Product Spotlight: 2012 Topps Archives

Today’s stars, old favorites, and classic card styles team up to save the hobby

You know you have a hit on your hands when people start proclaiming it to be the best of the year in May.  Well, either a hit or a colossal flop you’re trying to cover up with marketing hype.  And really, any time you’re digging up old material and presenting it to a new audience with a modern look, failure is a distinct possibility.  The hype was for real this time though – The Avengers really was that good.

A few weeks later, with The Avengers still packing theaters, Topps released the long-awaited 2012 Archives.  Long waits for new material are nothing new to this product; Archives debuted in the early ’80s as a reprint of the 1952 Topps set, then took the rest of the decade off before returning in the early ’90s with the 1953 and 1954 sets.  A less focused product was released in 1995, wrapping things up for that decade.  The Archives brand was reborn in the vintage boom of 2001 with reprints covering the full history of Topps and for the first time included autographed cards, mainly from lesser-known stars (my big pull – Dom DiMaggio).  This run lasted for five years under a variety of names including Archives Fan Favorites and All-Time Fan Favorites.  Topps made a half-hearted attempt to revive the concept with last year’s Topps Lineage, but it was not well-received.  (I was going to do a full review of the history of this product, but I’m running a bit behind on things at the moment; I’m writing this with reviews of 2012 Museum Collection and 2012 Bowman written and waiting for scans…).

Card Designs

The 2012 incarnation of Archives focuses on four classic Topps sets: 1954, 1971, 1980, and 1984.  All designs are faithfully reproduced on high-quality matte finish thin white card stock.  I put a lot of weight on the look and feel of cards and these are just perfect, finding a pleasing balance between the low quality stock of the originals and the thick and glossy stock used in previous Archives sets.  The matte finish gives these cards a vintage feel, while using the same quality on the cardbacks makes them look more sleek and modern (some earlier Archives sets used rough backs opposite glossy fronts, which has the opposite effect).  The higher quality photographs really make the retired players stand out – their cards have never looked this good.  The design team for this set deserves some kind of award.

Player Selection

Unlike the 2001-2005 Archives run, the 2012 set consists of both retired players in the old designs (with new photographs) and current stars and rookies.  It makes for a thin player list in a 200 card set, but hopefully the success with this year’s product will lead to a more substantial set next year.  For once this year, the Mets were well-represented with eight cards in the base set plus four SPs, three reprints, a sticker, seven autographs, and one jersey card.

SPs

In addition to the 200 base cards, 40 short prints were inserted at a rate of one per four packs, plus a #241 Bryce Harper as a very limited late addition.  These were not limited to the four styles used in the base set.  The Mets were well-represented here with four of the 40 SPs.

Gold Parallel

All 200 base cards were featured in a gold foil parallel set that somehow manages to look better in scans than in person.  This was a great way to get a more modern-style insert into this product, though parallels of the SPs would have been nice as well.

Reprints

These are more like the Archives cards of old, complete with gold foil logo.  Three Mets made the cut here.

Retro Inserts

Topps mined its history of odd and quirky inserts to round out this product, and I can only hope they do this again next year.  Unfortunately, a Tom Seaver sticker is the only Mets representative in these four insert sets.  A David Wright 1977 cloth sticker is the obvious omission here, that would have looked spectacular.

1956 Relics

This game-used set is a great example of retro-modern fusion done right.  The 1956 design is sufficiently different from most of the rest of this product to make it interesting and the layout leaves plenty of space to fit a piece of jersey or bat.  David Wright finally got into the inserts here with a jersey card (blue and gray variants).

Fan Favorites Autographs

The big draw of Archives since 2001 has been its autograph set, featuring on-card autographs from some of the biggest names in the history of the sport and many lesser stars and fan favorites.  This year’s Fan Favorites Autographs set featured seven players shown as Mets and eleven more former Mets shown in other uniforms.  Noteworthy among the 18 are Jose Oquendo with nine variations, one for each position he played in a single game, Willie Mays with the only redemption of the bunch (and the hardest to obtain), and Gary Carter with the first-ever sticker autograph in Archives.  Carter has been a fixture in Archives autographs since they debuted in 2001, so it was nice to see him back one last time on a card numbered simply GC.

1983 Mini Autographs / Autographed Originals

There were two other autograph cards from former Mets in Archives – Nolan Ryan in the 1983 Mini Autographs (#d/50) and Willie Mays in the Autographed Originals (#d/5).  Sadly, these were out of my price range and will not be shown.

Six box breakdown

I bought in big with Archives – six hobby boxes.  The results were decent enough.

3 200-card base sets
188/200 card base set
~200 extra base cards
12 Gold parallel cards
27/40 SPs + 9 extras
32/50 Reprints + 4 extras
17/25 1977 Cloth stickers + 7 extras
16/25 1967 Stickers + 2 extras
9/15 1969 Deckle edge + 3 extras
12/15 1968 3D + 6 extras
13 Fan Favorite Autographs
2 1956 Relics

Big hits:
Bryce Harper Fan Favorites Autograph redemption card

It should be noted here that, after fees, the Harper auto redemption card brought in enough to cover the cost of three boxes of cards.  Everything else that I sold (11 autos, 2 relics, 1 base set) added up to the price of one box.  That left me in for only the cost of two boxes, with an Olerud auto, a couple of base sets, a good start at the insert sets, and a bunch of extras, all of which could probably have been purchased for around $100.  In pure dollars, that’s a net loss of more that $50 even with an improbably good pull (easily top 5 of my life).  While the big pulls in this product were good for $100+, the basic autos and relics were practically worthless; none of the 11 autos I sold topped $10 and the relics were lucky to sell for more than $1.  This does not of course take into account the fun of opening packs (which was pretty much gone after four boxes), but that’s really the only reason to open boxes vs. buying singles/sets on he secondary market; there should never be a financial motive for the typical hobbyist.

Suggestions for next year

I realize that it’s a longshot to think that anyone at Topps is reading this (or that anyone at all has made it this far down), but any discussion of 2012 Archives will inevitably veer into speculation about next year’s product (and I think the success of this year’s Archives will guarantee that it comes back in 2013).  While Topps got a lot right this year, there’s always room for improvement.

Base Set Card Designs

1955, 1962, 1969, 1986
The Mets will host the All-Star Game in 2013, so why not give them a nod in the base set card designs?  Don’t mess with the card stock or glossiness (or lack thereof), this year’s set got it just right.

Autographs

John Olerud 1999
Lee Mazzilli 1982
Tim Teufel 1987
Edgardo Alfonzo 2001
Rusty Staub 1974
John Franco 1991
Al Leiter 2002
Mike Piazza 2005
Todd Hundley 1996
Al Jackson 1963

Inserts

More or less the same as this year, a few more Mets would be nice…

Gum

Um, no.

Seriously, Gum?

NO!

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