Friday, June 12, 2015
2015 Topps Archives: Retro-ish
I wasn't even going to bother with 2015 Archives after the constant disappointments of years past.
But after reading about 892 different posts about it over the last week, I must admit that all you bloggers out there got me a little intrigued. So, when Dad and I walked into Target this afternoon, I was getting a little giddy about sampling the stuff.
We walked out with a blaster (my first blaster of any product in at least a year), and it seems to me that the money should be distributed amongst the blogosphere instead of funneling to Topps or my local Target. Who needs high-paid advertisers when the blogs are around? (Sometimes I think Topps should pay us.)
As I've already hinted at, Archives hasn't been very high on my radar. The original incarnation of the brand in 2001-02 is fantastic, but the more recent editions have simply been too hit-and-miss for me to care much. Aside from Opening Day, Archives is the brand with the most missed potential in this hobby, I think.
I was hoping this blaster would finally prove me wrong.
We might as well get it out of the way now.
I pulled a Will Ferrell card. And, in terms of my personal taste, it was a nearly perfect fit. I would've preferred to get either the Cubs or White Sox issues, but I can't complain much about this one.
The A's are my favorite non-Chicago ballclub, and '65 Topps is the greatest design in the history of baseball cards.
And, hey, Topps even nailed the backs.
They even included Ferrell's complete "career" stats, which was a nice touch.
Admittedly, like so much else of what Topps puts out these days, these are quite gimmicky. Each pack practically screams COLLECT ALL 10 WILL FERRELL CARDS!!!!!!! at you.
Gimmick or not, I do like this idea. I'll make a halfhearted attempt to build the 10-card set if anyone has any extras available, cause I ain't shelling out the 5-10 bucks per that they're currently selling for on the 'Bay. And don't even get me started on the crazy four-figure autographs.
That escalated quickly.
But that's enough about Will Ferrell for now.
Let's move on to the actual base cards. In the past, Archives has featured four different classic designs in the base set. Topps trimmed it down to just three this year, which, while slightly disappointing, isn't a huge deal.
I must say that, on the aggregate, the featured sets in 2015 Archives are the brand's best yet. Each of the three (1957, 1976, 1983) were Top 20 picks in my all-time Topps countdown earlier this year.
In terms of design, though, this year's '57s don't exactly do a great job of honoring the real deals. The colors are all off and the spacing between the team name and positions isn't even close. On top of that, 2015 Archives fails to list the entire team names on the front (N.Y. Yankees vs. Yankees).
This wasn't exactly a promising start.
The other two designs are almost exactly spot-on.
The font is just a tad off on the '76s, and the 2015s read "Outfielder" rather than the "Outfield" seen on the originals. Still, the colors are a near-perfect match, as are the little shadow figures in the bottom-left.
Shame Topps couldn't get a shot of Springer in those Technicolor jerseys.
Now that would've been staying true to form.
The '83s are probably the most consistent with the original design.
The Outfield/Outfielder discrepancy is still present, but you won't find many other faults here. Colors, inset photos, name plates, all pretty much the same.
Yes, there's the trademark thing, but I'm sick of talking about that by now.
While the '57s won't win any awards in the design department, the photos are by far the best in the set.
These serene shots actually feel like authentic '50s poses, which is really all I can ask from a throwback set like Archives.
I'm also glad that Topps actually took some time out of their day to snap Spring Training photos of guys in their new duds.
As you probably know by now, they've gone the lazy photoshopping route far too many times now.
Hey, this blaster even convinced me to start collecting a couple new guys.
Sometimes, all it takes is a single card from a pack to get me wondering Why don't I collect him yet?, and that's exactly what happened with these two.
I'm officially an Arrieta and Kluber guy now.
It seems appropriate that I'd find a couple throwback jerseys in a set like Archives.
These actually came back-to-back in the fourth pack of the blaster, oddly enough.
That's about all the (mostly) positive thoughts I have on this brand.
It's time to get to the downsides, because you had to know that a post about a historically disappointing set like Archives wasn't going to be all bright and sunny.
This first issue isn't even really a complaint, just a strange observation, more or less. Take a look at the order of the cards in the first pack I opened and see if you can spot the oddity.
#266 Gio Gonzalez (1983 design)
#34 Jeff Samardzija (1957)
#145 Daniel Murphy (1976)
#267 Nick Castellanos (1983)
#PC-JC Jimmy Carter, Presidential Chronicles insert
This card doesn't have anything to do with the point I'm trying to make, but, as much as I enjoy my non-sports collection, I will say that Presidential cards seem painfully out of place in Archives.
#22 Josh Donaldson (1957)
#158 Kole Calhoun (1976)
#293 Josh Harrison (1983)
After a card with the '83 design started the pack, the order went '57-'76-'83-insert-'57-'76-'83, in that exact order. This same pattern (or something very close to it) was present in about six of the packs in the blaster, in fact.
I wouldn't exactly call this a collation issue since I'm not getting doubles or anything, but you'd think Topps could mix the cards up a little better.
Most people seem to have a few big gripes with this year's Archives.
One is the card stock, and I can attest to the fact that these are amongst the flimsiest cards I've ever held. It's even worse than the prior editions of Archives, which is saying something. You'd think that a set devoted to "honoring" old cardboard would do a better job.
The second (and perhaps most prominent) concern is the ultra-ultra-ultra short-prints. They fall at a rate of one of every 47 retail packs (no, I didn't pull one) and I think one of every 70 hobby packs. It's a blatant cash grab, no doubt, but, having never been a set builder myself, I can't say it affects me much. If people want to drop hundreds of dollars on gimmicks, let them.
Personally, I think I'm most peeved with the legends that Topps included in the set. It doesn't have anything to do with the players themselves, but more with the way Topps decided to feature them.
I enjoy cards like this Ty Cobb because he obviously never found his way onto a real Topps card.
It's refreshing to see an old-timer like him on a retro design.
It's a different story with the more modern ballplayers.
Archives has always struck me as a Fan Favorites wanna-be, which makes me wonder why the brand isn't more focused on authenticity. Fan Favorites was known for featuring players on designs appropriate for the era in which they played.
The same can't be said for any of these four legends. None of them were actually active on the designs they're seen with here, so they don't make much sense.
Even worse is the fact that they would make sense on other designs featured in 2015 Archives. Willie Stargell was active in 1976. Rod Carew was active in 1976 and 1983. Roberto Clemente and Al Kaline were active in 1957. So why not feature them on those designs?
Maybe Topps was shooting for a "Cards That Never Were" approach, but I would've much rather seen them stick to reality.
But then Topps found a way to screw up the legend cards they actually got right.
Why, yes, Willie McCovey was active in 1976.
But he was a Padre, not a Giant.
Joe Morgan was still around in 1983.
But he was a Giant, not an Astro.
Reggie was still being Reggie in '83.
But he was an Angel, not an A.
I don't know what's going on here. Is Topps just being lazy? Does Topps not know their baseball history? Is Topps not concerned with authenticity? (Is that a stupid question with a set called ARCHIVES?)
I'm not sure of the answers to those questions, but it does seem to at least partially confirm what I've thought about Archives for the last four years.
This is a set that, for whatever reason, Topps just cannot unlock.
As evidenced by this Kershaw and the many other nifty cards I pulled from this blaster, Archives can show spurts of beauty, which makes the failures all the more obvious.
To the people at Topps HQ, Archives appears to be some kind of riddle that needs to be solved. Problem is, there's no riddle to solve. The loads of untapped potential of this brand is wasted in impossible-to-find SPs and misguided efforts at being "original" or "new."
Topps seems to forget that this is a retro set. New isn't what they should be going for.
All I want is an authentic look at the old.