Topps Heritage High Numbers is an interesting concept on its face. And then it completely subverted the concept and fell flat on its face. The problem with it is twofold: 1)The obvious one is the price point of $100 for one 100 card set and one auto. This prices out the first world set building collectors that just want Heritage in all its forms. 2) The other and more disturbing is the fact that it is limited to 1000 copies, which is the claim for justifying the high price point.
The Heritage design of this year is memorable because 1963 Topps's design was memorable; it is colorful and lends itself well to treatment in multiple ways (see Heritage minors), so an extension of the early year release with this year's desirable rookies and blockbuster trades is commendable. The online-only distribution also isn't that bad since Topps Mini seemed to have a good supply, and there are other great cards that Topps has done online over the past couple years.
::Cue gratuitous 2011 Diamond Die Cut scans::
I also thought that the 2012 Topps Mini set was a good idea in addition to the online giveaway set cards from the past couple years. This set, though, does not feel so much as an update set, but as a money grab. There are a couple reasons I see this as being its principal case for being.
First, is that the numbering of the set does not seem to be a continuous extension of the Heritage set from this year; the numbering of the base cards is H576-H675. Where are numbers 501-575? Did I miss something? Also, since when do Heritage cards have an H at the start of the numbering? To be a true boxed traded set (not seen since 2000 Topps Traded), the numbering would have to reset to HT1-HT100 or be a true continuation a la 1981 Topps Traded.
Though the Heritage High Number sets from 2008-2009 were true high number products, they also lacked in their execution. They were coupled with Topps Update & Highlights, and had too much of an SP ratio for the size of the set. They also weren't a boxed set.
Second, is that the auto checklist is tailored in such a way to justify the cost rather than the other way around. What I mean by that is that it seems Topps put Darvish, Harper, Cespedes, Middlebrooks, and Bauer on the auto checklist, saw that they were there, and then priced the set accordingly. I don't know the price to obtain these elite hobby rookie autos, but that's the perception that remains.
The remaining question is, is it possible to profit financially from such a release? Let's say I buy 5 sets and hold them. Will the secondary market price ever exceed $100 for sealed sets? If I open them and pull the red ink Harper auto, will I recoup the cost?
The answer to the second question is easier than the first. Harper autos can generally be said to go in the $150-$400 range for unnumbered or high numbered ones. Pulling the cream autos will recoup cost, pulling Edinson Volquez will not.
The answer to the second question is at the whim of market forces. There probably can't be a significant jump in sets because of the nature of releases in 2012. If I want a limited Darvish, Harper, or Cespedes rookie, I can pick and choose from a number of them. Will the Heritage design be the magnet that draws me past all the others? I just don't see a similar jump happening than what happened with 2000 Topps Traded this season or 2011 Gypsy Queen last year or 2010 Bowman the year before. The limited nature is pre-supposed, the distribution is centralized, so there is no competition to drive up prices, and the subject matter is not exclusive.
It falls somewhere between the first and second world of collecting, though the odds for pulling an elite auto are not that astronomical if they're all inserted equally, and the ones who purchase it at first opportunity may be left holding the bag for a set that has the negative potential to be no more than a footnote.
I also can also be completely wrong, and it will go on the rocket flight of 1993 Stadium Club Murphy. Like I've been implying, the idea is sound, but the execution needs some refinement to be palatable to one of the collector worlds.
The ideal configuration for me would be $50 with a larger print run (5000? 10000?), one auto and five chrome card parallels per boxed set. I think that would grab more attention and keep more collectors involved in the long run.