2016 Card of the Year!!!

7 02 2017

That card below is not my choice for card of the 2016 year.

It’s relevant to the discussion, however.



The card above was a “Thank You” card that was sent over the holidays to anybody who bought a Topps Now card in its debut season of 2016.  I appreciate the card.  It features the Cubs winning the World Series, the 2 most notable retiring players, and Ichiro who passed a number of milestones in 2017.

Topps Now was a big deal.  I know some people probably don’t like it.  You could lament that it is the opposite of set collection.  You could say it’s too expensive at $10 a card.  You could say, even thought it’s a good concept, it goes over the boundary of “too much” (I think the total was somewhere around 3 cards per day).

But this is where cards are going, and it’s cool as hell.  Something happens today.  Tomorrow I can order a card that features that event.  If I go to a Cubs game and Addison Russell hits a game winning home run?  Odds are I can get the card tomorrow.  Season Highlights or Record Breakers were always my favorite cards in the Topps sets of my youth – this is those cards on steroids!

Merge that with the biggest baseball story in recent memory.  The Cubs won the World Series.  I long ago gave up the battle for Reds’ supremacy in my household – so I broke down and got a 5-pack of this card:


One for me, a few for my kids.  To me, this is the perfect card that merges a great (but long-overdue) innovation from Topps with the biggest story of the baseball century.  Bryant to Rizzo – something Cubs fans will remember for the next 108 years.

This joins other past winners on this blog:

2015: Topps Update All-Star Stitches – Todd Frazier

2015 Topps Update All-Star Stitch Auto Frazier

2014: Stadium Club – David Ortiz

2014 Stadium Club Ortiz

2013: Topps Heritage Real One Autograph – Stan Musial

2013 Heritage Real One Musial

2012: Gypsy Queen Autograph – Ken Griffey, Jr.

Griffey Jr Gypsy

2011: Topps – Jay Bruce

11T Bruce


Topps Now

16 04 2016

Last Monday, to coincide with the start of the baseball season, Topps started a new program called Topps Now.  This is pretty new, but it really intrigued me.  The slogan is

Topps Now slogan

The premise of Topps Now is that every day, Topps creates 1 to 4 cards (most often it’s been 2) of a highlight from yesterday’s games.

It could be from a big hit to win a game.  It looks like walk-offs are almost always going to get a card.  An example is on Monday in the Cubs home opener; Addison Russell hit an 8th inning homer to complete a comeback over my Reds on Tuesday.  He got a card.

2016 Topps Now Addison Russell 4-11-16

Some cards have been based on the record-breaker theme.  Trevor Story has had 3 cards so far; the one below is for when he became the first player to homer in his first 3 MLB games.

2016 Topps Now Trevor Story 4-6-16

The other types of themes they’ve gone with are overall great performances (Jaime Garcia threw a 1-hitter last week), tributes (a card for Jackie Robinson yesterday, and one for the Royals’ opening day celebration of their world championship).  Topps seems to have focused on rookies so far.  In addition to 3 cards for Story, Kenta Maeda, Tyler White, Nomar Mazara, Trevor Brown and Dae-Ho Lee have all gotten cards so far – while Clayton Kershaw, Mike Trout and Carlos Correa have not had a card in Topps Now yet.

The cards cost $10.  You have 24 hours to buy one, and Topps prints cards based on that demand.  After the 24 hours is up, they announce the new day’s cards at the same time as yesterday’s print run.  244 people bought the card for Albert Pujols’ walk-0ff last week (the fewest), while 1,427 people bought Mazara’s first MLB-licensed card (the most so far).

It’s an interesting supply/demand experiment.  I’ve checked the cards every day, to see who Topps picked and what the results were from the previous day.  It’s honestly a lot of fun, though at a $10 price point I think it’s about 2x too high.  I haven’t bought a card yet, but I probably will buy the first Reds player to make the cut.

Another interesting thing about this – what if you went to one of the games?  I went to the Cubs-Reds game on Thursday – if something from that game had made the cut, I would have definitely bought the card.  I love the idea behind these cards.  It’s surprisingly innovative for Topps.  The picture is from the event noted, you can get it right away, and it has the supply-demand element.  If the price was a little lower, I’d probably have bought the card of Tyler White (he’s on my fantasy team) or someone else.  That aside, it’s a very cool concept and I will probably end up buying a few of these – as long as shipping stays free.

2015 Card of the Year runner-up

28 12 2015

I’ll warn you in advance, this year both my card of the year and the runner-up are very centric to this blog.  I thought this was actually a very good year as far as baseball cards go.  Topps issued its first set without white borders in what seems like forever, and I thought the design was phenomenal.  They also increased the set size, which was a great move in my opinion.  Stadium Club was back for the 2nd straight year, and was completely awesome again.  Archives, Heritage and Gypsy Queen were about what you’d expect from Topps; they aren’t doing anything ground breaking but are sticking with what works.  Ginter seemed like it was too focused on the 10th anniversary.

So my 2 picks are coming from those first 2 sets.  I think if I picked set of the year, I’d probably go with Topps just because I was ecstatic with the design.  Add a great crop of young players, and it was a great set to collect (though the inserts were a bit blah for me).  And then I’d go with Stadium Club, because the photos are just phenomenal.  And I’d go back and forth trying to decide.

Anyways, the runner-up card is going to come from Stadium Club.  About a year ago, I started doing a series of posts about baseball tunes.  It’s called Tuesday Tunes: Diamond Ditties.  The first one was a pop song by Lorde, called Royals.  Not what you’d think of as far as a baseball song, but I was intrigued by the upstart (at the time) Royals and how they were playing that song at the games.  Then I learned she’d written in when she saw this picture:

National Geograhic Royas - 1976 George Brett

This was an iconic photo of Brett from, of all magazines, the National Geographic.

Fast forward to this year’s Stadium Club set.  What card did they include?  My 2015 runner-up card of the year.

2015 Stadium Club Brett

I posted about this set because I thought the picture and the story behind it were so great, as well as the fact that this pop singer who knew nothing about baseball had been inspired to write a #1 hit song by it.

A few other cards I considered:

  • Topps – Derek Jeter.  It was card #1 of the set, which is his final base Topps card and shows him in the walk-off hit he had in his last game at Yankee Stadium
  • Topps – Kris Bryant.  Archives is the rookie card for Bryant that got more pub because it was unnecessarily short-printed.  But this is one of the nicest cards in the set.  Not only is it Bryant’s Topps rookie card, but you can see the new Wrigley Field video board in the background.  That was a very notable development in baseball.
  • Stadium Club – Ernie Banks.  It shows him getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom back in 2013.  Last year, my card of the year actually had Obama on it, with David Ortiz.
  • Gypsy Queen Throwbacks – Nelson Cruz.  A set devoted entirely to throwback uniforms, and Cruz is shown with a really cool Black Sox jersey.
  • Gypsy Queen Walk-off Winners – Ken Griffey Jr.  Junior’s slide into home in the 1995 ALDS to beat the Yankees in game 5.  The coolest card of a cool set.

Check out my next post for the winner…

2014 Card of the Year!!!

31 12 2014

2014 Stadium Club Ortiz

My choice for card of the year is from the set I dubbed as my product of the year.  I already discussed why I think Topps bringing back Stadium Club was a great thing.  This card highlights the things I think are great about the product.  A cool picture with a story behind it.

The Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, and when you win one of the major sports titles, your team gets a day at the White House.  And it usually means the President gets a custom-made jersey of that team.  When the Red Sox went to visit Pennsylvania Avenue this year, David Ortiz presented the jersey to President Obama.  When he did, he whipped out his cell phone and took a selfie with the POTUS.  There was some controversy whether or not the event was spontaneous; Ortiz has a promotional contract with Samsung.  Regardless, it was a moment where a long-standing tradition (DC visit for sports champs) met with a new fad (the selfie).

Ortiz is my 4th winner of card of the year.  Here were the last few .

2013: Topps Heritage Real One Autograph – Stan Musial

2013 Heritage Real One Musial

2012: Gypsy Queen Autograph – Ken Griffey, Jr.

Griffey Jr Gypsy

2011: Topps – Jay Bruce

11T Bruce

2014 Product of the Year

27 12 2014

Two years ago I did a post for my “set of the year” in response to a blog bat around by This Card is Cool.

A couple of things to think about.  There are over 50 baseball products out this year if you count all the MLB-licensed things that Topps did, plus products from Leaf, Panini and Upper Deck.  If you go by order of release date, here’s what came out in 2014.  Bold means it’s a new product in 2014.

Baseball “standard issue” sets (it’s a bit of a stretch for me to include Goodwin and Golden Age in here – but I’ve included them every year I’ve done this):

  • Topps (Series 1) – January 29
  • Topps Turkey Red – February 19
  • Topps Tribute – February 21
  • Donruss (Series 1) – February 26
  • Topps Heritage – March 14
  • Topps Opening Day – March 19
  • Topps Museum Collection – March 28
  • Topps Gypsy Queen – April 9
  • Bowman – April 30
  • Panini Prizm – May 21
  • Topps Archives – May 28
  • Topps Tier 1 – June 6
  • Topps (Series 2) – June 11
  • Bowman Inception – June 27
  • Panini Golden Age – July 2
  • Upper Deck Goodwin Champions – July 2
  • Topps Allen & Ginter – July 9
  • Bowman Platinum – July 30
  • Topps Mini – July 30
  • Donruss (Series 2) – August 5
  • Topps Finest – August 13
  • Topps Chrome – August 27
  • Topps Triple Threads – September 10
  • Panini Immaculate – September 21
  • Bowman Chrome – September 24
  • Stadium Club – October 1
  • Panini Hall of Fame 75th – October 8 (used to be Panini Cooperstown)
  • Topps (Update) – October 15
  • Topps Supreme – October 29 (no longer Asian market exclusive)
  • Topps Heritage (High Numbers) – October 31
  • Panini Classics – November 5
  • Topps High Tek – November
  • Donruss (The Rookies Update) – November 19
  • Topps Dynasty – November 21
  • Topps Five Star – December 5
  • Bowman Sterling – December 19

Minor league / Draft card sets:

  • Topps Pro Debut – June 4
  • Topps Heritage Minor League – September 19
  • Leaf Perfect Game Showcase – October 10
  • Leaf Metal Draft – October 17
  • Panini Prizm Perennial Draft Picks – November 12
  • Leaf Valiant – November 21
  • Bowman Draft – December 3
  • Leaf Trinity – December
  • Panini Elite Extra Edition – January 9, 2015

“odd-ball” sets:

  • Leaf Legends of the Diamond – January 31
  • Topps Stickers – March 13
  • Famous Fabrics Big Apple – March 28
  • Topps Team Sets – April
  • Leaf Cal Ripken Ironman Signature – October 10

Most of the sets that “went away” this year were from Panini.  The company didn’t bring back Triple Play, Hometown Heroes, Pinnacle, Select and America’s Pastime.  Topps didn’t do the Tribute World Baseball Classic set this year – since there wasn’t a World Baseball Classic.

Ever since Panini entered into the fray in late 2012, there are even more card sets than there were in 2011 and 2012.   Topps had a few more sets this year, too.  That’s not necessarily a good thing – the market for baseball cards has felt over saturated for 15+ years at this point.

I collected less sets this year.  Mostly because the summer was kind of lost time as far as baseball cards go.  Out of the sets above, I collected base Topps (both series and Update), Topps Heritage (including High Numbers), Goodwin Champions, Turkey Red and Topps Archives.  I didn’t collect Gypsy Queen or Panini Golden Age this year.  I plan to focus almost exclusively on my Topps project in 2015, so I may cut out Archives next year.

OK – so what was my favorite set of the year?  In 2011, it was Topps Heritage.  In 2012, it was – again – Topps Heritage.  In 2013, it was Topps flagship.  I thought 2013 was a pretty weak baseball card year.

This year?  I thought about Topps Heritage.  1965 was a great design, and Heritage was still fun to collect.  But I don’t like some of the things that Topps did with the product this year.  First and foremost, I was looking forward to the reproduction of the Embossed cards from 1965.  Well, Topps screwed that up by making them ultra-rare.  Additionally, they’ve subtly taken away some of the parallels between the current Heritage set and the original Topps set.  Far fewer card numbers match up with the old set (i.e. – Hank Aaron and Jason Heyward having the same card number).  The Real One autographs used to be only current players and reprints of the original set.  Now they’re throwing guys like Paul O’Neill or Jim Rice into the set.

I thought this year’s Topps set had an interesting design.  It wasn’t better or worse than last year, but I did think the photographs were better in 2013.  I also didn’t like the inserts as much this year.  So Topps didn’t win.

I’m going with a set that I didn’t actually collect.  Topps did bring back one product that I would love to collect if I had the chance.  I may think about buying a box or 2 next year.  Stadium Club was a really cool product back when it first came out in 1991 – it kind of hit home with the things I like the best about cards; having cool photos is key to the set.  This year, Topps brought Stadium Club back, and they made it a relatively affordable product (unlike the high-end attempt in 2008).

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they put my favorite player on the box.

2014 Stadium Club box

But, much more importantly, the focus was again on the photos.  Whether your seeing great action photos…

2014 Stadium Club Posey

Interesting posed shots…

2014 Stadium Club Gattis

Or NEW pictures of retired players.

2014 Stadium Club Ted Williams

I can’t stress the last point enough!  Over the past 3 years, Topps has re-used photos to a ridiculous degree.  It’s frustrating when you pull a card from one product and realize it’s the same picture you saw from a set you bought a month earlier.  To see new pictures of Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth or Williams is refreshing.

The rest of the product is solid as well.  Sure, it has too many parallel sets, but that ship sailed for every set long ago.  There are nice on-card autographs, and the inserts bring back some great ideas from older years.  The three card Triumvirate came back with a honeycomb background.

2014 Stadium Club Triumvirate Darvish

Beam Team is back, too.

2014 Stadium Club Beam Team Wright

There is a die-cut set of legends and future stars that looks really nice.

2014 Stadium Club Legends Nolan Ryan

There is also a set called field access that shows players down on the field before the game.  This card was pretty cool – it’s clearly the same photo shoot as the 1991 Topps card of Clemens.

2014 Stadium Club Field Access Clemens

The bottom line, though – is the base set.  It’s a winner!

2014 Stadium Club Ruth

The original Gypsy Queen – 1887 N175 set

16 05 2013

I just finished going through everything in the 1964 Topps and 2013 Heritage sets.  I got 2 boxes of Gypsy Queen in last month and didn’t get around to opening them until recently.  I’m not going to do the detailed posts that I did the past two years for this product, but I do want to highlight a few things.  And one thing I always like to do is re-post my look at the original set!  So here’s the post I did 2+ years ago when the original (and best) Topps Gypsy Queen product came out.

114 players featured in the set (per the Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards) – though the exact number of cards issued is unknown.

  • Set Background: The N174/N175 Gypsy Queen tobacco card set was issued by the Goodwin & Co. in 1887 to help market the company’s Gypsy Queen cigarettes.  Goodwin was founded before the Civil War and was one of four tobacco companies that became the American Tobacco Company monopoly in 1890.  Goodwin is known for Old Judge, Gypsy Queen and Goodwin Champions card sets.  I’ve seen this set designated as both N174 and N175.  Many of the cards feature the same photos as the N172 Old Judge set – which has far more than thee 150 or so cards from this set.
  • Set Design: The cards feature a sepia toned photograph of the designated player with a white border.  The border curves at the top, with the words “Gypsy Queen” prominently featured in old-style font.  The player name (usually the full last name and first initial), position and team city are featured at the bottom.  Players for the 1886 World Series champion St. Louis Browns (of the American Association) also had the word “Champions” below the team name.  The bottom border states Goodwin & Co. copyright and clearly states the year of issue – 1887.  The words “Cigarettes” and “Goodwin & Co. N.Y.” are also shown at the bottom.  There are two sizes of cards in the set.  The most common size is the 1.5″ x 2.5″, while the far rarer larger cards measure 2″ x 3.5″.  There are only 8 or 9 larger cards known to exist, and they tend to be of more notable players.
  • Packs: Cards were released inside 1 card per Gypsy Queen cigarette packs sold by Goodwin & Co.  I don’t know this for sure, but I surmise the larger cards were available via some sort of mail-in (as they seemingly wouldn’t fit in a cigarette pack).
  • Rookies: I’m not even going to go there.  The rookie card craze still had 100 years before it built any momentum.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 12 Hall of Famers out of the cards known to be issued in this set.
    • Buck Ewing, Dan Brouthers, John Montgomery Ward, Mike “King” Kelly, Ned Hanlon, Charlie “Old Hoss” Radbourn, Orator Jim O’Rourke, Pud Galvin, Roger Connor, Tim Keefe, Tommy McCarthy, and Charles Comiskey.
  • Last Active player: Deacon McGuire.  This was interesting to figure out to say the least.  McGuire played 1 game for the Detroit Tigers in 1912 – he was the only player from this set to make an appearance in the decade of the 1910’s.  McGuire was a journeyman catcher who played in parts of 26 seasons – a record until Nolan Ryan broke it in the mid-90’s.  He also played for 11 different franchises, which was a record until Matt Stairs passed that record last year.  McGuire was the starting catcher for the 1904 New York Highlanders (Yankees), so he likely caught the majority of Jack Chesbro’s modern record 41 wins.  He played regularly until 1906, when he played 51 games New York.  He was a manager for Boston and Cleveland after that, never playing more than 6 games in a year over the last half of the decade.  He was a coach for the Tigers in 1912 when he played his last game – going 1 for 2.  A number of other players made appearances in the second half of the 1900’s, a couple of them after a significant time away from the game.
  • Variations: The most recent Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards listed 114 different players, 56 more small size variations of cards for those players.  Many of the different photo variations involve one fielding pose and another batting pose.

Parallel Set

There are 8 large card variations of the players in the regular set.  These are not photo variations – they are the same card but in a larger size (the 2″ x 3.5″).  This is still slightly smaller than today’s standard card set.  If you were rich and collected old cards, it would be pretty sweet to marry up one of the larger cards with the smaller cards.  This would be difficult, though – the larger cards are particularly rare.  I’ve seen a number of websites reference that there are 9 large card variation.

A look back at 1934-36 Batter Up

19 02 2013

1934 Batter Up Greenberg

Next up in the line of older sets that are re-done for Panini Golden Age is the 1934-36 Batter Up set.

192 cards in the set.

1934 Batter Up wrappers

  • Set Design: The cards measure 2-3/8″ x 3″.  They are die-cut and blank-backed with black and white photos that come in a number of different tints.  The cards can be folded over to stand and display.  The background can be seen on these (unlike the stand-up cards Topps did in 1964), but the background is tinted out.
  • Packs: National Chicle issued these cards in 1-card packs (1¢).  There were two series.  Cards #1-80 are the low series (pack on the right above), cards #81-192 (pack on the left) are the high series.  The high numbers are harder to find.
  • Hall of Fame: There are 36 Hall of Famers in this set.
    • Al Lopez, Carl Hubbell, Bill Terry, Jim Bottomley, Rick Ferrell, Pie Traynor, Lloyd Waner, Arky Vaughn, Lefty Gomez, Earl Averill, Mickey Cochrane, Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Bill Dickey, Lefty Grove, Joe Cronin, Frankie Frisch, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Lyons, Rabbit Maranville, Charlie Gehringer, Tony Lazzeri, Hank Greenberg, Dizzy Dean, Hack Wilson, Heinie Manush, Goose Goslin, Fred Lindstrom, Luke Appling, Ernie Lombardi, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Joe Medwick, Leo Durocher, Chuck Klein
  • Last Active player: I believe it’s Luke Appling, who finished his 20-year White Sox career in 1950.  He played both games of a double-header on October 1st of that year.
  • First Active player: Rabbit Maranville, who was the answer on the other side (last active player) in the Ferguson Bakery pennants I did yesterday.  Maranville is the only player in both sets.  Maranville started his career in 1912 for the Boston Braves
  • Variations: There are a number of different color tints.  Purple, black, blue, green, brown, and red in the low series, with similar colors in the high series (but no red or purple).