Thursday, September 27, 2012


For some reason, I have a fascination with making lists.

I have stacks of miscellaneous notebooks spread across my room, some of which contain rankings of a wide range of topics.

Whether it's my "Top 10 Favorite TV Shows", my "Top 25 Favorite Movies", or my "Top 20 Favorite Bands", they're all in there.

It's something that's translated to my card collection as well.

More specifically, my love for creating lists has come in handy as a blogger.

I'm already in the beginning stages of composing the "Top 100", which will likely become the most epic specimen in my long list-making history.

I've found that lists can be a good tool for blogging.

If I find myself out of post ideas, making a new list is always a possible option.

Other times, like tonight, I just don't feel like writing a long, detailed post, one where I deeply analyze and delve into certain pieces of cardboard.

On that note, I figured it was time I made another list, one I've been thinking about for the last few days.

Last month, I ranked Topps' flagship sets "through the decades". Not surprisingly, the '70s came out on top. A decade that produced such an awesome card of "The Cobra" kind of has to win.

These days, however, there's more to the hobby than the simple flagship release, though. Whether you like it or not, the emphasis has been shifting towards the other, newer "spin-off" sets.

Between Series 1, Series 2, and Update, flagship has always been my favorite release of the year.

Still, I'm happy to have grown up in an era of collecting where the Topps has branched out, going past the previous "one set per year" time period.

Perhaps my feelings would be different if I actually grew up during the 1970's, but I enjoy the fact that there's a variety of sets to choose from whenever I walk through the card aisle at Target.

Admittedly, some are better than others. Some "spin-offs" crash horribly. (Need I remind you of Ticket to Stardom?)

Then again, some have proven to be works of art.

That's what I'll be chronicling in tonight's list.

Without further ado, here's my five favorite "spin-off" sets in Topps history.

Oddly, the fifth spot in this list proved to be the most difficult task.

Cracker Jack was a contender. Turkey Red was right there as well. I very nearly chose American Pie in the end. (The original 2001-02 release.)

After a good deal of thought, however, I had to give the number five slot to Topps Heritage.

It's proved to be the most consistent "spin-off" set in history, as it's been going strong since 2001.

While the aura of it has certainly diminished in recent years, I'm still a sucker for cards that feature current players on old Topps designs.

That's the entire theme of Heritage.

It really hasn't changed much.

Topps has been going with the same size base set, same number of SPs, and same insert sets for a few years now. In most cases, change is something I look for in today's hobby.

Not with Heritage, though. I love the fact that Topps has stayed consistent with Heritage. It especially stands out in an era which emphasizes then thousand different insert and parallel sets.

I hope Heritage never changes.

It's perfect the way it is.

There was never really much doubt about my top four on this list.

It was just a matter of what order I'd put them in.

Although I believe it peaked a few years ago, Allen and Ginter still checks in at number four here.

I distinctly remember the huge buzz that A&G caused when it was first released back in '06. It was everywhere.

Even though its been around for seven years, that "buzz" has never really died down. There's something about it that everyone enjoys, myself included.

A&G is becoming a lot like Heritage, as far as consistency goes. With all the numerous "one and done" sets that have come and gone within the past decade, A&G has become a stable source of passion for most collectors.

It's as close to a "mainstream" set as I've seen. Sure, it has its dissenters. Every set does.

By and large, though, A&G has always been wildly popular.

Although I came very close to ranking it second, Fan Favorites occupies the number three spot on this list.

The fact that the checklist included a card of the often-forgotten Tito Fuentes should tell you everything you need to know about this set.

Sure, the "big names" like Yastrzemski, Banks, and Carew all make their appearances.

However, what makes the set for me is the inclusion of the lesser-known guys, the "fan favorites". Guys like Ed Kranepool and

Even better than that, they did so by recreating old Topps designs, something I've never been able to resist.

What could be better?

Topps Total is one of the more frequent topics I've discussed on this blog.

I've already gone pretty far in-depth as to why I love it so much. In fact, if I could pick any one set to revive, Topps Total would most definitely be my choice.

This is the only time journeyman Ross Gload appeared in a Rockies uniform on a baseball card, largely thanks to the Total-esque 900-card checklist.

It's the little things like that which make Total one of the best releases on record.

Still, it doesn't take the honor of my all-time favorite "spin-off".

That award goes to...

Topps Archives.

I'm a fan of what Topps did with it this year, but it doesn't even hold a torch to the original 2001-02 Archives releases.

The '02 version is a terrific set, but '01 was far and away the best of the best, mostly featuring rookie and "sunset" reprints of many players in Topps history.

As you might guess, any set that honors "sunset" cards is an instant favorite in my book.

Like Fan Favorites, the "bigger names" are only a small part of the checklist.

I love Archives because it accurately chronicled the beginnings and the somewhat-forgotten final years of many once-great players, such as the unfamiliar sight of Mickey Lolich in a Padres uniform.

Archives will always be my all-time favorite "spin-off" set.

Even though they may not be my favorites, I encourage Topps to keep trying with sets like Lineage or Gypsy Queen.

All great sets had to start somewhere.

You never know when the next great "spin-off" will come.

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