Sunday, June 30, 2019

If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Since the brand's revival in 2014, Topps Stadium Club has become a favorite among Baseball card collectors, specifically bloggers who are encapsulated by the minimal base design and gorgeous photography.

Frankly, it's hard to believe that Topps has already released 6 Stadium Club sets since they brought the product back. Even though we generally know what to expect from the release year after year, even as far as the checklist is concerned, Topps never fails to blow me away with the sheer caliber of the images.

The Stadium Club set design, although not the focal point of the product, is essential to how the cards look and how the beautiful photographs are utilized. This year's design is a step up from the 2018 version, for the text doesn't interfere with the images whatsoever.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I'd be opening an entire hobby box of 2019 Topps Stadium Club, something that's become a bit of a tradition for my Dad and me to do. 

We may not have landed any major hits or valuable cards, but Stadium Club is one of my favorite sets solely because of the photography, not for any other reason.  It would be nice to land a big-name autograph, but that's not my priority when it comes to this release.

In case you haven't heard, there are no black and white photos in Stadium Club this year, something that may or may not continue in subsequent releases. My initial pack didn't deliver any old-time players, but I'm pleased that I was able to pull a couple of cards with black and white photos that have been enhanced into full color.

Babe Ruth and Johhny Mize are the 2 standouts out of all the players I landed who played in the pre-war era, the other being Honus Wagner. Topps' designers already have to enhance the quality of pictures of guys like Ruth, so I can only imagine what it's like to turn that photo into a color image.

A reasonable number of my 250 player collections include stars from the 70s and 80s, players that appear in Topps Stadium Club each and every year. While Eddie Murray hasn't been in an SC checklist since 2016, the other 3, especially Rickey Henderson, have appeared consistently since the brand's revival.

The Sandberg image is a beautiful shot of Wrigley from the 1980s while the 2 Orioles (Murray and Robinson) have banners in the backgrounds of their respective cards. I'm not sure if the pictures are from Opening Day, the World Series, or possibly the All-Star game.

Speaking of Murray, I love that he makes an appearance on Rickey Henderson's card, for cameos like that aren't too common as far as Baseball cards are concerned.

Finally, we have the players of today, paired with unparalleled photographs from all different angles of the ballpark. Unlike Topps Flagship, for example, Stadium Club goes beyond the typical photos for batters and hitters as well as the repetitive angles for each and every shot.

Instead of showcasing Chris Sale during his windup for the 100th time, let's use a shot of him with his cap off with Fenway Park in the background. Let's use a traditional photo of German Marquez but instead zoom out, using an angle that we rarely see.

This is the mindset behind the masterminds of Stadium Club, a product that truly breaks the mold and goes out on a limb. Not to mention, these gambles virtually always pay off. 

I've always been critical of Stadium Club's inserts, both from a conceptual and design standpoint. Rarely has Topps combined a brilliant and/or unusual concept with a visually appealing design as far as Stadium Club inserts are concerned. 

Even though they're far from perfect, I notice that Topps has improved the appearance of the SC inserts, if nothing else, from 2018 to 2019. Though the theme behind the cards is redundant, the Power Zone inserts look fabulous this year.

Warp Speed is brand new to the 2019 set. While the previous insert had an okay concept and an effective design, the opposite is true for the Mookie Betts card above. The design is average, but I appreciate the idea of having an insert set dedicated to the fastest players in the game.

Previously a Stadium Club insert set from the 90s and early 2000s, Beam Team has been a fundamental part of the revived product since 2014. The top hitters in Baseball are consistently featured in this insert set where the odds of pulling a card are 1 per hobby box.

Because of how uncommon they are, I certainly wanted my Beam Team card to be a player that I collect, so I was pleased when Jose Altuve appeared in one of the packs. Even though there's a lot of room for improvement, Stadium Club's inserts, especially Beam Team, have improved significantly in 2019.

Speaking of 1 per box. you also get 1 chrome card in every box of Stadium Club, a criminally underrated aspect of this set. The base cards are beautiful as is, and they are further enhanced with the chrome card stock, even though the checklist is limited to around 100 cards or so.

I'd be lying if I said that Justus Sheffield was one of my top choices from the Stadium Club Chrome checklist, but I suppose it could've been worse. Although the logo isn't included on the card, he is a rookie, so I might be able to sell this online depending on how he's doing with Seattle.

New to 2019 Stadium Club is the oversized box toppers, another 1 per box element of this set. Like the chrome card, Koufax wouldn't have been my #1 choice, but I have no problems with pulling his oversized card. 

After all, he's a legendary Hall of Famer even though I don't collect cards of the 3-time Cy Young award winner. This pull may give me the motivation to start collecting Koufax cards, or I might sell or trade it to somebody else. 

For now, however, I'm just going to appreciate how brilliant it is, on Topps' part, to use oversized base cards as box toppers for this set.

I'd be lying if I said I was shocked that I didn't land any big name autographs in my box. They may both be on-card rookie autos, but there's not much to say beyond that. 

I've never heard of Adam Cimber before in my life, and I like to say that I follow Baseball pretty closely. Chance Adams, on the other hand, had some upside going into the 2019 season and was somewhat considered to be a ROY finalist, but I don't think he's living up to his hype.

At this point, the only thing I can do with these 2 rookie autographs is what I typically do with my hits; store them safely in my relic card/autograph box and hope for the best.

And because I don't want to end this post on a negative note, here's an awesome card of Vladimir Guerrero.

Topps Stadium Club rules.

Saturday, June 29, 2019


As usual, my LCS is far more dependable than Target as it pertains to new releases. In this case, that release was 2019 Topps Stadium Club, a set that I try to open a hobby box of each and every year.

As I explained in yesterday's post, the card aisle at the Target near my house has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. This means that I'll be doing fewer retail box breaks and more hobby openings in the future, for I don't have a dependable Target or Walmart near me.

Though I didn't open them in order, my Dad and I have ripped a box of each of the last 3 Topps Stadium Club sets, dating back to 2016. We haven't hit any major autographs or numbered cards, but we've always had a blast with this set and the beautiful photography within it.

This tradition, combined with the newly-undependable Target card aisle, prompted us to continue this custom and purchase a hobby box of 2019 Topps Stadium Club earlier today. 

The promise of 2 on-card autographs, 1 chrome card, and an over-sized box topper was appealing, but we all know the real reason why anyone buys Stadium Club. The photographs are unmatched by any other sports card release.

Not to mention that all of this year's subjects, even guys like Honus Wagner, are showcased in color. There may be black and white parallels, but you won't find those kinds of pictures in the base set any longer.

At this point, we're about 1/3 of the way through the hobby box, so I won't have a recap post until tomorrow or Monday. Instead, I have 1 pack from the box to open for the blog today, allowing me to share my thoughts on this brand new release.

Each pack contains 8 cards, including 1 insert or parallel, and there are 16 packs in a hobby box. This is one of the most sought after releases year after year, so I'm ecstatic to see what the cards look like in person.

#54 Hank Aaron
Hank Aaron's one of my top 2 favorites players in Baseball history (I consistently go back and forth between him and David Ortiz), so I'd say that this pack is off to a fantastic start. 

Aaron's been included in every Stadium Club set besides 2015 since the product's revival 5 years ago. Even though there are no more black and white base cards, I don't think I'll mind if most of the retired players' cards look like this.

I can't seem to recognize the ballpark in the background no matter how hard I try. I initially thought it was the Polo Grounds, but upon closer inspection, I don't believe that's the case.

Nonetheless, we're starting off this pack and, in fact, the entire box, with one of the best possible base cards.

#7 David Fletcher
One of my favorite things about Stadium Club, year after year, is how Topps can take the same rookies that are featured in a dozen other products and come up with some brilliant cards in this photo-centric release. 

I've already pulled a few different David Fletcher rookies this year, and I barely even know who he is. However, his Stadium Club base card, showing the Angels rookie preparing to bunt, differs completely from the rookie cards of almost any other Topps set.

I'm still not that familiar with the 25-year old rookie, but Stadium Club, if nothing else, has given me a better idea about who he is with just 1 card. That's pretty impressive, to say the least.

#239 Luis Urias
On the other hand, I'm slightly more familiar with Padres rookie Luis Urias, for he was a well-respected prospect for a number of years before being called up by San Diego in 2019.

I've pulled his Bowman prospect cards and his Topps Flagship rookie, and while his Stadium Club rookie may not be my favorite, I appreciate Topps for using an angle rarely showcased on Baseball cards as well as a throwback uniform.

Not every card can be a winner, and Urias' is by no means a bad card. It's just challenging to stand out within a set as diverse and stunning as Stadium Club.

#219 Ryan Zimmerman
I've never been overly fond of the Stadium Club card backs, but I think that's going to change in 2019. In past releases, like 2018, the card backs differed depending on the player and his team colors, but this year, each card back is the same apart from the information about the actual player.

They all feature the same brown ballpark background with glimpses of light around the basic information and player statistics. The player's name uses the same text as it does on the front of the card, and, as a whole, the backs stay true to what we've seen from Stadium Club since 2014.

Although I believe that the "Topps Stadium Club" text at the top of this post is unnecessary, I don't have many problems with this year's card backs. There definitely a step up from years past.

#PZ-4 Aaron Judge Power Zone
For starters, I'm thrilled that Topps went with numbers for their Stadium Club inserts whereas they typically use the first letter of the player's first and last name to distinguish the cards (PZ-AJ, for example).

Second, my first impression of the Stadium Club inserts this year is that they're an improvement from 2018 and beforehand, though that's not saying much. I've never been a fan of the redundant concepts and unoriginal designs, but I love how these Power Zone cards look in 2019.

I've seen autographed versions of these inserts pulled though the odds of landing one are extremely low. The blank space on the lefthand side of the card, nevertheless, is perfect for some ink.

#82 Dansby Swanson
I can't tell if something really positive or negative happened right before the photographer captured this shot of Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson. He could've just dove into home plate and gotten dirt all over his jersey, or he could've been caught stealing.

Regardless, there are a ton of dirt stains all throughout Topps Stadium Club, so I'm not surprised that I stumbled upon some on the 6th card of the first pack. Grass stains, on the other hand, don't show up that much, both on the actual uniforms and in the Stadium Club base set.

#170 Jose Altuve
This Altuve base card becomes the 4th card of a player that I collect out of 7 cards in the pack thus far, the others being Aaron, Zimmerman, and Judge. Even with all the crazy images across this 301-card set (Vlad Jr is an SP), it's nice to have something simple every once in a while.

Altuve's card fits perfectly in a set like Stadium Club, for there's room for any type of picture, simple or complex, in this set. There's something that I love and appreciate about this card, though I can't quite describe it. 

#238 Steven Duggar
Every card in this pack besides Dansby Swanson features either a rookie or a player that I collect, and I believe that perfectly encapsulates what modern Baseball card collecting looks like. 

The 3rd and final rookie, as well as the last card in the pack, is of Giants outfielder Steven Duggar, another rookie who I'm slightly familiar with thanks to previous 2019 releases like Bowman and Flagship.

Here, we see another dugout shot, this time a little more up-close as Duggar is adjusting the glove before taking the field. It's another simple shot, by Stadium Club's standards, but I appreciate the minor details such as the sunglasses on his cap.

The first pack of 2019 Topps Stadium Club was pretty much what I was expecting, and I mean that as a compliment. Stadium Club consistently features top tier photography, so I had an idea as to what I could expect.

1 pack down, 15 to go. I'm ecstatic to see the caliber of photography across the rest of the box.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Ranking the 2019 Panini Prizm Inserts

Within the last month or so, the Target near me completed major renovations that altered both the appearance and the availability of products throughout the store. While the layout is more or less the same, everything looks drastically different, including the Baseball card section which I frequent often.

Beforehand, all of Target's trading cards were grouped together in an aisle near the registers farthest away from the entrance. Even though I haven't always found exactly what I'm looking for in the card aisle, I appreciate the fact that everything was grouped together in one section.

Unfortunately, that philosophy did not carry over to the newly-designed Target, for the Baseball card aisle is now a shadow of its former self. Half of the space is now occupied by an irritating wall of gift cards and 1/4 of the aisle consists of non-sport trading cards.

This leaves a tiny sliver reserved for sports cards, and not all of that is Baseball. There are some Basketball and Football products scattered about, and I didn't spot a single product that was released within the last month. 

As poor as the selection is now, I fear it will only get worse as I found no Stadium Club or Series 2 blasters on the shelf.

When walking around the redesigned store, I discovered a couple makeshift Baseball card "displays" located within the Boston sports memorabilia section. I put the word display in quotation marks because, at most, these shelves consisted of a couple of Gypsy Queen blasters and a Series 2 rack pack.

No Stadium Club whatsoever. No Series 2 hanger boxes or blasters. I fear that this is the end of my retail shopping at Target. Alas, I picked up a value pack of 2019 Panini Prizm in an effort to make progress with my insane 2019 Panini Prizm project, and I left Target for good. 

From that value pack, I got the idea to rank the inserts from 2019 Panini Prizm, for, after seeing the redesigned Target, I doubt I'll get my hands on any 2019 Topps Stadium Club unless I venture into a hobby shop.

#9 Scorching
I didn't know how to describe my dislike towards the Scorching inserts of 2019 Panini Prizm until I watched a hobby box break of this set on YouTube. The collector referred to the inserts as "cheesy," and I couldn't agree more.

The flames in the background, truthfully, look awful. Topps has pulled off insert sets in the past that utilize fire, but it seems that Panini didn't take any pointers when it came to Scorching. If Panini's goal was to display the top flamethrowers in the game, try a flaming Baseball instead.

I'll admit that it would be challenging to make these cards not appear cheesy, but Panini didn't do themselves any favors with the design. Ultimately, the cards came off, to me, as cheap.

#8 Brilliance
Like Scorching, Brilliance is an insert set dedicated solely to pitchers. Although the design is a substantial improvement from the previous entry, these inserts lack a crucial quality; uniqueness.

If nothing else, the Scorching cards had a theme behind them; they highlight the fastest throwing pitchers in Baseball. On the other hand, there's nothing that special about the Brilliance cards. 

Rather, they feature the best pitchers in Baseball, like Verlander, Sale, and Scherzer, but the cards themselves don't have much of a personality. If not for the design, I'd rank Brilliance last, but the pink and purple background elevates these inserts to the #8 spot.

#7 Machines
Conversely, the Machines inserts showcase the top sluggers in Baseball, similar to how Brilliance features the game's most dominant pitchers. As a result, I have similar problems with this insert set as I do with the previous one.

In some areas, Machines departs from the Brilliance cards, for the former has more of a distinct theme (power hitters) and an interesting design. The reason why I placed these inserts above Brilliance is that it's a slightly improved version of the pitchers-only insert set.

All in all, these inserts are on the average side, which would make their ranking a bit higher in almost any other product. However, there are some surprisingly strong inserts in 2019 Panini Prizm, so the highest I could rank Machines is #7.

#6 Fireworks
As I continue this countdown, I'm struggling to decide which quality I prefer in an insert set; a central theme or an interesting set design. Towards the top of the list, a few of the cards combine these 2 characteristics, but right now, I have to decide between the 2.

Most of the cards so far have had fairly weak themes, and the same could be stated about the Fireworks inserts, one of which is showcased above. As I mentioned, some inserts have a better them than others while additional inserts have a more compelling design. 

Clearly, the Fireworks cards have a beautiful design despite lacking a concrete concept behind the actual insert set. The cards are easily the best looking on the list thus far, and I'm willing to accept the lack of a theme behind these cards and place the Fireworks inserts at #6.

#5 Illumination
If I was determining the inserts' placements on this countdown solely based on design, Illumination would definitely crack the top 2 or 3. I pulled 6 of these from 2 hobby boxes and some retail Prizm packs, and I can thoroughly say that these cards, especially the holo versions, are stunning in person.

Unfortunately, Illumination struggles with what virtually every insert set has suffered from so far on this list; there's no real rhyme or reason behind these cards. They may be vibrant and colorful, but that doesn't tell you much about the cards themselves.

The top 4 insert sets on this list all combine a compelling set design with a profound concept. As a result, Illumination's gorgeous cards simply weren't enough to rank higher on the countdown.

#4 Instant Impact
It's taken 6 insert sets, but we finally have a set of cards that combines a distinct theme with stellar set design, resulting in a fabulous insert set overall. 

These Instant Impact cards, as the title suggests, feature players that had an immediate and profound impact as soon as they made their debut for their respective MLB teams. I assume that these cards are rarer than most of the other inserts, for I only pulled 2 out of all the 2019 Panini Prizm that I opened.

Still, the 2 cards that I ended up with (Torres and Flaherty) are awesome cards with equally impressive information on the back. Unlike most of the sets thus far, Instant Impact has a definite theme.

#3 Numbers Game
This isn't the first time that we've seen Numbers Game inserts in recent years, for Topps Allen & Ginter made a Numbers Game insert back in 2016 that differed somewhat from the 2019 Panini Prizm version.

While I'd prefer to have the background colors and numbers to be full-bleed, I have few issues with the Numbers Game insert set. In addition to including the player's jersey number in the bottom left corner, these cards feature a plethora of numbers in the background, mainly the players' stats from last season.

I'll give Panini points for uniqueness and creativity because I haven't really seen anything like this before. Also, considering that I only pulled 3 of these inserts, I'd say I did pretty well (Acuna Jr, Betts, and Soto).

#2 Lumber Inc
In the past, numerous cards and even entire sets have been based on bats and lumber (i.e. the Donruss/Panini Leather & Lumber product. In the case of 2019 Panini Prizm, they took this basic idea and transformed it into something that fit the bill for the product while also standing out.

Personally, I'd never pair lumber with chrome stock cards, but Panini opted to do so, and the results say it all. I've always thought of lumber, when it comes to Baseball cards, as bat relics or cards with a wooden finish. Never would I expect cards like this in Panini Prizm, but I sure am impressed.

#1 Star Gazing
I know that I've stressed the importance of having a concrete theme behind insert sets throughout this post, but I'm willing to make an exception if and when an insert set's design is simply phenomenal, and that's exactly how I feel about the Star Gazing inserts, my favorite of the entire 2019 Panini Prizm set.

My only issue with this set is the background is the same for all the cards, but the combination of the surplus of colors and the different positions of each player allows every card in the insert set to stand out. Seriously, it's hard not to get mesmerized by the intricate and gorgeous background.

Star Gazing may not be as conceptual of an insert set as Instant Impact or even Machines, but the cards are beautiful enough to earn the #1 spot, and this was not a decision that I made lightly. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

PC Overview; Cal Ripken Jr

It's been over a month since I've written one of these PC overview posts when I wrote one for Roberto Clemente towards the middle of last month.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy these posts. Frankly, it's quite the opposite; the PC overview posts allow me to go more in-depth regarding some of my player collections. 

While a top 5 cards list only highlights a few select cards, PC overviews include cards and a ton of memorabilia that I otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity on the blog.

I started this series with a post dedicated to Reggie Jackson back at the beginning of May in an effort to have another continuous series for the blog. I realized that I needed something in addition to the top 5 cards post and frankenset pages, so I began analyzing some of my player collections at a closer level.

Today is the 3rd installment in this series, and I've selected a player who I've acquired some unusual memorabilia of over the years. I'm talking about the Iron Man himself, Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr.

Just like Reggie Jackson and Roberto Clemente, the actual cards make up most of my Cal Ripken Jr player collection, followed by the various pieces of memorabilia. Out of the 3 players whom I've written PC overview posts for thus far, Ripken Jr has the most cards in his player collection at 166.

Those 166 cards span just 4 decades (the 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s), all of which are represented above. Unlike the previous 2 players, Ripken Jr played at a high level throughout the entire 1990s decade. As a result, there are far more cards available of him than most other players that I collect. 

In fact, he has the 5th most cards out of any player in Baseball history in terms of what's listed on COMC, trailing only A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr, Derek Jeter, and Albert Pujols.

Not included in the 166-card Cal Ripken Jr are some unconventional cards that I've chosen to display on my card collecting table instead of with the other Ripken cards in my collections. My reason for this is simple; these aren't traditional cards of the 19-time All-Star. 

The cards included in the box above are metal cards from a tin that my Dad and I purchased at a card show many years ago. You can see some other memorabilia which I will get to later, but for now, let's stick to the 10-card metal set that commemorates his achievement of 2,131 consecutive games played.

This isn't the only tin with metal cards in my collection as I have similar sets for Ken Griffey Jr, Roberto Clemente, and even Mickey Mantle. While the first 2 tins on that list were produced by the same company, Ripken's tin, and metal cards strongly resemble the 10-card Mantle tin aside from the actual player featured.

Both Mantle and Ripken's tins are produced by the same company and include 10 total cards and a large box as opposed to the 5 cards and smaller boxes for Clemente and Griffey Jr. I don't recall exactly what I paid for any of these collector's items, but I can't imagine it was anything outrageous.

I'm a sucker for the design of each of Ripken's 10 metal cards, for they all feature a vibrant orange and black border and Ripken's name embossed at the bottom of the card. Each card features a different picture and highlights from his career up until his 2,131st consecutive game which he achieved in 1995. 

While I could technically count these 10 exclusive cards as part of my actual Ripken Jr player collection, it's a no-brainer for me to leave them inside the tin. If I'm going to categorize a card as part of a PC, it better be with that PC physically before I add it to the inventory.

Like the 10 metal cards, I could also count this 23KT gold card in my Cal Ripken Jr player collection as well, but I prefer to display it with my other memorabilia of the 2-time AL MVP instead. Another Baseball card show pickup, this card features roughly 17 square inches of genuine gold and has some information about Ripken's streak of games played inscribed into the card.

The front of the card features a brief synopsis about Ripken's streak after he broke Gehrig's record and achieved the world record for consecutive games played at 2,216. 

Before he willingly ended his own streak, Ripken didn't just break the record of 2,130 straight games played, set by Lou Gehrig, he exceeded the mark to earn a world record which is commemorated with these intricate designs on the back of the card. 

Among the many details is a stamp, dated June 14th, 1996, honoring when he earned the world record.

Among the numerous unusual pieces of Cal Ripken memorabilia in my collection, the most unique one would have to be the Wheaties box above, complete with a full bag of cereal inside the sealed box.

While I likely should get around to throwing out the 20+-year-old cereal and keeping the box itself, my Dad and I, somehow, acquired this cereal box at the Baseball card show and never bothered to take the actual cereal out.

We simply placed the new memorabilia with the other Ripken items along our card collecting counter, and I never thought twice about it until I started writing today's post. 

The cereal inside may be a little odd, but the box design is a special piece of memorabilia that also commemorates his legendary streak.

As much as I cherish all the oddball pieces of memorabilia, I've definitely saved the highlight of my Ripken Jr player collection for last; this simple yet beautiful plaque, again honoring his 2,131st consecutive game, which was, you guessed it, acquired at the Baseball card show.

The plaque, complete with a picture and inscription, is hung directly above the other pieces of Ripken memorabilia. I love seeing all the various Ripken items near one another, especially when so many of them honor his 2,131st straight game.

Like all the oddball memorabilia that I've featured in this post, the picture above was an inexpensive Baseball card show pickup that contributes something unusual to my Baseball card collection. 

I don't own a lot of collector's items that I can hang on the wall, so I thoroughly appreciate the Ripken plaque in addition to all the other memorabilia that I own. 

After all, these items, along with the actual cards in the PC, help make the Cal Ripken Jr player collection what it is.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Small Sample Size

Being that Topps Series 1 is the first Baseball card release of the year, I always purchase a fair number of packs in order to get an idea of who the rookies are as well as what the design will look like for Series 2, Chrome, and Update as well.

Even though there are many sets out there that are better than Series 1, the fact that it's the first release of the year gives me an incentive to buy a couple of blasters or even a standard hobby box. 

The same, however, cannot be said for Topps Series 2. No matter the year, it seems that Series 2 is always pale in comparison to the initial Flagship set. Despite Topps' best efforts to boost the jumbo box odds and feature 4 popular rookies in Series 2 compared to virtually none in Series 1, I can never get invested in this set.

It also doesn't help that sets like Panini Prizm and Topps Stadium Club (which releases tomorrow) are out around the same time as Series 2. Pretty soon, Allen & Ginter and Topps Chrome will be added onto this list, and Series 2 will be left to sit around on Target and Walmart shelves all across the country.

Each year, in spite of all of these factors, I usually end up buying a small sampling of Topps Series 2, nothing more than a blaster box, in hopes of pulling something that'll motivate me to like this product a little more. Even though I landed an Ohtani rookie last year, the rest of Series 2 was very average.

Simply put, Topps crams most of the superstar veterans into Series 1, leaving little-known rookies and below-average veterans for their second series. If Topps continues with this method, Series 2 will never be as popular as Series 1. 

Today, I went to my local Target and, among other things, picked up 2 fat packs of 2019 Topps Series 2. I felt like this sample size was large enough for me to formulate my own opinion on this year's product, whether it's positive or negative.

Unfortunately, it appears that the 2019 version of this set falls under the same umbrella as the previous releases; underwhelming. 

Maybe my rack packs were just unlucky, but I struggled to pull a ton of cards of players that I recognize, and this is coming from someone who actively watches Baseball and hobby box breaks.

At least there were some throwback uniforms included to distract from the lackluster checklist. I love the Braves jersey that Inciarte is wearing, and while I have no clue who Jace Fry is, I appreciate the inclusion of this 80s White Sox uniform.

Including Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, there are 5 highly sought after rookie cards (with parallels) in 2019 Topps Series 2; this group includes Kikuchi, Eloy Jimenez, Pete Alonso, Fernando Tatis Jr, and, of course, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Being the most desired rookie of 2019 means that Guerrero Jr is featured in 2019 Topps Series 2 as an SP. However, his card doesn't seem to be too rare as most of the box breaks and recaps that I've seen on YouTube and Twitter have yielded a Vlad rookie card.

If nothing else, the 2 36-card rack packs were reasonable when it came to cards of my 2 favorite MLB teams. However, the limited checklist means that I'm not necessarily pulling the biggest Red Sox and Cubs players out there.

I'm not sure about what it takes for a pitcher to qualify as a rookie, but Bobby Poyner pitched 44 innings last year, so I'm wondering how he's still considered a rookie in 2019. 

Steven Wright is returning today from an 80-game PED suspension, and I've practically given up all hope that the 34-year old will contribute anything to the team. He's struggled immensely since an All-Star season 3 years ago, both on and off the field.

On the other hand, Eduardo Nunez is pretty decent overall, and Cole Hamels is a player that I collect. I've also grown more fond of this year's Flagship design as the year has progressed, and I'm ecstatic, truth be told, for Topps Chrome.

Topps produced a lot more Series 1 and 2 in 2019 than they have in year's past, meaning that even if you pay the same amount of money for cards, you'll end up with fewer inserts/parallels and a lot more base cards. 

Nevertheless, that didn't stop Topps from including some sort of retail exclusive insert in each of the 2 rack packs that I purchased. These Franchise Feats cards appear to highlight the history of each MLB team along with a picture of the face of their franchise. 

While including Roberto Alomar and Rickey Henderson on these cards is somewhat unnecessary, the concept is fairly unique, and I love the logos that Topps selected, especially for the Oakland A's.

Another reason why Topps was able to produce so much Series 1 & 2 this year is the inclusion of these bland 150th-anniversary parallels. The only thing that distinguishes these from a base card is the gold foil logo in the bottom lefthand corner. Other than that minor detail, everything else is the same.

After buying 2 rack packs, this 150th-Anniversary "parallel" was the only parallel card that I pulled; no gold, no rainbow foil, nothing else but this. As much as I enjoy collecting (and feel bad for) Starlin Castro, I wish that Topps would've either left these out entirely or partnered them with some sort of border color. 

Like the 150th-anniversary cards, I ended up with 1 of the 1984 Topps design inserts in my 2 rack packs, and I'd say I did pretty well with the player that I pulled. While the first series featured Baseball's rookies and veterans in the base design, Series 2 showcases the superstars of today's game in the '84 Tops All-Star design.

Seeing this card makes me long for the All-Star card designs of the 70s and 80s. Even though Topps features Future Stars on some players sophomore year cards today, I still wish that they'd revert back to stellar All-Star cards like the ones in the 1984 design.

Still, even with the Yelich insert pull and the Kikuchi and Jimenez rookies, I'm not all that impressed with 2019 Topps Series 2. Let me put this into perspective; 2019 Topps is an extremely base card heavy set. I pulled 2 parallels/inserts (Castro and Henderson) of players that I collect. 

Besides those 2 cards, I landed just 2 other cards for my PCs; the Cole Hamels card from earlier in the post and the Rickey Henderson card above. I only pulled around 5 non-base cards, meaning that around 67 of the cards from these 2 rack packs were strictly base.

I collect exactly 250 players, so to only land 2 base cards of guys that I collect and 4 total means that this checklist isn't very strong. 

Unless anything changes, remind me to skip Topps Series 2 next year. I'll be perfectly happy with Series 1 and Chrome instead.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Frankenset Page #57

I've gotten into the habit of posting 1 frankenset page every week over the last number of months. Because this routine has worked well with the rest of my blogging schedule, I see no reason whatsoever to alter it.

Likewise, I have this week's frankenset page, #57 in the 74-page series, ready to go for today's post. Featuring cards dating back to the 1970s, this page includes cards #505 all the way through #513. Now, let's get started.

#505 2004 Topps Adam Kennedy
One of my main problems with the 2004 Topps Flagship set is how small the pictures are in comparison to the border and frame. The photo above of Angels 2nd baseman Adam Kennedy is very interesting, but the image itself is tiny compared to the white borders surrounding it.

In spite of the boring set design and small pictures, 2004 Topps definitely has some standout cards. There are just 1 too many obstacles preventing this design from standing out in a positive manner. Instead, it blends in with the many of the other 2000s/2010s Topps base set designs.

#506 1974 Topps Ed Farmer
If I were to create another frankenset, I'd try to pay more attention to the last ~200 cards in the checklist in an effort to diversify the final pages. While I'm pleased with the actual cards that I chose, I've discovered, over the last few posts, far too many Topps Flagship cards and a weak variety of products represented.

Page #57, for example, includes 8 cards from Topps Flagship sets, ranging from 1974-2011. Even though I personally selected all of these cards because I like something about each of them, I can't deny the fact that the last few pages have become somewhat repetitive.

#507 1990 Fleer Greg Briley
Even though I complained about how many Topps Flagship cards there are on this page, the one non-Topps card featured isn't anything to write home about. It's a simple base card of a lesser known Mariners player, Greg Briley, from 1990 Fleer, a lackluster product.

I guess I'll have to find a balance between selecting fewer Topps Flagship cards and more high-quality and interesting cards if and when I craft another frankenset. I obviously want to have a wide range of intriguing cards, but I don't want to be repetitive either.

#508 1981 Topps Rob Dressler
From the funky Mariners hat to the bizarre purple sleeves, Rob Dressler's 1981 Topps card may just be my favorite card of the entire 57th page There are so many colors throughout the card (light blue, gold, dark blue, purple, yellow) that the card as a whole is almost mesmerizing. 

I've never seen the appeal of the 1981 Topps set, but I'll admit that I became more fond of the design after last year's Topps Archives set. Seeing modern day players like Mike Trout and Ronald Acuna Jr in this 1980s design helped me become more fond of the original set.

#509 1984 Topps Brad Havens
I haven't bought a lot of Topps Series 1 or 2 so far in 2019, so, fortunately, I haven't been burned out on the 1984 Topps design like I was in 2017 and '18 when it comes to the '87 and '83 sets. This may change when I purchase a little Topps Series 2 and Chrome, but I hope that isn't the case.

I've always loved the giant text and the 2 different images that make the 1984 Topps base set so unique. It's always been neck-and-neck with 1983 when it comes to my favorite Flagship design of the decade, but as of now, I'm leaning more towards 1984.

#510 1975 Topps Vida Blue
1975 Topps literally has hundreds of vibrant and bright cards, yet Vida Blue's base card may just be the most colorful of them all, and that's definitely a compliment. In addition to the yellow which comes close to matching the gold on his jersey, green, pink, and sky blue are all prominent across this card.

It may have taken us 43 years, but my Dad and I finally completed the 1975 Topps set shortly after returning home from The National in 2018. After returning home and realizing that we had 1 card remaining, we purchased #660, Hank Aaron, on Sportlots.

A little over a week later, we completed our 2nd set of the year, the first being the equally fabulous 1972 Topps set.

#511 2011 Topps Philadelphia Phillies Team Card
As the 2000s drew to a close, so did the days of the "traditional" team cards appearing in Topps Flagship sets. Nowadays, instead of featuring the classic photos that are taken every year at Spring Training, Topps includes some sort of celebration image on team cards just like the one above.

I've been very vocal ever since I started blogging about how these "team" cards are irritating and simply aren't true team cards. As much as I dislike the celebration images, I can't stand when they're featured in Topps Heritage. If there's any release where team cards should resemble what they used to be, it's Heritage.

#512 1990 Topps Gary Pettis
Speaking of Topps Heritage, I must admit that I'm rather excited for the design 20 years from now when 1990 Topps is replicated. I've always felt that '90 Topps is a tad misunderstood; the colorful borders would've been great in the 1970s. Unfortunately, I feel like it's always seen as a worse version of 1975 Topps.

I'll be interested to see if Topps can breathe some life back into this set design by featuring the stars from 2039 in this colorful and creative set. I know we have a while to wait, but I can't help to be excited. Who knows? Maybe Topps Archives will replicate it before then.

#513 1987 Topps Carmen Castillo
Admittedly, while I'm rather excited for 1990 Topps to be replicated in the Heritage product, I can't say the same for the 1987 design. Not only has this set, to my knowledge, already been utilized in Archives, but Topps has used '87 in multiple different insert sets, most notably in 2017.

All I know is that I'm getting sick of seeing these wood borders everywhere I go. Topps needs to take an prolonged break from replicating 1987 Topps until the time comes in 2037.