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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A Case of Redemption
After a dismal 2014, I’d had enough. This just wasn’t fun anymore. My plan was to back off of hobby boxes and go with breaks whenever that made more sense. As plans go, it wasn’t necessarily a bad one. It lasted 8 months. Despite a strong start to 2015, I stuck with my plans to cut back, limiting myself to whatever retail I could find and an occasional hobby box for a select few products. Team and player breaks filled in the gaps, along with the usual purchases on the secondary market. And then this happened.
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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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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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A case of life imitating art?
When the World Series rosters were announced today, there was only one small change on the Mets side – Juan Uribe is back! After missing the NLDS and NLCS due to injury, clubhouse sensation Uribe was back on the roster, not quite 100 percent but good enough to get a spot. And why not? It’s not like the Mets have been relying on their bench for much in the postseason. Uribe’s presence alone is a big add.
But it came at a price. Matt Reynolds, who seemed due for a 2015 debut at the start of the season, only made it onto an active roster in October because of Ruben Tejada’s injury in the NLDS. He did not appear in the remaining three games of the NLDS. And he did not appear in the four-game NLCS sweep. And then he was bumped off the World Series roster for Uribe. An improbable postseason MLB debut now looked impossible (barring another shortstop injury). But for Matt Reynolds, this is nothing new. Story of his life, in cardboard at least.
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