Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Topps Now: The First 100 Part 1

In case you’ve missed it, I’m doing a series of “year in review” posts by showing off the Cubs cards from last year’s Topps Now set. In those posts, and elsewhere around the ol’ internets, I’ve seen comments about how much of a cash grab that set is and how they are really milking it this year with the amount of cards they are producing.

Yesterday, Topps Now announced the print runs for its 99th, 100th and 101st cards for the 2017 rendition. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at this snapshot of the first 100 cards from both years.

I made a spreadsheet checklist with several different sortable categories that I will use for a little compare and contrast exercise. Reader beware, it may get a little nerdy over here.

In 2016, the first two cards of the set featured events from Opening Day, one of which was the World Series Trophy for the defending champion Kansas City Royals. In 2017, that Opening Day number jumped to five.

One of the first things that jumped out at me was last year’s card number 100 featured a game from May 25, 2016. This year, the game featured was April 30, 2017. It sure does seem like a cash grab when it takes you half the time to hit the same benchmark, right?

Topps may have had that in mind. But I’m not sure the customers followed suit. Or at the very least, they got more savvy. Dozens of these cards are selling with a Buy It Now price on eBay before Topps has even finished their 24-hour purchase period and print runs are announced. There are several resellers that buy in bulk for a discount and pass the savings along with a small markup that still manages to undercut Topps. With more buyers going that route, the fewer direct to consumer one-off sales Topps receives.

Despite more unique cards produced, the print runs are getting much smaller.

Even if you take away the ridiculous Bartolo Colon card that had an 8800+ print run, that is a pretty big drop off in card average.

Speaking of Colon, some cards are easier to track than others. Most are your fairly typical one player/one team cards, such as the above Colon card.

Meanwhile, there are three other types of cards that fall outside the norm.

There are what I call "Team Cards" like the Cincinnati Reds card above. Though Billy Hamilton is shown, the feat described was accomplished by the team. The team name is also used in lieu of the player's name. In my spread sheet, "Team" is the first name, "Card" is the last name. When I sort by team, this card is grouped with other Reds cards.

Though technically also a "Team Card" this Nationals card singles out Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg specifically. This is one of two different kinds of cards I'll refer to as "Dual Cards" that are separated out. In the my spreadsheet, "Dual" is in the first name field and "Card" in the last name field.

The second kind of "Dual Card" features players from multiple teams. Topps has done several of these including the Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma card below.

For this card, the team name is listed as "Multi" and results in a 31st team name. I have finagled my spreadsheet to be able to count this card as both a Yankee and Mariner card but for the purposes of this post, it will be counted as a "Multi" team.

OK. With those definitions out of the way, let's look at some more stats.

In 2016, the Braves, Diamondbacks and Twins were not represented among the first 100 cards. Four cards represented multiples teams. That leaves the remaining 96 cards distributed among 27 teams. The Dodgers led the way with 8.

In 2017, only the A’s haven’t made an appearance yet. Only two cards showed multiple teams. The distribution is a little more balanced among the teams but the leader still had 8, this time the Cubs. Even though they’ve been playing poorly, they benefited from three celebration cards (banner, trophy and rings).
And here's how they stack up in terms of overall print runs:

Individually, Trevor Story and Clayton Kershaw led the way with 4 cards apiece in 2016. Bryce Harper had three cards of his own but was also featured on 3 other dual cards for a total of 6 cards in the first 100. For those of you who don't remember Bryce Harper's hot start last year, there was speculation that the Cubs "broke" him after the May 8th game where Harper reached base 7 consecutive times without an official at bat. There was a lot of bellyaching locally when this happened.

Harper also broke a three-way tie with Aaron Judge and George Springer for 2017 when he snuck onto his 4th card of 2017 at #100.

I'll be back in a day or two with a few more stats. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to know! Personally, I don't think I ever realized how common a walk-off was until Topps Now came along.

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