Trying to understand PLL cards is hard. I try to make it less hard.

Dan Arestia
7 min readJan 28, 2022

If you’re anything like me, the trading card world is pretty foreign to you. My experience with sports cards was always as simple as opening a pack of basketball cards and hoping to get Patrick Ewing when I was in grade school (I got Alonzo Mourning much too often for my liking.)

But, I’m also aware that there is, and has been for a long time, a massive secondary market for trading cards of all types. Whether it be sports, Pokémon, Magic: The Gathering, whatever, these cards can have serious value to the right buyer. It’s no surprise that lacrosse fans clamored for trading cards from the PLL, particularly those who were already collectors of other types of cards in the first place. But in the last few days, the lacrosse twitter and collector twitter Venn diagram has become dangerously close to a circle, as people are wondering why they can’t seem to get any of the rarer, and more valuable, cards to come from the packs they bought.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today, all I really want to try and do is lay out exactly what’s been happening based on anecdotal evidence. Let’s just try and all get on the same footing when it comes to exactly what we’re talking about it, since there are all sorts of funny words and collector jargon getting thrown around.

First, the packs of cards themselves. Topps and the PLL partnered to make a set of trading cards, first during the championship series in summer 2020, and then following the 2021 season for the holidays. The discussion will focus entirely on the cards for the 2021 holiday season, as that seems to be where people are thinking something is up.

A pack of cards contains 8 base cards, which are just your run of the mill trading cards with lacrosse players on them. A pack might also contain a 9th card, referred to as a “parallel”, which is rarer and of limited print. They’re foiled, meaning shiny and holographic, and are stamped with what their level of rarity is. These parallels can either be from a lot of 25, 10, 5, or even a 1/1. A 1/1 card, which is gold colored, is as rare as it gets, and these have been fetching massive price tags on the secondary market. The Lyle Thompson 1/1 sold for $6,500. The Mac O’Keefe 1/1 went for $4,000. Not listed for - sold for. They are unique and selling as such. Cards of other rarities have three and four digit price tags as well.

It’s easy to see how, with these sales happening recently, people are excited to get their cards. Orders were delayed, backordered, etc, as these first went on sale back in November and are just now being delivered to many buyers.

Now things get interesting. Buyers had two ways to purchase packs of cards. They could purchase their packs from Topps directly, or they could buy packs via the PLL website. Based on a screengrab with print run information from the Topps site which has since been taken down, buyers calculated that the pull rate for parallels should be around 58%. This means that when a person buys packs, they should expect to get a parallel 58% of the time. Buy 10 packs, get 5.8 (5–6) parallels. Buy 100, get 58. And so forth.

Customers began receiving their cards over the past week or so, and are noticing something very different. One twitter user reported opening 150 packs of cards and getting just two parallels. Another opened 100 and got zero. Another opened 50 and also got zero.

However, that’s not everyone’s experience so far. One person opened 25 packs and got 14 parallels. Someone opened 200 packs and got 118 parallels. Someone opened 25 and got 13. A YouTuber opened 20 on video and got 9. So what’s the difference?

The difference that keeps coming up as I collect data is that customers who bought from the PLL Shop are experiencing parallel pull rates in the low single digits. This is crowd that’s opening 150 packs for two parallels.

Customers who bought their cards direct from Topps are experiencing pull rates between 45% and 60%. This is the crowd opening 200 packs and getting 118 parallels. I’ve spoken to some of the big eBay sellers, who are reporting the same thing from the large quantities they bought, with some now considering trying to either return product from the PLL store, or sell it as sealed product and never open it for fear of a very low pull rate.


I talked to some more folks today. A look at my data so far:

There’s a grand total of 2255 parallels available to be opened. 55 card set, with a 1/1, X/5, X/10, and X/25 for each of the 55 cards.

I’ve accounted for 1980 packs from the PLL Shop. Of those, 753 have been opened. From those 753, there were 11 parallels. There are a handful more in my DMs that I haven’t added to my spreadsheet yet but not a massive number of either packs or parallels.

I’ve accounted of 264 packs ordered from Topps, all opened. From those 264, there were 150 parallels. I also have spoken to multiple eBay sellers, who between them have basically given me the impression that a very small group of them can account for about 1500 packs from Topps, which is why you see a handful of sellers crushing the secondary market on eBay. But for the most part, they don’t have exact figures who weren’t anxious to share them with them at this time.

Now let’s get nuts.

Orders for cards that were filled came from two places. If you ordered from Topps, your cards came from Florida. From someone who ordered Topps cards:

If you ordered from the PLL Shop, orders were filled by the Loyalist, which ships from Michigan. Loyalist fills PLL orders for everything. If you’ve bought a t shirt, shorts, whatever from the shop, it comes from Loyalist. Now, one person who got their cards this way was able to see a label that had been hidden by shipping packaging of their box from Loyalist, see screengrab:

This reveals a few things. The quantity of the shipment via Loyalist: there are 200 packs per carton, and this was from carton 38 of 75. That adds up to 15,000 packs that were at the Loyalist and shipped to fill orders from Michigan.

Stay with me for a quick math problem. Based on this screengrab from the Topps site, we know the odds of the parallels being pulled from a pack:

Doing the math we those odds, we can come up with the fact that it should take around 20,000 packs to open all of the parallels. Applying the odds that in this screen shot to the “Print Run” number of 3863 packs comes up with the 58% pull rate or so that people who ordered their cards from Topps are seeing. I’ve talked to people in the sports card industry and with experience working for PSA, who grades cards and knows this stuff better than anyone, and they’ve confirmed my math is accurate on this.

So now, we start asking the questions. Did Topps fill their orders with just over 3800 packs, OnDemand as the listing was advertised, sticking to those odds for the parallels, while another 15000 or so went to be shipped from Loyalist? Because if so, the 15,000 from Loyalist would have significantly reduced chances of pulling a parallel card. Everyone who bought from the PLL site has their ordered fill by Loyalist and their 15,000 packs, and that would explain why everyone who has bought from the PLL site is seeing a significantly reduced pull rate on parallels.

To compound the math problem here, the PLL site is STILL SELLING PACKS OF CARDS. So, while Topps shows them as being sold out, and the PLL has shown them as backordered or delayed, they are still selling packs of cards. The printing of these cards was supposed to be OnDemand, meaning they print to order during the 30 day period the cards were available for purchase, which was between late November and late December. Or, that massive delivery of 15,000 packs to Michigan to fill orders on the PLL site? They’re still getting through it. And since it appears to have been diluted, it’ll likely continue to show the very low pull rate for parallels.

If somehow more cards are being printed, this really becomes a mess. Since the parallel’s are a defined quantity, additional prints of the set mean you must just print base cards. Obviously you can’t print more parallels (it would be a little strange to see multiple copies of a 1/1 card out there, 40 copies of a 25/25, you get the idea here). When you do that, it only further dilutes the card pool for pulling the parallels.

My data is not nearly extensive enough to draw a concrete conclusion here. But after two days of this, it seems like this is all part of the issue that is causing a negative experience for those who bought their cards from the PLL site. But this is a snapshot of what people are seeing. I’m trying to gather as much data from buyers as possible here to understand the big picture as well as I can, if there is one.

If you bought PLL cards this holiday season from anyone, I want to hear about it! All quantities, all stories, it all helps. I can be reached on Twitter at @danarestia, or email me at Dan dot Arestia at gmail dot com.