Tuesday, June 7, 2016
2016 Topps Archives: Hitting its stride
There have been many times over the past few months where I've felt something like a physical need to buy a pack of baseball cards.
Since I've captured most of my needs from Flagship, Opening Day, and Heritage by now, much of my pack therapy has come in the form of Gypsy Queen (ugh) and even occasionally Donruss (double ugh). The sheer pleasure of cracking open those wrappers helped, though the cards themselves didn't necessarily deliver.
This is one reason I've been looking forward to the dawn of Archives more than usual this year. When I heard rumblings of the set hitting retail shelves earlier last week, I immediately took a stroll down to my local Target. I came up empty the first time, but, on the following day's trip, I found gobs and gobs of it on the pegs and along the wall.
Though it was more than I normally like to spend on retail, I splurged on a blaster and a trio of rack packs of 2016 Archives.
We might as well get this out of the way now: yes, I did pull one of the Bull Durham cards.
I know these have become a hit with many collectors, but, as I just mentioned in a post the other day, Bull Durham has never been one of my favorite baseball films. It's been a while since I've seen it, and I honestly don't remember who this Bobby character even is in the first place.
I certainly wouldn't mind pulling a Nuke LaLoosh card, but the only one I'm after is Larry Hockett, played by Robert Wuhl who later starred in Arliss, one of the rare sports-centric TV shows I've actually enjoyed. Other than that, I don't really care.
Now, if Topps wants to make a Rookie of the Year insert set, I'll listen.
Topps selected a nice crop of past subsets to honor with inserts in 2016 Archives.
These "Father/Son" combos from '85 Topps prove that cardboard genealogy is always a fun ride.
Also honoring '85 Topps are those "#1 Draft Pick" inserts, which added a new zero-year card to my collection with the Hamilton.
My favorite of the inserts I've seen thus far have to be the '69 Topps Supers, which throws it back to an oddball set you almost never see recognized anywhere these days.
Better yet, I can fit these current, standard-sized Supers into a standard nine-pocket page.
But I'm not buying Archives for the inserts.
The base set is where the heart of this product lies. I had kind of a delayed love for last year's Archives which didn't fully hit me until months after the set had been live. I thought there were glimpses of greatness in the 2015 edition, but still room for untapped potential, which was why I was so much looking forward to the 2016 release.
One of my first pulls was this Kyle Schwarber, which instantly triggered the Great, now I won't have to overpay for it since I live in Chicago reaction.
I was able to devote all of my attention to the base cards after that.
The first set honored in 2016 Archives is 1953 Topps.
These are fairly well done -- and kudos to Topps for once again including Jim Abbott in a current product -- but I just can't get too excited about them. I think that's a combination of Topps already honoring '53 Topps time and time again in the past, and the fact that, as far as vintage goes, I've really never been that big of a fan of '53 Topps in the first place.
Pulling that Satchel Paige made me feel a tad better about the fact that I'll probably never own his real '53 Topps rookie card.
Though 1979 Topps came in at just #47 in my All-Time Topps Countdown, this year's Archives is making me reconsider pegging the set that low.
I thought the '79s were extremely well-done here, and I'm now I'm left to wonder whether there's some hidden greatness in '79 Topps that I'm only now discovering.
People might solely concern themselves with the hits and whatnot, but that, I think, should really be the goal of a set like Archives: to get you to dig deeper into the history of Topps, to recognize something you may have missed the first time around.
Sidebar: full career stats are back!
For whatever reason, Topps has truncated stat lines in the last couple years of Archives. (Random example: Robin Yount's 2015 Archives card only lists his numbers from 1974-89 despite the fact that he played until 1993.)
Now we get the full, star-studded stats for legends like Wade Boggs, which is no small matter for cardboard purists such as myself.
To me, 2016 Archives really hit its stride with the 1991 subset.
In this case, "hitting its stride" really means Oh my God I am falling in love with these things and I can't stop gushing, more or less. I've always had a deep appreciation for '91 Topps, and, at #13 in my countdown, it's my favorite Topps set of the last thirty years.
There are a few reasons why I think Topps absolutely knocked it out of the park with the '91s in this year's Archives:
1) I don't ever remember seeing 1991 Topps honored before this. It's one of those sets that often gets lumped in with the common apathy regarding overproduction-era cardboard, unfairly so.
2) Topps truly captured the spirit of the '91 checklist with photos like these. The photos -- like the '79 subset -- are largely made up of full body shots that really stand out amongst the zoomed-in, let's-see-what-we-can-find-up-this-guy's-nostrils face shots that riddle most of Flagship these days.
3) Many of the photos Topps used for the old timers are ones that were new to me, and I'm especially fond of the sight of Gaylord Perry in those Bloody Mary Indians duds from the '70s.
I could be wrong, but, despite the fact that I've been collecting the guy for about a decade now, this might be the first time I've actually pulled a Hoyt Wilhelm from a pack of baseball cards. I'm pretty sure I've accumulated everything I currently own of him through purchases and trades.
Hoyt's 2016 Archives card uses a photo I've seen before, but it's a beautiful one: the legend himself showcasing the knuckleball grip that eventually sent him to Cooperstown, looking up beneath a dusky sky.
I've said many times that buying packs isn't a smart investment, that it's so much cheaper to just go ahead and buy the singles you want online or at a card show. And that's most definitely true.
Still, given how much I love 2016 Archives, there's not going to be much stopping me from walking through those motion-sensored doors of my local Target in the upcoming months and walking out with a fresh pack of cards.