Sunday, August 6, 2017

Topps, Feel Free to Steal My Idea

I've been in a writing funk as of late, so let'sget those creative juices flowing!  What type of set would you like to see produced in 2018?  Make sure to note important elements like checklist size, types of players included (prospects, retired), and price point.

Personally, I'd really like to bring back Topps Total in 2018, but I'm going to take a different route.

I was reading the blogs the other day and a post on Bob Walk the Plank gave me pause:
"I have my fingers crossed that Francisco Cervelli and Felipe Rivero get an auto soon!"
Matt's desires for more variety in the world of certified autographs got me thinking: how about an autograph set of non All-Stars?  Topps certainly has its favorites, and I can't really blame them. As long as Aaron Judge continues to move the needle he's going to have an autographed card in nearly every set. In fact, a quick Ebay search will show you he has ink in the following sets in 2017: Heritage, Finest, Tier One, Museum, Archives, Inception, Bowman Chrome, Stadium Club, Topps Chrome and of course, Topps Now. I know I'm probably missing a few. Again, it's a business and Aaron Judge autos are good for business.

On the flip side, there's a running joke about 2016 product around the blogs and within many box breaking circles concerning the omnipresent Henry Owens autograph. Owens had certified autographs in at least eighteen different Topps products, including many high end products such as Strata, Five Star, Tier One, Triple Threads, Tribute, High Tek, Gold Label and The Mint. I'm sure there was a collective eye roll when an Owens card was pulled in a group break.

Some may be thinking, "What about the Red Sox fans? Surely they were happy for the chance to acquire another Henry Owens auto!"

Honestly, I don't know about that. I'm a team collector and the volume of the Carl Edwards, Jr. autos in 2016 very much falls on side of overkill in my book. For the record, fifteen different Topps sets featured the Cubs' right-hander. Having Edwards represented in two or three different Topps sets would be fine by me.  Fifteens? No thanks. Talk about a player collector nightmare!

Boy, I wish Topps would spread the love around to other players.

In an effort to add some variety to the certified autograph stable I'm proposing a new set for 2018 and beyond.  Obviously, this is me just spit balling here, but I've been mulling this over and I think I have a model that could work.

Here are the specifics in bullet point form for easy digesting:
  • The set would contain 100 cards in all and consist only of autographed cards, with each team having a minimum of three cards in the set. Three times thirty is ninety. We'll talk about the remaining ten cards in a little bit.
  • Topps seems to love to bring in older designs, but Heritage is already doing its thing, so lets spin things into the future a bit. This set design will always be twenty-nine years ahead of Heritage, which will use the 1969 design in 2018. Our 2018 set will have the 1998 design, 2019 will look like 1999 and etc.
  • Why twenty-nine years? Expansion, of course! 1998 was the first season for the Diamondbacks and Rays and the '98 Topps set featured the first cards of the new expansion teams. 
  • The name of the set, should follow the theme of adding variety, so I'm going to suggest Topps Variance.
  • Two of each of the team's three cards would be fan favorites from the 1998 season. Again, we're thinking about players who don't have much in the way of certified autographs, so every effort will be made to stay away from the "big" names. The third card would be reserved for a current player who is a solid contributor, but who generally doesn't get much love from the card industry. 
  • The remaining ten cards to fill out the 100-card checklist? These ten cards will represent the cash cow for Topps: hot rookies (Judge and Bellinger) and budding superstars (Correa and Bryant) can comprise the last ten cards with other perennial All-Star types (Trout & Harper). 
  • Ideally, the names wouldn't repeat from year-to-year. This way team collectors can continue to seek out singles of players from their team and slowly increase their certified autograph portfolio. 
  • Price point? No, this set would not be priced for your average set-builder, not with those last ten cards being high-end talent. I was thinking it would probably have to be something along the lines of Topps Museum, which is generally twenty cards per box for a little over $200. Granted, Museum isn't an autograph only set, but only 10% of the Topps Variance checklist have serious star power. So, maybe Topps could put a MSRP of $200 on a twenty card box.
Again, I'm just tossing ideas around, but it's a product I definitely would be interested in. Please, keep in mind, I am a team collector on a very modest budget. Would I ever buy a pack or a box of Topps Variance as I've laid it out above? Nope. Would I look forward to its release each year and then hunt down all the Cubs autographs? Heck yeah!

Here's a sample checklist I would be looking at as far as the Cubs go:

I laid out three players for 2017, only because that's the current year. (And, because it's fun to go back and try to choose players.) I could have chosen Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston, Ryne Sandberg or Sammy Sosa for 1997, but I'm staying with the theme here. All of those guys have certified autos.  Rod Beck was the first guy I wanted for 1998, but that's just not possible. Obviously, there are some obstacles in making a decent checklist.  Maybe I should have held off on Jon Lieber until 2021, because in 2001 Lieber made his only All-Star appearance and won twenty games. I know I stated the desire to stay away from All-Stars, but I like Lieber as a choice at some point because he doesn't have any certified autos in circulation that I know of. It's all about Variance.

Also, I know Topps has issued sets like Fan Favorites in the past and last year Topps had Archives Signature Series All-Star Baseball Cards. These sets, when produced, always re-use older designs and always have an autograph component. So, not too different than what I'm suggesting. Remember, Variance is focused on the B-side type players... a way to add some variety to the certified autograph world!

Actually, do you remember when these hit retail stores last winter?

Archives 65th Anniversary Edition is a product very similar to what I'm suggesting. The main differences being Variance would be one consistent design, contain no base cards, and have more autos to chase. Plus, it's a set which wouldn't be produced during big anniversaries, but every year instead.

What do you think?  What you buy a box of Variance? Build the set? Or just cherry pick some singles like myself?

I look forward to your responses to my set idea and reading about many more throughout the blogs!


  1. Great post! Topps Variance sounds like a good idea, I would buy a pack or two, then grab a few single autos of past Red Sox players (John Valentin? Carlos Quintana? Rich Garces?)

    Personally, I would like to see something along the lines of the Be A Player brand, a set of 200(or so) base cards with maybe one parallel, and a guaranteed autograph per pack (plus four base cards). This would most likely require a $10/pack price point (as BAP was if I remember) but it would also require a large autograph checklist of players who either dont frequently sign or are never asked. And you can have dual, triple, and quad autos as well as a HOF subset and/or prospect subset.

    Retired non-HOfers are fun to collect, but with products like Archives, Fan Favorites (or your Variance set) you could keep the focus of this new product on current players.

    "What about the Red Sox fans? Surely they were happy for the chance to acquire another Henry Owens auto!" As a Red Sox fan I can tell you that I am surely not hoping to pull any Owens autos at all. No idea why Topps went all-in on him. No more Henry Owens!

  2. It's great in concept and I agree with you wholeheartedly. It's too many of the same guys over and over. Problem is, I can't see many that are going to pay for something like that, when you're going to be so hit and miss.

    I would absolutely be the guy picking up singles, but who is going to be the guy to open it. It's going to cost me $10 an auto, and most of them I'd be lucky to get $3 apiece out of after the initial 100 or so people that REALLY want the single get them.

  3. I'll have to think this over a little. Topps Total for me would be the easiest answer.

  4. As another Red Sox fan, I cannot understand Topps' love for Henry Owens. He was an OK prospect once, but his stock has plummeted. Kid just can't stop walking batters...

  5. AJ mentioned above, but I think Topps Total would still have some appeal with set builders. The issue is always going to be who will open the boxes to begin with. Maybe retail only...???

    1. Yeah, I think many of us associated with the blogs would stand behind a reincarnated version of Topps Total.
      I know it would be a big set, but that's part of the allure! Busting a couple of boxes and then trading duplicates, with other bloggers who did the same, to help each other finish sets would be so much fun!

  6. I agree with the Topps Total aspect, as a fan. I'm a hockey guy and Upper Deck produced "Compendium" (ePack only), which was a 900 card set that had only one card per player. There are many players in the set whose only card of the season was in the set. It was GREAT for team fans.

  7. What I really want, aside from a Topps Total minus the 200000 parallels, is really a small reduction in the amount of sets Topps releases.

    Barring that, I do like the idea of getting some lesser known players. At the same time, the concept runs into an issue with the Nationals.

    The other thing is... 1998 is a year I like to forget.. The Jays did end up with 88 wins that year, but the team aside from a couple guys was rather forgettable, the Expos doubly so.. Aside from Vladimir Guerrero, not many people can name players on that year's team.. lol

  8. Is it compatible with an arcade game made by Sega?

    1. That would be a great idea! (Although, probably not so great for my marriage. LOL)

  9. Love the idea of Topps Variance. Over the past year or so, I've been an autograph collector first and foremost. I probably wouldn't actually buy a box of this stuff... just like I didn't buy any of last year's Topps Archives 65th Anniversary. However... I would buy plenty of card lots, because that's the more affordable route.

  10. Love the idea of Topps Variance. I'm going to start looking for those Francisco Cordova, AL Martin, and Felipe Rivero in next year's release. Lol!!!