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A Comprehensive Guide To Topps Dutch Auctions

topps dutch auctions

Three years after Panini introduced Dutch auctions for their First Off The Line boxes, Fanatics is taking the same route with some Topps products.

The 2023 Bowman Sapphire – Online Exclusive set was the first Topps Dutch auction offering. Recently, Topps announced that the high-end 2023 Topps Definitive Collection Baseball set would be sold using the Dutch auction pricing model.

Dutch auctions bring a unique twist to the traditional method of purchasing boxes at a fixed MSRP. It transforms a boring purchase into a thrilling and strategic experience. However, Topps Dutch auctions haven’t been without its detractors.

This comprehensive guide shall discuss everything about Topps Dutch auctions.

Check to see if there are any current Dutch Auctions on Topps.com

Dutch Auctions

A Dutch auction (also called a descending price auction) is a type of auction where an auctioneer starts with a very high price and incrementally lowers the price until the item is sold or reaches the floor (lowest price). This contrasts with typical auctions, where prices start low and rise as multiple bidders compete to be successful buyers.

To put it as simply as possible, every item for sale in a Dutch auction has a ceiling (the highest price) and a floor (the lowest price). The auction starts at the highest price and steadily decreases until it sells out or reaches the lowest price.

Dutch auctions are perfect for instances where a large quantity of an item is being offered for sale instead of just a single item. Panini introduced Dutch auction to the hobby with their FOTL offerings in 2020.

Understanding Topps Dutch auctions

It’s vital to note that Topps’ Dutch auction model slightly differs from a traditional Dutch auction. In a traditional Dutch auction, the actual price of the offering is determined from the last price covering the total offer quantity. At the end of the auction, all bidders would pay the same price. However, this isn’t the case with the Topps Dutch auction.

When the auction begins, the product will be available for sale at a starting price set in advance by Topps and clearly visible on the page. After a set period, for example, five minutes, the price will decrease by a set interval, and customers can purchase at that new, lower price.

While the amount and time intervals at which the price decreases will vary by product, the price will continue to decrease until the auction reaches the floor price or the product sells out. With each price decrease, customers will have the opportunity to purchase at the new price.

Orders placed early in a Topps auction would have a greater chance of successfully purchasing before the product sells out. The drawback to this is paying a higher price. You stand the chance of paying a lower price for the product if you wait until later in the auction before placing an order.

However, you also risk missing out if the product sells out before you place your order. Only a limited number of boxes will be available, and the auction ends once it is exhausted.

Check to see if there are any current Dutch Auctions on Topps.com

Pros and cons of Topps Dutch auctions

The introduction of Dutch auctions to the hobby has faced mixed reactions. However, like most things, the unique pricing model of Dutch auctions brings advantages and challenges. Let’s explore the pros and cons of Dutch auctions concerning the hobby.

Pros

Price efficiency

A major pro of Dutch auctions is that it leads to more efficient pricing. Ideally, collectors, through the collective decisions, would determine the fair value for the set on offer. This results in a more accurate reflection of the set’s actual market worth.

Transparency

The descending price structure of Dutch auctions provides transparency. Collectors can observe the diminishing price in real-time before deciding to purchase. The Topps Auction setup lets buyers see how many boxes are left at each price point. Collectors can hold off on purchasing until they feel it’s at a fair price.

Dynamic decision-making

A Dutch auction turns a boring purchase into a dynamic decision-making process. As the price decreases over time, collectors must strategically assess the best moment to purchase. This adds an extra layer of strategy and excitement.

Fair value determination

Dutch auctions allow for the fair determination of an item’s value. Topps Dutch auction has a slightly different dynamic to conventional Dutch auction. However, each collector determines the appropriate price to make a purchase.

Cons

Complexity

The descending price model of a Dutch auction can be quite complex for some collectors to navigate. Unlike traditional auctions, where the bidding increments are straightforward, Dutch auctions require participants to assess the evolving value of an item in real-time.

Risk of overshooting

This is even more true with the Topps Dutch auction dynamic. Collectors run the risk of purchasing the ceiling in a bid to avoid missing out on making a purchase. Usually, only a limited number of boxes are up for sale, and they can sell out fast if the demand is decent.

Limited bidding window

Dutch auctions operate within a limited time frame. This compressed bidding window may not suit all participants, especially those in different time zones.

Check to see if there are any current Dutch Auctions on Topps.com

Popular Topps Dutch auction products

Dutch auction is a new concept when it comes to Topps trading cards. While Topps has used the Dutch auction price model on their Topps Now offerings for some time now, these were on single cards.

2023 Topps Bowman Sapphire Edition

Topps’ first complete set sold using the Dutch auction model was the 2023 Topps Bowman Sapphire Edition.

Long-time Topps collectors should be familiar with this set and its exclusive finish. As with previous Sapphire boxes, this was a 150-card set. Buyers were guaranteed one autograph per box.

As expected from a Sapphire box, the parallel list was quite small (6 total, including the 1/1), with those landing 3 per box. Non-autos are /60 or less, and autos are /99 or less.

Base Parallels

Green Sapphire – #/60 (1:9 packs)

Aqua Sapphire – #/55 (1:10 packs)

Orange Sapphire – #/50 (1:11 packs)

Purple Sapphire – #/25 (1:22 packs)

Red Sapphire – #/10 (1:54 packs)

Padparadscha Sapphire – 1/1 (1:526 packs)

Autograph Parallels

Aqua Sapphire – #/99 (1:53 packs)

Green Sapphire – #/50 (1:57 packs)

Orange Sapphire – #/25 (1:112 packs)

Purple Sapphire – #/10 (1:279 packs)

Red Sapphire – #/5 (1:562 packs)

Padparadscha Sapphire – 1/1 (1:2,830 pack

Topps 2023 Bowman Sapphire Dutch Auction

Unlike other Bowman Sapphire offerings, the 2023 Bowman Sapphire was sold using a Dutch auction model. It had a ceiling of $850 and a floor of $350. The price started at $850 and reduced by $25 every five minutes.

Because the previous Bowman Sapphire had an MSRP of $200 and the 2023 Bowman Sapphire came with a floor of $350, collectors were understandably not pleased.

The 2023 Bowman Sapphire Dutch auction ended with the product hitting the floor price of $350 before being sold out. Topps came out to say the product went out of stock at $375.

We do not have details of how many boxes were sold at the various price points. However, less than one-tenth of the boxes were purchased before the $400 price point. A substantial number of boxes were purchased just above floor price of $350.

Verdict

While the Bowman Sapphire product is usually a fantastic box, Topps’s first attempt at a Dutch auction price model wasn’t a vibrant success. It was rejected along the way by collectors, and it ultimately only sold out when it hit the lowest possible price point.

Topps quadrupling the price didn’t help, and even offering a smaller print run didn’t sway collectors.

2023 Topps Definitive Collection

Topps’s second attempt at selling a product using the Dutch auction model came six months after their first Dutch auction. The selected product was the 2023 Topps Definitive Collection.

Check to see if there are any current Dutch Auctions on Topps.com

Keeping to its “hits-only” reputation, the 2023 Topps Definitive Collection Baseball offers on-card autographs and premium relics. While the base set isn’t big when it comes to size, it has an all-hit checklist.

2023 Topps Definitive Collection Baseball autographs

  • Defining Images Autograph Collection
  • Definitive Autograph Collection
  • Definitive Rookie Autographs
  • Dual Autograph Collection
  • Definitive Trios Autographs
  • Framed Autograph Collection
  • Legendary Autograph Collection

Topps 2023 Definitive Dutch Auction

Definitive ticked all the right boxes for a Dutch auction, a high-end product with many loyal collectors. Topps didn’t announce the ceiling for the 2023 Definitive set. Collectors were to find out once the auction went live.

However, the 2022 Topps Definitive had an MSRP of around $1,300, so buyers expected the floor to be around that figure.

Although there were rumors of a ceiling of $3K and a floor of $2500. The Dutch auction was scheduled for November 8, 2023. However, Topps postponed the Dutch auction for the 2023 Definitive.

The product was available two days after the previous release date with a new sales model. Topps had discarded the Dutch auction sales model, opting for a fixed price of $1,999 per box. The product sold out minutes after sales went live on the website.

Verdict

Like the first Dutch auction, the idea of a Dutch auction for the 2023 Definitive release was widely rejected by collectors. However, unlike the Bowman Sapphire release, Topps scrapped the Dutch auction idea and instead went with a fixed-priced sale model.

How to partake in a Topps auction

Topps Dutch Auctions are new, and no boxes are guaranteed to be sold using the Dutch auction price model. Topps will make prior announcements when any release will be sold using the format. The ceiling and floor prices will also be made available in advance.

Anyone above 18 (or the age of majority where you live, whichever is greater) with an active Topps.com account is eligible to join an auction. Simply create a Topps account and visit the auction page while logged into your account.

Additional eligibility requirements are outlined in the Topps Dutch auction Terms, which can be found here. It’s worth pointing out that there’s a purchase limit for each account during an auction. The limit per transaction and the number of transactions allowed per customer vary by the product being auctioned.

Check to see if there are any current Dutch Auctions on Topps.com

The General consensus of the Dutch auction sales model

Opinions about Dutch auctions in the trading card collecting community have varied. However, the general consensus for Topps adopting the Dutch auction sale model hasn’t been favorable. While you could potentially buy a product on the floor, very few auctions ever hit the floor prices.

However, it’s easy to understand why trading card companies adopt the Dutch auction sales model. Most boxes go straight to sell for up to 10X their MSRP. Collectors have accused trading card companies of cutting into their potential profits by running Dutch auctions.

Rather than release a product with a fixed MSRP, they run Dutch auctions with a very high ceiling. There will always be someone (breakers, collectors with bigger pockets, or naïve collectors) who will purchase at the ceiling.

This would trigger “FOMO” as collectors see the number of available boxes going down and rush to place an order before they miss out.

True Dutch auctions

However, a Dutch auction is not without its benefits. It is my belief that everyone in the hobby would embrace a “true” Dutch auction. While the first Topps Dutch auction was similar to Panini’s FOTL auctions, Topps shelved their plans for their second Dutch auction.

The company is considering ways to run a Dutch auction in name and deed. Josh Luber, co-founder of StockX, has a great idea for a perfect Dutch auction for the hobby. It was already tried with the introduction of Zerocool’s Veefriends release. It’s called a blind auction, and as Luber explains it in his interview with Forbes;

The blind part is that you allow everybody at the same time to bid on the products. You tell everybody what products are available and exactly how many are available. If there are 10 widgets available for sale, you give everyone three days and they can place a bid for what they’re willing to pay for the product. You don’t have to try to beat someone else’s bid, there’s no time clock that you have to beat, everyone has the same fair chance. At the end of the auction period, if there’s 10 widgets, then the top 10 bids win. And that is a very clear, logical, fair system.

But the way that the products get priced is that the lowest of the winning bids, so in that case, the 10th highest bid, becomes what’s called the clearing price, and everybody pays the clearing price, even the person that was the highest bid. So if those 10 bids come in and they’re $1,000, $900, $700, $600 and the 10th highest bid is $ 400 then everybody pays $400, even the person that bid $1,000.”

The major difference between this and what Topps (and Panini) runs is everybody gets to pay the minimum qualifying bid per product.

Conclusion on Topps Dutch auctions

Fanatic’s introduction of the Dutch auction pricing model to their Topps product has opened an intriguing chapter for collectors. The inaugural auction may not have been a resounding success.

However, it’s noteworthy that Topps shelved plans for a follow-up with the 2023 Definitive release. Fanatics acknowledged the need for refinement as the Panini model of Dutch auctions is clearly not a hit with collectors.

Unlike the copycat of the Panini model seen in the first Dutch auction, there is optimism that Topps will take the time to craft a Dutch auction model that resonates positively with the collecting community.

The inherent benefits of a “true” Dutch auction as a pricing model for trading card is undeniable. When executed effectively, it introduces a dynamic and strategic element that creates an exciting atmosphere while ensuring fairness in price determination.

As we eagerly await the relaunch of Topps Dutch Auctions with even more products, there’s a collective hope for a refined and improved model.

Check to see if there are any current Dutch Auctions on Topps.com

John Bassey

John Bassey

John is a freelance writer and founder of WordCraft Consult, a consultancy that provides expert writing services and enhances youth engagement in reading. With six years of writing experience and over 300 clients, He has made significant contributions as a content writer for several brands, such as Tech Triangle, KBO Bikes, Dolls Magazine, and, more recently, Cardlines.

John has a Bachelor's degree in Statistics and an enduring passion for creating content.  He is  currently dedicated to nurturing WordCraft while advancing appreciation for collectibles and literature through highly informative articles. 

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