Topps has been printing Update sets for a long time, going back to when they were called Topps Traded back in 1981. These sets consisted of players who were traded during the season and also rookies that were called up during the season. In the past, Update sets were typically factory sets, in which you got the full set in one purchase. This was a popular trend in the 80s, fueled by competition between the three major brands (Topps, Fleer and Donruss). For Topps Update, sets were sold in complete form all the way through 1994. But in 1995 Topps turned Update into a set that had to built the traditional card collecting way, through opening packs.
Topps seemed to decide that variations were the way to sell the Update product, which started out as “Traded” and would later become called Updates & Highlights and later just Update. That was probably a good move, since the popularity of the factory sets depended entirely on whether there were hot rookie cards that people wanted to chase. By turning them into booster pack sets, they could include some inserts and create a chase for the rookies and stars in the set.
Topps was right. Eventually, they would start including relic cards and even autograph cards. They later included photo variations and other short printed versions of cards in the set. Variations are hot with collectors, especially player collectors, who just need to have the short-printed variations for their personal collections. So, even though the Update sets don’t have large base checklists, pulling individual cards is actually more difficult than you would think. Now, you don't just chase key rookie cards. You now have multiple other cards of those rookies to chase, as well.
Is Topps Update produced in smaller quantities than the Bowman sets? There isn’t any data to show this, but there is definitely a crazy amount of demand for these sets. Having short printed (SP) variations, especially ones that are serial numbered, has made the Topps Update set a major favorite every fall. The scarcity of the SPs clearly helps to create enthusiasm for the product.
People really do like the photography and design of the Update cards. But, what drives the recent Update sales are the pure amount of good players included in the sets. Then when you consider the short-printed photo variations and serial numbered parallels, suddenly you can be opening multiple cards of the same player - something that is pretty cool for collectors..
Let’s take a look at three of the best Topps Update sets in recent memory: 2015, 2017, and 2018 Topps Update.
Key players: Kris Bryant, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Noah Syndergaard
Kris Bryant is featured right on the box of 2015 Topps Update, and after a 2018 season that was awful by his standards, he has bounced right back in 2019. He is the chase card in the 2015 Topps Update set. Lindor got off to a slow start in 2019 due to injury. Correa had a rough 2018 but has bounced back nicely in 2019. Buxton showed signs of breaking out in spring training, and has enjoyed some success in early 2019. Noah “Thor” Syndergaard has posted inconsistent results in 2019, but his underlying peripherals such as quality of contact and walk-to-strikeout ratio are still solid.
Kris Bryant 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
194 PA, 11 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, .270 AVG/.397 OBP/.566 SLG/.963 OPS
While 2018 wasn’t a bad year for Bryant considering injury, it was bad by his standards. A lot of fans hoped he’d bounce back, and through late-May, he was on pace for his best season yet. His quality of contact and peripherals back up the comeback.
Francisco Lindor 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
114 PA, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 5 SB, .294 AVG/.342 OBP/.480 SLG/.822 OPS
A calf injury during spring training, plus another injury, got Lindor off to a slow start. But collectors seemed to stick with him, and while he’s not hitting at the pace of 2017 or 2018, he’s still been good.
Carlos Correa 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
185 PA, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB, .295 AVG/.357 OBP/.578 SLG/.935 OPS
After a pretty bad 2018, Correa bounced back in a big way. Those who stuck with him after people sold hard in 2018 are being rewarded in a big way. Playing for a great team like the Astros helps, too.
Byron Buxton 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
155 PA, 4 HR, 24 RBI, 8 SB, .275 AVG/.335 OBP/.514 SLG/.850 OPS
Buxton is better known for his speed and defense, but he has power that before has only been glimpsed at the major league level. With the Twins playing well, Buxton is finally putting things together, making those collectors that believed in him quite happy.
Noah Syndergaard 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
3W 4L, 4.50 ERA, 10 GS, 64 IP, 63 K, 1.19 WHIP
“Thor” has had a back and forth 2019 season through May, but the Mets haven’t been all too good, either. The good news for his collectors is that he’s still striking guys out and not walking too many people. Giving up 8 HR so early after giving up all of 9 HR in 2018 is really all that’s the problem. He should be fine.
Just on the strength of these five players, 2015 Topps Update is still a solid set. In late May 2019, these boxes sell on eBay for about $180 to $185 when including shipping. This is an strong surge from when they were selling between $100 to $120 (shipping included) in April. In early May they jumped up to about $150 on average and haven’t looked back.
Without a doubt, the strong seasons from Bryant and Correa, plus good showings from Lindor and Buxton, are key reasons for the jump in price. Syndergaard’s Update rookie card is still a popular card, too. Beyond the big five names, there are also rookie cards for hot 2019 players like Gio Urshela of the Yankees and Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers. Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto also has a rookie card in the set. You’re guaranteed at least one auto or relic card (aka a “hit”) in every box, and those hits can be quite good in this set.
Available on thePit:
2015 Topps Update Series Baseball Hobby Box 2015 Topps Update Sealed Box - ONLY $149!
Key players: Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger
Aaron Judge was incredible in his 2017 rookie season and while injured some in 2018 he still put up good numbers. 2019 hasn’t been kind to Judge on the injury front. Fortunately, Cody Bellinger decided to become the talk of the baseball during the first couple months of 2019, so he’s become the key player to chase in the 2017 Topps Update set.
Aaron Judge 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
89 PA 5 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB, .288 AVG/.404 OBP/.521 SLG/.925 OPS
The injury prone Judge hits when he plays, there is no doubt about that. Of course, if you’re on the injured list, you’re not producing, and that hurts the value of your cards. Once one of the hottest guys in the hobby, his continued injury risk has certainly concerned many collectors and especially investors.
Cody Bellinger 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
194 PA, 17 HR, 44 RBI, 7 SB, .405 AVG/.485 OBP/.791 SLG/1.276 OPS
Bellinger’s video game numbers probably won’t last, but cutting your strikeout rate in half from your rookie season (26.6% in 2017 to 13.8% in 2019) means there’s obvious growth here as a hitter. Best of all for Bellinger fans, StatCast sees his quality of contact as backing up this ridiculous offensive output. It predicts a .399 batting average and a .745 slugging percentage. So, while he won't finish the season with these averages, this hot streak reflects a truly great hitting talent.
2017 Topps Update also has rookie cards for Oakland A’s star third baseman Matt Chapman, Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong, Yankees first baseman Luke Voit and rising starting pitcher Domingo German, and Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi.
Obviously, Cody Bellinger’s massive 2019 season is carrying the set, but the return of Judge and the continued success of these other players is going to help the sales of 2017 Topps Update. You can actually find a box of 2017 Topps Update between $100 to $110 on eBay. But, in just April 2019, you could find boxes for $70 shipped, and even less per box if you bought two box lots.
But, most collectors are opting for the Jumbo box which has 10 massive 50-card packs. A regular box of 2017 Topps Update contains only one autograph or relic card, but the Jumbo box guarantees an autograph AND two relic cards. Those are selling between $155 and $165. The Jumbo box is clearly the better buy, because of the guarantee of an autograph. Like 2015 Update, these boxes have jumped in the past month: they were $100 to $120 in late April! It’s not hard to see why these jumped so quickly, though - since the multiple variations of Cody Bellinger cards in the set are on fire right now.
Available on thePit:
2017 Topps Update Series Baseball JUMBO Box 2017 Topps Update Sealed Box - ONLY $149!
Key players: Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, Gleyber Torres
2018 was a good year for rookies. The Braves had Ronald Acuna Jr and Ozzie Albies perform, and they continue their success in 2019. Juan Soto was a nice surprise for the Nationals and has become one of the hottest players in the entire hobby. Shohei Ohtani lived up to his hype in 2018, though injury has set him back big time in 2019, especially on the pitching side. Gleyber Torres turned out to be an awesome steal by the Yankees, as he’s bloomed into an everyday infielder who has become an anchor for the Bronx lineup.
Shohei Ohtani 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
51 PA, 2 HR, 8 RBI, .267 AVG/.353 OBP/.400 SLG/.753 OPS
While Ohtani won’t pitch in 2019 due to arm injury, the lefty slugger recently returned to the Angels lineup as the Designated Hitter. It’s been a bit of a slow start, but he’s been OK. More encouraging is that he’s hitting the ball hard (95.3 MPH average exit velocity), so the power numbers should come. He’s still a good investment at least on the offense side. That’s good news for this set.
Juan Soto 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
154 PA, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB, .246 AVG/.364 OBP/.438 SLG/.802 OPS
Soto burst onto the scene in 2018 seemingly out of nowhere for the Nationals. While he’s experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump through mid-May, striking out a lot more than in 2018, he’s still been a productive hitter. He’s still an exciting player, although perhaps expectations should be a bit more tempered.
Ronald Acuna Jr. 2019 (as of 5/19/19)
199 PA, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB, .281 AVG/.372 OBP/.480 SLG/.852 OPS
After a slow start in 2019, Acuna Jr. returned to the phenom he was in 2018. One of the hottest players in the hobby, his forward momentum probably won’t stop anytime soon.
Ozzie Albies (as of 5/19/19)
211 PA, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 4 SB, .268 AVG/.322 OBP/.438 SLG/.760 OPS
While he had a strong debut in 2017, Albies really came into his own in 2018. In 2019, he’s pretty much the same player as he was in 2018, but is walking somewhat more and having more consistent quality of contact. He should be the Braves starting second baseman for quite awhile.
Gleyber Torres (as of 5/19/19)
180 PA, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, .293 AVG/.330 OBP/.503 SLG/.833 OPS
On the surface, Gleyber is having an even better season for the Yankees than in his rookie year. He’s actually striking out less, too. He is also walking less, though. Overall, though, he’s hitting for the same amount of power, but getting a bit more lucky on balls in play. No reason for Yankees fans to really be that concerned and collectors probably should be happy with the power number results alone.
Like with 2015 and 2017 Update, you are guaranteed one Auto or Relic card in each hobby box. The 2018 Topps Update hobby box is selling for about $120 including shipping on eBay, but the jumbo boxes are pushing $175 to $200. But, even in late April, you could find hobby boxes closer to $100, and some as cheaply as $70. The jumbo boxes have jumped about 20 percent, as well.
Because of the sheer number of relevant players in the 2018 Topps Update set, the regular hobby boxes of this set could push $150, especially with a big return from Ohtani (which is very possible) and continued success of others like Soto, Acuna, et al. There are also breakout performers like Austin Meadows and Shane Bieber in the set, too, so there is even more potential in this set from an investment standpoint.
Available on ThePit:
2018 Topps Update Series Baseball Sealed BLASTER Box - Only $22!
2018 Topps Update Series Baseball BLASTER Sealed 16 Box CASE - Only $349!
2018 Topps Update Series Baseball Sealed Hobby Box - Only $105 - $115!