Sunday, August 30, 2015

Are eTopps Prices on the Rebound?

For a brief explanation of the eTopps card program, click here.

With the increasing popularity of limited-issue insert cards that have dominated the collecting hobby since the late 1990s, one could make the case that eTopps cards never had a chance. After all, are cards with a print run of 5,000, 2,000, or even 499 really that limited? Can the hobby really absorb over five thousand 2002 Curt Schilling eTopps cards? 

Let's dwell on that '02 eTopps Schilling card for a moment... A whopping 5,190 of these were printed and sold, and based on the online eTopps price guide, the card carries a current value of 28 cents. The value of all eTopps cards are determined by taking the average price of the last ten eBay auctions, minus the highest-priced auction and the lowest-priced auction (so really the value is based on eight auctions, not ten). Here's a screenshot showing the details of the last ten '02 Schilling auctions, taken right from the eTopps website:

The first thing I'd like to point out is the ten auction dates listed on the left side of the box.  With all of those Curt Schilling cards floating around, surely you can find a hundred or so of these on eBay at any given time... Right?

Well, not according to the dates shown. As a matter of fact, this card has only been sold once on eBay this year! In 2014, the card was sold a mere three times, and only once in 2013! I believe one reason for this is because the low value makes it pointless to sell the card... After all, eBay fees will cost around a quarter for the auction. Another reason is because the vast majority of these cards have been collecting dust in the eTopps warehouse for thirteen years now, still owned by the collectors who paid $6.50 each when they were initially offered. I would bet that many of these card owners haven't even checked the values of their portfolios for several years now -- and who can blame them, since their cards are worth just a small fraction of what they originally paid for them. 

I do have a theory that eTopps prices have been making a modest (but growing) rebound this past year or so. The Schilling card provides a fine example, as you will notice the card selling in the 11 to 22 cent range in 2012-2013. Then, in 2014, prices began to firm up considerably with sales of 44, 31 and 75 cents. The lone 2015 auction ended at 44 cents. But what does this really mean?

While the sample size is admittedly small, it is obvious that collectors are now willing to pay more for the card when it comes available today than they were two or three years ago -- and the same can be said about countless other eTopps cards, too. Take a look Frank Gore's 2007 issue as another example. FYI, 749 of these were printed:

You can easily see the price difference between the bottom four auctions, which occurred in 2013 and early 2014, versus the six most recent auctions, which occurred in late 2014. I would be willing to bet that a seller today could easily get $1.99 for the card if that's the price where they started the bidding.

I haven't even mentioned how nice these cards are. Seeing photos of eTopps cards online may give one a glimpse of the design, but these cards must be seen in person to fully appreciate the colorful foil and deep glossy surfaces.  Many modern-era card collectors rank eTopps right at the top for quality, thanks to the company's premium visual and construction elements.

Does anyone else believe that eTopps prices are on the rebound, specifically on the cards valued at a dollar or less? I believe that current and future collectors of the Topps brand will have an interest in these cards, and the "fire sale" will soon be coming to an end. It would be foolish to expect the 2002 Curt Schilling card to head back up to $6.50... But for 28 cents?

I'll take five of 'em.

Click here to find eTopps cards on eBay


  1. I seem to recall Topps instituting a very high per-card shipping charge for actually getting these delivered once they had shut down the program. I think that is why so many people just abandoned their cards.

    1. You're absolutely right about that. I kinda glossed over a few aspects of the program, with the shipping charges being one of them. If it ever comes time for me to take delivery of my portfolio, I'll need to figure out how to get 1,300 slabbed cards shipped from New York to the West Coast!

  2. Even with the shipping deal of a few weeks ago, it still would have run me $30 to ship 10-11 cards. Ridiculous. I don't really think there has a bounceback in the values of these cards as much as no one lists them anymore because they are worthless.

    1. I agree... I believe when this whole program officially ends, and the time finally comes for all cards to be shipped to their owners, Topps will need to cut a good deal on their shipping and handling prices. I wonder if the cards in the warehouse are already slabbed in their holders, or if they get slabbed when they are shipped? I would consider saving money by having the cards shipped in a reasonably-sized box, without the heavy and bulky holders.