Sports Card Investing: Topps Project 2020

Sports Card Investing: Topps Project 2020

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Early in 2020, Topps announced a new product that confused many traditional collectors.

They chose 20 iconic rookie cards from their past and partnered with 20 different artists to reinterpret them. Two cards would be released each day Monday – Friday on Topps.com and would only be available for 48 hours. They would retail for $20 each, and under $16 each if purchased in bulk.

The initial cards were released to mixed reviews by collectors. The first 20 cards each had an average print run of only about 1,600 cards. However, much to everyone’s surprise the values on the secondary market began to rise. Over the next several weeks both print runs and prices continued to climb. We are now at card number 94, and the hype around the set is at a fever pitch.

Check out the full checklist in my Topps Project 2020 guide!

Card #1 was of Ichiro and was designed by Ben Baller. It sold only 1,334 copies and is currently selling for $3,000 – $4,000 on eBay! Remember, a couple months ago you could have bought an unlimited amount directly from Topps for $20! Even some of the recent cards with more elevated print runs are still selling for well over their cost. The first card I purchased was the Blake Jamieson Don Mattingly #33. I bought ten for just over $150 total. I sold them the day I received them in the mail for $35 each and was thrilled to basically double my money in less than 24 hours of having them in hand! However, now a couple weeks later they are selling for $550 each!

You can use the Market Movers tool at SportsCardInvestor.com to research the price trends of these cards to see just how much they are going up! (Editor’s note: use the promo code “ROTOGRINDERS” for 20% off your first payment of any subscription on SCI).

What is going on here?

I think there are a couple reasons for the astronomical growth we’re seeing. First, the players and cards are iconic and appeal to a large group of baseball card fans. While some collectors don’t care for the artistic interpretations, others appreciate a fresh take on some of the most popular cards of all-time.

That brings me to my second point. The art.

Several of these artists have bigger followings than Topps themselves, and many of those fans are used to paying well over $20 for print of their favorite artist. In the world of sports cards, a print run in the thousands isn’t really that rare, but it seems that in the art world it is pretty limited!

It seems we are seeing multiple worlds collide with this product which is driving up demand. Once you mix in the sports card investors and flippers, you have something that has rarely, if ever been seen in the industry.

Will they continue increasing? Good question.

Earlier this week, the Keith Shore Ken Griffey Jr. card sold 99,177 copies. That will be a good test to see how much broad based demand really exists. Up to this point, not one card is selling on the secondary market for less than the direct cost from Topps. Not one card! The first 86 cards have all been winners up to this point for people who bought them direct.

The Griffey I just mentioned sold about 3 times as many cards as the next highest card and is the first one where we are seeing secondary market prices be right around the “break even” point.

Pay attention to these pricing and print run trends to see how they continue to evolve. I think there is still opportunity here to profit if you make wise data driven decisions. Personally, I have purchased between 2 and 10 copies of each card from #57 on and will continue to buy at least 2 for the foreseeable future.

I can’t guarantee what will happen in the future, but I don’t know that we’ve ever seen a product like this. We’re approximately 25% of the way through the checklist and up to this point every card has been a profitable flip. That may not continue forever, but it should at least get this product on your radar to do your own research!

Like I mentioned earlier, I have been tracking the cards on my Project 2020 page at WaxPackHero.com. It contains a photo checklist with views sorted by Artist and Player. It will also capture the print runs of each card.

UPDATE:
In the week since the original article was published, prices on many cards have come down significantly off the peak. Most of the cards collectors have in hand are still selling well above the direct cost from Topps, but nowhere near the peak. This will continue to be an interesting case study. The product has a wide variety of print runs and the release will span several more months. Stay tuned!

If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @themikesommer and at WaxPackHero.com.

About the Author

  • Mike Sommer (sportsgrinder)

  • Mike Sommer is a husband, father, and proud University of Illinois Alumnus. He has been playing DFS since 2012, and has been a lifelong sports card collector. He shares strategies on combining both the hobby and business sides of collecting via his podcast and blog which can be found at WaxPackHero.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @TheMikeSommer.

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