2013 Topps Five Star Baseball Review

2013 Topps Five Star Baseball released last week.  By now, we’ve all seen the cards and have a good idea of how the product breaks.  Topps did both a great job and a terrible job with this product.  I know that sounds confusing, but I’ll explain.

First, we’ll start with the good stuff.  The designs in this set look amazing.  I love nearly every card in the product.  The cards look and feel expensive.  They aren’t too busy, yet have enough design to warrant the high price tag.  Nearly all the autographs are on-card (I think the only stickers are the 25 Auto Books).  There is very little damage this year.  Last year we saw tons of cards that had rough edges and/or corners.  While the cards still don’t come in a mini-box (not sure why really), there are very few that come out of the boxes looking beat up.  Honestly, that’s about it in terms of things that were good about the product.

This next part has some good in it, but is mostly bad.  The autograph checklist is pretty strong.  There aren’t a lot of duds on it.  Most of the guys are solid RCs (Manny Machado, Dylan Bunday, Yasiel Puig, etc), All-Star caliber veterans (Mike Trout, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Upton, Buster Posey, Cole Hamels, Dustin Pedroia, etc.) or HOF type of retired players (Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Pedro Martinez, Rickey Henderson, Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, etc.).  However, the autograph checklist is WAY too small.  There are 86 subjects in the set.  If you have to number them to 386, then you need more subjects.  There are TONS of guys who could have been added.  Guys like Kyuji Fujikawa, Tony Cingrani, Christian Yelich, Mike Zunino and Zack Wheeler are RCs who had value and would have sold had they been in the product.  There are a TON of retired players that could be added.  Guys like: Carl Yastrzemski, Eddie Murray, George Brett, Robin Yount, Dave Winfield, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Frank Robinson, Omar Vizquel, Brooks Robinson, Ivan Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Roberto Alomar, Gary Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero, Todd Helton, Joe Morgan, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Barry Larkin, Bernie Williams, Andres Galarraga, Jeff Bagwell, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay, David Cone, Bret Saberhagen and Mariano Rivera just to name a few.  Plus there are certainly a lot of current players who could be added.

Here is my point.  Why not make the list 125-150 names and number them much lower?  That way they all have more value.  Seems like a pretty basic idea to me.  But, that’s only the root of the problem.

This product is simply too boring.  Where are all the cool chase cards?  Where are all the patches?  This product is way too simple for a $400+ box.  There should be all kinds of cool chase cards in this product.  Why do all the cuts have to be 1/1?  If you add more cards, you can number them all lower.  A huge percentage of the boxes this year had 1 Base, 3 Base Auto, 1 Silver Auto and 1 Jumbo Jersey.  Sure there might be a parallel, but it’s the same basic pack almost every time.  This takes value away, but also makes the product boring to open.

Here is how I think the product should be made.  First off the base cards should always be the highest (or darn near the highest) numbered cards in the set.  Meaning if they are numbered to 75 (which they are), the autographs shouldn’t be numbered as high as 386 (which they are).

Let’s start with the base cards.  Number them to 99 and make the set 100 cards.  Very similar to what they do now, but number them to 100.  Keep the parallels the same with a /10 and a /1.

The Base Autographs should be numbered no higher than 99.  This list should be at least 125-150 names.  If you can get more that have value, that’s completely fine.  If they are all numbered to 99 or less, we won’t see nearly as many duplicates and $5-$10 cards on eBay.  There can be a few parallels (this year there is a /25 and a /1).  I did some rough calculations and there are about 22,000 Base Autos (not counting parallels).  I’m guessing there are about 2,500-2,800 cases.  For argument’s sake, we’ll put the number at 2,650.  That makes 7,950 boxes.  With 22,000 Base Autos, that means a box has “on average” 2.75 Base Autographs in it.  If you add the parallels you get to about 24,000 cards.  That’s over 3 per box.  That’s too many.  There should be 1, maybe 2 Base Autographs per box.

Let’s add RC Auto Jumbo Patches.  Sure the RCs aren’t all great.  However, it would be nice to have Jumbo Patch Autos in every case.  Most years there will be at least 20-25 players who carry some value.  Number these the same as the base cards with the 1/1 being an MLB Logo Patch Auto.  These won’t fall every box, but should fall at least 1 per case.

Next we need more Patches and Patch Autos from the veterans.  How about throwing in some Jumbo Patch Autos like the Limited Logos from Exquisite?  These don’t have to be numbered too high, but they should at least exist.  Also, I love the Letter Patches, but Topps did them all wrong.  You can’t number them to 1 and use only 1 letter.  These need to be all the letters from the back of the name and numbered as such.  Meaning Griffey should be numbered to 7 and 1/7 is the “G” and 2/7 is the “R” and so on.  I love the Dual/Triple/Quad Patches, but they need to be a little easier to hit.  They are all #ed to 5.  Why are they all numbered the same?  Shouldn’t the Quads be harder to get than the Duals?  Make the Duals /25, the Triples /15 and the Quads  /10.  Then you can do Booklets with Six or Eight and you can number them /5 and /1.

Dual Autographs need to be easier to get too.  The Duals are all Booklets #ed to 10.  Again, expand the checklist and make them easier to get.  Plus you have to make the combos better.  Why is Ryan Braun on a dual with Bryce Harper?  That takes away from Harper’s value.  If you have to get rid of Braun Autos, do it by themselves.  Don’t put him on a card with someone else.  The combos should be players that won the same award or that are teammates.  Or a legend with a current player that makes sense.  A Sandy Koufax/Clayton Kershaw makes a ton of sense.  But a Sandy Koufax/Stephen Strasburg probably isn’t the best idea.  Just because 2 players have value, it doesn’t mean they should be on a card together.

The veteran relics are impossible to get.  That’s fine for guys like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, etc.  However, players like Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Reggie Jackson, etc. need to be easier to get.  The Dual Legends Relics are numbered to 10!  A Griffey/Pedro dual memorabilia should not be numbered to 10.  A product this expensive should be loaded with really nice memorabilia pieces.  I’m not saying number them to 100, but put enough in there so people can actually get them.  And have patch variations that aren’t all numbered to 5 or less.

Next items to tackle are the cut signatures.  These need to be in this product, but they need to be easier to get.  This year there are right at 50 cards in the product that have cut autographs.  That’s way too few.  Players like Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Don Drysdale, etc. don’t need to be 1/1.  I get that Babe Ruth and Mel Ott need to be 1/1.  But they don’t all have to be.  And I love the on-card auto/cut auto Booklet cards.  But, again, they don’t all have to be 1/1.  Why can’t we have a Griffey/Ted Williams /10?  Or a Koufax/Drysdale /10?  There are plenty of cool combinations that could be done.  And, honestly, they wouldn’t be that costly.  You can buy Drysdale index cards on eBay all day for $40.  Heck, you can buy Joe DiMaggio index cards for less than $250.  And Ted Williams is the same.  Topps could spend $10,000 and have 100+ Cuts.  If that’s not in the budget, they shouldn’t even make Five Star any longer.

The reality is that I think Five Star Baseball could be an awesome product.  They could have an amazing autograph checklist and tons of high-end chase.  Unfortunately, Topps doesn’t appear to want to take the time and effort to do it the right way.  Let’s hope that they can make the adequate changes for next year.

Here are my ideas for how the product should look:


Current Breakdown:

Roughly 2,650 cases or 7,950 boxes.

All of the following numbers are rough estimates.  Some may be a bit higher or lower because we don’t know what redemptions cards are numbered to.  Also, these numbers include all the parallels.

Base Autos- 24,000

Silver Autos- 7,141

Jumbo Jersey- 7,191

Those are the cards that fall in nearly every single box.  And you can see why.  Based on these numbers the average box contains right at 3 Base Autos, .89 Silver Autos and .90 Jumbo Jersey.  As you can see, not a lot of variance considering you only get 5 hit cards per box.

Here are the “chase” cards:

Booklet Triple Relic Auto- 360

Booklet Quad Relic Auto- 300

Booklet Jumbo Relic Auto- 300

Auto Patch- 816

Dual Patch- 150

Triple Patch- 100

Quad Patch- 75

Octo Patch- 50

Legends Relic- 625

Legends Dual Relic- 200

Letter Patch- 50

Bat Knob- 30

Bat Plate- 30

Batting Glove- 30

Dual Auto Booklet-90

Dual Auto Patch Booklet- 240

Dual MLB Logo Auto Booklet- 24

Cut Auto- 24

Cut Auto w/ on-card Auto Booklet- 21

Line-Up Cut Auto- 5

Quotable Auto- 330

25 Auto Booklet- 4

Quadragraph- 100

Legends of Sport Auto- 175

If you add up all those cards you come to a total of 4,129 cards.  That’s a little better than 1 in every other box.  However, if you take out the Legends Relic and the Auto Patch Base version /35 you come all the way down to right at about 3,000 cards.  That’s only about 1 per case.  Now if you look at the cards that, in my opinion, should be cases hits (Cut Autos, Cut/on-card Auto, Bat Knob, Bat Plate, Batting Glove, Dual Auto Booklet, Dual Auto Patch Booklet, Dual MLB Logo Booklet, Line-up Cut Auto, Letter Patch, Octo Patch, Quadragraph and Legends of Sport Auto), you have only about 875 cards.  That’s not even 1 in every 3 cases.  That’s bad.  There HAS to be more of this stuff added.  There also needs to be more variety.

My Breakdown:

Same number of cases.  First thing I’m changing is that this product need to be collated correctly.  Maybe not all by hand, but it needs to be done in a way to make the boxes more evenly valued.

11,000 base cards instead of 8,600.  Any box that is not as good gets a parallel base card /10 or /1 to try and help.  Plus a 2nd base card can be found in many boxes as well.

125 Base Autos numbered to 75 on average (some players are short printed, but none numbered higher than 100).  Same parallels of 25 and 1 to give us a total of 12,625.  Nearly half of what we actually had.  This means every box will have 1 of these cards and about half of the boxes will have 2.  There won’t be any boxes with 3.

25 RC Auto Patches numbered to 99 with parallels to 25 & 1.  That gives up 3,125 of these cards.  That means they fall roughly 1 per case.  About 400 of these cases will have 2 of these cards.

50 Veteran/Retired Jumbo Patches numbered to 25 with no parallels.  1,250 total of these cards.

30 Veteran/Retired Jumbo Patch Auto numbered to 50 with no parallels.  1,500 total of these.

Every case will have either a Veteran/Retired Jumbo Patch or a Veteran/Retired Jumbo Patch Auto.

Cut Autos will have 50 subjects with an average of 10 cards.  Total of 500 cards.

Cut Autos with on-card Veteran/Retired player will have 20 subjects with an average of 10 cards.  Total of 200 cards.

Booklet Dual Patch Auto- 25 Subjects numbered to 25.  No parallels.  Total of 625 cards.

Booklet Dual Auto- 50 Subject numbered to 25.  No parallels.  Total of 1,250 cards.

Legends of Sport Autos- 5 Subjects numbered to 50.  No parallels.  Total of 250 cards.

Add all those up and they fall 1 per case.

That means every case will have 1 Auto RC Patch, 1 Veteran/Retired Patch or Auto Patch and 1 of the group of Cut Autos, Cut Autos/on-card Auto, Booklet Dual Patch Auto, Booklet Dual Auto & Legends of Sport Auto.  That means you’ll get 1 of those cards in every box.

Keep the Silver Autos essentially the same.  They should fall 1 per box.

Jumbo Jersey should be 50 subjects numbered to 50 with a parallel to 25 and 1.  Total of 3,800 cards.

Legends Relic should be 30 subjects numbered to 50 with a parallel to 1.  Total of 1,530 cards.

Legends Dual Relic should be 30 subjects numbered to 25 with a parallel to 1.  Total of 780 cards.

Dual Patch should be 50 subjects numbered to 25.  No parallels.  Total of 1,250 cards.

Triple Patch should be 40 subjects numbered to 15.  No parallels.  Total of 600 cards.

Quad Patch should be 30 subjects numbered to 10.  No parallels.  Total of 300 cards.

Six Patch should be 20 subjects numbered to 5.  No parallels.  Total of 100 cards.

Eight Patch should be 10 subjects numbered to 1.  No parallels.  Total of 10 cards.

Add all these together and you get a Jumbo Jersey, Legends Relic or Multi-Patch per box.


In addition to all of this, there would still be super tough chase cards like Bat Knobs, Bat Plates, Batting Gloves, Dual Bat Knob Booklets, Dual Bat Knob Plates, Bat Knob Booklet Auto, Bat Plate Booklet Auto, Batting Glove Booklet Auto, Dual Cut Auto Booklet and others.  These cards will all be 1/1s and will be hard to get.


Here is how the NEW Five Star would break down per box/pack:

1-2 Base Cards

1-2 Base Auto (1 when a better player, 2 when not as good)

1 Silver Auto

1 RC Patch Auto OR 1 Veteran/Retired Jumbo Patch OR 1 Veteran/Retired Jumbo Patch Auto OR 1 Cut Auto OR 1 Cut Auto/On-Card Auto OR 1 Booklet Dual Auto OR 1 Booklet Dual Patch Auto OR 1 Legends of Sport Auto

1 Jumbo Jersey OR Legends Relic OR 1 Multi-Player Patch

*The big chase cards will replace a base card.

The packs will not necessarily all have the same number of cards.  Some may have extra Base Cards and/or Base Autos depending on the quality of the other cards.  Every pack will have at least 5 cards though.

Call me crazy, but I feel like this NEW Five Star looks much better on paper.  Obviously Topps would have to execute it correctly.  They can’t throw a bunch of scrubs on the checklist to get the Base Auto checklist up to 125.  However, I really feel like they could get this to cost out.  The autograph cost should come down as I’m adding a lot of RC autos.  Those are much cheaper than veteran autos.  The reality is if Topps can’t get something similar to this to cost out, than maybe they just shouldn’t do Five Star any longer.

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