Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If you could revive one set, it would be...

I asked myself this question today, and now I'm posing it to all my readers.

If you could pick any single set to revive, what would it be?

If you would've asked me this last year, it you'd get a quick answer.

Topps Archives. No contest.

However, since Topps is set to bring Archives back in May (although with a different concept), I had to come up with a new response. I still didn't have to think much about this one, either.

Topps Total, a.k.a the low-end collector's dream set.

Topps Total had its last hurrah just before I started to seriously get into baseball cards again. I remember picking up a few packs of it in late 2005, but I haven't seen it on the shelves since.

The packs were the best thing about the set. You could get a ten-card pack for a mere 99 cents. And it was the same year-in and year-out. It never changed.

These days, Topps Opening Day is the last 99-cent pack out there, but it doesn't hold a torch to Topps Total.

Last year's Topps Opening Day base set was comprised of 220 cards. There were some surprisingly nice insert sets in last year's product, but that's not typical of Opening Day.

For that same 99 cents, you got ten cards from a Topps Total's debut set in 2002 that contained a whopping 990 cards.

You read it right. Nine hundred and ninety cards.

That's unheard of in today's world. The three base Topps sets have that many cards combined.

While it's a nightmare for set collectors, Topps Total is a team and player collector's dream. Especially if you collect obscure guys like Tim Spooneybarger, as I do.

Mid-to-top tier player in today's game don't have very many cards at all. Perhaps a base card in the flagship set, but that's usually it.

But Topps Total had 'em all. Chances are that if they stepped foot on a baseball field the previous year, they had a card in Topps Total.

Topps Total's initial release came in 2002.

There are a few rookie gems scattered among the mammoth base set. Bobby Jenks, David Wright, and Jason Bay (shown above) all made their cardboard debuts in 2002, and they all have rookie cards in Topps Total's base set.

Jason Bay jumped around quite a bit early on in his career. He was drafted by the Expos, traded to the Mets (where Topps Total was quick to provide an updated photo), then to the Padres (for whom he'd appear in a few games for), then to the Pirates, where he'd blossom into a star.

While the rookies are nice and all, I love the array of players in the base set. I doubt guys like Jung Bong and Brad Cresse got much attention in the cardboard community, but they both have cards in this set. (I'm just grabbing a few names from the checklist as I go. Hence, Jung Bong.)

I don't remember hearing much about the '02 Topps Total set. Since I was ten at the time, I thought I would've jumped all over these 99-cent packs, but I don't remember buying any.

Topps Total's 2003 offering is by personal favorite from their four-year run.

I love the fact that the border on the right side of every card corresponds to the team featured. (Green for the A's, red for the Angels, etc.)

That's something that I wish Topps would experiment with nowadays.

2003 Topps Total was almost an exact replica of its '02 offering. The base set was still 990 cards. As with the '02 set, there were still a couple insert sets, but the gigantic base set was the main draw.

At the time, Aaron Harang was virtually unknown. He pitched in just 16 games for the A's in 2002, but he got a card nevertheless.

The 2003 set did have one major improvement, though...

Behold the almighty Topps Total Silver parallels.

They're still among my favorite parallel sets of all-time, even though it's just a simple silver border. Topps flagship had been using their gold parallels for a few years once this set hit the shelves.

There's just something about that silver border that works extremely well with the base designs. I'm not sure what it is, though.

As I mentioned in my first-ever card show post, one of the dime boxes I went through had a big stack of these silver parallels inside. I had a blast going through them.

One of my favorites from the '03 silver parallels is this one of the late Cory Lidle. I like those Blue Jays hats for some reason.

Although they weren't the main focus of the set, Topps Total did have some really cool inserts in their first couple years.

The scans don't do these justice. They look a lot better in-person.

Topps Total was back again in '04. 

Although the set shrunk to "just" 880 cards, it still had all the glory of its previous releases.

One thing that Topps Total was really good at was providing updated player photos. Vladimir Guerrero was in his first year as an Angel in '04, but Topps managed to snag a photo of him in an Angels uniform in time for Total's release.

The backs from the 2004 Topps Total set are among my favorite card backs ever.

The base cards again match colors with the featured team. (I'm not sure that's ever been done since Topps Total.)

I never learned how to play the game that was featured on the back of these cards, but it's still a nice idea. You could tell that Topps had kids in mind when they released Topps Total, both with the cheap packs and the game on the back.

That's always a plus in my book.

Sadly, 2005 was Topps Total's final release.

They weren't much different from the '04 set. They still had the game on the back. They still had the "Topps Tracker" bits of info. They brought back the team-matching colored borders for the card fronts that were featured in the '03 set.

And they were still 99 cents per pack.

The base set shrunk again in '05, this time down to 770 cards. 

Topps Total still had the silver parallels until the end.

They were still great.

Although I'd really like to see it, I don't have much hope that Topps Total (or anything similar to it) will ever be revived. I can't imagine it's much of a "money-maker", after all.

But to the low-end collector like me, it has everything I'd ever want in a set of baseball cards.

What I like best about Topps Total is that it didn't care if you were Albert Pujols or Tim Spooneybarger.

You still got your picture on a piece of cardboard.

(Happy leap day, by the way.)


Nachos Grande said...

For me, either Topps Stadium Club, Fleer Tradition, or Upper Deck Collector's Choice (97 or 98 style).

night owl said...

Topps Total was great for featuring every damn player, but I never liked the look of the set.

If I could revive one set, and I've said this at least 400 times, it would be Topps Fan Favorites. One of the greatest sets ever.

Anonymous said...

Upper Deck SP - in the form that it originally came out in - before it became SP Authentic!!!!


Nick said...

Fan Favorites is second on my list. There's supposed to be a Fan Favorites subset in this year's Archives set, but we'll have to wait and see what it looks like.

Spiegel83 said...

The Topps Total inserts had a cool 90s look. I would want Topps to bring back Stadium Club. The photography was exceptional.

William Regenthal said...

Pinnacle Aficionado. By far, the best looking set to come out of the 90s. After that, I would love to see Donruss have another crack at baseball. I love Topps, but having another company around would be nice every now and then.

The Lost Collector said...

Mine would be the Original Topps Debut set - like from 1991 - it featured players who actually made their MLB debuts that year, and even included a short write-up with how they did that game. I'd love a set strictly with the guys who made the ML Debut this year (or last year).

Don said...

I was always a fan of the All-Time Fan Favorites sets. Topps Total was a good set because it had a comprehensive checklist. I would like to see Score or Donruss have a crack at a baseball license.

Ryan said...

Great review, Nick!

Total was born and retired between my times in the hobby - I have only seen it or heard about it on the blogs we share. I can only imagine how great it was to grab a pack of 10 cards at 99 cents! As a set chaser, the 990 initial release would have been mind-numbing, but in a good way.

What set would I like to see again? Lineage stole the white-border Rookie cards that used to be in flagship packs back in the day. I wouldn't mind seeing those return to flagship. I also enjoyed the Diamond King series from Donruss and Spiegel has a good call too with the Stadium Club.