Last year I did a post for my “set of the year” in response to a blog bat around was thrown out there by This Card is Cool. And I feel like I really want to do product of the year, because when you buy a box of something new, it isn’t just the set that matters (though sometimes I wish that was more of Topps’ concern).
This is a good thing to write about at the end of any year, so I’m doing another one now. Admittedly, I’m leveraging last year’s post for the wording – but which set I pick could be new…
First, I’ll note a couple of things. Like any collector of baseball cards, I have a limited budget. There are nearly 40 baseball products out this year if you count all the MLB-licensed things that Topps did, plus what Leaf, Panini and Upper Deck put out. Because Panini got a license with the Players’ union, this is actually a bit higher than last year.
If you go by order of release date, here’s what came out in 2012. An asterisk means it’s new (I’m not counting Museum Collection or Archives as new because they replaced sets with similar themes):
Baseball “standard issue” sets (it’s a bit of a stretch for me to include Goodwin in here – but it’s very similar to Ginter and I collected it, so I’m sticking to my guns):
- Topps (Series 1) – February 1
- Topps Opening Day – March 7
- Topps Tribute – March 7
- Topps Heritage – March 14
- Topps Museum Collection – April 4
- Topps Gypsy Queen – April 15
- Panini Limited 2011 – May 2*
- Bowman – May 4
- Topps Archives – May 23
- Topps (Series 2) – June 2
- Topps Tier One – June 20
- Topps Allen & Ginter – July 11
- Bowman Platinum – July 25
- Panini Triple Play – August 1*
- Topps Mini – August 1*
- Topps Finest – August 6
- Upper Deck Goodwin Champions August 14
- Topps Chrome – August 22
- Topps Triple Threads – September 18
- Topps (Update) – October 1
- Bowman Chrome – October 17
- Topps Heritage (High Numbers) – November 6*
- Topps Five Star – November 14*
- Panini Cooperstown – November 14*
- Panini Signature – November 14*
- Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects – November 28
- Bowman Sterling – December 12
- Panini Golden Age – end of December*
- Panini Prizm – early 2012*
Topps Attax was the one set that went away here
Minor league card sets:
- Topps Pro Debut – June 11
- Topps Heritage Minor League – September 12
- Leaf Metal Draft – October 15
- Donruss Elite Extra Edition – December 21st
- Playoff Prime Cuts 2011 – April*
- SP Signature Edition – May 1
- Leaf Best of Baseball – July 1
- In The Game Baseball “Hits” (series 2) – October 25
- Leaf Valiant – October 31
- Topps Team Sets – April
- Topps Stickers – March 20
- Leaf Pete Rose – August 15
- Leaf Memories – January 2014
Out of those, this year I collected base Topps (both series and Update), Topps Heritage (including purchase of the High Numbers box), Gypsy Queen, Goodwin Champions, Allen & Ginter, Archives and Mini. Ah, yes, Mini. My biggest regret this year.
If you consider that I also collected a bunch of earlier Topps base sets – which is actually the “mission” of this blog – this is again a fairly large amount of new cards for me in 2012. It’s also the exact same number of sets I collected in 2011 – basically swap Archives for Lineage and Mini for Heritage Minor League. In this post last year I said I may need to scale back, but obviously I didn’t. Some of the reason for this was that Topps had similar products, and I like all their retro sets. I did buy less Allen & Ginter and Update (only one hobby box instead of 2) and a little less retail product, but I bought the Heritage high number set, so I bet my money spent on new cards was probably about the same. Who knows what I’ll do next year – that’s maybe for a later post.
I’m happy with what I collected this year. I don’t want to buy crappy Bowman (that at one point from 1989-1991 was kind of “retro” set) and it’s 6 bastard children. Not shiny Chrome or Finest (though I do always like Finest – just not enough to buy it). Not Museum Collection, Triple Threads, Tier One or Tribute – which I’m pretty sure are all different series of the same thing. Panini Cooperstown is the one thing I’ve given thought to. Maybe I’ll buy that someday. Or maybe I’d just buy diapers for my kid instead. Who knows. OK – so what was my favorite set of the year? Could anything dethrone Heritage from last year?
In short, the answer is no.
But before I get to Heritage – let me do an “honorable mention”. Last year that was Gypsy Queen. This year’s Gypsy Queen was not quite as well done as the inaugural 2011 version was. 2012 GQ wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite as good of a design.
My honorable mention for “Set of the Year” would go to Archives. It’s a great product. Way better than Lineage, which is the product it replaced. Could they have put the base set on better cardstock? Of course. But having 4 separate old Topps designs was a good idea, and then having 40 Short Prints in the “Fan Favorite” of retired players from different years – but different photos (not reprints) – was a killer idea. If you’re going to do Short Prints, that’s a good way to do it.
The great thing about this set was that it wasn’t just about this year’s players and then throw in Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax. Those 4 guys are all in that set, yes. But the Fan Favorites also have guys like John Kruk, Will Clark, John Olerud, and Andy Van Slyke!!!!! You really can’t beat that.
Know what else you can’t beat? Doing cool comparisons like this.
They took the good part of Lineage – the inserts that pay tribute to older Topps oddball sets – and made a better base set. One with stats on the back (I know, a novel concept)! The Deckle Edge inserts are a great addition, and there are some other good inserts. They did the 68 3-D cards, but this time at the same size as the originals. There were some other cool cards like 82 In Action and the Cloth Stickers were in the same design as the 77 set. Whenever Topps does something and stays true to the original – I like it!
And the Fan Favorite autos really steal the show. Finding a Buddy Bell, Mike Scott or Vida Blue auto from a design from a former card they had – well, that’s excellent!
But it’s not the best product. Well, it might be the best product, but it’s definitely not the best set. My set of the year is Heritage. To me, the 1962 design was awesome. The first older card I ever owned was a Whitey Ford 1962 Topps, and I got it auto’d by the Chairman at a card show in the late 80’s (probably for less than 10 bucks). It had corner wear, but damn, it was money. So I knew about that wood border.
What I didn’t know much about was the 1963 set. Well, I must say – the ’63 design was excellent. The two picture idea is great, but it’s also well-executed. And Heritage does a great job of paying tribute to that set.
The card stock is super thick. The set has parallels with the ’63 set – Jacoby Ellsbury has the same card number as Yaz. Zach Greinke the same as Warren Spahn. Curtis Granderson is patrolling center field for the Yankees, and he’s holding down the same card number as the Mick.
Even the gimmicks pay tribute to the original set. And they have an insert of mini stickers just like the 63 set. The image swap variations are a cool way to play on the design.
And, dammit – I love the design (this Kemp is probably the best card in the set)!
The 75 SP’s is a bit much, and the High Numbers costing $100 bucks scares the collector in me a bit. The inserts are standard ones you get each year (Flashbacks, New Age, Then & Now), and they’re all pretty interesting.
There are autographs of players from 1963, on reprints of their 1963 cards, like this one I pulled…
So – that’s my set of the year! What’s yours?