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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Preview and Thoughts: 2014 Topps High Tek

Yesterday, I brought the details on Panini's 2014 Golden Age set, but Topps also released details about the return of Topps Tek, due out in November.

Originally released 1998-2000, Topps Tek was a higher-end release which featured plastic cards with multiple background design variations. This made for a bunch of collecting possibilities. Do you go after one card from each variation, build a set of a single variation, build a set without regards to the variations, build a set with an even distribution of variations, collect a player "rainbow" of sorts, or try to collect the entire matrix?

The inaugural 1998 set had the largest checklist with 90 cards and 90 patterns. This makes for 8100 different base cards. There is one parallel set, but no inserts.

The 1999 set had 45 cards, 30 patterns with home and visitor uniform photos (thus making 60 variations), one parallel, and two insert sets.

The 2000 set had 45 cards, 20 variation patterns (#16-20 were color variations), one parallel and three insert sets.

It's interesting to see how basic the Tek sets were in the late 1990s, with the exception of the variation theme. How does 2014's High Tek compare?
Only eight cards will come per box, including six base cards, one parallel, and one autograph. It appears that the base cards will have 12 variation parallels, in addition to nine different serial-numbered (99 copies or less each) parallels.
Those numbered parallels are called: Gold Diffractors, Ice Diffractors, Disco Diffractors, Clouds Diffractors, Black and White Image (#/15), Red Storm Diffractors (#/10), Blue Dots Diffractors (#/5), Charcoal Galactic Diffractors (1/1), and printing proofs (1/1).
Two insert set concepts will be revived from past releases, with the 25-card Teknicians Diffractors (1999 style) set and TEKtonics Diffractors (2000 throwback). There's also something called Low Tek Diffractors. All three of these will have autographed parallels.
In addition to the autographed inserts, autographs will be found from the base card design, with Disco, Clouds, Black and White (#/15), Red Storm (#/10), Blue Dots (#/5), Charcoal Galactic (1/1), and print proof versions (1/1).

So, what do I think? I am with the masses on this one: turning this into yet another high-end release is a mistake. The cards look beautiful, though, and I'll have to use the secondary market to gather the variations. I like the inserts too, but due to the high-end nature of this release I'm sure they'll be way out of my price range to build a set. 

It's a shame, really, that Topps is continue to cater to a smaller and smaller group of buyers. The collecting base is abandoning fresh boxes because the money involved in buying the box supports the cost of creating the "lottery" effect; when Topps has a great idea they make it so difficult to obtain that the fun is sucked right out.

These might be the kinds of cards kids would be interested in buying if they could afford them. They are very flashy, new, and exciting, instead of "boring" cardboard. I love "boring" cardboard, but children need something really cool to catch their eye. And really, shouldn't that be part of Topps' concern? I don't like cigarettes or smoking, but I have to give the tobacco companies kudos for creating marketing that (covertly) appealed to kids while still attracting adults.

"Oldie" (2013) but goodie.


  1. My biggest problem with this set is the inclusion of Cal Ripken. With a set this small, is there really any need to include retired players. All you are doing is telling collectors that you don't believe there are 45 good enough players which is false. I understand the inclusion of retired players in Archives or Gypsy Queen or Ginter, but to put them in every set is just asinine.

  2. The cards look nice. But who's going to pay full price on these boxes? I can see these being in clearance bins possibly by the end of the season... and definitely in time for the Black Friday sales. I have to admit... if those autographs are on-card and the checklist is solid, it might be enough to draw some of the wealthier collectors.

  3. Now this doesn't interest me at all. If it were priced to sell, I might buy a pack or two. But even then, it doesn't interest me in the least. At $1 a pack, I still doubt I'd try to build it. Tek was one of those cool ideas that Topps totally botched from the beginning. And, by making it high end, I see they're doubling down on the stupid. And the cards themselves, to me, have all the charm and beauty (he said with sarcasm) of 1995 Fleer. I'll stick with Golden Age.

  4. hiflew: I wish that Topps would go all-retired with a set or two, and all-current players with the rest. Maybe one or two mixed sets (A&G?). I remember one year Topps Tribute had a HOF edition. I don't remember what the other set had as far as active vs. retired players.

    Fuji: I know who'll pay full price. The same suckers who pay full price on all the other high-end stuff. As I said, I'll be on top of the base cards if they are reasonably priced. But yes, I can see this product being a total flop. That said...

    Stubby: Tek isn't for everybody. In fact, with the number of different sets Topps releases, none of them will be for everyone. The problem really comes when Topps takes an idea that appeals to the masses and makes it exclusive (high end). Or tries to appeal to everybody - flagship, GQ, and Heritage are all being torn apart to try to appeal more to the high rollers.

    While Tek may have a very modern design, I welcome the change from the typical blandness (base), throwbackness, or current shinyness (Chrome/Finest (which is Chrome, with a different design)/Tribute). I think they missed the target with this *and* Stadium Club by making them hit-centered, but there's a market for sets like these when done right, I know it.