Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Topps is in Japan! A Flagship Series 1 Review

There's been a lackluster reception for this year's flagship offering. The complaints seem to be the same every year about the design, the number of parallel sets, the number and style of insert offerings, and so on.

I enjoy reading others' critiques, though. I like to compare my thoughts with those of my fellow collectors and to see what I might be able to trade with and for. I wish I could get my packs before I read the posts, but I pay a price for living across the ocean.

I spent the day hopping from card store to card store (five in total) working on my want lists and picking out my first pack of the year. I decided to go Jumbo this year - I only get one of any insert so I get a better variety... I guess. My pack came from the Mint Ikebukuro store. I met another foreigner there who bought a regular hobby box and was busting packs in the store.
 First card of the year. Yonder knows he's the first. Or he sees a bird. Or a plane. Or Superman. Or he's religious. While the border design is not super-awesome, it's quite narrow, which makes for a larger photo area. I am getting sick of white borders, though.
 The backs are essentially the same as always. Okay, so there's WAR.
 Julio Teheran has played in the majors for three years now, so it's hard for me to think of him as a Future Star. Didn't this mark get used for players who hadn't been in the majors yet? And thus, shouldn't Future Stars be used in the minor league set instead? Teheran seemed to come into his own last year, so he could, possibly, become a star as a veteran.

Also of note on Teheran's card is the alternate/throwback jersey. I saw a lot of cards with players in throwback or alternate jerseys. I suppose Sundays are the only time to get day game photos (while they're wearing their alternates), and I enjoy seeing throwback jerseys anyway.
 Celebration cards are fun. Nothing like seeing a guy take a bucket of Gatorade to the back! I wish, especially in circumstances like this, the back made mention of the details behind the photo. There are two variation styles in Series 1 - the sparkles return from 2011 (UGH) and several players have alternate photos that seem to all be celebrations from the postseason or clinching victories.
 The photography on flagship Topps has been pretty good lately, with fairly sharp photos where you can see the player's face too - action shots which sometimes are cropped quite tightly. BBM isn't very good at this, as faces frequently disappear under hat shadows or behind backs. This is a nice fielding shot of Markakis.
 I've seen a few dugout shots on other blogs. Variety in cards is important, so I welcome this Saunders card.
 I pulled two Rookie Cup cards. Jim Henderson got his start in 2003 with the Gulf Coast League Expos. Remember the Expos? Hardly young, he has been quite successful with the Brewers as a reliever in the past two years. There is a chance I saw him pitch at some point in his minor league career, most likely around 2005-2006 when he was playing for Savannah.
 My other Rookie Cup card is Hyun-Jin Ryu, a Korean import. I like that Topps included his Korean stats too. He has made the transition to the majors quite well, putting up comparable stats to those he had with Hanwha.
 I got my one-per-pack Red Hot Foil parallel. I like these just as much as I like the other identical sparkly parallels Topps has done since 2011 in other colors. I still need to get the other parallels: gold, green camo, black, pink, clear (huh?), platinum, and a printing plate - all of those are serial numbered. There also seems to be the following non-numbered parallels: red (Target), blue (WalMart), yellow (where?), green (where?), and I'd assume purple (Toys R Us). Add to that the Power Players and Silk partial parallels.
 The least-interesting but funniest insert set is The Future Is Now. As you know, Topps has this whole "rookie" theme going for it (I really don't care for themes in flagship). The Future Is Now highlights special moments as rookies and the fact on the back of Harper is interesting. But the foil titles can be quite ridiculous. I guess they needed titles to distinguish between the multiple cards players have in the set. These will be back in Series 2. All 30 cards have a relic version #/99 and an autograph version #/25. 28 cards have autographed relics #/10.
 My scanner does not like black borders. But I like the 50 Years of the Draft insert set. The design is nice - I like that logo in the center, and some information about the player's journey to the majors is on the back. I would have liked more details though - how about some basic high school/college/minor league (wherever applicable) stats, or details about their journey to the MLB? And while I like this set, I don't think I like it enough to collect it. Then again, with only 10 cards in the set and some a few interesting retired stars, I might go after this at some point. (What about the other 40 years of the draft not covered in these 10 cards?)
 Again, Upper Class looks better in person than in a scan, and it's a design I enjoy. The checklist has a lot of retired stars, which many people don't like, but I guess this is where the rookie theme is helpful. The back has a highlight ticker from the player's rookie year, and mentions some other rookie standouts. Again, I wish there was more on the back; here, a stat line for the player's rookie year would be welcome, and/or possibly the box score or personal results from the player's first game. There are fifty cards in this set, which would make it a bit of a challenge to complete (or I could just buy it on the 'Bay) but I'm not sure it's special enough to collect. A 25-card relic set is #/99, autographed set is #/50, autographed relic set is #/25.
 A set I might actually collect is Before They Were Great. These are thick and use a simple design, like Upper Class. And these scan better than the other foiled sets. The 30-card checklist is almost exclusively retired players (Cabrera and Jeter are the only two active players as far as I can tell) and there is a mention of the player's amateur career. Again, though, I wish there were more details. The photos seem to be from the player's early years, but it would have been even better if they had photos from little league, high school, or college. There is a gold version, serial numbered to 99. 25 cards have relics, #/25. 14 cards are autographed, #/10. 10 cards have autographed relic versions, #/5.
 The one insert set I will collect or buy is the '89 Minis. The colored borders seem somewhat thicker than on the original '89s, and they are. I want this set because I've found love for the throwback minis from 2013 in the past few months, and 1989 was the first year I started collecting. There are 50 cards in this set for now, though they will return in Series 2. There are autograph (#/10) and relic (#/25) versions of these.

Insert sets I didn't get:

  • All-Rookie Cup Team Set (I saw these, and they aren't impressive even in person) with a 5 card relic set (#/99), 5-card autographed set (#/50), 5-card autographed relic set (#/25). There's also a commemorative rookie cup manurelic #/99, and vintage style #/25.
  • Spring Fever (which is a redemption but I'm sure I'll get a card from this at some point)
  • Super Veterans (I might want this retail-only set although I'm not too into the checklist), 10 cards have a relic version, 5 cards are available in autographed, and autographed relic versions.
  • Stamped Buybacks. I didn't realize there were stamped buybacks in the boxes until today when the guy busting the box pulled a couple 1960s vintage buybacks.

Of course, I didn't get any of the autographs or relics. Standalones include:

  • Rookie Reprints, framed in black, silver, and gold
  • Trajectory Autographs and Trajectory Relics
  • World Champion Relics #/100, Autographs #/50, Autographed Relics #/50
  • Postseason Performance Relics #/100, Autographs #/50, Autographed Relics #/50
  • Strata Autographed Relics, and 1/1 cut signatures
  • In The Name Relics, #/number of letters in the player's last name 
  • Rookie Cup Commemorative Manu-Relics #/99, with Vintage versions #/25
  • Class Rings in Silver, Gold #/99, and Gold Gems #/25, plus Gold Gems Autographs #/10
  • Manufactured Commemorative Patches and Rookie Patches
All told, there are 68 sets in Topps Series 1, including all the parallels, autographed, relic, and autographed relic versions.

Good game. Good game. Good game. Good game.

While I want to collect more from the 2014 flagship set, I just don't see anything that I really must have. Granted, I'll try to get singles for my type collection (7 down, 61 to go...) and I'll pick up a base set later this summer. I like the look of some of the inserts, but they just don't stand out as Cool. And that's what I collect.

That's okay, though. I have a lot to look forward to this year. Several sets to chase from Gypsy Queen and A&G, inserts in Donruss, Opening Day, Heritage and Finest, and the Major League movie in Archives. Plus hopefully Panini does something great with Golden Age again this year.

1 comment:

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