Friday, November 8, 2013

Covering the Bases, Pt. 11: The five worst Topps sets

I like to think I'm on the more positive side of this hobby.

If my scattered way of collecting is any clue, I truly try to enjoy as much as I can whenever possible. I look for the good in sets before pointing out their flaws.

Sometimes, though, there's just too much bad to ignore. Believe it or not, there are some things I don't like in the baseball card universe.

All things considered, I think it's healthy to harp on the negatives for at least a little while. You'll go crazy trying to like everything around these days.

So, on the heels of another blogger's announcement for a "Best Worst Cards" countdown, I've decided to introduce the first "Worst Of" list to my "Covering the Bases" theme.

Tonight, I'll be presenting my nominees for the five worst sets in Topps history.

Of course, Topps has hit home runs with quite a few of their releases in the last sixty-plus years. I fully plan on making a "Five Best Topps Sets" list sometime in the future.

That said, though, they've also struck out on a decent amount of occasions as well. With a history as long as Topps has, it's bound to happen every now and again.

Before we start, I should note that a dishonorable mention goes to 1996 Topps and its horridly squished faces. I'd bet '96 would pop up on a few other "Worst Of" lists.

But not mine.

#5 -- 1968

We start, surprisingly enough, in the vintage era of Topps.

Easily the oldest set on this list, 1968 is by far my least-favorite set out of the oldies. From what I've read, I'm far from the only one who feels that way.

While the sheer "vintage factor" does net '68 Topps a few points, it's not enough to avoid a spot in this countdown.

The rather ugly burgundy may be the worst border choice in Topps history. The squished frame is something that wasn't typical of many sets in the '60s. And nothing else about '68 Topps particularly stands out in any way.

Despite my gushing love for vintage, the era didn't come without its flaws.

I think 1968 is a good example of that.

#4 -- 1997

If I made this list a few months ago, I probably would've ranked 1997 Topps a bit lower.

For a while, this was my absolute least-favorite set in Topps history. There's just something about it that left a strange taste in my mouth.

These days, I have a little more respect for '97 Topps. There are a few gems in this set if you look deep enough.

By and large, though, it's still near the bottom of the barrel for me. The foil simply doesn't work with such a color-coded design. (American League teams received red borders, while N.L. squads featured green borders.)

I'm still not sure why Topps thought we'd like a shot with Cecil Fielder's big butt at the center.

#3 -- 2007

Topps wound up producing another dud just a decade after the '97 Topps debacle.

As I recently mentioned, 2007 Topps remains the only non-white-bordered set of the last decade.

While I'm all for companies experimenting with border schemes, 2007 ranks as one of the ugliest sets in recent memory for me.

There's a right way and wrong way to use black on a baseball card. This isn't the right way. And, like many sets in the recent foil craze, the nameplates clash horribly with the the black borders of 2007. (And, as a result, makes them scan like absolute crap.)

If you ask me, 2007 Topps may feature the most wasted space in the brand's history. A good third of each card is chopped off by the borders and those stupid color-coded squares.

I really hope Topps doesn't unleash anything as bad as '07 Topps on us anytime soon.

#2 -- 1990

I fully understand that many current collectors grew up on packs of 1990 Topps.

It's a sentimental favorite for many. But, seeing as how I was born two years after the set's release, I'm not one of them.

I've always thought it was one of the most hideous sets in Topps history.

Nothing about them works for me. The random colors all over the place is enough to make me shield my eyes.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with this set is the photography. I think 1990 was the lowest of the low for Topps in that department.

In fact, I think this Kirk Gibson card perfectly sums up the set as a whole.

Just one big "Wha...ha...happened?".

#1 -- 1998

This, though, is the lowest point in Topps history.

Without a doubt, 1998 Topps is my choice for the ugliest Flagship set we've ever seen.

It's just so, so, so, so very awful. The massively overused foil phase hit rock bottom in 1998, making for one of the harder-to-read nameplates ever made. (Once again, the scans leave much to be desired.)

On top of that, those goldish-brown borders are one of my least favorites ever. And Topps was once again guilty of wasted space in 1998 as well.

In what was some sort of fluke, I should note that this set is responsible for one of my all-time favorite baseball cards.

Not even that could save 1998 Topps from the top slot in this countdown, though.

Or would it be the bottom slot?

It's bad.

Let's just leave it at that.


Jeff said...

I kinda like 1968 Topps. Maybe its a vintage nostalgia thing, but the burlap frame just seems right for an old card to have.

Cards from the Quarry said...

I agree on 1998 being awful, but I rank 1999 even lower because it looks awful too with the added bonus of copying the year before.

Rosenort said...

1968 - The Burlap Sack set.
2007 could have been so good if they had done a couple things differently.

cardsRGr8 said...

It took me a very long time but I finally started to enjoy 1990 Topps. I love bold colors on cards. When the borders and the various colors of the photo go well I think it makes for some gems.Some of my favs are bonds #220, Canseco #250, Bip Roberts #307, Liriano $543, and Strawberry #600. I am with on the 1998 Topps. I have tried, but I can't get into it.

petethan said...

I think the only thing we fully agree on here is how hideous 2007 is.

I hated '68 when I was a kid, but like the wood grain of '62 and '87, I've warmed up to it over time.

I like '97, particularly the NL green.

I disagree about '90. I don't love 'em, but I like 'em a lot. My only gripe has to do with the text font, not the border design and colors. And I didn't think the photography was that bad (though it certainly wasn't the best).

As for '98... yeah, it sucked. More boring than anything. The stupid gaggle of logos behind the text served as annoying camouflage.

I thought 2000-2002 was a worse run than 1996-1998. And 1971 was no prize...

Backstop Cards said...

1998 is pretty rough on the eyes, but I found that they were a source of some of the better "back of the card blurbs" in recent memory. The '81 set is one of the uglier sets that I can think of, and I've never been a fan of '87 or '88.

The Topps Baseball Fanatic said...

i agree on 1996, most boring looking design, 1997 comes very close too

i didn't mind 1998. I loved the backs of those cards more than the front same goes for 1990.

i enjoy the 68 set, especially the cool world series highlights

Bradley Ertel said...

I always liked 1998 and especially 1968, but agree that the other ones are very bad. The 1990 design is the worst topps design ever.

MAK said...

I expected to see 1985 on here. It is a boring, yawn-inducing, horrible design. The redundancy of the team name plate diagonal across the bottom WITH a team logo added to it - ugh.