Friday, July 25, 2014
2014 Topps Allen and Ginter: Signs of life
I can't say I've cared about Allen and Ginter much these past few years.
It's not something I've been happy about. There was a time when A&G was far and away the best product on the shelves. Since about 2011, however, I've seen it to be simply another brick in the long wall of half-assed Topps efforts.
After last year, I wasn't sure if A&G could rebound. I honestly didn't even know it was coming out until posts started popping up around the blogosphere. It was a far cry from the days when I used to count down the days to its release.
Although I'm probably the last blogger to do so, I finally sat down and opened some A&G. My dad was nice enough to treat me to a three-pack bundle of the stuff from the local Target this past Wednesday.
Knowing my fading confidence in A&G, my hopes weren't high.
Retail packs of A&G cost three bucks, which I still think is way too high for only six cards.
This three-pack bundle cost $9.49, but it came with a special batch of three retail-exclusive minis. For only fifty cents extra, why not?
The mini pack was the first thing I opened, and I was pleased to see a Mike Trout fall out of the mix. For whatever reason, I seem to have decent luck at pulling cards of his.
Can't complain about that.
From there, I moved on to the standard packs.
Though I'd seen them on other blogs before Wednesday, I was eager to discover what I thought of this year's A&G after viewing them firsthand. I've found that It's hard for me to develop a real opinion of cards until I've absorbed them in-person.
I wasn't all that impressed with what I'd seen of A&G on my computer, but actually holding them in-hand was a completely different story.
After about three years of apathy, it gives me great pleasure to say that I actually like the 2014 design. It's clean, crisp, and looks terrific in-person.
I have a hard time remembering what 2011, 2012, or 2013 A&G look like off the top of my head. However, the team names in the top-left corner give this year's design an identity that had been lacking as of late.
I have a feeling I'll be able to conjure up the image of 2014 A&G years down the road without much of a problem.
I like A&G's inclusion of guys like Juan Marichal and Hal Newhouser.
Still, I can't help but think how much stronger the product would be if it actually used players that were around when the original Allen and Ginters came out in the late 1880's.
Though guys like Cap Anson and King Kelly popped up in the early A&G checklists, Topps abandoned the idea pretty quickly. I wish they'd give it another try.
I'm a huge Juan Marichal fan, but I'd much rather see someone like Pud Galvin in A&G.
I don't deny the fact that I have a certain nostalgia for early A&G.
I'm all for including non-baseball personalities in the set, but swimmers and bro-tastic bloggers don't really do it for me. (If Topps really wanted to grab my attention, they'd include people from the card blogosphere. Am I right?)
I can't stress what I'm about to say enough.
A&G needs more inanimate objects.
Cards of Pluto and revolving doors are what make early A&G sets stand out so much in my mind.
I beat the odds a bit by getting two SPs out of my three packs.
As if that wasn't enough, I needed both of the ones I pulled.
I still don't think a set like A&G needs short-prints in its checklist, but the SP discussion is like beating a dead horse by now.
Like it or not, short-prints are here to stay.
A&G has always been good for creative inserts.
I'm particularly interested in the "Coincidence" and "Ne'er Do Wells" series from this year's product, though I unfortunately didn't pull any from my three packs.
This "Festivals and Fairs" insert commemorates the San Fermin Festival, one that culminates in the infamous "Running of the Bulls" event.
Seeing people voluntarily running from ferocious and, more importantly, dangerous animals always brings the same thought to mind.
Are human beings really that intelligent?
I don't really care about these one way or the other.
However, I do find it funny that Topps chose to commemorate a series called "Larger Than Life" in mini form.
I hope that was an intended bit of irony on their part.
This was an awesome pull.
Had I gotten pretty much any other card from the "World's Capitals" series, I probably would've tossed it aside without much of a second thought. This one instantly grabbed my attention.
As I've mentioned before, the bulk of my family's heritage lies in Italy. It's something I take a great deal of pride in, although I can't speak much of the language.
This card is a special addition to my non-sports collection, no doubt.
Topps has felt the need to include a gargantuan insert set in A&G for the past few editions.
This year's mammoth offering is the "Pastime's Pastimes" series you see above. Though I'm still not on board with the idea of 100-card insert sets, I will agree with most of the reviews I've read and say that these are pretty darn nice.
I was lucky enough to pull a Derek Jeter from my three packs. His pastime, in case you were wondering, is golf. Just like every professional athlete.
My 2014 A&G experience was definitely a fun one. So fun, in fact, that I'm thinking about swinging by my local Target again soon and picking up a few more packs. I haven't had the urge to do that in the past few years.
There's still room for improvement with A&G, but it's nice that Topps is at least showing signs of life with the product here in 2014. I look forward to picking up more as the year moves along.
The cardboard universe is a better place with A&G on the shelves.