Next month, Topps will release their latest pre-War influenced "retro" product: Topps Allen & Ginter (TA&G). The product is notable for for the return of a Hobby legend, and for the return of one of the dumbest gimmicks in Hobby history.
For those unfamiliar, in 1887 the Allen & Ginter tobacco company of Richmond released what is generally recognized as the first "trading card" set (ACC designation: N43). The "Allen & Ginter's World's Champions" only featured 10 actual baseball players, but they were the first actual "baseball cards."
TA&G is Topps' latest entry in a continuous line of retro-themed products: last year's Turkey Red, 2004-05's Cracker Jack, and the 20X sets of 2002 and 2003. While those sets featured only baseball players, TA&G will have Major Leaguers with a few stars from other sports interspersed -- just like in the original. So along with A-Rod, Pujols, Ichiro, and the rest of the gang, you'll be able to pull cards of Mike Tyson, Hulk Hogan, Brandi Chastain (I'd tap that), Danica Patrick (that too), and hot dog eating champion Takeru Kobayashi. What, no El Wingador?
The structure of TA&G is similar to the other Topps pre-War sets, with one original-sized parallel per pack, framed relics, buy backs, and whatnot. What makes TA&G significant from a Hobby perspective, is the return of a name The Hobby hasn't heard from in quite a while.
That would be Dick Perez. Yes, Dick Perez. The original artist of the Donruss Diamond Kings will contribute the "Dick Perez Sketches" insert to TA&G -- an insert that looks more in place in a 1980s retro set than a 1880s set. But hey, it's Dick Perez. Welcome back Dick!
And now the bad news. The single worst gimmick in Hobby history rears its ugly head in TA&G: "Dare-to-Tear." Yes, what made 1998 Zenith the second worst baseball card product ever, is making a most unfortunate come back. Granted, the "Rip Cards" (as Topps calls them) are only one-per-case (1:288). But still, Dare-to-Tear was a lousy idea that no one in The Hobby took seriously, and should have died the same death as the company they came up with it.
Other than the Rip Cards, this looks like another pretty good nostalgia product from Topps. I for one, will be looking forward to its release in July.