Image Credit: Courtesy of Topps
The sports trading card giant continues to thrive and evolve as an irreplaceable and permanent fixture in baseball culture.
2019’s Topps Series 2 baseball card set continues on from where Series 1 left off with this season’s rising stars and most memorable moments so far, including Bryce Harper in a Phillies uniform, a rookie card for Fernando Tatis Jr., a limited edition card for the popular Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and more.
The process of developing these cards and distributing the baseball masses is a science. Topps has been a leading producer of American football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey, soccer, and other sports and non-sports themed trading cards since its inception in Brooklyn, NY in 1938.
The Shadow League spoke to Clay Luraschi, Topps Global VP of Product Development about the recently-released Topps Series 2 cards.
The Shadow League: Does the success of superstar rookie cards in recent years indicate that the next generation of baseball fans is safe?
Clay Luraschi: Baseball has seen a number of young, exciting players coming through the league in the last several years with players like Kris Bryant, Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, and also Tatis and Guerrero just to name a few. There are exciting prospects in the pipeline too and we see that baseball and baseball card collecting is very healthy.
TSL: What makes a valuable baseball card?
CL: Value is really determined by the person. It could be anything from sentimental reasons to rarity to the card being autographed.
TSL: What makes this set of Series 2 cards special?
CL: Every year, Topps’ flagship set depicts not only what is happening in baseball but it’s also a snapshot of the time. You can get a really good feel just by looking through the set with the players on the cards like the stars, veterans and Rookie Cards of players like Tatis, Guerrero and Eloy Jimenez. But there are also inserts celebrating MLB history, and cards looking forward like with the collaboration with Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee), a well-known and inspiring entrepreneur. Gary Vee picked his top entrepreneurs in baseball, which resonated with a lot of his fans.
TSL: From legends to rookies, how does Topps decipher which card will really hit well with the fans?
CL: Because of the way fans collect, it’s different for everyone. Some people want to collect their favorite players or teams. But we always make sure to have dynamic designs and compelling pictures on cards to give collectors reasons to be excited year-over-year.
TSL: Can you share the most popular cards from Series 2 so far?
CL: The Gary Vee (Gary Vaynerchuk) insert cards have been popular. You have people who haven’t collected in years coming back because they’re excited about these cards. Also, all of the hot rookie cards are extremely popular.
TSL: Can you share how you first got started with Topps? What was your background prior to working with Topps?
CL: I was hired as the PR person after a short stint working at Fleer Trading Cards. Before that, I was doing PR in the film industry in Los Angeles.
TSL: Can you share the Top 3 most legendary cards as far as demand and fan popularity since you’ve been at Topps?
CL: The craziness of Albert Pujols and Ichiro stick out to me from 2001. Their Rookie Cards, including Aaron Judge’s card definitely rank up there. Ohtani’s TOPPS NOW is another that ranks up there because it showed how baseball really is in an international sport. And the buzz around this year’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. rookie cards has been quite memorable.
TSL: How did the free agency with Harper and Machado deals affect the card industry
CL: In the past, when players signed late in the offseason, it would take a few months to see them on cards in their new uniforms. With our TOPPS NOW and our online On-Demand products, we can actually offer cards of them in their new uniforms the next day — which we did. It helped in a positive way because Topps was able to focus on the moment of the signings and feature the players on their new teams right away.
TSL: Would you be able to share your World Series pick?
CL: Huge Giants fan, but getting back into contention this year is going to be tough. The Red Sox are heating up again and has the players to repeat.
TSL: Can you share a prediction for 2025- which three players will have the most popular cards?
CL: Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Vlad Guerrero Jr.
TSL: Are there any new updates or innovations at Topps that can be shared with the public as of now?
CL: Our TOPPS NOW Future product is a new and exciting way to collect that allows you to win as the seasons go on. TOPPS NOW Future offers collectible cards that have a “prediction” on the backs. If what is written on the back happens — like the New York Yankees winning the World Series — you get the prize listed on the card. Prizes range from limited edition chrome sets to autographs of players from the World Series winning team. It keeps fans involved all season long. The only place to get those cards are at Topps.com.
As baseball adjusts to a changing landscape where fewer people attend games due to the explosion of the digital world and instant information, revenue continues to increase and the baseball card industry continues to thrive as an irreplaceable and permanent fixture in baseball culture.