Category Archives: Product Spotlights

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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Product Spotlight: 2015 Bowman Chrome

The firsts keep coming

2015 Bowman brought consistency to the convoluted Topps parallel system. After several months of smooth sailing, 2015 Bowman Chrome kept the same formula (a first, at least among recent years) and brought us the first Kevin Plawecki base Rookie Cards and the first MLB-licensed autographs from Akeel Morris, Jhoan Urena, Milton Ramos, and Michael Conforto? Um, what’s his 2014 Bowman Draft autograph doing here?

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Product Spotlight: 2015 Bowman

In which I praise Topps for getting (some) things right

The evolution of the Bowman brand has been interesting lately.  Since the last major redesign in 2012, Bowman has added ice parallels, wave refractors, and mini shimmer refractors, removed the First Bowman Card designation, added a new 1st Bowman designation, introduced Bowman Black autographs, confused collectors with 2013 Kris Bryant Bowman Chrome autographs in 2014 products, added wrapper redemptions, ended wrapper redemptions, dropped the pretense of a “base set” in Bowman Draft, and much, much more.  After three years of incremental improvements, Topps reshuffled the deck in 2015 and brought order to an increasingly chaotic product.

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Product Spotlight: 2015 Topps Series 1

Changing up the base Topps formula

When it comes to base Topps, there hasn’t been much of a difference from year to year in a long time. Most of the elements of the flagship Topps products date back to at least 2012, some all the way back to 2001. It was time for a change.

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