In an effort to reclaim my mojo for baseball card collecting (in a time when my wallet has also lost its mojo), I thought I’d take a look at the offerings of The One True Card Manufacturer for this coming year (only 3 weeks until 2011… can you believe it?!). First was the flagship:
Real diamonds! My first thought was some disappointment that Topps has resorted to putting things of actual real world value in their product that, legally, has to state will never be valuable ever again right on its packaging. But then I let my cynicism fade a bit and I got kind of excited. Not about the BS diamond gimmick or the MCG Redux (but a different site and system? Why not just make it ongoing?) but about the product itself. The design is clean and pretty and some of the inserts seem not entirely lame. And, I’ll be honest, I really like the manufactured 1-per-box pseudo-relics. They usually look really cool. Oh, sure, the 3 Andrew Carpenter autos I pull from our case will be a bummer, but this looks like a rollicking romp through a relatively cheap forest of cardboard. Series 1 of Topps is always weird because it comes out not that long after Update and doesn’t really have much to offer except some airbrushed uniforms of winter trades (Kerry Wood in a Cub uniform again at a RIDICULOUS home town discount? Hendry just got his Christmas gift early). All the RCs are in Series 2, sans the Red Hots. We pulled the redemptions for Castro and Boesch last year and they look pretty cool (Castro is already on his way to Iowa for $5.99 plus shipping) so that’s a plus for Series 1.
More relatively forgettable announcements of the usual suspects followed. Opening Day’s announcement was met with a universal “Meh” as, even after all these years of it, I still don’t understand why it exists. I don’t hate the design… well, the parts of the design that aren’t identical to the normal issue. Take a look at the autos:
See? Not so bad, right? I get what they’re going for… the price is right, even without the hits and it’s an easy set to put together. But I just can’t get into it. I know Jon bought some looking for Marmol and Dempster and I’m sure team set collectors want their teams from the set but I just don’t hear anything from people buying this stuff. Anyone out there a bigger fan than me? Anyone care to explain why I have no interest in it (aside from the obvious cash-grabbiness of the concept)?
Speaking of no interest, it looks like Topps’ minor league set is coming back next year. Maybe it’s all those old Mother’s Cookies Modesto A’s cards I saw at shows as a kid, but minor league cards may always have the smell of “oddball” to them for me.
Another clean, basic design similar to that of the flagship. Not terrible or anything, but certainly not enough on its own to drag me into the minor league mire. I know it’s en vogue to bash Topps for its sticker autos (I’ve certainly done my share) and, even though I’m getting sick of the complaints, I do have to say that sticker autos on a minor league product is truly weak. A Topps rep could go to Omaha and get Moose here to sign the 1500 (or whatever ungodly number of auto cards they’ll put in this set) in the dugout before the game. These guys are VERY accessible and that Topps didn’t bother to have the cards ready to go in time to send off to these guys in time to get them hard signed strikes me as truly lazy. Not getting Pujols and A-Rod cards hard-signed? Sure- there are some seriously expensive logistics involved in that… probably far more trouble than any of us collectors realize. But Lil’ Iron Mike (aka: Three Nickname Mike) here should not present that type of problem. Make it happen, Eisner! To be fair, Topps’ “competitor” in the minor league market (In the Game) is releasing something early next year and they’ve got sticker autos as well (and some truly hilarious canceled check cut autos from all your favorite single A stars!). So much for the theory that competition in this industry equals positive changes.
And, of course, there’s the old standby: Heritage. I wonder what it will look like this year!
Apart from the news that everyone’s favorite southpaw of Jewish heritage will be signing some Real One autos this year, there’s absolutely nothing to see here. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Heritage got me back into the hobby. And my waning interest in Heritage is indicative of my waning interest in collecting any modern baseball cards. I don’t have a problem with consistency (inserts, SPs, predictable design)- in fact, I love that stuff. But somewhere along the way, Topps lost the plot with this product. Early years of Heritage were a blast- modern players on old designs and the satisfaction of completing a tough set (plus variations to hunt down!). But overproduction and completely useless additions (Heritage Chrome? Panel cards?) have made for a set I don’t want to collect. Plus the past few years have really been a swing and a miss on the photography style and aging effects on the images. This year appears to be no different, as Topps is seemingly afraid to go the distance and really make these cards look like they’re from another era. That Cabrera up there shares nothing in common with the real ’62 set, save the border and the font. I won’t be buying any of this.
On the high end, we’ve got Topps Tribute. This year, Tribute is… oh forget it. This set is so depressingly bad and so indistinguishable from Triple Threads that I won’t bother showing a photo.
So, moving on-
Okay, I’ll just show one photo because it’s so confusing.
What do you do with this thing? That would take more space on a shelf than school photos of all my cousins. It reminds me of those sweet Chinese Yo-Yos I had as a kid. We called them “clackers”. This is one stickery clacker you will spend several hundred dollars for a chance to own. If you’re the kind of person who spends hundreds of dollars on material objects that don’t even look cool.
And now, just the other day, Topps announces a brand new product- the first new entry of the new year!
Now, to me, Topps Gypsy Queen is just another retro tobacco rehash that I won’t be interested in. No big deal. But, judging by the comments over at the Blowout fora, which range from the kind-of-angry curious to the pretty-much just plain homophobic, this product will not be a hit. It may be destined to be this year’s Chicle- the one everyone bashes (including us) but that sells just like all the rest of them do. The name doesn’t bother me like it does lots of folks who are complaining (I mean, it’s just the name of the damn set they’re copying… I don’t get the uproar). The wacky gyspy gem inserts are par for the course in the A&G world, but it seems like Topps is trying to repackage A&G’s quirkiness here and that speaks to a much deeper ignorance than “Don’t they realize that name sounds gay?” The unending parade of nearly-indiscernible retro sets smecks of desperation and the over-saturation of that market will eventually cause some problems for Topps. It reminds me of Michael Scott- having gotten a legitimate chuckle out of an impression or a joke, he immediately goes back to the well and poisons it.
To be honest, I think some of the cards look pretty cool- probably a Chicle-level ratio. The on-card autos sure look nice and the artwork could be kind of cool if the hyperrealism isn’t too obviously a ‘Shop Job the way that Ginter’s is. The artwork does make me wonder why they bothered using the Gypsy Queen name… they bear no resemblance to the originals (in an even more obvious bastardisation than Heritage) so why bother with the charade? I’m reminded of the warnings we were given by our tour leader in Italy: “Watch out for the gypsies… while one is distracting you with a dance or music, another will sneak up behind you and pick your pocket.”
Anyone else’s pocket feeling picked?