Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for TBO.com on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.
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Collect call: 2012 Allen & Ginter baseball
Posted Jul 19, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo
Updated Jul 19, 2012 at 01:18 PM
To baseball fans, midsummer means the All-Star Game and the anticipation of the second half of the major-league season.
To card collectors, mid-July is the time when Topps releases its Allen & Ginter baseball product. This brand has been a consistent winner since its debut in 2006, with its 19th century look and feel and the many diverse subjects that have appeared.
The 2012 version is no different. Once again, Allen & Ginter consists of 350 subjects — mostly baseball, to be sure, but athletes from other sports and even a few broadcasters and pop icons. The design remains formal, simple and elegant. The feathered look of the photography gives the cards an authentic vintage look. Spelling out the statistics on the back of the card (as opposed to using numbers), always seemed a little pretentious, but somehow with the A&G brand it seems to work.
The labels used for the subjects of the A&G cards are always interesting, but one in particular had me shaking my head. Hank Haney is listed as “Legendary Golf Instructor,” but Arnold Palmer is simply referred to as “Golfer.” Yes, and the Mona Lisa is a nice sketch.
A hobby box of Allen & Ginter contains 24 packs, with eight cards to a pack. The base set consists of 350 cards, with cards between 301 and 350 listed as short prints. The box I sampled contained 138 of the base cards, including 12 short prints. Hobby boxes have box toppers that include N43 autographs, relics or “regular” cards. My card was a regular N43 of Rays pitcher Matt Moore.
Topps promises three “hit” cards in every hobby box — a combination of relic cards, autographs, printing plate, rip cards (a smaller card contained inside a larger card) or book cards. The box I opened contained three game-used jersey cards — Gordon Beckham, Evan Meek and Hank Conger.
As usual, the base set has a great cross-section of athletes, innovators and media. In addition to Palmer, golf fans can find Colin Montgomerie. Other stars include Michael Phelps (swimming), Roger Federer (tennis), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track), Ewa Matoya (billiards), and Richard Petty and Al Unser Sr. (auto racing). Actress/Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton has a card, as does boxing announcer Michael Buffer (a short print, to boot), and the Harlem Globetrotters are represented by Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.
Tampa’s own Erin Andrews is among the broadcasters with cards, along with Guy Bluford, the first black astronaut. And then of course there is gaming champion Fatal1ty (that’s not a misspelling, by the way).
I don’t think it has happened, but I am waiting for an A&G card of the person who tweets the most on Twitter. It could happen.
A&G offers a rich, diverse and informative insert collection. What’s in a Name is a 100-card subset that falls every other pack. It gives interesting insights about a player’s name, whether it be about its origin or about other famous people who share the same name. I pulled 12 out of the hobby box I sampled.
World’s Tallest Buildings is a 10-card insert. It contains classics like the Empire State Building, 1 World Trade Center, Taipei 101 (the tallest structure in Asia) and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the tallest twin structures ever built). There were three in my hobby box.
Historical Turning Points, a 20-card insert set, honors some of the key events in world history, like the signing of the Magna Carta, the Battle of Waterloo, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Roman Empire.
Baseball Highlight Sketches is a 24-card set that is a potpourri of current stars, promising young players and retired heroes. I found three in the hobby box I sampled.
Cracking the Ginter Code is not new, but Topps approaches it differently this year with a subset that offers a story line — the Murder in Willow Cove. If hunting for clues is your specialty, then this will provide some suspense and require some logical thinking. There were three of these cards in the hobby box I saw.
A staple of the A&G set is the mini parallels. There were 10 in the box I looked through plus six with new-look Allen & Ginter mini ad backs (which has A&G letters on a shield). There also were three parallels that contained silver borders.
The mini inserts are always a challenge to complete, and this year’s A&G set offers some new looks. World’s Greatest Military Leaders is a 20-card subset with great generals like Hannibal, Napoleon, Charlemagne and Alexander the Great. Man’s Best Friend offers up 20 different species of dogs; the one I pulled was a pug.
Giants of the Deep is a whale of an insert set (couldn’t resist) — a 15 card set of different whales from around the world. People of the Bible is a 15-card set of religious figures like Moses (I pulled that one from the box), David, Abraham, John the Baptist and Jesus. That’s certainly an interesting concept; I mean, it would be kind of cool to pull a Jesus card. Thankfully, there are no relics associated with this subset. After all, I would be mortified if Topps were to cut up the Shroud of Turin to use as relic cards, for example.
Guys in Hats (not to be confused with Men Without Hats), showcases men wearing bowlers, boaters, fedoras and even a flat cap and a Garrison cap. And not to exclude women, there is a Fashionable Ladies 10-card insert set. I pulled the Sportswoman card; others include the Bride, The Queen, the Flapper and the Victorian. The First Lady card depicts Mary Lincoln. Both of these inserts fall one to a case, so the Sportswoman was a nice card to pull.
Musical Masters contains 16 cards and includes the great composers, like Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Wagner and Chopin. I pulled a Franz Schubert card, which mentions his famous Unfinished Symphony.
There are autographs in the set, although I did not pull any from the hobby box I saw.
The Allen & Ginter set is classy, intriguing, and difficult to assemble thanks to its short-printed cards. Astute trading and sharp eyes on auction sites should help complete it, though. Sometimes the inserts are a reach (whales and dogs this year, insects in previous years), but it definitely makes chasing a master set that much more interesting.
Once again, another solid effort from Topps.