the case and come out ahead. But with the recent string of hot prospects and lots of added content, it was one of the hottest products each of the past three years.
2013 doesn't seem to have that one guy or couple of players that many will be chasing, at least not from the outset. But you never know when someone will break out.
The Bowman team has added some new items that should pique collectors' interest and hopefully make up for the apparent loss of a wrapper redemption program. The Bowman Prospect Challenge continues and, with the season in full swing, could gather more demand. Plus, for the first time we will see what miniature Bowman Chrome cards look like.
One important factor in all of this, however, is the price increase on jumbo cases. Direct cost jumped significantly, averaging an increase of $10 or more per box. Jumbos do contain more hits than hobby, but those who open the product will have to take a long look at hobby versus jumbo this year due to price increase.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 5/29/13
- Retro-themed base Set with short prints
- Fan Favorite Autographs
- Original Topps Contracts and Touched by Greatness Box Toppers
- Topps Originals Autographs
- Framed Mini Autographs (1973-style this year)
- Limited Relic Cards (1960-style this year)
- Triple Autographs
- Mini Tall Boy Autographs
- Hobby shop redemption program
- Different inserts taken from previous Topps sets
- Karate Kid-themed autograph box loaders replaced by Heavy Metal Autographs and 1971 Moments Autograph box loaders
Thoughts: Archives was another surprise hit with collectors in 2012. Topps did the base set right by using previous designs but also by using classic card back designs as well. There were nice on-card Fan Favorite autographs and late-announced bonus hits. So while it had a similar look and feel to 2011 Topps Lineage, it also was clear Topps stepped it up in 2012.
However, even with all the buzz and the Bryce Harper SSP, Archives did not have huge results for breakers or those selling sealed wax. It can still be found, in many places for its lowest prices yet. This has some wondering how 2013 will perform as the content looks and feels familiar with some slight changes.
The hobby shop promotion could add excitement and value to the product this year and help with a possible sophomore slump. The way it stands, I am not sure I would count on this one being quite as popular as a season ago.
Scheduled Hobby Release: 6/12/13
- Nearly identical to Series 1 with a few insert themes changing
- Greatest Chase Ted Williams Relics
- Wrapper Redemption
Thoughts: It is too early to know if Series 2 will offer any kind of redemption programs, whether a wrapper redemption, a hobby store promotion like Prime 9, or any other promotion. Also, it is too early to know if there will be any super short-printed base cards or variations.
One thing we do know is, historically, Series 2 does not quite yield the same results as Series 1 for breakers, collectors, or even hobby stores. There is not much different with this release over Series 1 so expect a slight decline in value if opening it.
Personally, I enjoy Series 2 as Series 1 is not complete without it (or without Update, for that matter). But not everyone feels that way. Series 1 is the first release each season and tends to make a splash one way or the other. I enjoy the continuity throughout the season and look forward to Series 2 almost as much as Series 1.
Topps has announced their initial plans for both Tier One and Allen & Ginter. However, both will release in the second half of 2013 and may have additional info later on. Both look, like much of the rest of 2013's lineup, quite similar to their 2012 configurations. Tier One looks to bring back the ultra-popular bat knobs, with some autographed versions as well that are sure to be a bit hit among collectors. While Allen and Ginter looks to build on last year's 'turning of the ship' release. Granted, Allen & Ginter was not much different than what it has always been at it's core, and there is nothing wrong about that for most of us, but the autograph checklist was full of both amazing baseball and non-baseball autographs and relics. I am a huge fan of Ginter and love the variety it brings. Last year, there were dozens of autographs that brought over $100 on the secondary market. Many of those went for two and three or more times that. This year, from what's been announced, the overall autograph list does not hold up to last year's. But that would be near impossible to do. However, it does fall in line with the Ginter class of previous years. There is still plenty of time for some additions and surprises.
In closing, rip what you in enjoy. If you are money-conscious, as most of us are, 2013 may not be the year to bust as much wax but to buy the singles you want. Of course, ripping is always a blast so you might want to pick one or two boxes. Whatever you do, enjoy it and share it.
Happy 2013 everyone!
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