Last week Topps announced “The Living Set”, an open-ended online-only set featuring artwork instead of photos and done in the 1953 Topps design.
Had Topps lead with a written description like that, my reaction would’ve been “meh”. I still haven’t bought a single Topps Now or #TBT card, why would I be interested in another relatively-expensive online set?
Topps, however, astutely teased us with a Tweeted image featuring artwork by Mayumi Seto, and I said “OH, MYYYYYYYYY!!”.
They would later unveil the Living Set web page including a video and pricing information.
I started to write a few comments as an addendum to last Friday’s post, but the more I wrote about it, the more additional thoughts came to me and I had to cut bait on that and start over again with a new, longer – possibly too long – post.
One of the more intriguing aspects to this set is the promise that once a player is featured, he won’t be featured again unless he’s moved to a new team… This way it won’t become the “Judge And Bellinger Show, with special guest Shohei Ohtani!” like the other online sets have become.
If/when they include retired players (which seems pretty likely), it’ll be nice to know there’ll only be one Derek Jeter card to deal with.
Without getting into shipping costs – and there apparently is a way to get free shipping within the USA – the cards are $8 each or each week’s three-card batch for $15. This is kind of pricey, but potentially not quite as expensive as Topps Now.
For example, I’m somewhat intrigued by the Joe Panik card as he’s the subject of one of my lower-tier player collections (I saw him in the minors a couple of times).
I don’t collect Panik to the point where I’m spending $8 on his cards, but something occurred to me (and to fill in the dramatic pause on this, I’ll feature the nicely-done back of the Panik card)…
It occurred to me that it’s actually cheaper to buy three cards ($15) than it is to buy 2 cards individually ($8 x 2 = $16). This makes for some interesting decisions for buyers.
Obviously, if there are two cards I want in a given week, it’s a no-brainer.
But if I really wanted the Panik card, could I effectively reduce the cost of the card by selling the Judge and the Castellanos cards for, say $6 each?
I’m sure there are already tiny little “group breaks” being set up so people can buy each week’s batch and divvy up the cards.
The pricing structure might also have an interesting effect on the aftermarket of certain cards. Let’s say there’s a week where the three cards are a Yankee, a HOFer and (not to pick on anybody, but) someone from the Twins. There may be a fair number of individuals and dealers who want the Yank and the HOFer but not the Twin, but it’s cheaper to get all three. Will the Twins cards get dumped on the market to the point where supply exceeds demand?
Or maybe it’ll be a boon to trading…
I’ll have to give this a lot more thought before they start to feature cards which fall in my team or first-level player collections. It’s still much more than I would normally spend on a new card, but… I can’t rule it out, not yet.
I’m not even sure I’d do team collections on this. A given team will have, on average, about 5 cards in a calendar year. Would a five-card team set be worth $25 to me? One could make the “Four cards = a retail blaster” argument in favor of the Living Set cards… but I’m thinking more along the lines of “Four cards = 10-20 commons from an early 1970’s baseball set”.
Some other stream-of-consciousness thoughts on this set…
I appreciate the fact that (unlike 2016 Topps Archives), they seem to be properly using the “Black for NL teams, red for AL teams” motif.
I would hope they’re retiring 1953 Topps from use in the Topps Archives set.
If this is successful enough, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the introduction of “The Other Living Set” based on photography and using a different vintage design (perhaps 1957).
Even at just three cards per week, the Living Set will be larger than the 1953 set in just under two years.
Will it cause confusion down the road when cards from the same set have “PAST YR.” stats which are actually from different years?
…Not to mention cards from the same set which have different copyright years…
Topps really should print “Topps Living Set” on these somewhere, but it doesn’t appear that they’re doing that.
With several big-name players hitting free-agency after this season, the smart money is on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado and others of that free agency class making an appearance in the set this year so that – surprise, surprise – they can show up again next year if/when they’re on different teams.
…The same also goes for guys like Jonathan Lucroy who signed one-year contracts in this winter’s very strange free agent market.
Whether I buy these would also depend on the ongoing quality of the artwork. In theory, I would spend $5 on a Francisco Lindor card… but if Seto falls behind and they hire someone less talented to do Lindor’s card, I’m not sure I’m on board for that.
One thing which occurs to me… Mayumi Seto was the artist for last year’s Gallery set. Does Living Set replace Gallery? Maybe it’s a way to leverage the artwork without having all the inserts, autos, relics associated with a retail set. Maybe Walmart decided they weren’t interested in repeating it as an exclusive… I can’t think that 2017 Gallery resulted in much store traffic, the cards pretty much disappeared from the shelves within a week. Speaking for myself, I made something like 10 trips to Walmart, but on each trip I walked to the card aisle, shook my head and walked back out because I don’t like shopping at Walmart.
The fact that the set doesn’t start over each year but goes on and on is pitched as a unique idea, but if you want to get picky about it there’s another commercially available card set where the design doesn’t change (much) and the card numbers keep on going…
The Sports Illustrated For Kids set, which is included in each magazine, has card numbering that’s gotten up into the 700’s.
It is, in fact, a card set that doesn’t end…
OK, so that’s more than enough rumination on The Living Set.
What do you think about this set? Are you excited? Intrigued? Don’t give a crap?