Saturday, June 23, 2007

How to Fix Topps Baseball.

From all the talk among collectors, from all the e-mails I receive, from all the posts on the website, the verdict is in: 2007 Topps Baseball sucks. This anonymous poster sums it all up:

"I hate this year's Topps base set... I hate the airbrushing. I hate the design. I hate the mirror cards. I hate the 'Generation Now' idiocy. I hate the Mickey Mantle 'hero worship' cards. I hate that Topps repeatedly recycles the 1952 baseball design everywhere ... I really hate the red letter variations. I hate the fake short-print variations. ... I wish they would keep their base set sacrosanct. Put in autographed cards as chase cards. Maybe do one or two small (10-card) insert sets. But that's it! ... Don't ruin the stinkin' base set!"

So as a service to Upper Deck, Michael Eisner, Bazooka Joe, the infamous, deplorable, Keith Olbermann, or whomever winds up running Topps, may I make a couple of suggestions for the 2008 Topps Baseball set.

  1. Expand the base set.

  2. Call it "The 792 Mystique." Topps Baseball and the number 792 go together like peanut butter and jelly. But Topps hasn't made a base set that large since 1994 -- even though the number of MLB teams (and the number of MLB players) have expanded.

    660 cards is just too small. Then again, 792 isn't big enough anymore either. Topps should expand their base set from 660 cards to (at least) 880. 880 cards is more than enough to include each team's entire 25-man roster, all 30 managers, 30 team cards, a handful of multi-player cards, and a couple dozen "Rookies."

    The Updates and Highlights set -- which, since it's gone to its current format, I consider to be a third series -- is fine at 330 cards. The structure of traded players, "Rookies," All-Stars, league leaders, et al should remain unchanged.

  3. Addition by subtraction.

  4. With the PA's decision to cut the number of 2008 card releases by three, Topps series one and two should be combined into a single series, to be released in late-March. Updates and Highlights would remain in it's current late-October/early-November slot.

  5. Please, step away from the airbrush.

  6. Did we really have to have a card of Alfonso Soriano as a Chicago Cub, before he's even played a game for them? What exactly was the point of doing that? And doesn't airbrushing undermine the purpose of a second series or update set? If you absolutely, have to use the airbrush, save it for the Update set.

    And while I'm on the subject of airbrushing, if the MLBPA can mandate to the trading card manufacturers who can appear in a set (i.e. the "Rookie Card" rules), they should decree that licensees should refrain from airbrushing until after the September 1 "call-up" date.

  7. Cut back on the number of parallels and manufactured variations.

  8. Personally, I could never understand the attraction of parallels. But many collectors like them, so I'm not advocating they be totally eliminated. But five different parallel sets? (Not to mention the contrived variations?) Golds, one-of-ones, Press Plates, and HTA-only Coppers are more than enough. Get rid of the Red Letter "stealth" parallels and the variations.

  9. Ditch the "Mirrors."

  10. The "mirror" insert is one of the dumbest concepts The Hobby's seen in the post-Pinnacle Brands era. It's right up there with Fractal Matrix, "Dare-to-Tear," and cards packaged in soup cans on the stupidity meter. The whole concept is an insult to the intelligence of baseball card collectors everywhere. Besides, its not like anybody's actually collecting any of these things.

    For 2008, Topps should finish up the Bonds, Mantle, and A-Rod mirrors, and put this gimmick to bed. Permanently.

  11. Streamline the other inserts.

  12. OK, so Topps paid a shit-pot of money to get Mickey Mantle. But does that justify a new "hero-worship" insert of him, every year? Here's a suggestion, with all the other card companies ripping off Topps' designs and ideas, how about ripping-off an idea from the competition?

    I don't know about you, but I loved the "Baseball Heroes" anthology inserts Upper Deck had in the early-90s. Why not try the same idea in Topps? Put out a new ten-card hero-worship set for a different player, in each series. Start with Mantle and Bonds sets for 2008, but continue the series in '09 with different players.

    I'd keep the other inserts: Own the Game, Hobby Masters, and Topps Stars in the combined "regular" set; Trading Places and Rookie Debuts in Updates and Highlights. I'd also throw in a "historical figures" insert along the lines of the Distinguished Service and The Constitution Signers.

  13. We "get" pack-specific inserts, but this is a little ridiculous.

  14. As collector's, we're used to the idea of separate inserts for Hobby packs, retail packs, HTA jumbos, and racks. But inserts exclusively for K-Mart, Wal-Mart, and Target? That's a little excessive, wouldn't you say?

So those are my ideas for '08 Topps. What to you all think? Care to make any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Topps certainly needs to expand the number of the base set from 660 to 792 at least, 880 would be better. The current 660 leaves out middle relivers and utility players. This would be more profitable for Topps as more cards would be sold. It's a no brainer.

Airbrushing sucks. Keep their old uniforms and maybe put in a new uniform in a updated set later in the year.

I figure the parallel versions are a money maker for Topps and dealers or they wouldn't produce them.

Mickey Mantle? I'm Mantled out but a lot of people still want them. Just look at the value of them on Beckett.

Still, Topps has come a long way in quality since the horrible airbrushing on the 1970s and off centered cards.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all that was suggested.

My changes for '08 Topps would be the following:
1. Make the SRP for the packs cheaper. Somewhere around 99 cents for a 10 card pack and $2.99 for a 35 card Jumbo pack.
2. Have it more available to consumers (ie convenience stores,etc)
3. Break it down into 3 series. Series 1 and 2 would have 330 cards each, and series 3 would have 132 cards. The first series would come out in March, the second in June, and the third would come out in December.
4. Have only one or two insert sets per series.
5. Do away with all of the parallels except gold.
6. No more than 12 inserts per 36 pack box!

Anonymous said...


Great comments.

I don't think lowering the price would get kids back into the hobby. If you ever go into a card shop that sells these pokemon cards, you'll find there a huge market for higher priced for kids, kids just aren't interested in baseball. I think it would also cut into the profit of Topps. They just opened a card shop near here in Lexington, SC and they don't even carry baseball cards but these Pokemon and similar type cards.

2. I wouldn't mind having them more available but frankly, almost no one wants to carry them either. The Walmart by me put out a bunch of 2.99 topps first edition a few months and nearly all of them are still on the shelf.

3. I think the idea of having a 3rd series is okay but baseball cards sales drop into the ground when football cards come out. Always have. Always will. I'd prefer them going back to a Traded Set only available at dealers. It's a win win for us and for the dealer.

4. I don't collect all these variants of cards they put out or the megatude of sets.... but I think the dealers need these in order to remain in business. What I do hate is they take away a basecard when they insert one of those special cards. Grrrrrr

5. Wait... Maybe the idea of putting a 99 cent pack but use the quality of the early 90s might be feasable but also keep the current line. In the late 80s, I was working in conv stores and Topps actually had a rep going around to the stores.

But I think the days of baseball cards is coming to a close. Disinterest, the internet, SportsCenter all have consipired to harm cards. You used to have to collect cards to get their lifettime stats. Now it only takes a few seconds online.

Anonymous said...

I'm not as down on 2007 Topps as others, but here are my suggestions:
1. Fewer inserts period - Keep one "historical" insert that is preferably not entirely dedicated to Mickey Mantle. Have no more than two parallel sets - the rarer the better. Eliminate all the mirror sets - I can't really believe that anyone collects hundreds of cards that all look same. Cut all other inserts sets at least in half. Seriously this is the main reason as a base Topps completist I am seriously considering just buying the factory sets at a quarter to half the price of completing the sets through packs. At most have one insert per every other small pack, no more than 1-2 per rack pack, and no more than 3 per jumbo pack.
2. Go to a 792 card, two series base set. Move all-stars and season highlights from the update set and include one other subset of your choice (something better thought out than "Classic Combos" preferably). Also include more common players so that a team sets actually resembles a reasonably full team of players.
3. Make the update/traded set 207 cards (divisible by nine) and load it up with rookie cards of nearly anyone newly eligible. Given the recent RC guidelines, the Bowman line has just about become pointless. Eliminate it and incorporate its spirit into the update set.
4. Would it kill Topps to include gum in every pack?
5. Cut production by a small, but significant percentage. Perhaps this is too anectodal, but I've seen a mildly disturbing amount of unsold 2006 Topps in stores than I remember seeing from previous years of Topps.
6. On a related point, make Opening Day a more distinct product (different design and photographs). Try to use any means necessary to target this product toward kids (multiday giveaway to all kids attending games the first home weekend series perhaps?). If they want to print the heck out of this product, feel free.

Anonymous said...

They do include the gum in the larger Topps base packs at Walmart. And it still taste as bad as it did 30 years ago... (LOL) At least they put the gum into a plastic wrapper. Good point though.

What I hate about the 2007 Topps Base set is those AWFUL back photos of the players. Not only are they so little but 90 percent of them are cut out head shots from the from of the photo. Also a ton of empty space on the back on the card under the photo. They could have done better. Maybe added some baseball trivia. Or a much larger and different facial pic. I do like the fronts though.

I think the 2006 set was great, good photos, and the cartoons on the back were a great throwback.

My local Walmart still is selling 2006 Topps baseball card packs as well as the complete set. Good point on that. They had the 2005 complete set up until a month ago. I should have grabbed it.

Agree with you on Opening Day, it's too much like the base set. Topps just trying to get a few bucks before the real season starts.

And again, they certainly need to update the number of cards in the base set. Perhaps they are leaving it at 660 to get people to buy Bowman and other Topps products.

But I also know it's a tough market for Topps and they are probably trying their best with the cooperation of the MLB and MLBPA.

dayf said...

Ok, I am an admitted Topps fan-boy, but this post really surprised me. I've heard some complaints (heck, I've made some complaints), I've seen some eyes rolled about the Jeter-Bush fiasco, but before now I had yet to hear that the set flat out sucks. My local dealers tend to agree with me as Topps flew off their shelves while packs of Upper Deck are collecting dust. Topps could use some fine tuning though and you have some good ideas overall.

1 Expand the base set.

Agree. 792 is a good number, two series of 440 is good as well.

2 Addition by subtraction.

They'll never get rid of Series 2. Topps has to have a set out in February to get all the collectors dying for a new set after the long winter. Series 2 then becomes the fresh product to sell around May or June when people have finished up with series 1. You combine the two into 1 series released just before opening day and FlUpper Deck beats them to the punch and grabs the early collector dollar. If Topps launched something else as their premier product in February like Heritage it might work. Then again, I don't want Topps doing a rush job on Heritage and screwing it up like they did with the Bowman Heritage set last year.

3 Please, step away from the airbrush.

Oh, come on. You might as well tell Upper Deck that Holograms are sooooooo 1980's. Topps has been airbrushing for decades and you want them to stop now that they've actually become competent at it?

3 Cut back on the number of parallels and manufactured variations.

I agree, the Reds are useless. I don't consider one of ones to be parallels and press plates are a category unto themselves. Gold and black numbered parallels are enough for me.

4 Ditch the "Mirrors."

The problem isn't with the mirrors, it's when they half ass them. I know collectors who are actively trying to complete the Bonds and Mantle sets. The DiMaggio streak set is actually pretty cool, can be completed with a little work and is a lot cheaper than the Play Ball insert from a few years ago. My issue is with the Gibson and Joe D Seals sets that they mailed in. For Bob's sake, these are two legendary Hall of Famers and they can't be bothered to at least force an intern to write some different copy on the back of each card?? 60-100 card sets where the only difference in each card is the number is insulting.

5 Streamline the other inserts.

I don't care what they do with the inserts as long as they keep the historical sets going. Even if it eventually devolves into a "Famous Mustaches from the Dead Ball Era" set, I love that old stuff. Just do it right and put a little effort into it.

6 We "get" pack-specific inserts, but this is a little ridiculous.

I don't see a problem with this. Just about the only retail outlet for baseball cards anymore are these mega discount stores and if Topps stays in good graces with them by providing them with a unique insert then it's all good. Quite frankly, I think the Wal-Mart History of Baseball Cards set is one of the best ideas for an insert set in a long while and it has definitely resulted in me buying more box blasters from Wally World. Ted Williams fans can go to Target if that's what they collect. To be honest, I don't know what is in K-Mart boxes because I didn't know they even had their own inserts until now. Topps does the same thing for Hobby shops with their 1933 Delong card-a-week insert set, why not the big box stores that probably count for a big chunk of their revenue?

This being said, I wouldn't count your 2008 sets before they hatch. The more I read about this Upper Deck buyout of Topps, the more I'm convinced they are simply trying to shut down another of their rivals.

Chris Harris said...

3 Please, step away from the airbrush.

Oh, come on. You might as well tell Upper Deck that Holograms are sooooooo 1980's. Topps has been airbrushing for decades and you want them to stop now that they've actually become competent at it?

Go back and re-read my post. It's not as though I don't approve of all airbrushing, per se. What I hate is the historical revisionism.

Let me repeat the same question: Did Topps really need to issue a card of Alfonso Soriano pictured as a Chicago Cub in March? No.

dayf said...

Did Topps really need to issue a card of Alfonso Soriano pictured as a Chicago Cub in March? No.

No, they didn't really need to do it. ESPN didn't really need to photoshop a Cubs hat onto Alfonso's picture when they announced his signing either on SportsCenter either, but they did it. Soriano was the premier free agent signing of the offseason and putting a Cubs cap on him gave an immediate visual impact to the signing. It wasn't mission critical for Topps to airbursh a new uni on Soriano, but doing so looks nice and shows they put a little effort into the set.

I don't understand the issue with historical revisionism. The team name on the card is Cubs, not Nationals. Soriano was a member of the Chicago Cubs when the set released. What's the problem with putting him in a Cubs uniform? It's really no different from the bad airbrushing of the 70's. It would be nice if they used the effort they put into updating uniforms and put it into avoiding glaring mistakes like the Betancourt/Guillen error or the recycled photos they used in series two, but I don't see the problem with the airbrushing.

I guess we just disagree on this. I didn't mean to be overly snarky on my post, I just love that bad airbrushing. I have fond memories of Manny Sanguillen in a leprechaun green A's uni, Oscar Gamble's Yankees cap on his traded card and John Denny's full body airbrush from 1983 :)

Anonymous said...

I agree with some of this, but not all.

1. I agree - reduce the number of insert sets, especially the mirrors. I actually don't mind one of ore even two mirror sets but 2007 topps has just gone overboard on these.

2. Get rid of the intelletually insulting variations. The red back and first edition cards are two of the single worst, most annoying card variations I've ever seen. All they did was serve as pack fillers and made the base set harder to complete.

3. My main problem with 2007 is the design and the photography. It was just a MAJOR step back from 2006 in overall quality. They are just downright ugly cards.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to chime in on the review of Topps 2007 Baseball.

First, I've just discovered this forum and I think the discussion is great. Thanks to all responsible.

I have collected Topps Baseball Cards for 40 years. Granted, I am more of a critic now than when I was a kid, but I become more disappointed with the base set every year...and that's not easy considering the new low Topps had achieved in 2006 with the Alex Gordon fiasco..

I was curious -- then furious -- about the red-letter cards in my hobby box (Series 1). At first, I thought they were another example of an intentional 'error', but there were so many. When I realized they were yet another parallel set, I was livid. These cards were obviously the main reason that I was nowhere near a complete set.

Regarding the inserts, I had already grown numb to the ridiculous number and even more ridiculous content. (Is there really a market for tracking Hanley Ramirez' doubles?)

It was then a few weeks later that I learned about the Jeter / Mantle / Bush gimmick. That may be the dumbest baseball card I've seen since the 1998 Billy Wagner with the fireman helmet. I still don't know if that same card was issued without Mantle / Bush. Does anyone know?

I concur with the many comments about the limited size of the base set. These sets have become more notable for who doesn't have a card than who does have one. Here's a piece of trivial research I did. The last time the Topps base set included every position player who had played in at least two-thirds (108) of his team's games the previous season was 1991. I'm serious! It has been 16 years and counting that Topps has left out significant numbers of every day (nearly) players.

That brings me to the air-brush issue that several of you have already mentioned. I also think it's shameless that we are getting doctored photos in 2007. Remember the Andy Marte (Red Sox) card last year? He was traded again befor he ever wore the Boston uniform. My point is that the 1991 set also was the last time every player appeared in the correct uniform.

I say 'correct' because collectors and manufacturers alike traditionally considered baseball cards to be a chronicle of the season just completed. It seems that Topps has more recently feared being out-of-date if it doesn't capture off-season transactions. But what's the point in capturing 'some' of them? The result is an incoherent objective.

My preferences regarding the number of cards and the timing of their release is as follows:

- A 792-card (at least) single set in November / December that maximizes the number of individual player cards and gets rid of the junk like "dynamic duos" and team photos. Today's technology easily allows the cards to be produced and distributed not long after a season ends.

- Transform the 'Opening Day' brand to be a set that captures all of those off-season transactions and release it in April. The number of cards would depend on the off-season activity, but could probably be about 264 cards.

- Finally, issue the equivalent of the current "UH" set shortly after the trade deadline (August) to capture only those transactions that took place after opening day, as well as the substantive in-season call ups. This would probably be 132-264 cards as well.

I also agree with the suggested reduction in the price of the cards. I also think 'inserts' should be very few...even less than one per pack. I would also discontinue virtually all other issued sets. It has never made sense to me why Topps competes with itself.

Anonymous said...

One set of 792 cards, packaged in waxed paper with gum printed on grey backed card stock. A 132 card traded set could also be produced also packaged in the same way.

Anonymous said...

If they didn't put so many "special edition" inserts into the base set, they could lower the price. I'm not all against inserts, but they should be something special -- more than just a different color border or a different card number.

If they lowered the price by reducing the high-end inserts, they might sell a little less to the "investors", but there's plenty of premium sets for that. What's important is that they might gain more buyers in kids. I don't know what kind of allowance kids get today, but I know with my grown-up salary it still hurts to add a few packs to the cart. I'd like to see the main set be around $1 pack for 15 cards, and have at least a 792-card set.

kurt said...

Lots of good comments here. I'm new to the hobby. I collected cards as a school kid in the late 70s and early 80s and am getting back into it to try and pass my cards along to my son.

The industry has done *so* much to make this unfriendly to newcomers it's no surprise that people aren't collecting any more. Think of what makes collecting fun and it seems that Topps and others deliberately break the rules & principles that make collecting fun in the first place.

Many of the issues presented here get at the core problems. There used to be a sense of collecting the whole set, which meant something and so on.

Unknown said...

Ok, keep in mind that I live in a smal, small town with one Hobby shop that is open literally 1 day a week, and that day varies. It is owned by a truck driver who is rarely in town. The nearest card shop, other than the one in town(which may as well not exist)is over a hundred miles away. That said, it pisses me off to no end that the boxes bought at Wal Mart will not have some of the cards purchased at a shop(autos, etc). Wal mart is my only viable option for purchassing baseball cards unless I want to spend 3 hours in a car and $50 in gas just to have the "pleasure" of buying cards. This actually made me quit collecting for a short while, as it is jut not fair to people like me. I am getting screwed over simple geometry. I have bought undoubtably 100+ boxes of cards at Wal Mart and never gotten an autographed card. Imagine this, those who live in normal places. I long ago boycotted Ebay for the sheer bullshit that is Paypal. Has anyone else felt this way? BBC companies should think about their ENTIRE fan-base. God, just thinking about it makes me consider quiting the hobby again.

Unknown said...

And yes, I know it is Geography, not geometry. It is 6 in the morning and I am just tired.