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Too Many Parallels: A Rant

Updated: Apr 9

As I promised you last month, here it is: a not-quite Atlas Shrugged-length rant on parallels.  

I’m not here to argue the advantages and disadvantages of parallels.  I know they appeal to a certain segment of the collector base that enjoys the thrill of rarity and variety.  But parallels have challenges of their own related to cost, oversaturation, quality control, and perceptions of artificial scarcity.  And look, I get all that.  They’ve been in The Hobby for over 30 years and parallels have been well established by now.  The perceived rarity has added value and variety and made set collecting, for those brave enough to try to build a parallel set, a challenge.  (See my quest to finally complete my 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection set below.)

But the sheer number of parallels is out of control and bordering on self-parody at this point.  The recently released 2023-24 Panini Prizm Basketball has a grand total of 63 (SIXTY-THREE!) parallels.  2024 Topps Baseball Series One has 34.  These are up from eleven and thirteen ten years ago, respectively.  Obviously, Panini and Topps must be responding to “consumer” demand, right?  They’re just giving us what “we” want, and “we” want more low-numbered hits.  Right?


Oh sure, “consumers” say they want “color” and I’m sure there are still some who genuinely get excited by a Tie-Dye NukeFractor numbered to 99 of some left-handed reliever or backup catcher.  But no matter what the card looks like and no matter how limited it is, much of us really don’t want these cards.

If you don’t believe me, do what I did at that card show in Virginia Beach I wrote about last month: find a dollar box and start digging.  There sure are a lot of parallels in there, aren’t there?  And they’re not all the “common level” of parallel, either (e.g., Silver Prizms, base Refractors, unnumbered Topps parallels, et al).  You’ll find a lot of colored parallels, patterned parallels, die-cut parallels, and serial-numbered parallels.  

But you’re not going to buy those cards, because you and most collectors really don’t want these cards.

Let me give you an example of a low-numbered, colored, parallel you’re not collecting.  Let’s say you rip open a Hobby box of Topps Series One and you pull a serial-numbered card of the kind of player we used to call a “semi-star.”  Salvador Perez of the Royals is a perfect example.  Perez is a very good player: eight-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover.  One of the last links, if not the last link, to the 2015 World Series Champion Royals.  Heck, he even led the A.L. in homers a couple of years ago.  Perez is a good player who, despite his accolades, is for all intents and purposes, not relevant Hobby-wise – or least not relevant within a 150-miles radius of Kansas City.   Now, let suppose your big hit in that box of Series One is a “Green Crackle Foil” parallel of our man Sal – which is serial-numbered to 499 copies.  

Who is collecting this card?  Because you’re not.

Oh sure, there probably someone out there who PCs him – you can probably count the number of Perez collectors on one hand and have a few digits left over.  And I’m sure there are some Royals team collectors out these who are trying to build the Green Crackle Foil team set.  Complete set collectors? I doubt there’s anyone out there trying to piece together a full 350-card set.

(Although there are those that do collect parallel sets.  There are collectors who go after the annual Topps Gold parallel – which is serial-numbered to the year.  And there are those to collect the Topps Chrome, Bowman Chrome, Finest, and Bowman’s Best Refractor sets.  And like I alluded to before, I’m trying to build a 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection set.)

So, we’ve determined that their may be, at most, three or four Salvador Perez super collectors out there.  And there are probably a couple dozen Royals team set collectors who might be interested in this card.  Who’s going to buy the remaining 475 copies?

No one, that’s who.

These cards are going to wind up in some dealer’s five-dollar box.  Then at the end of the year, it’ll get moved to the two-dollar box.  Finally, by this time next year, it’ll get marked down to the dollar box, where it will remain until the end of time.  Because no one really wants this card.

Now ask yourself, how exactly are all these parallels “adding value?”  Does anyone working in product development realize this?  Do they even care?

Now let’s move on from the junk parallels of today and go back 30 years to 1994 and to what is, without a doubt, the greatest parallel set ever produced.  Of course, I’m talking about 1994 Pinnacle Museum Collection.  For all you Young ‘Uns out there, Museum Collection is a one-in-four packs rendition of the 540-card Pinnacle base set done in Dufex foil.  Each card had an announced production of 6500 copies; however, none of the cards were serial numbered.

Ah yes, Dufex.  Throughout the 1990s, Pinnacle Brands was known for Dufex inserts – which were produced by a British printing company that, unfortunately, has gone out of business,and with it, the proprietary process.  A full 540-card set done entirely in Dufex was certainly ambitious, but the results were spectacular.   

A couple of years ago, I was sitting on a pile of two dozen ’94 Museums and decided to try and build the rest of the set.  Well, I can now say that I’m down to only ten cards – all in Series Two.  Of those ten, three are redemptions.  (Yes, they had redemptions in 1994.)  Because these cards were produced in Great Britian, and the time it took to produce Dufex cards, five cards in Series Two packed out as redemptions.  

Fortunately, these five are all commons (Robb Nen, Stan Javier, Craig Paquette, Kirk Reuter, and Geronimo Berroa), and the only other “name” players I need to finish this set are Mike Mussina, Jose Canseco, and Will Clark.  Unfortunately, those last three redemptions I need (Nen, Javier, and Berroa) are almost impossible to find, and grossly overpriced whenever they do show up.  (There is a Robb Nen on COMC for $103.70!)


And now some random thoughts …

  • Is The Mint Collective dead?  Looks like it.  The second annual Mint Collective was around this time last year, and their website hasn’t been updated since.  I remember having an argument with Dr. Jim Beckett on an edition of Hobby Hotline on whether The Hobby really needed two similar “B2B” conferences (Mint Collective and Beckett Media’s own Industry Summit).  Since The Industry Summit didn’t run last year and TMC appears to be dead, I guess that question is settled?

  • I just got back from a weekend in Portland.  (The one in Oregon, not Maine.) There is no reason for anyone to ever go to Portland.  What a depressing, dreary, city.  I did find a halfway decent card shop in Beaverton.  If your travels ever take you to that part of the country, check out The SportsRoom.  

  • My friend Paul Lesko recently Tweeted, “I’d like to see a Hunter S. Thompson style journalist covering the industry. Full gonzo journalism.”  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t following Stale Gum in the late 2000s.  Although, I wish there was a Dave Meltzer-style “dirtsheet” covering The Hobby.

  • Topps was pre-selling Hobby boxes of 2024 Topps Heritage on their website for $94.99.  Wait a while and soon, you’ll be able to by two at that same price.

To wrap-up, you know the deal by now.  If you got any questions, comments, trade offers, you can slip into my DMs, or shoot me an e-mail.  All my wantlists (separated be year) are up on my website.  Maybe you can help me with my 94 Museum Collections? 

Keep on rockin’ in the free world. 


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