As promised, here’s my take on this year’s Heritage. We bought ourselves a box from the good folks over at Dave and Adam’s and broke it on video because we love watching ourselves talk. Check out that video (and leave a comment/subscribe/rate us609247 stars if you’ve got a second- it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and we’d better get something for our $80!) and settle in for a classic Community Gum review! Yes, after 2 months of blogging, I think it’s fair to call ourselves classic. I told you we were vain.
Heritage is the set that, like for many people I’ve talked to, got me back into the hobby. Seeing today’s stars on yesteryear’s designs had a charm and appeal that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. When, in 2004, I finally bit the bullet and dove headlong into trying to collect that year’s set, I also found the set to be delightfully collectible. Yes, getting all those damn SPs was a pain and no, I still haven’t completed a single set from the 3 years I gave it an honest try (2004-2006), but I still had a great deal of fun. Heck, I even jumped on the Cracker Jack and T205 releases of that era as well, retro-overload be damned!
Jumping back into the card world at the end of last year, I eagerly awaited the 2010 offering. I (unlike lots of others I’ve heard) am actually a fan of the’61 set and I looked forward to writing this review for the blog. Since my initial re-rentry, however, I’ve grown a little weary of the Heritage brand. In classic Topps (or any company that ever existed ever) style, they’ve bled the well dry. When I first heard about the Heritage High Number addition to the fold, I was skeptical… with good reason, as it turns out. The 2008 and 2009 Heritage High Numbers that Jon and I have opened have the distinct air of cash-grabbiness that turned me off to cards in the first place. And that trend has crept into the 2010 set.
In this year’s set, you’ve got the standard compliment of inserts and SPs- New Age Performers to highlight the stars, Then & Now, Baseball Flashbacks and the utterly unnecessary News Flashbacks to connect present and past… all acceptable. Chromes, refractors and black refractors are back as well (I used to count on these to offset the cost of my set-building, only to find them selling for $1 or $2). The relic checklist is, perhaps, the worst ever but since no one cares about Heritage relics, even the big names go for $5. The auto checklist is always interesting, with some modern stars and semi-stars signing hand-numbered on-card versions of their base card (non-numbered ones too) and some seriously obscure players from the era signing reprints of their ’61 Topps cards in the same configuration. The big names of the retired variety are a huge catch- pull that Ernie Banks and you’ll be singing Heritage’s praises for years. Pull theReno Betroia that Jon pulled in his own box and you’ll be scratching your head.
Also head-scratch-inducing are the ridiculous gimmick super short prints they’ve started adding to the sets in recent years. This time around it’s a couple of color variations in the team name area. Gotta get ’em all! Usually these gimmicks correspond to some similar phenomenon in the original set, but there (coupled with the layout) is where the connection ends. The photography of the 1961 set was, while maybe not iconic, had a certain feel to it that was distinctly of its time. Modern photography, even with the kind of half-assed “just take down the saturation” Photoshop treatment Topps batch-applied here, just doesn’t have that same feeling. It’s obvious that Topps took a stab at picking the best choice to match that style from their available options, but matching the photographic style of an era is an artform. I would love to see Topps invest in sending out a team to capture photographs specifically for this set. Or maybe they blew their budget on Julio Lugo game-used pants.
This year they’ve added essentially 4 new insert sets in which I couldn’t possiblyhave less interest: Chase ’61 (in Ruth,Maris and Mantle exclusive varieties) and manufactured stamp “relics” that harken back to the Topps stamp semi-oddball set released in 1961. Why would they add 4 more sets of unlimited inserts? So they can pack your box full of them instead of numbered things like chromes and autos and produce more boxes total. And then sell them to suckers with blogs.
All of my complaining about these inserts and gimmicks above is leading to one main point about Heritage. Less a point, really, than a question. Where is the value? I hear so many complaints about Heritage brushed off by a simple “Well, that’s a set for set collectors” that I’m just not buying anymore. Creating a whole additional set on top of the already-impossible-to-collect-for-under-$400 set and adding unlimited inserts to pad the boxes seems a fine way to alienate set collectors. And, after they’re gone, who will be left? No one cares about the relics or rookies in this product. Player collectors don’t care if their guy is an SP or not. So how can Topps get away with charging $75 a box?
Look, we pulled a truly sweet A-Rod chrome! Whatever you think of this guy, this is an awesome card- the chrome adds a lot of depth to the background. This was, by far, the best hit of our box. If we catch a good wave on eBay, it’ll sell for $20. Not bad- throw in the other couple of chromes and the Posada refractor and you’ve got another $10. Add the SPs and maybe $20 more. Insert total, maybe $5. The base you can’t give away because everyone who wants a set has to buy 16 boxes just for a chance at getting all the SPs. Add it up and you’ve got yourself a reasonable $55 box, give or take. We paid $80.
Now, don’t get me wrong- the hobby isn’t all about calculating return on investment. It’s a hobby, after all! And opening this box was fun. Total, unadulterated fun. But was it $25 worth of fun? That’s a movie with my lady (with popcorn… but no gum) or a sweet Blu-ray (yes, that’s my real life wish list). By this point, you’ve probably decided that I’m jaded and/or cynical and I suppose you’re right. When I was a kid, I opened a pack for the thrill of it and I tried to collect the whole set for that accomplished feeling I got when the final card came into my possession. Those things still have value to me. But now I’ve got rent to pay, so I demand more from my entertainment and my hobby. I demand to not be handed a more and more inferior product each year. Just as when, in thelate 1990s, TV really sucked compared to theatrical movies, people stopped watching until the networks wised up and shelled out a couple million for a pilot of Lost andwon them back. I want Heritage to win me back. But this year’s gum left a bad taste in my mouth (literally and figuratively) and I’m not very happy about it. I wanted to badly to dive into Heritage this year to kick off the baseball season. But I can’t. This year, I’m tuning out.
Base set: 163/425 (38%)
SPs (1:3): 9/75 (12%)
Clubhouse Collection Relic: Jermaine Dye (Jsy)
Chrome (1:5): 6/100
Chrome Refractors (1:18): 1/100
Baseball Flashbacks (1:12): 2/10
News Flashbacks (1:12): 2/10
Then & Now (1:10) 2/15
New Age Performers (1:15): /15
Ruth Chase ’61 (1:4): 6 /15