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Bob D’Angelo

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 on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.

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Collect call: 2012 Topps Heritage

Posted Apr 8, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Apr 8, 2012 at 11:31 AM

I have to say I was apprehensive about the 2012 Topps Heritage set. I just never really liked the design of the original 1963 set, so when it was ’63’s turn in the Heritage rotation I wasn’t that excited. I thought the 2011 Heritage, with the striking 1962 wood-grained fronts, would be a hard act to follow.

But I have to admit, Topps did a decent job. It still doesn’t measure up to the 2011 Heritage as far as beauty, but the colors are sharp and the photography is good. Modern technology can make what was a mottled product 49 years ago into something pretty.

Heritage sets are tough to complete and will take more than one box to do so, particularly with the short prints that are challenging and maddening. A hobby box contains 24 packs with nine cards to a pack, plus there is an individually wrapped buy-back card — an actual card from the 1963 set that is stamped in gold foil.

The box I opened contained an Al Jackson buy-back. According to the back of his card, Jackson was a left-hander who “led the Mets’ pitching staff and was second in the N.L. with 4 shutouts in 1962.” Sounds impressive until you recall that the Mets only won 40 games in 1962. Jackson sported an 8-20 record.

The base set is 500 cards, which includes short prints numbered from 426 to 500. And variations? There are 10 “misprint” variations purposely done by Topps to mirror mistakes that were made in the actual 1963 set. For example, some of the rookie cards, instead of having a “2012 Rookie Stars” header, have one that reads “1962 Rookie Stars.” The variation on the back of Carlos Pena’s card, for example, has a notation referring to his “Complete Major and Minor League Batting Record.” The “regular” card only reads “Complete Major League Batting Record.”

Other variations include Kerry Wood, Dan Haren, Mike Stanton, Ryan Madson (two different variations — a red line through the bottom circle, and also a white line through it. The normal card has no lines in the bottom circle), Darwin Barney, Julio Teheran and rookie stars cards Nos. 29 and 54.

More variations to drive you wild. There are 25 that have a different color scheme from the main card. Derek Jeter’s regular card, for example, has a green border. The variation has yellow. Other players with different cards include Albert Pujols, Buster Posey and Robinson Cano.

Want more? There are 25 more cards where the main picture and the black-and-white circle photo in the bottom right-hand corner have been reversed. I’ve seen a Justin Verlander card like that already.

What does this mean? Don’t toss cards that look like duplicates until you check them thoroughly, front and back. Talk about being kept on the alert.

Let’s look at regular cards. The hobby box I sampled contained 201 cards — seven of those were SPs, and none were duplicates. Topps promises either a relic or an autograph card in every hobby box, and the one I went through had a Clubhouse Collection game-used jersey swatch of Phillies star Jimmy Rollins. The swatch was white and a nice size, and the design is plain and features a large photo of Rollins on the right-hand side of the card.

The inserts are the standard ones that have been with Heritage for some time, like Flashbacks, Then and Now, and New Age Performers. A new insert wrinkle this year are Peel-Offs — mini cards with peel-off backs. This is a nod to the original 46-card Peel-Off set that was included in packs of the 1963 Topps cards. I believe this year’s version is nicer than the original, as this year’s cards have the player’s cut-out head shot against an oval color background. The original set had no color background; this year’s version is more distinctive.

And of course, there are chrome parallels.

A curious design decision — was it a glitch or intentional? — shows up on the leader cards. The original 1963 set would showcase five leaders in a certain category, like victories, ERA, etc. The card had five tiny mug shots, but the leader was placed in the middle, with a diamond background. Sort of like the king and his court, if you will.

The 2012 version has five mug shots also, but the leader is at the top left-hand corner instead of in the middle. Very curious. For contrast, this post contains card No. 8, the AL Pitching Leaders, plus a version from 1963. Note how in the ’63 version, Ralph Terry, who led the A.L. in wins in 1962, is front and center.

Odd. But overall, another fine effort by Topps. Like I said, I was kind of leery heading into this season, but the effort put into the design and the photo quality won me over.

Next year will be interesting. The 1964 Topps set had perhaps the starkest design of the 1960s Topps sets. Clean, but stark. We’ll see how that one goes. As for me, I am really looking forward to the set that honors the 1965 set (two years from now), as it was the first Topps set I ever collected.

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