Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Box Break and Review: 2007 Topps series 1

One box of 2007 Topps Series One (paid $50)
36 packs per box, ten cards per pack (MSRP: $1.99)

The Details

Base Set: 330 cards

"Red Letters": 330 cards (2:1*)
Gold: 330 cards (1:11, numbered to 2007)
1st Edition: 330 cards (1:36)
Platinum: 330 cards (1:26,000, one-of-one)

*"Stealth" insert.

Own the Game: 25 cards (1:6)
Hobby Masters: 20 cards (1:6)
Generation Now: 200 cards (1:4)
Mickey Mantle Home Run History: 100 cards (1:9)
Josh Gibson Home Run History: 110 cards (1:9)
The Mickey Mantle Story: 15 cards (1:18)
Distinguished Service: 20 cards (1:12)
ARod Road to 500: 20 cards (1:36)
Unlock the Mick: 5 cards (1:18)

Distinguished Service Cuts: 30 cards (1:505,600, one-of-one)
'06 Season Highlights Autographs: 36 cards
Generation Now Autograph: 200 cards (1:50,850, one-of-one)
Distinguished Service Autographs: five cards (1:20,000)
ARod Road to 500 Autograph: 20 cards (1:1,111,000, one-of-one)
World Champion Relics: 15 cards (1:7550, limited to 100)
'06 Season Highlights Relics: 40 cards
1952 Mantle Reprint Relic: one card (1:158,700, numbered to 52)
Mickey Mantle Home Run History Relics (1:14,618)

The Pulls

Base Set: 247 of 330 (74.85%)

72 "Red Letters"
3 Golds: R. Hill, Delwyn Young, J. Santana Cy Young
1 1st Edition: P. Nevin

6 Own the Game: Soriano, Berkman, Pujols, Hafner, C. Carpenter, R. Halladay
6 Hobby Masters: D. Wright, R. Howard, A-Rod, V. Guerrero, ManRam, J. Morneau
9 Generation Now: R. Howard (#15, 30 & 32), Utley (#22 & 23), C-M Wang (#14), M. Napoli (#4), J. Morneau (#9), D. Wright (#11)
4 Mickey Mantle Home Run History: #238, 255, 266 & 277
4 Josh Gibson Home Run History: #7, 275, 330 & 390
2 The Mickey Mantle Story: #2 & #4
3 Distinguished Service: Eisenhower, D. MacArthur & J. Doolittle
1 ARod Road to 500: #20
2 Unlock the Mick: #1 & 5


The Review

It's Mid-February; pitchers and catchers just reported, and the first series of Topps baseball is now out. Life is good. But while this year's model has much of what you've come to expect from the Topps flagship, there are a few new wrinkles -- not all of which are welcome.

Let's start with what Topps did right (or more accurately, what they didn't screw up): the base set. At 330 cards, the first series is the same size as last year's and has all the subsets that are now standard: 241 regular player cards, 15 managers, 15 team cards, 5 multi-player cards, 24 award winners and 30 MLBPA-approved rookie cards.

The first prototypes that I saw of '07 Topps had navy blue borders (which I thought would be pretty nice looking). Topps must have changed them at the last minute, because all these cards have black borders -- which makes them look a little like Bowman cards. But that's not the only change. All the stars that changed teams in the off season are already pictured in their new uniforms, even before they've even played a game. All of which is nice, but did we really have to have Alfonso Soriano pictured as a Cub before he's even played a game for them? Isn't that what the second series is for?

The big "money card" everybody's going to be chasing after is the first "true" rookie card of Tigers pitcher Andrew Miller. As I mentioned in my review of 2006 Bowman Draft Picks and Prospects, Miller -- the sixth player chosen in last year's draft -- could have been included in '06 products as he made his Major League debut in August. But for some reason was omitted.

Now here's where it gets a little silly: the inserts. First of all, each pack contains two of what I'm calling "Red Letter" parallels. There are no references to these cards anywhere on the packaging, nor are there any references to these cards on the Topps website. They look like any other card, but the player's name, position and card number on the reverse are printed in red ink. Hence the name: Red Letters. Yep, I already know what you're thinking: If there's one thing The Hobby needed more of, it's yet another meaningless parallel set.

But wait that's not all. Topps really cranks up the BS with the non-parallel inserts. If the Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle Home Run History inserts were the worst inserts of 2006, Topps kicks the crap up another notch with not one, not two, not three, but four "mirrored" inserts. (I've coined the term "mirror," for a series where the same card is repeated endlessly, ad infinitum.) In addition to the latest batch of Mickey Mantle Home Run Histories, there's also the beginning of a similar set for Alex Rodriguez. But the early front-runners for worst inserts of 2007 are the Generation Now and Josh Gibson Home Run Histories.

Generation Now is an amalgam of nine different players combined into one massive 200-card mirrored set. For example, the first 50 cards in the set are all of Ryan Howard (for his 58 HRs), and all 50 of these cards look pretty much the same. The next 34 cards are all of Chase Utley, and they too all pretty much look the same. That's all well and fine. But do we really need a card commemorating all 14 of Mike Napoli's home runs -- all of which pretty much look the same?

The worst by far is Josh Gibson's -- which is a shame really. As I mentioned when I named the Bonds and Mantle sets the worst inserts of 2006, nobody knows exactly how many home runs Josh Gibson hit. But did that stop Topps? Of course not. They went ahead with a 110-card Josh Gibson Home Run History insert set anyway.

But whereas the Bonds, Mantle, and A-Rod "mirrors" have some details as to the circumstances of the specific home run -- making each card somewhat unique -- there is nothing of the sort on the Gibson's. In other words, with the exception of a big foil-stamped number (which appears to have been chosen at random), all 110 Josh Gibson cards are exactly the same. Literally. THEY TOOK THE SAME FRICKIN' CARD AND MADE 110 DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF IT!

But not all is lost insert-wise. The popular Hobby Masters and Own the Game inserts return for another year, and (continuing the theme of including non-baseball historical figures) the Distinguished Service cards honor various World War II figures.

The Bottom Line:

With the inclusion of the Red Letter "stealth" inserts, you'll be getting 20% fewer base set cards per hobby box than you did last year -- something to think about if you're attempting to build a set. (Gee thanks Topps! Way to look out for us set builders!) As an alternative, you may want to consider an HTA box. (10 packs of 50 cards, with promises of two autogamers.) But $85-$90 for a box of regular ol' Topps may be out of your price range. And besides, Topps isn't about autogamers, it's for set builders.

As it is, this particular box yielded three-quarters of the base set -- compared to about 90% for last year's -- and all the inserts ran accordingly. Don't get me wrong, 2007 Topps isn't all that bad. It's just that it would have been better without the bothersome Red Letters and needlessly repetitive mirror inserts.

Product Rating: 2 1/2 Gumsticks (out of five)

... and another thing.

Apparently Topps (wisely) let its exclusive contact with Barry Bonds expire, as he is nowhere to be seen in this product.

To refresh your memory, in 2004 Bonds became the first established "star" to withdraw from the MLBPA's group licensing agreement. Later that year, he came to terms with Topps, giving them the exclusive right to print Barry Bonds cards through the 2006 season. (Topps reportedly paid $2 million to Bonds.) Unless Topps and Bonds come to terms soon, or if Bonds signs with the PA, we may not see him in any set this year.


Anonymous said...

A couple notes:
I bought a HTA box and did get a complete white letter set plus about 100 red letter cards.

Additionally I busted a few retail packs from Target, and there were NO red letter cards in these packs, so it appears that the red letter cards are a hobby-only variation.

Chris Harris said...

'07 Topps may be that rare product where the retail version is better than hobby.

Anonymous said...

I purchased a retail box at Toys R Us and also did not get any red letter cards. I did get some good cards that will remain in my personal collection. I'll hold overall judgement until I open more packs.

Thanks for the box break Chris.