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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another extremely early first look: 2012 Tribute

2012 is still five months away, and Tribute won't come out until at least February 7, but Topps released preview images today.

Why so soon? Maybe they're trying to pull attention away from all the criticism of the flagship release coming out at the same time.

So what are they offering for $50 bucks a pack? One hit - you have a 50% chance of pulling an autograph (the other packs contain relics). You'll get some base cards and parallels, but for $50, you're counting on the hit.

Let's see what'll end up in the trash or quarter box:
 The base cards. A photo on refractorized foil, as always. I like the presentation of the player's name, team and position at the bottom compared to last year. I've always thought the Tribute base cards are some of the most beautiful base cards issued.
Also doomed for obscurity are the parallels. Yeah. That's not what you spend $50 for though, is it?

Let's see some hits!
 I get it, his position is first base, and the set's called Positions of Power! Yeah. Two big plain swatches.
 I'm no Mets fan. Is Jose Reyes really called Rocket Reyes? I don't mind the die-cut relic windows. I'd rather have this dual relic than the 1B dual relic above. On eBay, this would be an 11-swatch 4-color patch relic!

For $50, every relic should be a patch. Either Topps is making a fortune off these things or they're paying way too much for their autographs and game-used material.

Speaking of actual patches:
 Is that what a 1/1 patch should look like? A plain stripe? I get that Nolan Ryan jerseys are kind of rare, but I'm really unimpressed with what should be the best looking patch in the previews. It could be worse. For $50, you could pull this $3 relic:
 Okay, maybe $10. It looks like it's a dual relic. How plain are my swatches...
Oh yeah. It's a limited-to-15 gold parallel! With a single, tiny, oval shaped plain gray swatch! Sorry, Mike, you deserve better. Even at 1/1, this card wouldn't interest me. The swatch is too small and too plain! For $50, I expect a patch. It's not like Topps puts a bunch of Mike Schmidt patches in flagship Topps sets.

Well, at least there are autographs in every other pack (and from the information I read, maybe a bonus one in the occasional relic pack). Face it, relics aren't that popular anymore anyway (maybe because Topps puts out so many boring, plain swatches instead of cool patches). The autographs - on card especially - are the most coveted part of a player collection.
 The autograph checklist is impressive, at least with the announced names. The "many others" part at the end of Beckett's review worries me, but from all the other names listed, Albert Belle is the only one I wouldn't really care for. I like the design, because there is plenty of room for an autograph and nothing is detracting from it. The card is all about the autograph.
 Topps loves its royal purple color, and the 1/1 autograph parallels show off the violet. The crazy gold frame may highlight the autograph, but it also draws the eyes away. These sticker autographs are supposed to be bonus autographs randomly inserted in packs, so you could theoretically pull a Matt Kemp 1/1 autograph and a Sandy Koufax on-card in the same pack. Speaking of Mr. Koufax:
I really like these black autographs. I'm sure I'll get tired of silver pen quickly if it's used frequently.

My verdict: At $50 a pack, I've already said I expect a patch on every relic, and that's not happening. However, the base cards always stand out and the autograph list looks promising. I can't afford this stuff, but I'd give it a preview rating of 3.5/5. Fix the relics, for crying out loud! If the relics were better, it could easily be a 4.5/5.

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