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Friday, February 11, 2011

2011 Topps

Okay, everyone else is talking about it (what else is there to talk about, anyway?), so I guess it's my turn. I like this year's base set. And some of the inserts. I'm probably one of the last ones to collect the flagship Topps set. See, Topps Heritage is just that - heritage. It's taking a card design that's already been used, and copying it for another set. I don't dislike it, but it's not the same. I've never put a Heritage set together, by the way, simply because I've had to pick and choose and the thought of collecting, say, the 1961 Topps set, but with current players and lots of short prints on purpose, is less appealing than a set that focuses on being just a baseball card set. That's what Topps is. Does this mean it's flawless? Hah! Of course not.

I picked up my first packs early this week, and I've been back twice since. Total, I've bought 12 of those $5 rack packs I can find at Target. I sorted the cards for the first time and I'm about 2/3 finished with the set (those of you doing the math know I have lots of extras). This was after all the previews and early reviews and such had hit. They didn't build a great amount of excitement. In fact, I was planning on just buying a couple packs for the fun of it. Now, I'm committed to hand collating the set (much more fun, but obviously more costly). And instead of buying the insert sets on eBay, I'm putting some of those together by hand as well. At least it gives me a set-building mission for this year's releases. (So far, Gypsy Queen is the only other full set I might go for.)

The rack packs contain 36 cards each. The top section contains mostly base, along with the ToppsTown card and usually (I had one pack without) a 60 Years of Topps card. The bottom section contains more base and a sampling of the other inserts - a Kimball Champions, Diamond Duos, Topps 60, and then one or two others. For $5, you're paying about 14 cents per card, much better than other packing methods. Granted, the chances of an autograph or relic are slim, but the Diamond Giveaway cards are inserted every other pack, if that floats your boat. And I got lucky - in my second group of 4 packs I pulled a Jason Heyward auto. These packs are great for set building/inserts without paying too much for the chance of the relics/autos. If you read my last post, you know that my first pack was a rack pack, and I still like them for what they should provide - lots of cards at a low price.

The base cards look good. The pictures are clear, sharp action shots. As before, the team cards feature "fun" images of multiple players. I wish that the base sets would include team photos on one of the cards - last year there were two team cards for each team and at least one of the team cards had a stadium shot. I didn't see any of those this year, but series 2 could hold some promise for something different. I like the design - simple, clean, and I like the baseball in the team circle. I wonder if they could have put something else in the outer circle than the team name twice - maybe put the position on the bottom. But, oh well. I like the horizontal cards I saw and many of the images Topps used are interesting (or as seen on the Pujols sample, player-defining). It doesn't take a psychic to figure out what Brian Wilson's image is (his signature thank-you after a win/save, if you haven't seen the card, or you're not psychic, not a Giants fan, and didn't watch any playoff or World Series games or highlights). Good to see the rookie trophy logo is back, and maybe the all-star logo will return in series 2. I did feel like this series had an insane number of RC and rookie trophy logos combined. One thing I didn't like (or did, depending on the circumstance): the checklist cards are indistinguishable from the front. They look just like another player card, so you have to look at the back to determine it's a checklist. Now, as for the backs, they're pretty standard now for what Topps usually does. Has Topps ever done vertical stats in their base set? I guess they have too many columns to go vertical. Or they could shrink the font. Then they'd have room for better bios, other pictures, or maybe some nice cartoons. I like the large, easily readable card number, and it's a nice design.

I received several of every type of insert included in these packs. One by one:

  • Diamond Giveaway - I think I received only 4 in my 12 packs, but that's okay (I think the odds are 1:2). I didn't buy any Topps packs last year (had something else going on when they were released) so I didn't partake in the Million Card Giveaway. I'll redeem them sometime and let you know how it turns out. I get the feeling that these are more likely to be thrown away after redemption than ToppsTown.
  • Speaking of ToppsTown, this year's card looks nice on the front. Sure, they're one per pack, but at least now it seems like a totally collectible set, if you're into it.
  • Diamond Duos - I don't care much at all for insert sets with multiple players, unless they mean something. Some of the pairings mean nothing. How about highlighting the best pitcher/catcher duos in one series, and maybe the best shortstop/second base duos in the other? That'd be more fun for me. Or other players truly linked for a reason.
  • Topps 60 - what's the point of this set? I like insert sets, even meaningless ones. I like the fun they bring. I like relics/autos too, but other than certain players, they're just another insert to me. The cards I pulled are a mix of older and way-too-recent - Nolan Ryan, Andre Dawson, and a recent ROY (can't remember who) were a few. Is this supposed to be the best 60 that Topps has ever had? Or maybe just the 60 "stars" they could get to sign or make relics from? Inserts need to mean something...
  • Kimball Champions is a beautiful looking set, so I'll be putting that together. Nice that the checklist is on the back of every card.
  • The Reproductions set is nice, in that there's a bit of history on the back, but so many of the sets have already been redone (T205, T206, etc) as full remakes, or featured in other reproduction/remake insert sets lately. I'm kind of iffy on liking this, but I'll be putting this set together too.
  • The History of Topps set isn't really exciting, but because it contains information (I like reading!) and it's timed properly (on an anniversary) I like it. I'll collect this set too.
  • The last insert set is the 60 Years of Topps (along with the variations). I pulled one of the "original backs" in my 12 packs, and it goes in my archives, but I like the regular inserts, because there's a little commentary to them. Originally I didn't think I'd like the set, but once I've seen it, I think I'll like it, so it gets added to the list as well.
Now, the parallels - as usual there are gold, silk, black, and 1/1 platinums, but new this year are 1/1 and 1-per-pack diamond anniversary parallels. I like the look. They shine and sparkle like a diamond parallel should. However, the sparkle detracts from the photos. I'd like to put this set together, but I don't have it in me. It's just too superfluous. If I was going to put a parallel set together, though, this would be it - I like it better than the gold or black because it stands out better and, well, it's new.

Because I stuck with the rack packs, I didn't get any of the manufactured patch/glove cards, or the throwback cards printed on "real" cardboard. And of course, most of the relic/auto possibilities, or any 1/1s. But the previews of the glove cards don't make me want them. In fact, other than the UD Patch Collection from 2003, I'm really not interested in most manufactured patch types of cards.

But for a base set, this works. It provides kids with something relatively inexpensive to collect and a selection of inserts for them to chase. And it looks clean and fun. And isn't that all it's supposed to do? 

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