Depending on who you talk to, you will get widely different answers on the current state of the hobby. Some will say it has never been stronger. We are coming off two years of increasing demand, increased selling prices from retailers, and an exceptional new generation of on field talent. Others will say we have reached a tipping point where oversupply and inflated retail prices for new boxes and cases are going to cause a massive crash.
Based on early reports, 2019 Topps Series 1 could be the product that shows which of these scenarios is closer to reality.
Keeping with the Topps flagship tradition from the last several years, the Series 1 base set will have 350 cards. Veterans and young stars like Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, and Aaron Judge make an appearance along with the 2018 Rookie superstars like Gleyber Torres, Ronald Acuna, Juan Soto, and Shohei Ohtani.
The flagship design draws from elements of a variety of past releases. A border is found across the bottom and right side of the card which really accentuates the multiple parallels that can be found. Personally, it reminds me a bit of the 2015 flagship set. The design of the players name is generating some hobby buzz. Some are liking it, some not. The last name is above the first name in larger block font which is a bit interesting to say the least. This has elements of some of the recent Stadium Club designs. The team name, logo, and player position are in the bottom right.
In addition to the color variations we always see, there are also photo and stat variations this year. The stat variations have the same photo on the front, but they can be identified by a serial number on the back near the card number.
The inserts are where things start to get interesting. There are 370 inserts found in hobby and hobby jumbo packs. That makes more inserts than base cards and creates quite a challenge for those who like to put together a master set! 1984 is the “retro” set of choice in 2019 in honor of its 35th anniversary. The 100 card set has a mix of current and retired legends.
The Topps Now Review Set highlights some of the most popular Topps Now cards from last year. This seems like a great way to bring attention to the direct to consumer product, and for the life of me I don’t understand why they don’t do something similar for The Living Set. 2019 marks 150 years of professional baseball, and Series 1 has a 150 card insert set to commemorate the “Greatest Moments”, “Greatest Players”, and “Greatest Seasons” in that time. The Evolution set features historical team logos, uniforms, stadiums, and equipment. The Greatness Returns set contains 25 cards of some of the all time greats as well as young stars like Trout, Correa, Betts, and Harper.
Iconic Card Reprints are yet another version of the reprinted “classic” card we’ve seen countless times from Topps. This time, 50 cards were selected for the Berger’s Best, I mean Cards Your Mother Threw Out, I mean Iconic Cards set.
The Revolution of the Game set contains ten cards, and the Home Run Challenge cards are back again this season which technically aren’t an official insert. Another fun addition is the 150 Greatest Cards Redemption Set, however there has not been too much detail released about it. By appearances it looks like there will be an opportunity to find redemption cards of some truly awesome vintage Topps cards.
Pack ‘Em Out
Topps changed up the packaging this year and moved hobby boxes to 24 packs of 14 cards instead of the 36 packs of 10 cards we saw previously. Jumbo boxes will still have 10 packs, but now contain a few less cards per pack.
Interestingly, despite there being more insert cards to chase, Topps has made it tougher to pull them. Historically you could get close to a master set with the purchase of a case of hobby or jumbo boxes. This year it seems several cases worth of product would need to be opened to compile a master set. Theoretically this should make each insert worth a bit more and the cost collectors will have to pay for their master set will rise as well.
Based on calculations derived from pack odds, it seems production is up somewhere between 25% and 50% and that comes on the heels of large production increases in 2018. This is the cause of concern from some collectors who fear we are reaching market saturation. While retail hobby prices at release seem similar to past products ($55 Hobby, $100 Jumbo) rumors of distributors offering discounts prior to release have already started to surface, and the general buzz in online forums seems muted compared to past years. Time till tell, and I’m sure future blog posts will cover the pricing trends we see in this and other release over the course of the year.
This is the last in my string of two case preorders, and while I got some pretty cool stuff(check out the box break below to see an example) and will be able to build several base sets, I’m a bit nervous about the profitability of this one. Time will tell.
I do like the design, and there is a part of me that likes the added challenge of completing some of these insert sets. That being said, If you didn’t get in at cheaper preorder prices and you still want to bust some wax, it may be a good idea to wait a month or two. I have a hunch prices of sealed boxes will come down a bit faster than the last couple years due to the high production and weaker rookie class.
Have you kicked off your 2019 collecting season yet? If so, what did you find inside your Series 1 box?