10 Highest and Lowest Selling Topps Living Set Baseball Cards of 2018

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When the Topps Living Set launched in spring, 2017, it brought with a concept that had been tried before — a never-ending checklist — but with the online-only, print-on-demand spin. It was met with some initial trepidation and for good reason. In the past, “living” checklists have eventually died. Also, with new cards each week, the cost adds up.

So for the first couple of weeks, the Topps Living Set did well for online-exclusive standards. But after about a month, print runs took off. Shohei Ohtani topped 20,000 copies, which seemed like a max in this era of the hobby.

It turns out it wasn’t. As collectors started getting their cards and the beauty of Mayumi Seto‘s art was seen in hand, the set’s popularity exploded. Over the summer, “common” players were topping 5,000 copies each.

Top Trends

But, overall, rookies still dominated the set’s first calendar year of sales. Six of the top 10 highest print runs of Topps Living Set cards sold in 2018 belong to first-year players. And Ohtani wasn’t the biggest. Or second biggest. His then unfathomable 20,966 copies were bettered by Gleyber Torres, Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna, all of whom came out around the time of the set’s explosion.

Perhaps the biggest surprise among the top sellers is Pat Neshek, a reliever for the Philadelphia Phillies. Typically, relief pitchers aren’t huge sellers. But Topps had a fan who went and ordered a lot — to the tune of 8,000 copies — for himself. The buyer? Neshek, a big card collector.

 

Low Print Runs, Big Demand

Just because a Topps Living Set card fails to sell 5,000 copies during its initial week doesn’t mean its not in demand. In fact, it can become the opposite once the cards hit the secondary market. If you’d told me on December 31, 2017 that a 2018 Nick Markakis card with a print run of more than 2,500 copies sell consistently for more than $150 (after peaking at around $200), I’d have laughed. And when I was done laughing, I’d laugh some more. Maybe not out loud, but definitely with that constant internal chuckle.

A $150 Nick Markakis card isn’t logical — unless it’s Topps Living Set.

See also: Behind the Scenes of the Topps Living Set

Often I hear how set collecting is dying. It’s not. Like everything else, it’s evolving. There are people out there who want to chase and build sets. And a surge of them gravitated towards this particular product. However, it took a few weeks for them to realize. So as the Topps Living Set’s popularity grew, people were scrambling to fill earlier gaps. And with Markakis being the card with the lowest print run, it quickly became a highly sought after card. One of the year’s hottest, in fact.

Other short prints are also commanding premiums as the set goes forward. Maybe not to the degree of the Markakis card, but low print runs aren’t necessarily a bad thing from all angles.

Looking Ahead

Many of the lower print run cards have come recently, which is understandable considering interest in the game is lower. Don’t be surprised if print runs make a jump once spring arrives and a new crop of rookies come along, not to mention the inevitable second Bryce Harper card should he sign somewhere other than Washington. The question is, how much will things bounce back?

Here’s a countdown of the Topps Living Set cards released in 2018 with the biggest print runs. Click on the tab to check out the short prints.

Highest Print Runs

Top 10 Highest Selling Topps Living Set Cards of 2018

This list covers Topps Living Set cards released during 2018. Print runs are noted for each.


10. Pat Neshek, Philadelphia Phillies #60 – 12,736




9. Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees #49 – 12,794




8. Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers #42 – 13,147




7. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees #1 – 13,256




6. Ozzie Albies, Atlanta Braves #32 – 14,036




5. Babe Ruth, New York Yankees #100 – 14,976




4. Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels #7 – 20,966




3. Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees #34 – 28,550




2. Juan Soto, Washington Nationals #43 – 28,572


Topps Living Set 43 Juan Soto



1. Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves #19 – 46,809


Topps Living Set 19 Ronald Acuna


Lowest Print Runs

Top 10 Lowest Selling Topps Living Set Cards of 2018

Rankings based on print runs.


10. Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers #3 – 3,639




9. Andrew Heaney, Los Angeles Angels #111 – 3,602




8. Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles #117 – 3,490




7. Felix Jorge, Minnesota Twins #116 – 3,472




6. Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia Phillies #122 – 3,416




5. David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks #123 – 3,353




4. Ryan Yarbrough, Tampa Bay Rays #125 – 3,201




3. Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels #126 – 3,110




2. Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs #5 – 3,042


Topps Living Set 5 Ian Happ



1. Nick Markakis, Atlanta Braves #6 – 2,678


Topps Living Set 6 Nick Markakis


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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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7 comments

  1. JDonovan 3 January, 2019 at 23:51

    Set collecting isn’t dying, but Topps sure is trying its best to kill it. Even something like this set, which is basically just an over-priced Archives released throughout the year, is not really made for set collectors. The focus is still primarily on the most popular players and it is only 129 cards of of now. To me, the joy of collecting a set is getting the little known bench guys alongside the superstars and hot rookies. Something along the lines of early Topps Total or the mid 2000 Upper Deck sets. There are 25 man rosters on 30 teams and yet Topps only wants to make cards of the top 2-3 players for each team over and over again.

    • Ryan Cracknell 4 January, 2019 at 12:09

      @JDonovan – This definitely isn’t Topps Total of UD 40-Man. But then again, it’s not meant to be. It’s something different. And it has become a “set collector” set in part because there is a fairly sizable core group of people out there dedicated to it. There are even active Facebook groups out there that are solely about the Living Set.

      As for the player choice, there are plenty of non-superstar players. This week alone you have Eugenio Suarez and Matthew Boyd. Are there lots of stars? Sure, but then again, shouldn’t that be expected at a cost of $15 per week? And those are the players that are selling. Their criteria of one card per player unless they switch teams also ensures there aren’t going to be the same players over and over. It also means they have to hold some back to have big names for the future. Mike Trout is nowhere to be seen yet. Yes, Manny Machado will probably have a third card in 2019, but that does fit with the overall theme. And in normal circumstances, it’s likely going to mean one card per player.

      Living Set may not fit the traditional box of a set-building set, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one all together. It’s just a different approach.

  2. Tommy Myles 3 January, 2019 at 23:59

    I have alot of old baseball and basketball card. Like chipper Jones rookie , kobe byrant 96 rookie card. I don’t know what to do with them. Help me

    • Ryan Cracknell 4 January, 2019 at 12:15

      @Tommy – If you have a card store near by, take them there (or some photos) and they’ll be able to let you know quickly if you have anything people might be looking to buy.

  3. clauer 4 January, 2019 at 13:20

    @JDonovan, I have to disagree with your assessment of the set being focused “primarily on the most popular players.” I follow the game pretty closely, and of the 3 cards released each week, I find myself often thinking, “Oh, yeah…That guy,” about at least 1, sometimes 2 of the players. It seems to be framed around 1 household name per week with the other two being non-stars. That being said, I really like this edition, particularly the artwork and choice of throwing back to the 1953 set, even though it’s been used in other sets recently…It’s easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing card designs of all time and I prefer them to the newer “modern” looks that quite honestly, are kind of ugly. My biggest beef with this release, is the lack of a subscription model where I could just pay an annual fee (perhaps at a discount) and be automatically sent the entire set each week for a year. The chase becomes tedious, and with limited free time, I’d rather not be worrying about having to log in each week to order and, if I miss a week, spend more time hunting down the cards on Ebay. I realize part of the value is built on lower print numbers for some and a subscription model could potentially ding the value as access becomes easier, but I’m not looking to flip these cards for profit. My other beef with this set, and any of the Topps online sets really, is the environmental impact. I’d be fine if they held my cards and did one shipment per month for a total of 12 rather than one a week for a total of 52. The packaging alone would cut down on so much waste and you’d waste less fuel with the reduced number of shipments.

  4. Jon Hill 4 January, 2019 at 19:23

    Topps please if you see this, focus less on making living amd topps now collecting everyone’s money. Use that energy to either get rid of redemption cards or make sure people don’t wait 1 or 2 years for their cards!!! In tge rare chance you hit a great card maybe we’ll get them in 2 years! But you have our money? Seems likengood business.

  5. JDonovan 5 January, 2019 at 01:39

    I didn’t compare this set to Total or 40 Man, I was just saying those were my visions of collecting a set. I compared Living Set to an overpriced Archives set, which I stand by. The numerous appearances of retired players in the first 130 cards seems to support that as well.

    You bring up Suarez and Boyd, but that just gets back to my mention of the top 2-3 players per team over and over again. Suarez is easily in the top 3 most used Reds, probably #2 after Votto, and Boyd is arguably in there for the Tigers. Just because they aren’t MLB-wide known names, does not mean they haven’t been used a lot in relation to their teammates. I am a Rockies collector, so I will use them as an example. Almost every team set for the Rockies this year have been the trio Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Ryan McMahon. The two stars and the hyped rookie. Set after set of those three and if there was a 4th it was always Trevor Story. If you look at the Rockies checklist for this set, it is Arenado, Blackmon, McMahon, Story. To me that gets boring after a while. I mean the Rockies have relatively well known names like Kyle Freeland, Carlos Gonzalez, German Marquez, DJ LeMahieu, Ian Desmond, Wade Davis and others. But it’s always the same old same old for the whole year. About the only set put out by Topps, other than the large flagship and Heritage sets, to mix it up a bit with more role players is Gypsy Queen.

    To be fair, this criticism isn’t necessarily focused on the Living Set, but Topps in general. It’s probably just the old man in me coming out, but every now and then you just need to complain about stuff. Sorry if I offended.

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