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Topps Tribute baseball arriving in February

Posted Jul 26, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 03:10 PM

Buckle up. Topps Tribute is coming in February, and this high end set will have some surprises.

Topps pulled back the curtain on its high-end Tribute baseball set on Friday. Tribute will be the first Topps set of the 2014 calendar year and is expected to hit stores and hobby shops on Feb. 19.

In the card companies’ never-ending quest to come up with something new, Topps will offering, among the many autographs and relics in the Tribute set, belt buckle cards. This is a card that will be numbered 1/1 and will include belt buckles worn during a major-league game.

I am guessing that will be quite a heavy pack.

Speaking of packs, Tribute will include six to a hobby box. Every pack will include an autograph or relic card, along with two base cards. Topps is promising no fewer than four autograph cards per box, and all six hot cards will be numbered to 99 or less.

Base cards will have parallels, with blues (numbered to 99), green (50), gold (25), red (5), purple (1/1) and printing plates (1/1). Autograph cards will numbered, with base cards set at 99, blue (50), sepia (35), green (25), gold (15), red (5), purple (1/1) and onyx (1/1).

Topps continues to showcase past and present stars, and this year Tribute will have a few new wrinkles. Tribute Traditions and Tribute to the Pastime will have the same numerical breakdown for parallels as the base autographs do. A scarcer set of autographs will be found in the Tribute to the Stars and Timeless Tributes (autographs of former stars like Nolan Ryan, coupled with present-day favorites like Yu Darvish, for example). Cards from those two subsets will be numbered to 24, and the only parallels will be 1/1 purple cards.

An offbeat insert will be Eccentric Eyeblack cards, which will be numbered to five and will showcase an eyeblack sticker on the card, along with an autograph. If Topps really wanted to take the blast from the past concept deeper, they could have made cards for most of the men who played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1969 to 1971. Brooks Robinson, Andy Etchebarren … they all sported eyeblack. Just a random thought.

Topps will be introducing four new memorabilia cards in the 2014 Tribute set — the 1/1 belt buckle cards; Tribute to the Throne, numbered to 99; Forever Young (99) and Tribute Titans (99). There will be six parallels for each of these relics: blue (numbered to 50), sepia (35), green (25), gold (15), red (10) and purple (1/1).

Milestone relics will be interesting, as Topps will use a piece of a game-used ball from a player’s milestone game this season. Some candidates could include Andy Pettitte’s 250th career victory on June 8 against Seattle, Joe Nathan’s 300th career save on April 8 against the Rays, and Francisco Rodriguez’s 300th career save on June 22 against Atlanta. Albert Pujols is only eight homers away from 500 homers, so that is a possibility.

Other possibilities could include a ball from the April 17 game, when A.J. Burnett notched his 2,000th career strikeout by fanning Carlos Beltran in the second inning. Or Ryan Dempster’s June 9 game, when he collected his 2,000th strikeout when he whiffed the Angels’ Alberto Callaspo in the sixth inning.

It’s important to note that the piece of the game ball might not actually be the ball that was thrown by Pettitte, Nathan or Rodriguez to achieve the milestone. But it will be a ball from the game. Could you imagine Pujols hitting his 500th and Topps using the actual ball to cut up and use as a relic. What a collectible that would be, but the thought honestly makes me shudder in fear. Don’t do that.

There also will be autographed versions of Milestone relics (1/1), along with purple 1/1s and patch cards that will be numbered to 24.

To complement the Milestone relics will be the return of batting glove relics, numbered to two; and 1/1 versions of bat knobs and bat plates.

Topps Tribute definitely will be offering some intriguing cards in this high-end product. Some collectors will be able to afford a box, or even a case. Others, feeling the economic pinch, will just have to tighten their belts.

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