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Monday, February 14, 2011

Blog Bat Around - 2011 Topps

There are a couple challenges floating around the blogs - this one is a bit older so I want to hit it now. So, here's the challenge or question from Stale Gum:

Michael Eisner has just fired the entire Topps Product Development staff and chose to hire you to take their place. Mr. Eisner has given you carte blanche to do whatever you want with Topps Baseball -- as long as you keep it under $2/pack.

If you were in charge of Topps, and based upon what you've seen of 2011 Topps Baseball Series One, what (if anything) would you have done differently?
I recently wrote my review of 2011 Topps. The set isn't perfect. What would I do? Let's look at the base set, the inserts, and the hits.

First, the base set. I like the design. Nothing wrong with it. Clean, crisp, easy to read. Great. But let's look at the content. There are 330 cards in the set, comprising regular cards and team cards. Last year there were two team cards for every team between both series. We're going to eliminate that. One card per team, and it's going in series 2. It'll feature a team photo taken with that year's opening day roster. All the players will be listed on the back with their jersey numbers and position(s) (and card number, if they appear in the set). Sure, some players won't have their own card, but there's at least a record that they exist. And you can mention the coaches and bat boy in addition to the manager. Series 1 will feature manager cards. Backs will contain team stats for his entire coaching career (wins, losses, pct, position, etc) and a short write up. And checklists will go back into the base set, instead of thin insert fillers. How about 9 checklists for the 396-card series one set - one with a photo of each starting all-star player for the team that won the previous year's all-star game (so, the NL players). The AL players would be in series 2. So by the end of the year each of the starting all-stars have two cards in the regular set, each team has a card, and managers get their own cards. 792 cards, just like the over-produced golden age. And card #7: let Mickey have his own card image still, but stick the insert checklist on the back of that one. Vintage variation SPs, sure, but they aren't part of the regular set.

Parallels? Nah. Well, except the diamond anniversary parallels, because they commemorate a special event in Topps' history. And I like the idea of the "vintage" style - thinner cardboard with the old school logo. But both parallels would exist only for this year. No more gold, platinum, or black, or silks. Now, if there's an agreement that Target, Wal-Mart, KMart, whoever get their own parallel, fine - stick them in there. Give black to WalMart and gold to Target. Number them if you want. And the plates can go in.

Now, the inserts. I like the ideas of some of the sets, but let's work on it a bit more. First, bring back some old subsets as their own inserts. This way, they mean something. Season Highlights (no-hitters, hitting for the cycle, triple plays, and other special notable events) - no "Pujols hits 4HR in one game" unless he does it back to back. Well, 4 home runs is fairly special. But the moments need to matter. Put the record breakers in with the season highlights. Team Leaders - one card per team. The front can feature a goofy photo, or maybe a shot of the team captain, etc, and the back lists the team's leaders in batting average, RBIs, wins, strikeouts, etc. Topps All-Stars and Topps Rookies - it's been done before but they stopped doing it. Bring it back. Make them retail-only - stick em in blasters and rack packs. When They Were Young - obviously, photos of current players when they were in high school or little league. Again, this can be retail only. Award Winners (MVP, ROY, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, etc), Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers would get their own insert sets. Postseason Highlights finish out the insert sets that would continue to repeat yearly. For this year only, do the Topps 60, and The History of Topps. I like the idea, but change the design - get rid of the book style. Also add a "The Making of Topps" insert set, a ten (or more) card set explaining the process of designing a set - initial ideas, design, photography, writing/stats, production, getting/cutting/assembling jerseys and autos, packing out, and distribution. Put a code on the card and they can enter it at a Topps website to see videos demonstrating that stage in the process. Also for this year, the 60 Years of Topps set would stay, and I would take it a step further - instead of original back variations, have original pack image front variations (with the back of the card explaining the make-up of the set or packaging, while the reprint card would feature an explanation of why that card is important to that year's set), and/or a variation showing an image of the card in production - a master photo image, or a sketch or rejected card design, etc. Hit the archives/vault for some real true never-before-seen stuff. the Lost Cards set can stay, too, maybe expanded. Yes, that's a lot of inserts, but if you don't like them, you can trade them off or sell them - putting some of them in the retail-only packs provides more interest for the kids, and inserts don't really cost more to produce than base cards unless you add extra foils or whatever, and you don't need that. And the Legendary Duos are gone. What about Kimball, you ask? or the Reproductions? Well, the Kimballs are beautiful. But they belong in Heritage or (even better) Gypsy Queen. And the Reproductions can just get kicked out. Why are these even in there? (I say this knowing I'm going to put that set together anyway, gosh darnit.)

Relics and autos would stay the same - keep the Topps 60s, the anniversary autos, even the giveaway cards.

Keep the packaging the same, even though I really don't care for HTA boxes. The manufactured patches/glove cards/etc could be kept - how about a manufactured glove card for the golden glove winners, and a manufactured bat card for the silver sluggers, and patches for the award winners.

The basic idea here is that there's a bit of everything because this is a set that should appeal to everyone in some way. The set isn't hard to put together, there are inserts that mean something, and the price point stays the same.

But what about series 2, you ask? The inserts above could be split between the two series, as done previously. The Making Of set could move to series 2. And in place of the 60 Years of Topps, do a retrospective set of the oddballs Topps has done through the years (with a short story on the back) - how about a reprint of that 1982 KMart reprint-ish set! And the Toys R Us rookies sets? But you could hit reprints of the deckles, and embossed, and stamps, etc.

Now go hit the printers and make it happen...

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