Loaded question: Are the 2011 Topps Update Value Boxes stacked?

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor | Commentary

While the first Topps baseball cards of 2012 are as less than a week away, there’s been another baseball card offering — at retail, no less — that has had message boards and collectors elsewhere a buzzin’ with some big pulls that seem to be consistently busting the odds.

Key word, seem.

These 2011 Topps Value Boxes (above) include five eight-card retail packs of 2011 Topps Update, one hobby pack of 2011 Bowman Chrome, a Diamond Anniversary code card and a bonus card of Bryce Harper for just under $15 at most chain stores, though some have the boxes discounted at 25 percent off to help clear space for 2012 products. The single Chrome packs have seemed to deliver quite well for some — at least three SuperFractors of note and Harper autographs have been reported coming out of the packs among other good cards. One of those Supers? Eric Hosmer.

That got me wondering — and ripping — over the last few weeks. My results?

I’ve landed three Bowman Chrome autographs in my last 10 boxes (10 Bowman Chrome packs total), one of them a Refractor. Odds on pulling a single Chrome autograph? One in 25 packs. A Refractor? One in 88. No Harpers here, but at roughly $10 a box, I’ll take the chance because it seems to be pretty good. (A Chrome hobby box, which includes just one autograph, sells for just under $60 if you do some hunting. You do the math.)

But in the other Value Boxes’ Bowman Chrome packs that did not yield autographs, there was a trend, too. Each of my packs included some sort of insert card.

Every single time.

Some included a Refractor (one in four packs), others included Bowman’s Best inserts (one in eight), some included a diecut Future-Fractor (one in nine). One of my packs took it even further with a diecut Micro-Fractor version of the cards, a one in 2,035 odds-breaker, of Jacob Turner, a card limited to just 25 copies. Then, of course, one included some star power — a card I appreciated as I like its look. One pack of mine yielded a Harper Chrome Throwback card.

Now, the question remains — are these boxes loaded? Guess that depends on your definition — some collectors feel that anything not “the worst” or not theirs is somehow better. Good boxes do happen. But, again, are they loaded? Depends who you ask — or which side of the streakiness that your boxes might hold. You know, good or bad. I also bought a few more here and there before that last 10 … and didn’t get much to show for it. (Not sure if the insert-per-pack line held up, but I think it was close.)

These boxes definitely are streaky — or so it seems to me — and that’s the best way to put it along with the fact that they do seem to be over-delivering. One four-box haul from one chain store delivered two of my autographs back-to-back. A four-box raid of a different chain store? An auto and the Micro-Fractor.

The inserts and volume of cards inside the Topps Update packs themselves are a bit streaky, too. Sometimes you’ll get the same insert cards in the same box and a veteran variation to boot. Other times you’ll get less than you did the last time around. (Example: One four-box haul included 10 total code cards. Another? Just five — with one guaranteed per box.) Then again, that was just my run of boxes.

Keep in mind that collation is not an exact science — it’s an approximation based on an overall production run. It’s also a process that can have mistakes happen along the way. No process is perfect.

Did something happen in this case? It’s fair to speculate based on Internet chatter and results, though one should consider that great boxes tend to get talked about more than duds — we love to tout our victories and forget our failures as collectors.

My answer would be, well, it seems that way — at least for me.

Why does it matter? Big-picture, it might not, but it’s fun to wonder whether some of those still un-seen other big-dollar SuperFractors — cough, Bryce Harper cough — might be hiding inside a Value Box right now since they have not publicly surfaced.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


  1. Mike Fleagle
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    For me, a late night value box purchase yielded a Hosmer Orange Refractor Auto redemption card. It was definitely the biggest hit I have ever pulled.

  2. John
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    These boxes got my attention when they first came out and I have been debating on whether or not to buy one. After reading this I might as well before the diamond site goes down (for series 1 and Update). Which “chain” stores did you buy your boxes at? (if you don’t mind me asking)

  3. jeremy hanson
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I’ve opened 7 boxes of these and pulled 2 autos. Granted the were both of Dickie Joe Thon. My update packs were pretty good as well 2 short prints, 5 Hosmer RC and a couple cognac short prints.

  4. chrisolds
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    John: Walmart and Target are only places I have seen them. Maybe the *good* ones went to Toys R Us? (Starting that rumor right here, right now.)

  5. jeremy hanson
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    If you live in the mid-west Shopko has them as well.

  6. Randall Roberson
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    Chris that was my secret. I pulled my Strasburg auto from a toys r us blaster.

  7. claude mccullough
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    definitely NOT loaded here….

    opened 7 …. best hit – no , make that the ONLY hit – has been a clay buchholz refractor…

    also , as opposed to JH above , i’ve hit zero SP’s and zero hosmers …quite literally my two best hits in 7 boxes were two extra diamond codes….

  8. david jones
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    ive bought a total of 5 of them, one had a chrome auto, two had a jersey card out of the update, one had a orange refractor (vmart), and the the last one had a hope diamond anniversary card. id say pretty much loaded with decent hits and thats not to mention the cognac and diamond anniversary cards and the other inserts and refractors and rc’s. not bad for 10 to 15 dollars a box

  9. David Johnson
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    When I heard the price dropped to $11 I decided I would go buy up a bunch. I went to 2 Walmarts and cleared them both out getting a total of 18 boxes. However I didn’t have nearly the luck you seemed to have. I didn’t get a single auto or even a great hit. I did get a few inserts including one numbered to 100, but it was of no one special. I guess I got took all the bad luck boxes away so the rest should be all good.

  10. kevin hurt
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I flew to walmart and bought 6 only 3 inserts. but got a blue refractor auto of brody colvin #erd 29/150. thanks for the heads up chris heading to toys r us and target next.

  11. aaron manes
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    you want to sell the hosmer orange?

  12. XstreamINsanity
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I had bought two of them about 2 months ago I think, and one of my boxes had a blue auto refractor (can’t remember who, already traded it) and the other had another refractor. I did also pull some SPs and quite a few cognac and diamond cards. It’s amazing how cheap they are and the hits I’ve been seeing. I’ve been thinking about getting a few more, but since I only collect tigers and no sets, I didn’t see it worth it.

  13. kevin hurt
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Got only 4 more from about 10 wal marts nothing out of those four. got 5 from toys r us every box had an insert but only one auto brandon laird chrome auto.

  14. kevin hurt
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    hay chris out of my 15 boxes I just noticed that i only got 1 harper gold ref. 5 of the black and 9 of the red. do you think the gold is a short print let me know if ya find out thanks.

  15. David Johnson
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Kevin, with regards to the Harper refractors the gold is the rarest, then the silver (as you call black) and finally the red is the easiest to find. The gold are definitely a lot tougher to find, though you can tell which color is in the box if you look carefully before opening them so that could have led to pack searchers going in and buying any with the gold card that they could find making it even harder to find one now.

  16. JR
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I actually purchased a bunch of these spread over a few months when they were full price—All from Walmart—for some reason I’ve pulled to date 12 Hosmer RC’s out of 11 boxes. Still haven’t seen a Harper gold, but have pulled one auto from chrome and 2 ichiro rc reprints. Recently @ discounted price I got a Halladay All Star warmup from Update ( damaged bottom though)—-(Im guessing Topps wont replace retail, and its not current year—-if anyone is interested in trade for it, leave a post,) and nada from chrome. Just hit up Wally World for their last two. Let u know what I get tonight. Cant wait for 2012 Topps!!

  17. kevin hurt
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    cool thanks david

  18. steve-o
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    so……doesnt this mean the overall value of these “shortprinted” cards-will be dropping now, since they are presumably more available ??

  19. Jesse Ramirez
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I bought 2 boxes at Target in Ariz and here is what the best were. I hid the other 2 boxes just in case these turned out something good. Thanks for the heads up, I’m heading back tonight.

    2011 Bowman Chrome 18U USA National Team Autographs Blue Refractors #18U8 Carson Fulmer
    2011 Topps Update Black #US95 Lyle Overbay 15/60
    2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary #630B Joe Morgan SP
    2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper Retail Exclusive #BCE1S Bryce Harper Silver
    2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper Retail Exclusive #BCE1S Bryce Harper Red

  20. JR
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Results: They are still delivering solid hits! Up on Ebay if interested.

    (2) Value Boxes, and (8) 2011 Series 2 Looseys:

    Harper Gold & Red
    Micah Owings Gold
    Moustakas RC
    Carlton Fisk SP
    (4) Codes
    Pujols Chrome Rookie reprint

    Series 2:

    Beckham Gold
    Teixeira Sparkle SP

    Solid break @ only $36 bucks spent——–GO GET EM, THEY ARE STILL OUT THERE!!!

  21. Josh
    Posted January 30, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Picked on up the other day. Got a Bryce Harper 2021 RC and Aaron Hicks RC in the Bowman and RCs of Dustin Ackley, Dee Gordon, and Brandon Crawford in the Update. Also got the Hunter Pence I was looking for.

  22. Matt Harwood
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Picked up 6 Value boxes today, Best card Red Refractor Auto 1/5 Keyvius Sampson

  23. chrisolds
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Matt: That’s a huge pull statistically.

  24. TheCardMan
    Posted January 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I picked up 3 of these boxes at the discounted price which I see is only in WalMart and pulled a Gold Brody Colvin Auto, 2 Hosmer’s, 3 Harper Silvers, 2 code cards in each, some nice basic inserts and I believe one SP (Have to check again). Even though the codes are expiring 2/8 the boxes seem like good deals.

  25. Jared Christopher
    Posted February 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Pulled this one out of a Value Box last week…


  26. @Jaypers413
    Posted February 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Well, the Brett Lawrie Superfractor Autograph redemption has just been pulled. From a Value Box. Only one big name from Bowman Chrome remains undiscovered from that product now, and we all know who it is.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] Loaded question: Are the 2011 Topps Update Value Boxes stacked? […]

  2. […] Beckett.com recently had a piece by Chris Olds, who stated in the piece that he purchased 10 of the value boxes and pulled two autographs. […]

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