Tuesday, December 31, 2019
The Highs, Lows, and In-Betweens: Ranking the Sets of 2019
Late December always entails a couple of different blog posts which, admittedly, I'm getting to a little late this year. It's time for me to analyze how successful I was in accomplishing my card collecting goals for 2019, not to mention I should create new objectives for 2020.
I'd also like, if I have the time and creative mindset necessary, to create some type of post recapping and/or highlighting what the 2010s were like for Baseball cards. I'm still in the stages of what this post would look like, and if I end up following through with it, I'll write it in the next week or so.
The final of the end-of-year blog posts that I write is a full ranking of the year's Baseball card releases, and that's exactly what I've dedicated the final day of the year and decade to talking about. Before I get to the countdown, however, I want to note a couple of things.
For starters, I rank the sets on this list primarily based on the actual design, though this becomes slightly more complex when it comes to products like Archives and Heritage. For those 2, I look at how well Topps did with recreating the older designs and how they stack up to previous releases.
Yes, not every Topps/Panini release is featured on this list. I'm sticking to products that I'm familiar with; in fact, for the first time in the blog's history, I'm sticking solely to sets that I've actually opened packs from.
You'll also see that I've combined Donruss/Optic as well as Topps Flagship, Update, and Chrome into their own respective categories. I just don't deem it necessary to talk about Topps Chrome and Topps Series 1 and 2 like they're drastically different design-wise.
Finally, as sad as it may be (for me anyway), Panini Chronicles will not be featured. There are just way too many designs that the product is worthy of its own countdown which I actually wrote.
I have 14 sets to talk about as I gradually lead up to #1. Let's begin with what I feel is the least interesting set design of 2019.
The off-center style didn't necessarily bug me all that much, though I wasn't exactly thrilled about this detail. Rather, the cards just lack any sort of personality or wow factor. Luckily, big-time prospect collectors don't care what the cards look like.
#13 Topps National Baseball Card Day
This year featured the best set design as well as card backs in the promotional set's abbreviated history, but it simply doesn't have enough to compete with the bigger releases of 2019.
#12 Panini Donruss/Optic
The orangish/yellow or, for Rated Rookies, blue card backs in 2019 Panini Donruss are a huge step up from their past attempts. The amount of blank space has decreased significantly, and I'm just hoping that Panini can continue this type of momentum and continue improving into the 2020s.
#11 Topps Finest
As for the base set, the cards look nice, but chrome cardstock can enhance virtually anything. I will say this, however; I don't believe they're at the caliber of previous Finest sets, especially 2014 and 2016.
#10 Topps Fire
Finally, Topps took the notion of "less is more" and applied it to this set. Instead of a black background with a ton of sparks and flames, Topps changed it up, giving us a few simple colors and highlighting the player instead of the work of their designers.
#9 Panini Prizm
2019 Panini Prizm project. However, the base design isn't too shabby; it's sleek, modern, and, once again, Panini has improved their card backs.
Though the market for these cards is far too great in Basketball for a change to be made, I'm starting to wish that the Prizm base design consisted of silvers instead of cards like the one above. That way, they won't show dust as easily.
#8 Topps Heritage
Either way, Topps Heritage dropped from #5 in 2018 all the way to #8, and it's a shame because I actually prefer the 1970 design to 1969. Plus, Topps did a stellar job, as always, recreating the set, but, for some reason, I'm just not feeling the magic I once was in regards to Topps Heritage.
#7 Bowman's Best
Just like Panini Prizm, 2019 Bowman's Best is sleek, but the shade of grey used by Topps is far more appealing than the darker grey that Panini uses for Prizm. Plus, there's just so much color on both sides of the card that I can't help but love it.
#6 Topps Allen & Ginter
Since the set's debut back in 2006(?), we've known what to expect from Allen & Ginter, and I mean that in a good way. The color splashes behind the photos of each subject have been a mainstay in the product, and although Topps replaced them with traditional backgrounds, it doesn't feel like A&G without them.
#5 Topps Flagship/Chrome/Update
The card backs, moreover, feature players' complete stats (yay!), and the design, as many have pointed out, looks like a modernized version of the 1982 design. Topps Chrome and all of its gorgeous refractors only made the cards more appealing.
#4 Topps Gallery
Despite this minor complaint, I still ranked Gallery in my top 4 favorite sets of the year, so, evidently, Topps is doing something right. I just hope that they take more risks with these cards in 2020, perhaps going back to gold frames?
#3 Topps Stadium Club
Well, ranking it "lower," I suppose, still means making the top 3 because although Stadium Club may not be as incredible as it was 2 years ago, its still one of the most anticipated and celebrated Baseball card sets of the year.
If you're doubting Topps ability to be creative with this set now that it's been around since 2014, look no further than the Christy Mathewson card above.
#2 Topps Gypsy Queen
The banner, frame, card backs, and every little nuance contributes to this set design that, finally, has some sort of identity after Topps spent years trying to give these cards something to work with.
The mockups for 2020 Gypsy Queen look just as promising, so, hopefully, after 2 disappointing years, things are looking up for my former favorite product.
#1 Topps Archives
Topps did a sensational job, though not perfect, with recreating these old school designs, and the checklist is incredibly diverse, featuring guys that are rarely recognized by any other set.
Needless to say, Topps Archives had all the ingredients for a top tier release, and they were able to accomplish just that with the lineup of sets, incredible checklist, and more factors.
Because of that, Archives reigns supreme as my favorite Baseball card product of 2019.