Last year (miraculously before 2011), I mustered up the wherewithal to post a 2011 Baseball Card Preview. It immediately became the most popular post we ever done posted (at that time and still today) and I was a little confused. Surely, there are several more comprehensive sites to learn about new baseball card products. But, over the course of the year, I found myself loading up our very own post when I wasn’t sure about release dates or which product was which (what’s a “lineage?” why all the homophobic hate on the name of this thing called “Gypsy Queen”?) instead of going to one of my other favorite sites or another. I don’t know why. I’m just magnetic that way. Oh, also, did anyone ever pull one of those actual diamond cards from 2011 Topps? I never heard a word about them after that post.
2012 Topps Series 1 releases right around… NOW! And it is full of gold. The format is basically the same: a 330 card base set split into three series and more inserts than anyone will bother to count. The Diamond Giveaway is replace by the Golden Giveaway even though there’s no legitimate reason for gold to be the theme this year. In fact, the 61st anniversary doesn’t mean a damn thing if you trust Wikipedia on that sort of subject. I love that there are three different “standards” listed there for anniversary gifts. What a joke. At any rate, for some reason, gold parallels are gone this year for the first time since the golden anniversary about 10 years ago. They changed everything to gold and then got rid of the only thing that was already gold. I don’t get it.
Doesn’t matter. Topps flagship will sell and, as always, we’re buying. Our largest order yet (5 jumbo cases), so make sure to tell us what you’re looking for! We’ve already covered the gimmicky SSPs in another post, but those were basically a foregone conclusion. I don’t collect them and I don’t collect the Topps flagship set personally either, so I’m not really affected. In fact, there won’t be any cards I will be tempted to keep from this year’s Topps base or insert sets. That says a lot more about my fickle collecting habits than about some dislike for Topps. In fact, Crinkly Wrappers put it best so just read that post. As always, this set will provide fun and value for collectors, even collectors who are just the “grab a blaster or two at Target” kinds of collectors. My only complaint about Topps flagship is that it’s getting very stale. Changing the insert and giveaway names every year doesn’t do anything for me. In fact, I’d be much more appreciative of some more continuity and a bit of innovation. How about an online collection code program that doesn’t turn into a pumpkin before the next year’s cards hit the shelves? I dunno. Somethin’.
2012 Topps Opening Day and 2012 Topps Tribute, polar opposites, launch on March 7th. On the one hand, Opening Day is basically a parallel set of the flagship with more “retail-friendly”(?) inserts and an MLB-mandated lower price point. Topps puts so little into promoting it that the only place I saw it mentioned was this Beckett article (also the source of this stolen image) from back in October and a few rehashes of the same article on other sites. I still don’t know anyone who opens any of this stuff.
Topps Tribute returns and, in stark contrast to Opening Day, is basically an auto/relic/autorelic delivery system (much as the fry is but a vessel for ketchup). Need proof that they’re exact opposites? Exhibit A: The sell sheet available on Blowout doesn’t make mention of base cards until the last page. And this year they’ve made the autos on-card (save some bonus hits that are stickers). I’m one of the biggest whiners when it comes to getting cards hard-signed so I tip my hat to Topps for making this happen. Now, I should mention that my experience with Topps Tribute in years past is limited to trolling the messageboards and making some serious Two Girls, One Cup reaction faces at seeing people pull super dull David Wright relics back to back to back. On-card autos are a big plus this year- we’ll have to wait to see how the checklist (and redemptions) pans out to get an idea of how much those autos add. At $300/box for 3 autos and 3 relics (all #/99 or less), the checklist had better impress! Topps is touting the newly-signed Griffey, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax in sell sheets- all huge draws, of course. I will say that I am squarely not a fan of the huge signing area on the autograph cards I’ve seen thusfar. I much prefer a lightened area over a photograph (preferably action) in my autographs. Basically,I want autographed cards to looks as much like autographed 8X10s as possible. I don’t know why I don’t just collect those I guess. Any early thoughts on these autos from readers?
I have literally almost nothing to say about 2012 Topps Heritage. Oh, it comes out on March 14. It’s based on the 1963 set which is very special to me because I had exactly one card from this set as a kid. My brother must have gotten it in a trade for some Mork & Mindy cards or something. It was the Stan Williams card, if you care. And 2012 Topps Heritage has chrome versions, buybacks and Real One autos. And coins. And some stickers this year. Those could be cool.
I will say that, if I had a larger budget for collecting cards (which is to say, more than I currently spend on $3 Royals autos and $8 boxes of Stadium Club), I would collect Heritage each and every year. It’s the set that got me back in to collecting and whoever is the product manager for it at Topps deserves some serious credit (unless she also approved those ungodly “tint” variations last year that I find nothing short of insulting). It’s a powerful brand and one that I enjoy seeing every year. I have a feeling it’s dying out a bit as A&G took a big bite out of its lunch 5 years ago. And damn if Heritage isn’t hard as hell to complete. I’m not sure we have the expendable income and attention span for that as recession collectors. Maybe I’ll talk about that more later.
(Sorry for the tininess of Mr. Ryan up there- I didn’t get any full quality press materials for this product!)
2012 Topps Museum Collection (releasing April 7) is a new line, spun off of the not-super-popular Topps Marquee line that was launched in 2011. If you ask me, the autos from this set look great. 75 players signed on-card autos for this product (and a few less than that signed some hideous gold stickers autos). Each $175 box should have 1 auto, 1 relic auto, 1 jumbo relic and 1 quad relic. All fine and good if you’re getting a Ryan or Hamilton every other box. In fact, many of the currently-listed signers would be great pulls, including rarer HOF signers like Wade Boggs and George Brett. Of course, according to this checklist, there are many players who would not exactly be considered “value-added” selections. I mean, Elvis Andrus and Aramis Ramirez are fine players, but if it’s fair box value you’re looking for, pulling those two guys as your autos is going to leave you $100+ in the hole on your box. Since I’m not in the running for $150+ boxes anyway, the point is moot, but this looks like a singles product for me… unless someone wants to buy me a box for my birthday so I can try to pull that Ryan and give you all a better scan of it!
Making a possibly-triumphant return on April 18 after taking the collecting world by storm is Gypsy Queen, a retro-themed set with all sorts of flair in the vein of Allen & Ginter. Topps is once again touting Ken Griffey, Jr. as a signer for the product and his cards alone are sure to drive sales of this product pretty heavily. I predict he’ll be the Hank Aaron of this year’s set- very hard to find but tempting enough to get the people busting packs. One of these days, I hope someone (paging dayf) makes a card of Griffey sleeping in the clubhouse. You know. Something like this.
At any rate, each $100ish box will have two autos (apparently all on-card except the multi-autos which Topps can’t seem to figure out) and two relics. Mini autos are available in the box topper. Signers include Frank Thomas (bummer for Jon, as that one will be pricey) and a mix of retired fan favorites, young stars and big time heroes like Willie Mays. I found last year’s Gypsy Queen set to be pretty awesome despite its over-parallelism. I like the design, I like the photo selection and I LOVE the on-card autos. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Gypsy Queen may be my favorite card set of which I own exactly 0 cards. Feel free to send me some.
I’d almost rather not mention it, but 2012 Bowman is coming out on May 9. I’ll try once again to defend my dislike of Bowman and I’ll put it this way: the rookie card became popular because it was incidental. A guy makes the major league team, he gets a card. Collector says, “Oh cool, his first card!” and it becomes the card everyone wants. That’s an organic growth of a collectible. Remember Beanie Babies? When they were produced in normal quantities and people decided they liked them, the proper response for longevity of the product was to DO NOTHING. Keep producing the same number of Beanie Babies and demand will continue to outstrip supply. Collectors love it. You keep selling Beanie Babies. But, instead, Topps took the idea of the rookie card and Beanie Babied it. “Whoa, they love a guy’s first card! Let’s make everything about the player’s first card!” And boom, the magic is gone. No one’s favorite RC is a Bowman RC. (I have no evidence to back up this claim). The point is, just let it happen. Don’t release 3 different products with the same name and sell us 15 different versions of the same “guy who might have a baseball career” just because the masses want bread and circuses. YOU HAVE THE POWER TO END THE INSANITY, TOPPS!
I feel like Michael Moore talking to Phil Knight. “So you’ll consider making Nikes in the US?” “No.” Gotcha.
Oh, right. Bowman is a 24 pack box with one autographed prospect card. There are chrome version of some cards but not others and you get two of those in a pack but they have nothing to do with Bowman Chrome that comes out later and oh yeah Bryce Harper is in this again. Next.
Okay, here’s where things get tricky. You see, 2012 Topps Archives (releasing May 23) sounds totally awesome. It’s kind of like Fan Favorites from what I’ve gleaned (I was out of the game in the mid-2000s) and let me tell you that I would rather have ten $5 Andy van Slyke autographs than one $50 “prospect” autograph. My problem is this ouroboros/hubris thing that Topps has for rehashing its own designs. By the time we get to Heritage’s homage to 1985 Topps, Tim Lincecum will have 8 different cards on that design. It’s silly. I don’t want any more of these reprints and “re-imaginings.” I want new baseball cards that don’t suck. That’s all. How about we keep the “spirit” of these classic sets alive while not actually having to redigest them? How about a cardboard stock, simply designed baseball card with a certified autograph on it? Sounds awesome. I’ll take a case.
As for this one, I’ll have to wait and see how much it really irks me. I was annoyed by Lineage’s haphazard references to so-called “classic” designs last year but then everyone just forgot about those 2011 Rookies Glossy subsets and so did I. So maybe I’m blowing it out of proportion. That’s my right. Back off.
These boxes will retail for about $85 and will have two autographs per box along with some parallels and relics. It will be hard to get a lot of value out of these boxes in my opinion. But maybe I’m just basing expectations on our poor return from Lineage. Who knows, maybe those Deckle Edge inserts will really take off.
And, rounding out my preview of the currently-announced 2012 baseball cards as brought to us by Topps: The Only Choice!, is the venerable 2012 Allen & Ginter, set for release on July 11 (no releases for June yet? Whatever will we do?!). Like Heritage, this set offers a similar concoction every year- short prints, minis, on-card autos, mini relics and some surprises. This year there are Sea Monkeys cards with sound pretty kickass to me. Bat knobs, Bobby Knight, more Griffey, Jr… it’s hard not to at least enjoy the idea of A&G even if it’s far too expensive a set to put together. Just ask Nachos Grande who orders a metric asston every year and still has trouble. At $90/box, A&G is certainly a pricey diversion though it has its fans. Jon and I have discussed ordering a case so give us your opinions on this year’s A&G!
In fact, give us your opinions on everything that’s coming out in the first half of the year. I’m always curious to see how my opinion differs from collectors with different goals. Hit us up in the comments below and tell us what you think!