Monday, August 24, 2020

The Price We Gotta Pay, The Games They Play

Every time I look at the list of products for the current year on the TCDB, I get a little discouraged.  There seems to be more high end stuff each year, and more rookie-only stuff, and less regular current and classic player stuff.  Remember when most hobby boxes were less than $100 and anything over $200 was considered high end?  I guess at this point you have to be of a certain advanced age to remember that.  I decided to do a price survey and quickly classify the list of 2020 products.  (All prices are single hobby boxes on major online dealer sites.)

"Regular stuff"
2020 Topps Big League $30
2020 Topps Opening Day $35
2020 Topps Gold Label $95
2020 Stadium Club $120
2020 Donruss  $128
2020 Topps $128
2020 Topps Update $128
2020 Topps Gypsy Queen $220

Big League remains the cheapest product of anything that isn't retail-with-a-hobby-counterpart.  I would still guess that it is one of the more successful products Topps puts out, but not the most profitable.  

Gold Label was a surprise find in this category.  At less than $100 a box, though only 35 cards, it's not nearly as high end as I imagined.  Not sure if the auto catalog contains anything but rookies.  I'm not interested enough to find out.

After that, though, everything else is over $120.  Flagship Donruss and Topps are all at $125 a hobby box, even though Topps is reducing the amount of inserts put into each box.  Stadium Club is the only one at it's ideal price point.  And where does GQ get off going up over $200??

And of course, now everything is getting a shiny parallel as a separate product (except Bowman - see below).  Not to be outdone, the original shiny parallel separate set is now getting a parallel version - Chrome Black.  They're not bad looking, but like the original, is priced way to high above what I'd pay for it.

"Shiny Stuff"
2020 Donruss Optic $170
2020 Stadium Club Chrome $225
2020 Topps Allen & Ginter Chrome $240
2020 Topps Chrome $255
2020 Topps Chrome Black $350

And the worst idea of them all - Ginter Chrome.  Stop with the Retro Shiny!

And speaking of retro, that's still another category that is going strong ~ and should have some separate products added to it instead of being inserts in flagship.  (Looking at you, yearly "tribute" '80s bloated inserts!)  But I've been shouting that to the wind for a long time.

"Retro Stuff"
2020 Topps Heritage $98 - Best product of 2020!
2020 Topps Allen & Ginter $125 - My new regular build.  Not as excited about the inserts this year though.
2020 Topps Archives $130 - Put the auto's in Heritage or Flagship and halt this one, it's redundant.  Again, been saying that for a while too.

2020 Topps T206 $35 - 10 cards

The T205 thing is fine, except it's online only and is $3.50 a card.   Sorry Topps, I don't know when you thought this business model would work better, but we don't get it.

Then there's the other guys. Without the licenses.  So their stuff looks fine as far as design, but all the players look like they're in men's league softball outfits.

"Stuff with no logos"
2020 Panini USA Stars & Stripes $63
2020 Panini Diamond Kings $75
2020 Panini Prizm $150
2020 Panini Select $170
2020 Panini Absolute $185
2020 Panini Chronicles $250
2020 Panini Immaculate $350
2020 Leaf Lumber Kings $400

As Night Owl has documented, Diamond Kings hasn't evolved significantly in a few years.  I've been hoping it would morph into a design I really like and I'd get a bunch of it one year.  Still waiting.  The other stuff to me is converted baseball versions of football or basketball products.  (Wouldn't mind seeing Score baseball, but with a license.)  But anything after Absolute is exceedingly high end anyway.  Not sure how they pull that off without logos.

Bowman is the line that features players that are wearing logos, but they're just not of MLB teams yet.  Talk about products and inserts that need to be separated ~ Bowman has 100 cards in the base set, yet there are Prospects that are inserts - 150 of them.  AND, there are Chrome Prospects - that aren't part of the separate Bow Chro set, but are also inserts in the regular set!  My brain is fried...  Oh, and they're all more than $200 a box.

2020 Bowman's Best $200
2020 Bowman $260
2020 Bowman Chrome $270
2020 Bowman Sterling $315
2020 Bowman Draft $400
2020 Bowman Sapphire $580
2020 Bowman 1st Edition $650

And, to gracefully segue into the next category, we have high end, which is also mostly rookie-saturated, and priced way above the average collector budget.  There are so many high end products now, there are several tiers.

<$100 (only one card per package)
2020 Topps Clearly Authentic
2020 Topps Archives Signature Series
2020 Topps Archives Signature Series Retired Player Edition
2020 Topps Pro Debut $68 - 4 autos

$200 - $300+ a box
2020 Topps Inception
2020 Topps Tier One
2020 Finest
2020 Topps Five Star
2020 Topps Luminaries
2020 Topps Triple Threads
2020 Topps Museum Collection $320

$500+ a box
2020 Topps Dynasty
2020 Topps Tribute
2020 Topps Finest Flashbacks

2020 Topps Sterling $1000

2020 Topps Definitive Collection $1500

2020 Topps Diamond Icons $2000

And don't even start on the Transcendent Collection things at $21,000 a box/case/set...

So you have 18 high end products, compared to about six mid-range or so (Topps flagship, Opening Day and Update counting as one).  

I thought about calculating the price per card of each of these, but it's already past midnight.  Suffice to say that at least to me, the products put out today, while approaching the same counts as say, 1998 (52 in 2020 vs. 58 in '98) don't offer NEARLY the diversity that the older ones did.  If you don't follow the fads - in this case, shiny rookie mojo hits - you only have a few good choices.  And there's a price....

Which reminds me of a song...


  1. I knew the song instantly when I saw the title. Twisted is one of my favorites.
    I haven't bought cards retail in ten years, and don't miss it.

  2. Great breakdown. Outside of discovering a $20 blaster in the wild, there's only one product I'd even consider purchasing from this post and that'd be a hobby box of Big League. The days of me spending my hard earned money on expensive (over $75) hobby boxes are in the past. I'll let other buy it and list the singles I'm interested in on eBay.

  3. Paying more than $65 for flagship is awful. I used to buy a hobby box each year. I guess I will have to wait until the bubble bursts to see if the prices come back to reality.

  4. What an eye-opener! How did the price of GQ practically double from last year? I bought "GQ" last year, two boxes of Heritage in 2018. This year I'm planning to pick up two Stadium Club hobby boxes but could change my mind next week. Who knows. It's cheaper to get my fave cards from one seller on ebay.

  5. I appreciate the breakdown. I don't pay enough attention to boxes and releases to have known all this. And from the looks of it, I will continue not paying attention! I think I will live in quarter boxes for the foreseeable future.

  6. This clarifies what I've been thinking for quite a while. Collectors like me have been priced out of the hobby. If flagship Topps (and its declining quality) is over $100 a box then I'm pretty much done buying new products. I can see the appeal of Big League and Opening Day but everything else is way overpriced. And the only high-end set that would interest me is Panini Immaculate (the price would have to be cut in half though)