Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Topps Living Set - A One Red Paperclip-ish Story Begins

A few weeks back, Topps introduced us to the Living Set. If you've been living under a rock, essentially Topps offers three cards every week that you can buy together for $14.99 or separately for $7.99 each. The set mimics the 1953 design with original artwork by Mayumi Seto. Players will only be featured once, unless they change teams, so there is no worry about flooding the market with Aaron Judges or Shohei Ohtanis.

It's no secret that I will pick up any Topps Now card issued for a Cubs player. I wasn't quite sure how I would feel about the Living Set, but Topps didn't give me too long to think about it when Ian Happ was featured in week two. Now I just had to decide whether I wanted Happ for $8 or essentially double down for two extra cards. The third option was to get a card on the secondary market for just over $5, which is what I've been doing this year with the Topps Now cards.

Topps has rewarded Now buyers in the past so I decided to go through Topps, at least for the first one to get/stay in their database. And if I was going through Topps, I might as well get the three pack, right?

Happ was matched up with a rookie card of Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies and Nick Markakis of the Braves. I had some eBay success with a purple Toys R Us parallel of Hoskins back in February so I figured he would be a decent flip to minimize the cost of the Happ, maybe even pay for the whole set itself. Eventually.

Worst case scenario, he fizzles and I trade the Hoskins and Markakis to team collectors down the road. Markakis wasn't even on my radar as someone to flip when I made my purchase.

Fast forward a few weeks, I had also pulled the trigger on the week 5 set with Bryce Harper, AJ Pollock and Mallex Smith. The Harper is staying with me and I had already hit up Daniel of It's Like Having My Own Card Shop to trade away the Pollock. But I had no interest in the Smith card and don't even know any Rays collectors.

Imagine my surprise when I was clued in to the secondary market on these cards!

I don't normally talk money here on the blog because it really isn't about that for me. I buy cards that interest me, which means Cubs cards, packs with the hopes to pull Cubs cards or an occasional set build. I'm not a prospector. My only Ohtani cards are the ones I pulled from my Opening Day case.

Long story short, after eBay fees, Paypal fees, shipping and taking out my initial costs, I netted about $250 from selling the Hoskins, Markakis and Mallex Smith cards.

For those unfamiliar with the One Red Paperclip story, essentially a guy traded a single red clip for various other items, all the way up to a house. I had been thinking of doing something along those lines with my Opening Day case, to see how I would turn a case of random cards into cards that fit my collection but I think the scope was too big. At least for me.

Enter these Topps Living cards.

While selling the cards kind of goes against the premise of bartering, I did want to keep track of how initially spending $15 improved my collection. Since I've already turned it into $250, I'm going to track how I spend this "found" money specifically. I have a few things in mind but it'll be interesting to see what I can turn three cards that didn't have a place in my collection into!


  1. It's been fascinating to see how the first couple months of the Living Set have played out. And the kind of money that is thrown around for base cards that, ultimately, aren't all that limited.

    I doubt the cards will continue to have that kind of selling power going forward, but I think some of the recent twitter conversations have been enough to get me off the fence. I'll probably pick up the Pirates in the set if/when they ever get around to making any.

  2. I agree. Just like some of the early 2016 Now cards are crazy but newer ones are barely worth the $5. And those are much less scarce.

    Both sets I received came out very nice. I've seen some of the bulk orders with chipping and other condition issues. Glad that's not my headache!

  3. Fun story to read...
    "some of the early 2016 Now cards are crazy but newer ones are barely worth the $5. And those are much less scarce." ... the market is so backwards sometimes.