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Re-entering the Hobby: Braves collection updates, Mike Soroka rainbows, and giving up on Acuña

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No, not giving up on as a player.

New York Yankees v Atlanta Braves Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

For those that are not aware, this is a series I started about my foray into the baseball card collecting world after a long absence. If you want to read about my decision to do this and why, you can look at this link right here.

Welcome back to Re-entering the Hobby which is a series that chronicles my re-entry into the baseball card collecting world. What started as a fun re-exploration of a hobby that I have a ton of affection for has predictably turned into a full-fledged obsession for me as I chase down cards and research new releases. It has been a ton of fun and the support has been overwhelming.

It has been quite a while since I have done an update to this series and this has been because of a number of factors. One, the Braves’ playoff push and subsequent bone-jarring defeat to end the season both sucked a bit of life out of me as well as took a fair bit of my time to help manage things on the site and behind the scenes. From there, it was rolling out the prospect list and all of a sudden, I found that I had not done much in the way of content regarding my collecting habit. Given that we don’t have any baseball to watch, now seems like a really good time to knock the dust of this series and help those that might be looking for another outlet for their baseball obsession.

So what have I been collecting?

This is an important question and one that isn’t easily answered because my tastes have evolved and, more importantly, how I have been collecting has changed a bit. I thoroughly maintain that just buying random packs and blaster boxes from Walmart and Target is among the more fun aspects of collecting (especially if you don’t have access to a local card shop that carries packs) and I have continued to do that throughout my reintroduction to this hobby. One of the better things that one can do collecting this way, given that your odds of getting autographs and lower numbered parallels is so low in these packs, is to stockpile the big rookie cards. Once the set isn’t so ubiquitously available after a few months and assuming the player has performed well, those rookies typically appreciate in value. This is particularly true of the big base sets like Series 1, Series 2, or Update and still fairly true of retail products likes Topps Heritage or Stadium Club. I have a big stack of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Pete Alonso, Eloy Jimenez, Keston Hiura, and Yordan Alvarez rookies sitting in my cabinet waiting for baseball to actually happen and then I will very likely move them to get something cool.

Beyond that, I have moved away from the group breaks that I had been doing and that makes me sad. I do truly enjoy doing them, but with Ronald Acuna Jr.’s cards still being so pricey (more on that in a second), the return on investment in terms of buying the Braves in a break setting is just not very good at all. While there were times last year where you could buy Atlanta in team breaks for prices that were passable because of the values and relative scarcities of some of Acuna’s second year cards, right now that isn’t really the case. Its a shame because I love me some group breaks and I am sure that the market will correct again, but for now I have moved away from team group breaks and towards player breaks and buying the singles I need.

That leads to me what I have been collecting. Given that I feel priced out of collecting Acuna in any sort of meaningful way (I still grab cards of his as good opportunities pop up, but those opportunities have come less and less), I have stayed on brand and focused primarily on collecting Mike Soroka cards...in particular non-autograph rainbows. Rainbows are essentially collecting all of the colored parallels of a given card. Doing so with an autograph card can get incredibly expensive in a hurry, but doing so with non-autographs (especially if it isn’t a rookie card) is more accessible. In fact, one of the first projects that I undertook with this series was to complete a rainbow. As it turns out, that one would prove to be incredibly difficult to complete, but I did manage to finish it very recently. This is the complete rainbow (without 1/1s) of The Future is Bright which has Acuna and Albies on it from 2018 Topps Update. The Black /67 and Memorial Day /25 parallels were particularly troublesome and I am incredibly happy to be done with it.

I have also been working specifically on Mike Soroka rainbows. This has been a lot of fun on a number of levels because, if you have followed me for any appreciable amount of time, I am a big Soroka guy as it is. Combine that with the fact that pitchers, by and large, are far less expensive to collect than position players of comparable stature and it feels like I have found my primary niche in the hobby since I am not looking to spend crazy amounts of money on any hobby which I think is going to be true of most people out there. I have so far been successful in completing two of his rainbows. The first was from 2018 Bowman’s Best and the other was from 2019 Topps Update...the latter of which was significantly more involved because of the number of different parallels in base sets versus other products.

I have also gotten pretty close on a few other rainbows where I am missing a card or two here and there including 2018 Bowman (missing just the Orange and Aqua Shimmers) , 2018 Bowman Chrome (missing just the Red...this rainbow is currently a priority for me), 2020 Topps Heritage (missing just the Gold Refractor), 2020 Topps Series 1 (missing just the Father’s Day), etc etc. The search is always already ongoing. I am also working on a complete 2020 Topps Heritage set (which has just been another use for the Heritage cards I have been getting from retail) as well as dipping my toes into the vintage card pool by trying to put together (emphasis on “trying”) a complete set of 1971 Topps. My efforts there have been....difficult, but I expect I have will have a longer update on that particular project in the relatively near future.

So what are my plans for collecting going forward?

To be honest, I expect that the foreseeable future will be devoted towards avoiding the pandemic that has swept the world and focusing on my little projects. I have put together quite the collection of Braves autos, in particular Soroka, and will always be picking up stuff here and there towards that end. The 1971 Topps set is a big project and one that has required a lot more resources than I anticipated, but we are in the home stretch with it (at this moment in time, a little over 30 cards away from completion). The biggest problems for me with 2020 card products that are coming out is that, for a group break setting, the Braves are just too expensive versus the expected return. At some of these prices, it is basically get a decent Acuna card or you bust out. However, buying a hobby box of 2020 products isn’t likely to produce much of a return because the rookie class as of now isn’t awesome and no baseball is being played to allow guys to increase their value. Don’t get me wrong, there are other Braves with cool autos in 2020 products including Soroka, Albies, and Austin Riley, but in terms of buying the Braves as a team in these products doesn’t seem wise given how much of an Acuna premium currently exists.

However, one upcoming release I will highlight is the release of 2020 Bowman on April 15th. This is the one product where we might see some new names in terms of cards and/or autographs in licensed products. I also thought this was going to be the case with the 2019 release of Bowman and the Braves’ hits in that product were....suboptimal. However, it does stand to reason that guys like Tucker Davidson, Jasseel de la Cruz, Michael Harris, Bryce Ball, etc. could be included in it with their 1sts which would be a welcome development after a lackluster Braves showing in Bowman and Bowman Chrome last year. I do plan on getting into that product some and will share the results when that happens. Before I go, here are a few cards that I personally think are undervalued on the market right now and might be worth investing in before baseball gets rolling again.

  • 2018 Topps Update Mike Soroka SP Photo Variation ($15-20 and I expect that to jump up)
  • 2019 Bowman Draft Shea Langeliers SP Photo Variation ($20ish....more affordable option than his 1st auto at the moment)
  • Max Fried rookie autos (any....his stuff is not expensive at all)
  • Ozzie Albies RC photo variations (he has a bunch and I do think his cards in general are undervalued in the market so there is a real upside here still)
  • 2019 Topps Update Austin Riley SP Photo Variation (the SSP is fairly pricey which instills a lot more risk, but the SP photo variations are in that $15-20 range. If he ends up as the Braves’ starting 3B, these will at least double in price)