As a kid, factory sets were the worst! They lacked the thrill of the chase, ripping open packs to find that insert card on the cover of Beckett Magazine. The excitement level of opening a factory set was equal to scratching a lottery ticket to only win another free ticket.
If you’re unfamiliar, factory sets are produced by the manufacturer and include every card in the base set. Typically nothing less and nothing more, and sealed with tape and/or shrink wrap. Since you know what’s inside, there’s not many reasons or urges to break the seal. They’ve always been a worthy investment if kept unopened, but I’d much rather open and enjoy the cards.
My first factory set was 1998 Topps football, likely because they included five randomly assorted insert cards. Insert cards were the ONLY cards that mattered in the ’90s. 😂 I immediately removed the shrink-wrap, opened the box, shuffled through the cards, removed the inserts, and put the base cards back in the box. This process repeated a few more times over the next decade, including a couple of seasons of sliding them into the clear pages of a card binder to flip through and admire. Generally, over the past 22 years, the box has lived a lonely existence in the depths of my closet.
Meet 1992 Topps Gold
When I jumped back into the hobby in April, one of the first YouTube channels I found was Matt’s at PSA Collector. I watched his video opening a 1992 Topps Gold basketball factory set. He picked up two of these sets in October 2019 for $65 each. At the time of the video, only seven months later, they were selling for an average price of $200 each. Why?
The 1992 Topps Gold factory set is unique because it’s technically a parallel insert set. Each regular card’s Gold foil variation was already randomly inserted in 1992 Topps boxes once per pack. Assuming no duplicates, you could have theoretically purchased 396 packs to complete the 396-card Gold set. Reportedly, only 10,000 Gold factory set boxes were produced. They also featured an exclusive 7-card Gold Beam Team insert set, which inherently was also limited to 10,000 sets. But what’s really driving the demand and increased prices is that it contains the 1992 Topps Gold Shaquille O’Neal rookie card. While the boxed factory sets were selling for $200, the Shaquille O’Neal graded in a PSA 10 was selling around $1,000. Not to mention, four different Gold Michael Jordan cards and the Gold Beam Team set (another Shaq and Jordan).
Okay, Matt, you got my attention. I started watching the 1992 Topps Gold factory set on eBay, and the price climbed to almost $350 each. A few weeks after his video, I got super lucky and sniped a newly listed, Buy It Now on eBay for $260. Today, 3-months after Matt’s video, the set is selling for $450, AND the Shaquille O’Neal graded in a PSA 10 has climbed and leveled off around $2,100. 😲 I haven’t unboxed my set yet, but I plan to and share the experience when I do.
A New Buying Perspective
PSA Collector’s chase for the 1992 Topps Gold Shaquille O’Neal and the explosion of graded cards shifted my perspective of factory sets. By opening and grading the key cards, you can enjoy the card and still preserve its condition. Graded factory set variations aren’t as sought after by collectors because they weren’t pulled from a pack, but the truth is there isn’t a way to distinguish them in most sets. Topps released a variation for their factory sets called Topps Collection: 1999-2004 for football and 2003 for basketball. Baseball has also released factory set variations in recent years. Besides those few instances, the card you pulled out of the factory set was the same card you pulled out of the pack. This is true for both examples I’ve shared today, the 1998 Topps football and 1992 Topps Gold basketball.
If a sealed factory set were cared for over the years, I would project the cards to grade a PSA 9 or better. The surfaces, edges, and corners should be excellent, but the centering is always a gamble. Although it was opened 22 years ago, my 1998 Topps football set is still in great shape overall. Luckily, the Peyton Manning rookie card remained minty fresh and is soon to be on its way to be graded at PSA.
Currently, a 1998 Topps football factory set can be had on eBay for $175, while the PSA 10 Peyton Manning is selling for $1600 and a PSA 9 for around $275. For a shot at an 8-10x ROI, that’s a gamble I’m willing to take. Not to mention the set also includes a Randy Moss rookie card also selling for nearly $500 in a PSA 10.
There are many more factory sets out there with tons of potential similar to these examples. I’ll discuss what factory sets to target, to pass, and which I’m currently buying in an upcoming post.
What are your thoughts on factory sets? Do you remember your first? Which sets do you collect or invest in today? Let me know in the comments below!