Hobby Musings: Rookies make their mark on baseball in 2017 – The Houston Astros are fresh off their first World Series victory and baseball is getting set for what should be an interesting off-season. For as exciting a year as it was on the field, the baseball card market also saw a nice boost thanks to a strong rookie crop. Led by Rookies of the Year, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger, baseball card products sold at a blistering pace with many stores unable to meet overall consumer demand. For more on what this year meant for Topps and its baseball card products, I had the chance to catch-up with Susan Lulgjuraj, the company’s Marketing Communications Manager. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: With the baseball season now over, how would you sum up the 2017 year in baseball trading cards?
SL: Even though MLB is in the off-season, we have trading card products still on the calendar. Topps still has a number of great releases planned from now until the end of the year, including High Tek Baseball, Bowman Draft Baseball and Dynasty Baseball. But it’s been an amazing season. We had a great time creating compelling cards.
KS: In terms of Topps’ business, how has it compared to previous years?
SL: We are excited about the direction Topps is moving. We have seen growth and that continued in 2017.
KS: Out of all the products you’ve produced this year, which one do you think resonated the most with fans?
KS: From a trading card standpoint, is there anything you’ve seen from this season that was particularly encouraging?
SL: We’ve had a number of hobby shops tell us about how great National Baseball Card Day was for them. It drove in new customers, people they’ve never seen before. We were excited to partner with the hobby shops and help baseball fans enjoy this fun hobby.
KS: Who would you say was the trading card MVP of this baseball season?
SL: Aaron Judge caught the attention of longtime and new collectors. Just about everyone wanted to own his card.
KS: It was a very notable year for rookies in baseball. Out of all of them, who would you consider the trading card rookie of the year?
SL: Aaron Judge!
KS: If you look past some of the bigger names like Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger and Andrew Benintendi, were there any other rookies who proved to be steadily popular with collectors?
KS: One of Topps big baseball brands lies with Bowman, which is the home of the rookie card. As we start looking towards the 2018 season, who are some rookies who could debut next year that collectors should keep an eye on?
SL: Bowman is home to baseball’s top prospects. It’s the place to get cards of players before they become huge stars. Bowman is different because we can include players before they make it to the Major Leagues, but those aren’t rookie cards. They are considered prospect cards. When looking at Rookie Cards for 2018, some of the most notable players will include Rhys Hoskins, Clint Frazier, Rafael Devers, and Amed Rosario.
KS: One of the interesting wild cards of this free agent year is Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani. If he does end up signing with a team, what kind of plan do you think you would roll out for his trading cards?
KS: There are some interesting names available in free agency and potentially in trades, including Yu Darvish and Giancarlo Stanton. Speculative as it is, which player do you think could see the biggest hobby spike with a move to the right team?
SL: Often times, collectors tend to enjoy cards of big hitters, which was seen by the excitement surrounded by Aaron Judge. Giancarlo Stanton could garner more attention if he wound up with a big-market team. But the thing about Stanton is that he commands attention no matter where he is because of how great of a player he is.