Friday, June 1, 2012

Your Childhood Collecting Memories In A Box A.K.A. Topps Archives Baseball

Few if any baseball card sets have whet my collecting appetite over the past several years. Last year Topps released Lineage and that brought me back. Before then, I believe the last time I really wanted to collect a baseball set, it was the inaugural year of Topps Tribute. That was 2001. Yes, it has been that long. I've dabbled and continue to purchase some products, but to really get the urge to put an entire master set together, it has been a long, long time. Lineage was instrumental in reuniting me with my childhood. The elements of the set included several of the great designs and types of cards that Topps released over the past 60 years. 2012 has been a stellar year for the company with many good products coming in a short span of time. The one I anticipated was Archives. Ever since finding out about the retro collection at the Industry Summit a few months back, I knew that would be the set that I would chase throughout 2012. What caught my attention most, was that it was slated to contain all of the elements I loved collecting as a kid. It wasn't terribly overpriced for starters, that was a huge factor too. It delivers a variety of classic Topps designs including 1954, 1971, 1980 and 1984 that make up the 200-card base set. It is filled with current players, a few rookies, and some all-time greats. There are gold parallels and 1/1 printing plates inserted too. Seeing some of the greatest players on these classic cards that never were, until now, is truly a sight to behold.

With a limited amount of short prints adding another 41 cards to the set, Topps has raised the ire of some collectors, and given others something to chase. You see, among these Reprint Card Backs of former players such as John Kruk, Bill Buckner and Jose Oquendo is a Super Short Print (SSP) of Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper. Many collectors have embraced the fact that the card is scarce, so scarce that it is fetching $250-$300 on the secondary market. At the same time, many collectors have been vocal in their disdain because the card is #d 241, and so rare that Topps has alienated the set building genre of collectors making it impossible to collect the entire set.

I see it both ways myself. I am really not bothered by the chase, because there are so many elements in the set worth collecting and enjoying. Each pack of cards I opened evoked a story from the past. I actually felt a little strange that I could instantly remember some oddball story about each card or set  and remember when and where I bought or chased them down in the past. The great thing is that almost instantly I had new memories and stories to share and you will too when you see the great Joe DiMaggio on a 1980 Topps card, Stephen Strasburg on a 1984 design or Derek Jeter on a 1977 cloth sticker.

Archives insert sets bring back even more memories. Whatever era you began collecting, you'll find something that triggers a reaction, usually a positive one. Lets break them down:

1967 Stickers
25 floating heads mark the return of this strange, but beloved collection. I am sure you missed it, but if you watched my break the retail boxes I opened, I made the heads talk. Some of the expressions in the photos used are priceless, especially Roy Halladay and Jose Bautista. They are seeded 1:8 packs.

1968 3D
For their time, these lenticular cards were leading the way for originality and technology in the card category. In fact, many people have gotten them graded over the years. They proven popular enough to make a return to the hobby many times from different companies and they are back in 2012 with 15 new subjects.

1969 Deckle Edge
Find 15 of the these black and white relics from the past seeded 1:12 packs. Cards feature current and past MLB players and a facsimile autograph in blue ink.

Archives Reprints
Not to be confused with the short printed cards included in the base set, these 50 players cards are marked with a gold foil Archives logo. Take a trip down memory lane and revisit the historical importance of Topps baseball card legacy. You'll catch baseball fever from these cardboard icons that are seeded 1:4 packs.

1977 Cloth Stickers
One of the true oddities of the hobby returns and like the other inserts combines old with new. The original cloth set is one of the weirdest, yet coolest baseball sets from that era. It wasn't incredibly popular upon its initial release, but after time it became somewhat of a cult classic and a great conversation piece as a companion to the exceptionally cool 1977 base set. Here you will find 25 new ones to add to the quirky legacy.

1982 In Action
The 1982 Topps set had some remarkable cards on its checklist. Big names including George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, and the rookie card of Cal Ripken Jr. are just some highlights. The set also featured In Action cards of many players. These cards were in addition to the portrait style photos used on the base cards and was something that harkened back to the 60s. They are back in 2012 with 10 new entries to be found.

Classic Combos
Another vintage idea comes back to the hobby, this time with a twist. Classic Combos using the 1958 design combine vintage players with current to create a new card. I always thought these were pretty cool because you got a 2-for-1 deal. Usually the pairings were odd and the photos had some element of humor or weirdness to them. These are pretty straight forward and true to the originals, but I sure would love to see these return with real untouched photos and some fun facts. I always thought it would be cool to have a card with the team's star players and the team mascot. I'd buy that for a dollar!

Archive Autographs & Relics
Hobby boxes include two autographed cards, a relic card and a box topper. The 2 autographs could be from a variety of ball players from several different generations. A sampling of names include George Foster, Amos Otis, Robin Ventura, John Kruk, Carney Landsford, Don Mattingly, Will Clark and Ken Griffey Jr. Some guys have NEVER had autographs in a product before. In fact, former Met and Cardinal Jose Oquendo has 9 different autographs as a tribute to his playing ALL NINE player positions in the 1988 MLB season! I had no clue about that fact (thanks Topps) but here's little additional trivia. Did you know that in '87 he played 8 of the 9 sans getting behind the plate? That's a pretty amazing feat, and a very cool collectible for the Oquendo fan. Topps also included a Gary Carter auto, perhaps the last before his untimely death. While all of these autos are on card, Carter's is a sticker and I don't think a collector in the world will care. There are also autographs of rookie phenoms Bryce Harper and Yu Darvish to chase, right along with hobby favorites Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols, Some are encased in frames implementing the 1983 Topps design. Others are signed on original Topps cards that were repurchased for this product and #'d to only 5. James Earl Jones, Vanna White and Bob Barker are among 50 cut signatures of entertainment stars you might find in the mix. Details on seeding and ratios are not available for these, but you can bet that they are going to be about as hard to get as that $1 on the Price is Right wheel.

Cobra Kai Never Die
The autographed box toppers are one of the most popular features of Archives. After speaking with Topps Mark Sapir on Cardboard Connection Radio (Listen), we clarified how autographs of Karate Kid stars Martin Kove (John Kreese) and Billy Zabak (Johnny Lawrence) came into fruition. Apparently one of the Topps product development guys has a karate gi and wears it. A discussion followed and it became known that they had a connection to Kove and the rest is history. Now they need to follow these up with Ralph Macchio and Elisabeth Shue next year! Look for the over-sized cards randomly inserted into hobby boxes.

There are 56 relics to chase and not so ironically they use the 1956 Topps design. You'll find a great selection of gear from players ranging from Ricky Romero to Robert Clemente. Look for a mix of bats and uniforms among the hits. One interesting relic that is unique to Archives features Cal Ripken Jr.Touched by greatness features Ripken's handprint and autograph on an large card. Seeded as redemption cards, they are extremely limited to only 100.

Odds N' Ends
As collectors worldwide are opening and enjoying reliving their collecting habits of the past, many are finding some additional bonus hits with once-in-a-lifetime finds. Seeded randomly into the print run are redemption cards for some real items out of the Topps Archives. Player contracts, full card sheets, proofs, binders and original art could be among your other hits as you bust open your packs.

There are also some 6 player book auto cards that open up to reveal signatures of Dale Murphy, Ricky Henderson, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Darryl Strawberry, and Andre Dawson. Murphy recently stated on Cardboard Connection Radio (Listen) that he signed for Topps and here is the result, a more perfect set for the 80s and 90s star doesn't exist.

I am putting together a master set of Archives base, inserts, relics and basic autos. If I get daring, I might try for the rare stuff too, but that's not what was important to me. The fun. Archives is all about the fun. The act of opening a product and being genuinely surprised by the content, the checklist and the oddities. That's collecting. It's not more of the same old, same old. It's the same old, but new. Make sense? Have a look at what I found in a hobby box (pictured below). Archives provides a collecting experience you are not soon to forget!


  1. I've been able to open up a blaster (last one!) at my local store the other day and had a lot of fun with just that. While I didn't get any "hits" and I wasn't around during the years those original designs were created, it was definitely one of the more fun blaster opening experiences I've had lately.

  2. Good to hear even a new generation collector can enjoy a fun product!