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Collect call: 2013 Topps Archives baseball

Posted Jun 15, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Jun 15, 2013 at 02:06 AM

I really do like the concept of Topps Archives sets. A 200-card base set split into four distinct designs from the past is an attractive idea — if you like the years chosen.

The 2013 version is no different. I like the idea, but in three of the four designs, I wish there had been some different years chosen. I do love the choice of the 1972 “psychedelic” design, because it evokes memories of collecting during my teen years; I turned 15 that summer, and those cards were great to collect. In this year’s model, it’s really cool to see Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt on a ’72 card — one year before his actual Topps rookie card appeared.

The 1982 and ’85 designs do not excite me as much, and the 1990 set reminds me of a forgettable year, the height of the card collecting glut. But those are my biases. There are some, no doubt, who believe that the 1982, ’85 and ’90 sets are iconic and fabulous choices.
That’s the delicate line Topps has to walk. And while I would have preferred more of a 1970s look, the production values on this set are just fine. It certainly is interesting to see Jackie Robinson on a 1982 card, or Ted Williams on an ’85, or (gasp) Stan Musial and Yogi Berra on a 1990-style card.

There are 200 base cards in the 2013 Archives set, with 50 for each year. In addition, there are 45 short-printed cards with various designs. A hobby box contains 24 packs, with eight cards to a pack.

The hobby box I opened had fairly even distribution of the designs — 1972 and ’85 were represented with 41 cards each, while 1982 and ’90 had 42 apiece. The box also contained five short prints.

There are also five variations, based on notable mistakes from the past. Topps is able to poke fun at itself for some of these design quirks, and it’s a fabulous idea. The cards are also fabulously scarce, as in one per 1,717 packs. Card No. 20 of Jason Heyward is a flipped negative in the same 1957 design that showcased another Braves slugger, Hank Aaron. Card No. 400, of Joey Votto, is a nod to the blackless cards of the 1982 set (several cards from that set were printed without black ink). Card No. 415, of White Sox pitcher Chris Sale, mirrors the famous 1990 Frank Thomas “no name on front” card.

Another variation, card No. 497, does not show the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy; instead, it show Bundy’s brother, Bobby, who is a pitcher in the Baltimore organization. Bobby even rests his finger on his chin; this is a tribute to the 1985 Topps card of Gary Pettis, which actually showed his brother Lynn (resting his finger coyly on his chin).

The final variation, USA1, shows former president George W. Bush wearing a Yale cap and warm-up jacket. It’s a nod toward the small run of 1990 Topps cards that featured his father, former president George H.W. Bush, in his Yale baseball uniform.

Those who buy hobby boxes will get a box topper card, and mine was a giant version of the 1971 Topps Greatest Moments series. This card depicts Ryan Braun becoming the third member of the Milwaukee Brewers to win an MVP award.

As it promised on its hobby box, Topps delivered two on-card autographs. The first one I pulled was of the Cubs’ Leon Durham in a 1982 card design. The second signature was from the final pack I opened and was a Charlie Hough autograph on a 1987 card design. These are two of 58 Fan Favorites, a subset that also includes names like Al Hrabosky, Mookie Wilson, Mike Greenwell, Eric Davis and others. It’s a very eclectic group.

On to the inserts. The Gallery of Heroes subset has a stained-glass look to it, and when you look at the card in reverse — well, you see the front image of the card in reverse. There are 15 cards in the set, and they fall one in every 31 packs. This box had one, and it was a Buster Posey card.

One subset I really like mirrors the 1969 4-in-1 sticker inserts. A typical hobby box will yield three of these cards. It’s really fun to pull a card that has four pitchers like Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton and Clayton Kershaw; or famous Yankees like Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter.

Borrowing from the 1983 All-Stars design, Topps has put together a 30-card set. A collector buying a hobby box should find one of these in every four packs.

A curious insert pays tribute to the 1998 Stadium Club Triumvirate set. One card is specifically designed to connect to two others to form a much larger insert. There are seven sets of trios and they are seeded 1:24 packs; the card I pulled was of Mike Trout, numbered T-1A; his partner cards are Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

A mini version of Tall Boy cards, based on the 1965 Topps football set, fall one per five packs; there are 36 cards in this set, featuring such notables as Al Kaline, Dave Parker, Frank White and Kirk Gibson.

The final insert I pulled was based on the 1972 Topps basketball design and falls one to a box. The card I pulled was a player who was certainly tall enough in his day to play basketball — Willie McCovey.

The final interesting card that came from this hobby box was a redemption card from the Topps vault. All I have to do is take this redemption card to a local hobby shop, and in exchange I will receive a foil-wrapped vintage card from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s. My eyes popped when I saw the odds on the wrapper for “Topps Vault Redemption”: 1:27,000. Now, there is another redemption that is seeded 1:5,200. It makes me wonder; conceivably (hey, I am dreaming here), the redemption could be a 1952 Mickey Mantle, or a 1954 Henry Aaron rookie card or even a 1958 Roger Maris RC. Or, it could be a 1987 card of (insert name here).

That’s what makes it interesting.

Some cards I didn’t pull (but other collectors might be luckier) include cut signatures of stars from the 1980s. Many of them are stars of television or movies, like Barbara Eden, Elizabeth Montgomery, Henry Winkler, George Clooney, Redd Foxx, Doris Day and Linda Ronstadt. They are also scarce, like one in every 13,000 packs. Heavy Metal autographs will feature rock stars like Axl Rose, Lita Ford and Tommy Lee.

Baseball autograph collectors also can look for framed mini-cards showcasing the 1973 design, with signatures from players like Bob Gibson, Fergie Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson.

Even if you are not enamored of all the base card designs, there is plenty to like about Topps Archives baseball.

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