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Problems Mount For Popular 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Planetary Pursuit Insert

planetary pursuit cards

2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Planetary Pursuit cards were an immediate hit. They are among the most sought-after in the release because they are beautiful, and some of them are extremely rare, too.

But it didn’t take too long before some on social media noticed a problem. Though the odds of each one in the set are out.

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The release of 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball

2023 Topps Chrome Baseball came out on July 26, 2023. It was well received for its pleasant design and high levels of quality control. People noticed that the centering was far better than it had been in previous years.

Of course, Fanatics dropped the number of autos per box, which was bad news for all of us.

The release had a strong set of parallels and inserts. The inserts had a space theme, which is quite common in our beloved hobby.

But it stood out because they came in a set based on the planets. The set includes:

  • The Sun
  • Mercury
  • Venus
  • Earth
  • Jupiter
  • Saturn
  • Uranus
  • Neptune
  • Pluto

Well, not exactly, because not each represents an actual planet, but they are close enough. There are ten players for each planet. The further away from the sun they get from the sun, the less common the cards. That is just a great concept, and it captures the imagination of the hobby very quickly.

Shop for 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Planetary Pursuit cards

The Planetary Pursuit Inserts

Because they are pretty rare and because everybody loves the planets. The structure of the set is clever, too. The most common card is the sun. That is because it is in the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Then, the further away you get from the sun, the more scarce and desirable the cards become, at least in theory. As we will see, things have not entirely worked out that way.

When the product dropped, the Planetary Pursuit inserts attracted more attention than most. In particular, people wanted the Pluto variation. It was by far the most scarce of the set. And, of course, it is the most controversial planet of all. So, who wouldn’t want one of those?

The first Pluto surfaced and was purchased in September. That made some waves in the hobby, as people had been waiting to see what they would go for.

The self-proclaimed “Collectibles Guru,” Mr. Eric Whiteback, Tweeted as the news of the sale broke: “The first “Pluto” card to surface was this Julio Rodriguez, and it just sold for $5,200. Do you think this is a fair price for a card that’s 1:43,999 packs? What do you think of this set in general?”

Pretty soon, Planetary Pursuit fever was upon us. It became one of the most talked about elements in the 2023 Topps Chome release. There were three reasons for that. First, these cards are beautiful.

They look great online, but if you can see one in person (I have seen two), they are remarkable-looking cards. Second, planets are just super cool. The fact that the rarity was determined by distance from the sun is a great touch. Third, Pluto was just so darn rare, at least on paper.

Excitement builds for Planetary Pursuit

The famous Mario Alejandro account on X posted: “More Rare Than A Superfractor ! Hate it or love it, 2023 @Topps Chrome Cosmic has taken #thehobby by storm with the Planetary Pursuit inserts being one of the toughest rainbows to complete in a very long time.

The most accessible version to find is The Sun at 1:120 packs, and with boxes running at $450+, even The Sun will likely cost you some serious money. A completed rainbow may be close to impossible to complete. Pluto, the toughest PP inserts to find, falls at 1:43,999 packs.

So, will the extreme rarity of the Planetary Pursuit inserts be reflected in secondary market sales? A Corbin Carroll Pluto recently hit eBay with a $50,000 asking price but failed to sell. I think 2023 Cosmic may be THE release of 2023 for baseball cards.”

Planetary Pursuit odds

The Planetary Pursuit Cards got attention because they are beautiful. But also because they are pretty rare. The rarity of those cards is also why it didn’t raise too many alarm bells, and there weren’t more pulls recorded of some of these variants.

Here are the odds for these cards:

Shop for 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Planetary Pursuit cards

Planetary Pursuit CardOdds of Finding One In A Hobby PackOdds of Finding One In A Hobby Box

First of all, we are very mature people here at Cardlines. That is why we refuse to joke about the Planetary Pursuit Uranus card. It just won’t happen.

We have class. Second, we are pretty sure that some nerd somewhere decided that Pluto is not a planet, but rather, it is a dwarf planet. You always learn something here. Third, the sun isn’t a planet, folks. It just isn’t.

Anyway, the focus here is on the Planetary Pursuit Venus card, which, as you can see, is among the more common items in this release. It’s that little dwarf planet that you really want, at least in theory.

Controversy surrounding the Planetary Pursuit insert

After the initial excitement surrounding these inserts, people started showing concern. More Pluto items than expected were showing up on eBay and social media. Meanwhile, the ostensibly more common Venus variant was nowhere to be found.

Soon, people were saying that the Venus cards did not exist. Some people wanted to complete an entire set of cards. With Venus missing, that would, of course, be impossible.

When the Venus cards finally surfaced, there was a lot of suspicion about how they got there. One account on Twitter speculated: “The cosmic Venus parallels that were never placed into packs are starting to show up on eBay. The same seller lists 2. I’m sure it will be very interesting to hear the stories behind how these came to be!”

The suspicious Steel City Breaks Pull

So far, there have been no Venus cards sold on eBay. However, in March, Steel City Collectibles released a video showing two Mike Trout Venus cards. They claimed that the two cards were pulled in back-to-back packs.

YouTube video

That made many people suspicious. An account called (somewhat evocatively) I am Meatballs wrote,“I reached out to one of the consignment sellers, who noted these started showing up in breaks in the last couple weeks. Here’s a Steel City vid from a week ago where they suggest they pulled a Trout Planetary Pursuit Venus parallel in back-to-back boxes.”

There is suspicion that Topps is covering up the problem by providing the cards to specific breakers. Is this a conspiracy theory? Maybe. But this is a strange story.

This wasn’t the first time people had been skeptical about the numbers for this release and linked the scarcity to the big breakers.

“I was listening to the Sports Cards Nonsense podcast yesterday, and they talked about that. They are breakers, have broken a few cases so far, and were very skeptical about print runs on those cards. Seems like they are popping much more frequently than they should. But of course, knowing Fanatics, it’s always possible that the breakers got all the hot cases with more of these cards, so it seems that way. I’m curious how many people pull them out of personal boxes compared to breaks.”

Right now, there are three Venus cards listed on eBay. Two of them are from the same seller, MC Sports Cards.

Too many players on Uranus

The problems didn’t stop with Uranus. And no, I will not make a proctologist joke here. They also spread to Venus.

A concerned individual Tweeted, “When is @Topps or @Fanatics going to take responsibility and make a statement about this? This is a way bigger deal than people think. Uranus cards are all selling on the secondary market under the pretense that they are 1/20,000 packs and they are like 1/400. No Venus cards have surfaced. A card in one of the most sought-after sets of the year doesn’t even exist now, and no one is hearing anything about it. Imagine chasing a planet set to think Uranus is rare, and you just need a Venus card left. What a joke.”

Soon, there were Reddit threads and YouTube videos about how there are more of the Uranus Planetary Pursuit cards on eBay. Then there should be.

YouTube video

There are certainly grounds for suspicion here. The Planetary Pursuit Uranus cards should come one per every 1,005 hobby boxes. That means that according to the estimates of the biggest nerds in the hobby, there should be about 5 copies of each card. However, people have noticed no shortage of these cards on eBay.

For example, I just checked out the Planetary Pursuit Uranus cards for Francisco Alvarez, the up-and-coming catcher for my beloved New York Mets. There are currently ten for sale. Similarly, there are ten for Adley Rutschman for sale. Yes, folks, too many promising young catchers dwell on Uranus.

What are the Planetary Pursuit Cards selling for?

At first, the market thoughtfully took the numbers Topps had provided on the Planetary Pursuit cards. Therefore, the Uranus cards were selling for healthy numbers. So, back in September, someone bought the Julio Rodriguez Uranus Planetary Pursuit card for $2,500. Since then, prices have plummeted as people realized these cards were not rare. By March, they were selling for $146.

That makes sense. Not only are these cards more common than expected, but they are now famous for being common. That does nothing to increase a card’s value.

Are the odds for Topps Chrome Planetary Pursuit card legit?

It is always hard to tell if a card company’s numbers are accurate. In the age before social media and eBay, it was next to impossible. But today, we have enough information to get a general idea.

Let’s see how many of each are currently listed for sale on eBay

Planetary Pursuit CardOdds of Finding One In A Hobby PackHow many are listed on eBay  

Counting listings on eBay is not a scientific way of counting what is at out there. However, you can see that the count generally confirms the expected ratio. But not very cleanly. The clear and main exceptions are (as we suspected) Uranus and Venus, both of which are completely out of whack.

You would expect Venus to have about 65-70 cards listed here instead of the paltry 3 that we have here. Indeed, as we said, these were so rare that for a long time, collectors thought the Venus cards didn’t exist at all. Meanwhile, the Uranus is about ten times as common as you would expect. By this ratio, there should be about 9-10 instead of the 99 accounted for.

Were Venus and Uranus odds switched?

There has been a theory that Uranus and Venus were accidentally switched in terms of their odds. The Collectibles Guru Speculated about this: “Across all 10 players in the set, only 2 total “Pluto” cards have publicly surfaced so far. “Uranus” cards are listed as 1:20,087 packs…so one would expect about 4 or 5 of these to have publicly surfaced. However, 89 Uranus cards have already sold, with another 120 actively listed on eBay.

Where this gets interesting is that Venus is listed as 1:721. However, exactly ZERO of these have publicly surfaced! Is it possible the Uranus and Venus odds got switched? Or is it more likely that there are two mistakes… Uranus cards have the wrong odds listed, and Venus cards are entirely missing.

It also seems possible that the cards that were supposed to be Uranus cards remained Uranus cards, but actual Venus cards also got printed as Uranus cards.

However, that theory doesn’t really track either. The numbers for the Venus insert seem about right for Uranus. However, they are probably somewhat on the low side there. You would expect to see fewer than 99 for Uranus if it was meant to represent Venus. But it is at least closer to what you would expect.

Do Jupiter and Saturn Have the Same Odds?

Another surprising result is that Jupiter and Saturn have the same number of listings. That is despite the fact that there should be twice as many Jupiter cards on the market.

So, while these numbers may not be completely accurate. There is a good chance that Jupiter and Saturn were placed in packs at the same or similar rates. If so, Saturn is far more common than listed, while Jupiter seems about right.

It is also notable that there are more Neptune and Pluto cards than we would expect available. But that is with a very small sample size. That probably means nothing.

What has Topps said?

As of now, they have said nothing. When the company has an evident and provable error, they try to fix it. That has been the case with their various 1/1 mistakes recently.

But in this case, there is plausible deniability. In addition, unlike in other instances where you can institute buybacks, this would be more difficult to fix. Therefore, we are not surprised that Fanatics has remained silent so far. However, they really should engage with the fans. They have made too many of these mistakes lately for hobby enthusiasts to feel comfortable.

We hope they will address this issue. But more importantly, there is a need to address the overall problem here. Why do matters regarding how many hard copies are circulating keep coming up? What is Topps doing to prevent this problem from reoccurring? It is hard to ignore this problem now. It may not be a crisis or anything like that, but it is a recurrent and insistent issue.

Why this is a problem

Here is an example of why these incorrect numbers are a problem. In this video (starting at 4:06), the individual making it explains that he bought an Aaron Judge Uranus card. At the time, there were five pulled, when according to the math, there should only be around five altogether.

But after this information came out, he said, “Now I am kicking myself. Since this card has been delivered to me, I am noticing that there are now about ten or so Judge Uranus cards out there.” And, of course, that means there are more since you will never have all of them on eBay simultaneously. I’m not happy about that at all.”

YouTube video

Final thoughts on the 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Planetary Pursuit controversy

For most of us, this isn’t a huge deal. It is just an amusing anecdote. But this isn’t a victimless issue. People bought the Uranus Planetary Pursuit cards at much higher prices than they were worth early on. That is because it was believed that there would be very few of them. However, they are far more common than thought, so prices plummeted. Anyone who bought one of these early on got burned.

The bottom line is that none of these little problems with Topps cards are a big deal. Making mistakes is understandable. Lord knows I always make them at work, and I am glad there aren’t thousands of people on social media analyzing them. Honestly, I am sympathetic.  

However, they do add up. When I looked at odds or got a low-numbered card a couple of years ago, I didn’t overthink whether the numbers were accurate. Now I think twice. And justified or not, that is a crisis of confidence.

In the YouTube clip I shared, the guy says, “I learned from my mistake. I pulled the trigger too quickly, and the odds are not what they say on the website.” And sadly, that is what we are all learning. The odds on the Topps website and the cards’ numbers are inaccurate. That is a problem when large sums of money are involved.

Of course, there is also the suspicion that Topps has tried to cover up this problem by providing Venus cards to select breakers. We cannot confirm this and probably never will be able to, but this kind of suspicion enters the hobby when mistakes are made and not admitted.

Shop for 2023 Topps Chrome Baseball Planetary Pursuit cards

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.
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