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Collect call: 2011 Topps American Pie

Posted Dec 20, 2011 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Dec 20, 2011 at 10:44 PM

I am a history nut. OK, I am a history geek.

That’s why it is so much fun to rip into a box of Topps’ American Pie. The set debuted a decade ago and mixed baseball’s stars and quirky personalities (I mean, if you’re going to include a card of Joe Pepitone in your inaugural set, well, that’s kind of quirky) with cultural icons.

Topps dropped the baseball this team, and instead focused on the fads, fashions and famous since the end of World War II. When you open a box of this set, go ahead and play Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  It’s certainly appropriate, especially since Topps touts this product as “A Celebration of American Pop Culture.”

A hobby box contains 24 packs, with eight cards to a pack on average. Cost per pack should run in the $2.65 range. And what diversity: card No. 1 depicts the end of World War II, while the subject of the final card in the 200-card base set is Hurricane Irene from this year.

In between, there are some great subjects. Here are a few: Baby Jessica, YouTube, Google, MTV, CNN, Facebook, “ Twitter, American Bandstand,” the final episode of “M*A*S*H,” ESPN, “Harry Potter,” Nintendo and “Saturday Night Fever.”

There are other famous names, too, like the Beatles at Shea Stadium, the Simpsons (Homer and O.J.), Rod Serling, Dr. Seuss and Bob Hope.

There is also a card of the World Trade Center, commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Topps used some good taste here and sensitivity here, showing the light beams where the Twin Towers had been.

Topps promises three memorabilia cards per box, and the box I sampled hit that number. In an unusual twist, two of the sizzle cards involved “That ’70s Show” actor Wilmer Valderrama—an autograph card and a relic card.

The third relic was a Hollywood Sign Letter patch (letter H) of Marilyn Monroe, numbered to 25.

The catalog of relics and autographs has in this set is staggering.

For example, American Pieces Relics include bits from the Statue of Liberty, the grassy knoll, Gettysburg and the Lewis and Clark Trail. Also, 15 different subjects have a stamp imbedded in their card from their birth year or from the year the event they are known for occurred; and likewise, 15 stars will a coin encased within the card.

There are five different cut signature relics, all from U.S. Presidents (the relic is a piece of the White House floor). Four of the signatures are no-brainers, since they cover the time frame of American Pie: George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Richard Nixon. The fifth president (Calvin Coolidge) is a puzzler, though.

Topps really deserves some praise for the dual and quad cut signatures. There are definitely some great combination autographs. Try these duals: Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (“The Odd Couple”), Cheech and Chong, Simon and Garfunkel, Florence Henderson and Ann B. Davis (“The Brady Bunch”) and Tyne Daly and Sharon Gless (“Cagney and Lacey”).

Two of the quad cut cards offered pay tribute to legendary TV shows: from “Gilligan’s Island,” the card contains cut autos of Jim Backus, Alan Hale, Tina Louise and Russell Johnson; the “Happy Days” card has Ron Howard, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross and Donny Most.

Single-cut signature cards are quite diverse, spanning the culture through music (Dick Clark), writing (John Grisham), acting (Lauren Bacall), game show hosts (Monty Hall), journalism (Ted Koppel) and “winning” (Charlie Sheen).

Back to the box I looked at.

There were six foil parallels, plus an American Pie Spotlight foil of Bernie Madoff, numbered to 76.

There is supposed to be one buyback card per box, designated with an American Pie foil stamp; the box I sampled had a card from the Topps “Rocky IV” set.

There were plenty of inserts, starting with Hirsute History, a 20-card set that explores hair — facial hair like muttonchops, and hairstyles like the Mohawk, beehive or Caesar. This particular box had four of them, the projected average.

Fads & Fashions is a 30 card set and is seeded one in every four packs. Some of the subject matter includes Poodle skirts, Baby on Board signs, Beanie Babies and Tickle Me Elmo toys.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame inserts are self-explanatory, 50 card set (one in every three packs), showcasing a star who has been honored with their own star.

Interesting sidelight: In one pack that I opened, I got back-to-back cards touting the origins of McDonald’s and its top rival, Burger King. Unintentional, but amusing.

The base set design is pretty straightforward, with many black-and-white, newsreel-type photos mixed in with color shots. Each base card is marked at the bottom with the decade that it represents, from the 1940s through the 2000s.

Even if you are not a history buff, this is a fun set to collect. The box I saw gave the collector 157 of the 200 base cards, so that’s a great start. It’s entertaining and educational, and if you are a longtime collector, you will remember a lot of the events.


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