Category Archives: Product Spotlights

Product Spotlight: 2017 Topps Heritage Minor League

Who needs Aaron Judge when you have Tim Tebow?

I’m never really sure what to make of the minor league edition of Topps Heritage. I love seeing the variety of team names that can be found in the minors and there are always a few interesting oddities that show up, but the nostalgia factor doesn’t quite work as well as it does for the big league product. It’s not like the Binghamton Rumble Ponies had any vintage 1968 cards (or even 2016 cards). Retro style cards of players with little or no major league experience seems a tad bit presumptuous, especially considering how many of them will go on to careers in the big leagues of scouting, coaching, car sales, or plumbing rather than baseball. Minor league baseball toys with your expectations to the point of cruelty sometimes, as does this incarnation of Heritage. Every once in a while though, things pan out.

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Product Spotlight: 2017 Topps Clearly Authentic

A clear winner?

After being threatened with multiple iterations of Topps Archives Signature Series in 2017, it was a surprise to see the first $50/card autograph product turn out to be Clearly Authentic. Topps borrowed the Archives Signature Series format for what amounts to a Tek-style acetate autograph parallel of base 2017 Topps with reprint autographs like those previously seen in Tier One released under a name used in 2015 and 2016 for authenticated memorabilia cards in Strata. It’s a mishmash of elements from other products, but the end result is surprisingly coherent and straightforward. But is it enough to carry an entire product?

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Product Spotlight: 2017 Bowman

Too much of a good thing or just too much?

The base Bowman franchise is one of the cornerstones of the Topps product line. As such, it is a rock, always there, yet always changing in subtle ways. It’s frustrating sometimes, refreshing sometimes, but always there. 2017 Bowman is no exception – it’s there, there’s a lot to like, and there’s a lot that just makes no sense.

In 2015, Topps seemed to be headed in the right direction. 2014’s excess of confusing and unnecessary parallels yielded to the order of 2015 Bowman’s sensible parallel structure. 2016 Bowman did away with the ice parallels and wave refractors introduced in 2012, which was probably due, but it introduced full-size shimmer parallels in green and gold, numbered the same as their non-shimmer counterparts. 2016 Bowman Draft turned this concept into blue and gold wave refractor autographs. And 2017 Bowman combined both ideas and cranked it up to 10 – 10 shimmer refractor parallels, 5 base and 5 autographed. Double the autographs, double the fun?

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Product Spotlight: 2015 Topps Heritage High Number

Back in packs, RCs are stacked

Heritage and I have a strange relationship. When the debut edition became the hottest product of 2001, I chose to sell while it was hot rather than chase the set. I skipped the next decade of Heritage and have bought some each of the four years since, never quite finishing any sets and always falling short of getting my money’s worth. Still, I keep coming back to be somewhat disappointed the next year…

Heritage High Number is a different story. I skipped it in 2012, bought a set at about full price in 2013 and made most of my money back on the autograph, and then never got around to buying a set in 2014. When I finally did pick one up the next year at a steep markdown, I still made back about half the price on the autograph. Not a bad track record, but there’s only so much you can get out of the 100-card factory set format. 2015 Heritage High Number though returned to a standard pack format and in the process became a strong contender for the hottest product of 2015.

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Product Spotlight: 2015 Topps Archives Signature Series

Buybacks are back, alright!

It was a dismal year for Topps Archives, so the announcement of another Archives product at the end of the year was a bit confusing. Would this be a second helping? A non-card product like those Tristar autographed 8x10s? Or something completely different? As it turned out, 2015 Topps Archives Signature Series was the second coming of 2004 Topps Originals and brought with it everything good and bad about that release.

2004 was the height of the retired player autograph boom. In addition to the usual retired player products that were all the rage back then, buyback autographs took center stage with 2004 Topps Originals and 2004 Donruss Timelines. All four (yes, four, such a foreign concept today…) licensed manufacturers had done buybacks previously (though Fleer didn’t get the autograph part and just slapped handwritten serial numbers on some old cards and stuck them into packs), but these products merged the concept with the one-hit-per-pack insertion method. The end result was a pack that, for about $50, would yield a $5 autograph from a minor ’80s star on a card that was far from pack fresh.

Archives Signature Series takes that model and, um, does the exact same thing. There are some notable changes though. First, cards are packed in magnetic holders instead of cheap snapdowns. Second, players who were active in 2004 and have since retired are now included. And third, the choice of cards is more like Donruss Timelines with all sorts of oddballs in the mix, many as 1/1s. And that’s really all that’s changed in 11 years.

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Product Spotlight: 2015 Topps Heritage ’51 Collection

Old hobby formats die hard

If you look at the biggest failures of the last few years for Topps, two factors are recurring themes: mini cards and novelty factory sets.  Topps Mini was a no-show at this year’s national convention after last year’s version hit 75% off at the Topps web site.  Bowman Chrome Mini has been a tough sell even at 50% off the wholesale price (and shows no signs of coming back for 2015).  Topps Heritage High Number ditched the factory set format after two years of dismal sales and turned into one of the best products of the year.  2015 was the year of Topps learning its lessons, apparently.

But old habits die hard.  Unable to resist temptation, Topps dipped back into the well of failure twice in late 2015.  Topps Mini returned in factory set form, embodying the worst of both worlds and trying to make work what even Bowman Chrome couldn’t succeed at.  And Topps Heritage ’51 Collection came seemingly out of nowhere, adding a fourth 2015 Topps baseball product to the Heritage lineup.  The only one in factory set form.  And with lots of minis!  This is not the product the hobby needed or wanted, though it isn’t without redeeming value.  Not entirely.

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