So I guess it's rather appropriate then that Topps closes out 2007 with three products that -- upon first glance -- appear to be more "miss" than "hit:" Bowman's Best, Topps 52 and Topps Updates and Highlights.
After a year's hiatus, the redheaded step-child of the Bowman family makes a not-so-triumphant return. BowBest is back (again), this time with a new format (again).
The cards themselves are printed on what Topps calls "Tribute Technology," rather than the Finest-esque chrome stock. In fact, you could probably slap a "Bowman Sterling" label on the wrapper, and most collectors wouldn't know the difference. But like Finest, each waxbox will come packaged into three separate mini-boxes.
Here's where it gets a weird, and you'll have to follow me on this. Some of the base set and Prospect "inserts" are available only as autographs. Others are only available un-autographed. And yet a third group are available either autographed or un-autographed.
And it's not just the "Rookies" and Prospects either. For example: Alex Rodriguez's base set card is only available autographed. Derek Jeter's is not autographed. But Ryan Howard's card is available in both flavors.
Set aside the fact that, if you're an A-Rod collector and want his 2007 Bowman's Best base set card, you'll have no choice but to get one with an autograph; the question I'd like to ask Topps is: Why? Why not just make all the base set cards in an un-autographed version, and have a few players sign as a "variation?" (But that would actually make sense, and we can't have that, can we?)
Confused yet? Well, you can pretty much forget about attempting collect the entire set, as the 29 veteran autographs, 28 "Rookie" autographs, and 24 Prospect "insert" autographs are (naturally) short-printed and come three-per-box (one per mini-box). Not only that, but the 30 un-autographed base set "Rookies" and 40 plain vanilla Prospect "inserts" are all short-printed, serial-numbered, and are seeded at the rate of one-per mini-box, each.
Back in the day, Bowman's Best was a great product. It was the prefect hybrid of Finest technology with Bowman's prospects. And then along came Bowman Chrome; then Bowman Draft Picks; then Bowman Heritage....
The fact is, for the last few years or so, Bowman's Best ceased to be even remotely collectible. This new iteration of BowBest is even less so.
If there is one good thing I can say about '07 BowBest, is that it's somewhat affordable. The MSRP I saw on the sell sheet says $3/pack. (Although I believe this to be a typo.) Street Date: November 12
Topps Rookies -- '52 Edition
And now for something from the "We've Completely Run Out Of New Ideas" department, yet another edition of Topps 52! When I first saw the sell sheet, I said to myself, "I can't believe they're making this set AGAIN." I tried to pinch myself, but to no avail.
It's the exact same concept as last year's Topps 52 -- all the MLBPA-approved "ROOKIES" in one set, and all on the same old 1952 design that Topps has been beating to death ever since the first series of Topps Heritage. And yes, there will be yet another Mickey Mantle reprint in the base set -- as if there haven't been enough of them.
Put a stamp on this one, 'cause Topps is mailing this one in.
MSRP: $5/pack; Street Date: Nov. 19.
Topps Updates and Highlights
TU&H is essentially the third series of '07 Topps -- and I have absolutely no idea why Topps just doesn't call it that. And yes, the parade of insert stupidity continues!
TU&H has more mirrors than a carnival fun house: 100 more Mickey Mantle's, 25 A-Rod's, and another 22 Barry Bonds'. But the coup-de-grace is another 200-card batch of the worst insert set ever: Generation Now.
But at least Topps didn't screw up the base set: 330 cards, with subsets galore.
Street Date: Late October
Judging by the sell sheets for these products, it's become obvious that the Topps product development department is just waiting for the buy-out to resolve itself. Because the effort just ain't there. I guess the best we collector's can hope for is for UD or Eisner to take over, and let 'em clean house.