Sunday, January 13, 2019

Going Up in Flames

In many ways, 2017 in Baseball cards felt as if the overproduction era had returned with Topps accounting for 85% or more of the sets that were produced.

Even with an excess number of products being released, the quality of the sets that were put out, thankfully, was much greater than that of the previous overproduction era back in the 90s. However, that didn't stop the fact that there were way too many sets and not enough cards for sale at retail stores like Target and Walmart.

Here's a screenshot of the number of Baseball cards on COMC as listed by year of the 2010s. It's painfully obvious that 2017 resulted in way more cards than every other year of the decade. Both 2017 and 2010 appear to be outliers as the average number of cards seems to be around 60,000 per year. 

It only makes sense that 2018 will have an increase in cards thanks to late releases like Bowman Draft and Bowman's Best, but regardless, it looks as if last year will have far fewer sets produced than 2017. 

The point I'm trying to make is that 2017 was a crazy year for Baseball cards with multiple new sets being released. One of the new products that Topps introduced was Topps Fire, a Target-exclusive set.

Up until today, I had never opened a single pack of Topps Fire in my life, mainly because I struggled to see the appeal of such an overly-modern product. I didn't hesitate to pick up cards of players I collect when searching through the dime bins, but I never thought I'd spend money on packs of this product.

That changed when I was overcome with the urge to buy cards this weekend and ended up taking a trip to Target for a blaster box of 2018 Topps Fire.

Like many first year products, 2017 Topps Fire had its fair share of problems. There were 3 completely different designs within the 200-card set, causing the product to lack cohesiveness. 

This time around, Topps Fire consists of 2 different designs that have a nice balance of differences and similarities. The 2 different designs allow the set to seem more unified than Topps' first attempt at the modern and colorful product.

Like any time when I purchase cards, I always took notice of how many cards I pull of players I collect, and this blaster of Topps Fire did not let me down. In addition to 2 different Red Sox cards, retired players like Reggie Jackson and my 451st Nolan Ryan card were pulled out of the blaster box.

Falling at 1:4 packs, the Flame parallels are elevated versions of traditional rainbow foil cards, and the vibrant background appears even brighter with the help of the Flame parallel design. I ended up with 2 different Flame parallels in my blaster, including a player I collect in Noah Syndergaard.

In addition to 7 base packs, there's 1 4-card pack of Gold Minted parallels in every blaster box. Seeing these cards makes me wonder why Topps doesn't utilize gold cards more as they did an excellent job with these blaster box-exclusive parallels. 

I didn't have the best luck when it came to players, but I was at least able to land one card of a player I collect in Joe Mauer.

Sanchez's struggles in 2018 didn't take away from how fabulous these Gold Minted insert sets look. Specifically, Power Producers, a rather boring name, features the biggest bats in all of Baseball. I don't think I'd be able to find anyone who'd be willing to trade J.D. Martinez for Gary Sanchez, but you can bet I'll be keeping my eyes open for Topps Fire inserts from this point forward.

If nothing else, the insert set name "Speed Demons" has to be one of the most interesting names for a set of cards that I've ever heard in my life. While the lightning in the background isn't anything new from a set like Topps Fire, the Gold Minted parallels have continued to impress me, not to mention that the grey Diamondbacks uniforms and the gold background work pretty well together.

But the Gold Minted parallels did not stop there. In the last pack of the blaster box, I landed another Gold Minted insert parallel, this one of Bryce Harper, from the Hot Starts insert set. In addition to gold, traces of black can be found in the background as well, pairing up to form an excellent color combination.

I don't know the value of these insert parallels due to my lack of familiarity with the Topps Fire set. I'll likely keep the Harper for my player collection and find a good home for the Gary Sanchez and A.J. Pollock insert parallel.

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