What the heck is this? Isn’t this blog dead? I thought it died with the pandemic. Well, maybe not. It’s looking like a zombie blog for sure though. But, here I am, still collecting cards and geeking out on sports card things. My primary card diversion has been dedicated to the design and creation of a new DIY card slab system called Slabify. It’s a tamper-resistant slab that you can assemble at home with no special equipment or messy adhesives. Lots of us love to protect and display PC cards in slabs. Slabify is a great way to do just that without handing over fistfuls of cash to PSA, or whoever else’s slabs you might fancy. Also, you don’t have to pack things up, ship cards out, and then wait what feels like a lifetime to receive your cards back . Anyway, there is more to come about what Slabify is and how it came to be in a future post. In the meantime, though, check out the Slabify website and if it’s interesting to you, go ahead and pre-order some slabs.
Ok, on to the matter at hand, 2020 Topps Chrome Formula 1. I don’t really know what inspired me to look at this particular set. It’s the first non-basketball set ever analyzed on this site. I’m also not exactly a racing fan. So, what gives? I think it goes something like this …
I am actually a pretty big tennis fan. It’s my second favorite sport and one that I plan to take up more recreationally, once again, in the future. During the pandemic some tennis cards went up substantially in value, as people more broadly recognized the celebrity and popularity of the all-time greats still active in the sport. Most notably, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic took significant leaps in value. Way back in 2003, I spent a substantial amount of money, at least for that time in my life, on Netpro tennis cards. Amongst other things, I recall purchasing a case of 2003 Netpro Glossy sets. These sets were little bricks of tennis joy of which only 5000 were produced. The set contains rookie cards for Serena, Federer, and Nadal. Crazy isn’t it? It’s like having Jordan, LeBron, and Kareem with rookie cards all in the same product. No other product release in any other sport comes to mind that can boast rookie cards of that many athletes that are in the conversation around being the greatest player of all time. Of course, no one knew that would be the case 19 years ago with the Netpro sets, especially me. Unfortunately, I no longer have most of the cards. But, I did keep some special inserts from those sets, called International Preview cards, stashed away as afterthoughts in a PC card box. The cards are each numbered out of 500. I still have a Serena Williams from that set. It’s a great card that I sent out to be slabbed a few months ago. It’s a pretty cool card in my opinion.
Anyway, it had me thinking about other sports and the greats in each of them. Somewhere along the line that took me to racing and from there I jumped down into a bit of a rabbit hole. I was already aware of Lewis Hamilton. It’s hard not to be aware of the greats in sports if you’re a sports card junkie, especially a great of a sport as global as Formula 1. But, I was a bit taken aback to see a 2020 Topps Chrome Formula 1 Lewis Hamilton Refractor was selling for upwards of $3750 on eBay. Heck, I didn’t even know the card or the set existed.
I don’t think my pricing baseline has shifted to match what has happened to the card market over the last couple of years. Seeing a card less than 2 years old, that is simply a refractor version, still doesn’t feel like something that should carry that kind of price tag. But, sometimes all reality feels as if it has warped and my mushy brain bits spend a lot of energy trying to make sense of things, never to come to a satisfying resolution. So, all that said, maybe $3750 is properly valued, it could be a great bargain, or it’s an overpriced example of a modern card.
Let’s look into the numbers a bit. $3750 is the price for a refractor graded PSA 10. There are of course supply and demand elements that play into the pricing of items such as sports cards. For me, the first thing to look at on the supply side of the equation is to understand the print run of a product. How many total cards do we believe exist? I watched some case breaks of this product on YouTube and collected data, and along with finding some stated pack odds, I was able to estimate the total print run for 2020 Topps Chrome Formula 1. Here is the breakdown.
As you can see, by today’s standards, this looks to be a relatively limited product release. Compare it to, say, 2019-20 NBA Hoops Premium Stock basketball, and the print run of the base cards is less than 10% of that release. The refractor version sits at a print run of 1200 cards. So, the Lewis Hamilton card in question isn’t exceptionally rare for a refractor-style card, à la 2012-13 Panini Prizm Basketball Silver Prizms, but still has a fairly low print run for a modern unnumbered parallel. Add up all the versions of this card, including base and all parallels, and there are still less than 12000 total.
The analysis suggests there were about 3250 cases produced. At 10000 base cards, that’s an average of just over 3 base Lewis Hamilton #1 cards per case. Individual boxes of this product currently retail at $2499. That’s per BOX. There are 12 boxes in a case, so one might extrapolate a case price near $30,000. Wow. With about 2000 other Lewis Hamilton #1 parallels produced, that is about a 62% probability of hitting one of those parallels out of an entire case. For the refractor version specifically there are 1200 copies, so if we assumed the refractors are equally distributed across cases, that means about 37% of cases that would have one Lewis Hamilton #1 refractor. To put another perspective on that is that on average you would need to open over $80,000 worth of this product to pull a single copy of the Lewis Hamilton #1 refractor card. That’s quite remarkable.
Time will tell where things settle out on these cards. Is demand inflated because of the Netflix series Formula 1 Drive to Survive? Perhaps. Will the value stay as is or increase as Hamilton, Verstappen, or some of the others in the set build out their cases as the greatest of all time? I’m intrigued by the growth in card sets outside what has been the dominant US sports market. It’s fun to watch.
By the way, if you’re interested in Formula 1, the 2022 racing season officially starts on March 18 in Bahrain.
Til next time – Jeff