The Card Collectors Beginners Guide Part 3: Parallels by Matt Gilman

Written by Matt Gilman

Greetings Fellow Collectors!

Welcome back to my series of Collecting Basics where I break down the hobby of card collecting piece by piece.

In Part 1, I discussed and broke down what Base/Common Cards are. Part 2 we got deep into the confusing Sp’s and especially Variations and today we will tackle something a bit simpler to explain, Parallels.

Before I move onto explaining parallels I will say that once again, parallels can be found in all sports and non-sports and not just in baseball like my examples.

Parallels are simply base/common cards that are amped up, visually and graphically, either a little or a whole lot as you will see.

Here is a base card from 2013 Topps of Jason Heyward on the left and it’s parallel on the right, a blue bordered one. Some parallels are simple like these and some are much cooler.

Some will have an added rainbow foil like this 2018 Topps Series 2 Francisco Cervelli,

Some may have a gold border like this 2018 Topps Big League Stephen Piscotty

Some may be straight up gold like this 2018 Topps Mike Zunino

Some may have some bloom of color like this 2018 Topps Series 2 Independence Day parallel of Dwight Smith Jr.

Some may have a purple border and are numbered on the front of the card like this 2018 Bowman Whit Merrifield,

And some may have a gold border and they are numbered on the back of the card as opposed to the front like this 2009 Topps Kelly Shoppach.

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“What’s the extra numbering mean” you may ask?

The Shoppach I just posted is numbered 1291 out of 2009. That means there are 2009 of these Kelly Shoppach gold bordered cards in existence. The card that I have is the 1291st of it. Numbered cards like these have been around a long time.Now to get onto a few more parallels that can be a bit confusing. The examples above are the usual easy ones to define. The next ones are not so easy.

These parallels you can find in the Topps Gypsy Queen baseball product line.

Here is a base card of Hector Neris from 2018 Topps Gypsy Queen baseball.

Here is the pink parallel that you can find in retail packs (packs you find at retail stores) of 2018 Gypsy Queen of Hector Neris.

Here they are side by side. Try not to hurt your eyes trying to tell the difference. I honestly missed this parallel the first time when I was sorting cards assuming it was base. Til I discovered this Neris base comparison.

Here are a few more parallels from the 2018 Gypsy Queen product that may cause some confusion. Missing Team name plate. Can you spot it? Look under the position for this Carlos Carrasco card up in the right hand corner, see the blank spot? He is missing his team.

Next up, this Gypsy Queen Logo swap. Look at the Gypsy Queen logo above on the Carrasco card and now compare it to the one on this Jean Segura card, different.

These are not easy to spot all of the time so you have got to keep your eyes wide open when you open packs or buy singles from 2018 Topps Gypsy Queen. I suggest checking out a few websites that may help you tell the difference. I believe Beckett put the complete gallery and explanation in their magazine.

Not all of Gypsy Queen has complicated parallels. There are some easy to spot ones as well.

Such as this Green one of Lance McCullers Jr,

And this numbered 201 of 250 Indigo parallel of Clayton Richard. Here is the front and back of the card.

Another couple of products I wanted to cover in my parallels post were some chromed ones as chromed products are loaded with them. Most products that have a chrome covering can have up to 15 different parallels.  Yes, 15 different.  It’s a bit crazy compared to the ones in the 90’s where there was only one or maybe two at most.

Let’s start off with this 2018 Topps Chrome base card of Aaron Judge. Simple and beautiful common card.

And now take a look at a 2018 Topps Chrome refractor (which is the name of the parallels in Topps Chrome) of Yoan Moncada. Can you see how it has a rainbow shine to it compared to the Judge?

Let’s put it side by side with the Aaron Judge base card so you can see the difference much better,

You will also know that you have a refractor card because the back of the card will tell you so. Look under where the base card number is and you will see the word, “Refractor.”

Back in the late 90’s when chrome came to life, Topps used to put the word refractor on the back so you would know whether you had one or not.  In the 2000’s, Topps dropped the writing on the back for quite a few years before bringing it back recently.

Topps has also expanded the number of refractors since the 90’s as well like I stated above. Two or three has turned to 12 or 15. That makes for a crazy chase and for some wacky tacky designs.

Here are a couple examples of those refractors.

A 2018 Topps Chrome Prism refractor of Addison Russell. Notice the wavy designs in the background compared to the plain refractor above of Moncada.

And a 2018 Topps Chrome Sepia Refractor of Domingo Santana. Notice how the overall color of the card is one color.

Most refractors are easy to tell the difference between what they are.  Others can be a bit more challenging and need visual aids. I like to use Beckett’s website or Cardboard Connection website for help with those.

Another chrome-type product is Panini Prizm. These cards use the chrome technology but are made by another company so they have a different name. However, they do have just as many if not more parallels sometimes.

Prizm doesn’t have “refractors”, or the writing that they are one, like Topps Chrome, they have Prizms. It can be a bit weird calling Prizm parallels Prizms. I still like to use the name refractor in this case but its technical name is Prizms. Call it what you want is my opinion.

Here are a few examples of what Prizm Prizms look like.

This Mike Schmidt is from 2014 Panini Prizm. This is a basic silver Prizm parallel.

Here is what a 2014 Panini Prizm Camo/Military parallel looks like in this Hisashi Iwakuma card.

Up next another example of a different parallel is this blue mojo of Brewers Carlos Gomez. Some products will have a blue parallel as well. So sometimes telling the blue vs blue mojo can be a bit of a challenge. My only tip is to look to see if the coloring has a wavy look to it like this one. Check out the left side of this Carlos Gomez card.

Finally, one more example of a funky refractor, sorry Prizm Prizms, is this 2015 Panini Prizm Purple Flash Prizm of Yan Gomes. Once again, there may be just a plain purple parallel as well. Just keep an eye on whether it’s just plain purple or has some wavy effect to it.

That does it for today for parallels. Next time we will get into Inserts, Relics and Autograph cards which are the main components of the product house build up I spoke about in Part 1. The Sp’s, Variations and Parallels are the walls inside the house and the Inserts, Relics and Autographs are the finishing touches such as the roofing and décor.

I hope something I wrote about today can help guide you in your journey of collecting sports cards.

Til next time, keep collecting!



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