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A Diamond in the Rough

A Diamond in the Rough


This guest post came through our Article Submission Program. Thoughts and opinions are those of the author.


Hellooooooooooo sportscard …….just kidding, but I do find Geoff ‘s introduction truly amazing! I, like most of you, began collecting in the “junk wax” era and recall begging my grandparents for a few dollars to “hit” up the local convenience store with my brother and cousins to rip a few packs of 1990-91 Upper Deck hockey, with hopes of pulling a Gretzky or Hull. Fast forward 25 years and after a long hiatus from collecting, I find myself once again immersed in the hobby. Let’s get started!

With the surging prices of baseball hobby boxes and scarcity of retail boxes, many collectors and investors are left feeling both disappointed and frustrated in today’s roaring market. However, after researching, I believe I have found a market discrepancy and found a product we can indeed be excited about.

To begin, 2018 Topps Update baseball has been one of the top-selling products in the baseball card collecting community…and why wouldn’t it be? With rookie cards of Acuna, Soto, Devers, Torres and Ohtani to name a few, makes the set fun to collect but brings huge price tags. 2018 Update Hobby boxes(series 2) are now selling for over $700 USD and retail blaster boxes near $140 USD. Rewind to last year, these blaster boxes could be purchased from Walmart and Target for around $30. Excellent ROI for someone who got the start in the first inning!

One of the main chase cards in the 2018 Topps Update set happens to be the Ronald Acuna Jr. US #250 RC. With recent PSA 10 sales over $200, the price of this card, as well as other mainstream rookies in the set is quickly escalating and becoming out of reach for many collectors. Try “picking up” a parallel of one of these stars in a PSA 10 is another story. However, after some market analysis, I bring you some news that may get the average card enthusiast excited. Insert drumroll… let me introduce you to the 2018 Topps Holiday Set. The Topps Holiday box is released every year during the Christmas season and has been in production from 2016 to present. This product can be purchased for around $30 or less at retail stores such as Walmart and Target. I believe this product to be significantly undervalued and to use the cliché, “one of the best bang for your bucks” would be an understatement considering its massive upside potential and collectability aspect. Let’s dive in!

The 2018 Topps Holiday product, to quote Axel Rose is, “loaded like a freight train” with rookies of Acuna, Torres, Devers, Andujar and Ohtani to name a few, along with some interesting and fun parallels. This set contains a significantly smaller checklist than the Topps Update 2018 and as a result, one has a much greater chance of “pulling” a pack fresh rookie card of one of the aforementioned stars. After all, it is fun to rip wax, especially when affordable.

When one compares the PSA population reports of the base rookie of Acuna in Update vs. Holiday a discrepancy is apparent.  At the time of the article, there are a total 21,853 USA#250 Update Acuna’s with 14,894 grading a PSA 10. Contrast this to 4,609 Holiday Acuna’s with 3,651 in PSA 10.  Although true collectors and set builders may seek the top “rookie” product and most would agree that this “variant” holiday rookie of Acuna is not his “true rookie,” there is still tons of value both from a collectability and investing standpoint. Allow me to explain.

It should be noted the 2018 Update Acuna has more parallels & autos (20 + cards) vs. the Holiday set, but the Holiday set also has some short print parallels, including Metallic Snowflakes, autos/relics and the coveted Gold Snowflake. I realize with all the variations in the Acuna 2018 Update; one cannot compare apples to apples or, better yet, Acuna to Acuna. However, a major discrepancy in price and population is present. There are currently 455 Holiday Metallic Snowflake Acuna’s with 322 being a PSA 10. The average cost of a Metallic Holiday Acuna PSA 10 being $270 and $85 for an ungraded. After doing some homework, a close comparison regarding parallels and population counts can be made. The Acuna Holiday Metallic Snowflake and the Rainbow Foil Acuna #250 from Topps Update, both have very similar images on the card and close population counts but differ significantly in price point. With Rainbow Foil Acuna’s selling in a PSA 10 for $800+ while ungraded are in the $320 range. Although the Rainbow foil has less of a pop count, this does not account for the huge price differential between the cards, in my opinion. Furthermore, another card in the 2018 Topps Update is the Acuna #250 Red & Blue shirt with a total pop count of 533 and PSA 10 pop of 400. This card sells for more than both the Holiday Metallic and Update Rainbow foil, even though its pop count is higher than both the Holiday Metallic and Update Rainbow foil! However, the card image does differ significantly from the Holiday Acuna and Update Rainbow Foil Acuna. Please see the comparison chart below.

                                                       ACUNA  POP & PRICE REPORTS

2018 Holiday Acuna Base raw4,609
VS.2018 Update #250 Base raw21,853      $40-4514,894
2018 Holiday Metallic Snowflake raw455
2018 Update Rainbow Foilraw396
2018 Update Red &Blue533

                                                 RETAIL BOX PRICES AS OF SEPT 2020

2018 Update Retail Blaster10 packs$140 USD
2018 Holiday Retail Blaster10 packs$40 USD

   *** as one can see the Holiday cards are roughly 4 x as rare but worth 3 times less in base versions and with similar pop counts in the Rainbow Foil versions are worth almost 3 -3.5 x as less***

***The Holiday Acuna when compared to the Update Red &Blue is of extraordinary value in price and pop counts!

Note: A Holiday Metallic Acuna (above&left) has sparking snowflakes that are raised and can be felt on the card vs the Holiday Base Acuna which just has “regular” snowflakes (above&right)

Base Acuna 2018 Topps Update US#250                    Rainbow Foil 2018 Topps Update#250

Similar pose on card vs Holiday Acuna                      Similar pose on card vs Holiday Acuna

                                                                                    (Rainbow Foil reflects light when card is held)

Clearly, one can conclude from the charts above that this product is undervalued. The 2018 Topps Holiday set is a more affordable avenue for some investors to pursue. Furthermore, if history were to repeat itself, we can see the value in short print retail cards. A known example of this would be the 2011 Mike Trout Topps Walmart Blue RC. The total population of this card is 173, with 76 being a PSA 10. This retail Walmart Blue RC commands insane premiums ranging from $8,000 to $20,000 USD! I realize that one cannot compare a Walmart Rookie price of Mike Trout to a Walmart Acuna, as Trout is a proven “generational” player and Acuna’s career has only begun. Still, one can see the value that short print retail cards command. One day, these “snowflakes” may snowball into an AVALANCHE! Interestingly, the scarcity of a card does not necessarily parallel card prices, as there are numerous Wagner and Mantel cards that are far scarcer than the famous T206 Wagner and 1952 Topps Mantel but fetch a much lower premium on the market. Remember, the hobby will always dictate the “true” rookie card. That being said, find below 12 reasons to be excited about this Topps Holiday Product.

The 12 Days/reasons of Christmas /Acuna Topps Holiday

  1. Price Point -Topps Holiday cannot be beat (currently $40 USD box) -10 packs
  2. Product is Rookie Loooooaded-Acuna, Torres, Lindor, Devers, Anduar, Ohtani etc…
  3.  Small checklist-makes odds of a rookie pull huge
  4. PSA POP counts- are low= scarcity=value
  5. Metallic Snowflakes -although rare are an easy enough pull since the set is relatively small
  6. Acuna-prices are stagnant in the market compared to higher prices of Tatis & Soto due to their “hot” recent play, but Acuna is a 3 “tool” player with massive appeal-hitting, defense, speed and personality
  7. Nostalgia -set is released around the Christmas season, kids will remember opening the set around the holidays when they are older and gravitate towards it once again
  8. Parallels –set has many “cool” parallels, more so in the 2019 Topps Holiday, including candy canes, garlands, christmas lights & santa hats. These cards appeal to children (like myself ) and get them excited about the cards and the hobby. As children are the future of the hobby, this collectability aspect is HuuuuuGE.
  9. Bat down pose– Acuna’s Holiday rookie mimics the elusive/expensive “bat down” pose of his Topps #698 RC –another topic for a later day. It’s a Great one -like Wayne!
  1. Walmart Trout Example– huge investing potential in retail/parallel rookies as seen by the 2011       

Mike Trout Walmart Blue RC prices. INSANE.

  1. Perfect Storm Principal– Market discrepancy, low price point & recent pull back of Acuna’s prices, presents an amazing opportunity for investors/collectors

12) Everyone loves the Holidays!

This article is meant to stimulate thought and discussion around variant rookie parallels in the hobby and give the collector a more affordable and potentially more lucrative avenue to invest and collect. The article is just my perspective on the product and I would like you to familiarize yourself with this set and form your own decisions. Full disclosure, I do have in my collection blaster boxes of 2018 Topps Holiday as well as Holiday Metallic and Base Acuna’s… and may look to add more! This data would be interesting to input into the Market Movers Tool to find further gaps and values in this product…podcast… maybe Geoff? Although this article focuses on Acuna, there are many other great rookies in this set to collect and be excited about with a much lower price point! Now, knowing this information, who else could be of value in Topps Holiday 2016 (Seager, Story) 17 (Judge/Bellinger), 18 and 19, as I assume this market discrepancy exists throughout. Have you heard of Fernado Tatis Jr? Maybe…just maybe, you will be lucky enough to find a box of Topps Holiday nestled under the tree this season. Happy holidays and happy hunting. Stay safe.

We often forget about sets and boxes like the 2018 Topps Holiday. Great article with a lot of valuable information regarding that “loaded” set with amazing stars in it! If you would like to share any “hidden gems,” we would love to hear from you. The author, Robbie, started a COVID-19 social awareness campaign. This T-shirt campaign donates all its proceeds and provides “face masks” to marginalized populations and focuses on the importance of social accountability. If you have the opportunity, check out the website at

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View Comments (10)
  • Nice article! I am pleased to see this as this is the approach I’ve taken over the past 6 months with many Topps Holiday RC’s currently in the grading cycle.

    • Thanks….yes product is fairly affordable and with short checklist….can grab some rookies up. Think the product will have to go up as the scarcity and price point of the cards dont add up. Try to get some garland tatis in 2019.

  • Thanks so much for this thoughtful and well written article. For buyers on a budget, we are always looking for recommendations on creative and alternative ways to enter the market…with the added bonus of fun and excitement of opening packs!

    • Thanks….I think it is the best option to grab an acuna and tatis from a pack …..think odds of getting a base acuna are 1 in 3 boxes and metallics are failry rare …think print run of 2900. in Acuna….so better off to buy a metallic acuna vs trying to pull one ….2019 holiday also has some garland cards and christmas light tatis that are fairly rare.

  • I was able to grab a 2019 Topps holiday Tatis ssp of the lights on his chain…. definitely holding onto it as from what I’ve been able to find, has a print run of about 300. Definitely still lurking around for an Acuna metallic at the right price.


    • Thats great…love the lights card…hard to find. the lights …have a garland card too…the .metallic acuna…try to get them near 300….think they will go up….holiday boxes of 2016 and 2017 have spiked in prices but 2018 and 2019 have not….think there is great value in the 2018 and 2019 set…..especially with acuna and tatis.

  • Some great Acuna relic auto’s in 2018 and Tatis auto’s in 2019 that are low numbered and look amazing.
    Pricepoint is reasonable for low numbered auto’s for these guys.

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