I just bought the Harvin Red Refractor yesterday evening, and it got me thinking. Why do I do this every freaking year? Why do I value these parallels when every other type makes me cringe?
Chrome may be the only product left that you buy not because there are hits in a box. With only one autograph in each box, and still carrying a price tag over 50 bucks per box, the product is banking on the value of more than just the value of the auto. With more than 50% of the boxes containing an auto of a non-premiere rookie, its almost a surprise that collectors still love this product as much as they do. In fact, there are a few explanations including price, value of the base cards, but also importantly, the parallels.
In every other product during the course of the year, non-auto parallels of veterans of rookies rarely take more value than the parallels in chrome. A base parallel of a guy like Tom Brady numbered to 24 in Donruss Elite versus a red refractor numbered to 25 of him in Chrome are not comaprable in any way. Elite costs more per box, has more hits per box, but the base parallels are pretty much worthless. What makes Topps Chrome parallels work?
First is design. Always design. The base chrome parallels in Topps always are some of the best looking cards of the year. Simplicity rules the game, and there are never any lightning storms on the cards. Second, they have been around for fucking ever, and collectors value the history as much as the brand itself. However, Elite has been around a long time as well. Third, I believe the name has something to do with it, as Refractor has become synonymous with rarity and cool technology. Lastly, I think the Topps brand has a lot to do with it too. Topps collectors are never going to hesitate to go to extreme lengths to complete a set. When you have people like that, who have been collecting the set since my father was a kid, you are going to have demand. Where there is demand, there is value.
I think nostalgia has a good factor in this as well, as most of the older collectors out there can remember back to 1993 Finest baseball. When you have a pedestal like that in your head, its easy to justify value of a card that has very little basic differences than other base parallels.
Also, when you have EASY to follow color schemes, the parallels become idiot proof. For instance, which sounds better? Elite Status or Red? More people can identify with a color than a word. Color is the most basic common denominator out there. If you ask anyone out there which they perceived to be a more valuable parallel, copper (/649), or gold (/10), they would always say gold. It crosses boundaries.
Im not saying you should go out there and chase rainbows, but I will say it will be fun if you do. I have collected chrome since I was a child, and I can say that I have never had many complaints about the basic concepts of the product. For every player I have collected, I have a chrome rookie, usually multiples. The fact that there are thousands of people out there like me will mean that the brand will never lose its bang. Chrome is king, even in football.