I have to admit, I just don't get these digital card games.
A big part of collecting, to me, is the physical act of holding the cards in my hands, peeling them one-by-one from packs, feeling the surfaces, flipping them over and reading the backs. That's the main reason I haven't devoted a single second to pursuing the newfangled Topps Bunt app this year. It's just not my thing.
What I didn't know was that Topps was apparently plotting a physical set of Bunt cards all along, releasing a 200-card set that received little fanfare (I first heard about it by accident on Twitter) early last week. I was somewhat intrigued, so I figured I'd take the usual route: hunt down a couple packs and snag the rest I needed on the secondary market.
That is, until I saw the price point, which convinced me to say what the heck and pick up an entire 36-pack box of the stuff. It cost me a hair over $28 (with free shipping), which, for comparison's sake, is only a few dollars more than I would've spent on a blaster of A&G or Topps Chrome or something random from the Target card aisle.
Topps Bunt was something I've wanted from Topps for a while: a cheap, unique set that isn't just a regurgitation of Flagship like Opening Day.
For under $30, it's hard to beat the sheer fun of opening 36 packs of baseball cards on a warm afternoon.
Even better is the fact that this set actually isn't that bad. It's not a standout, by any means. I've seen a couple bloggers compare it to Topps Lineage, and I think that's apt. I'm a little disappointed that, like Lineage, Topps Bunt doesn't feature stats on the back, instead going with small blurbs for each player atop a gluttony of ads.
But the photos are nice and clean, and you sure get a lot of bang for your buck. I didn't check, but I probably got close to a complete base set in this box. And it's hard to not fall in love with those plus-sized team logos lining the background of each card. I enjoy the design a whole lot more than Lineage.
Now that I think of it, I think I actually enjoy the design a bit more than 2016 Flagship, honestly.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw the low price point was, of course, the holy and sacred Topps Total.
But let's not get too excited just yet. The packs may be affordable for every rank of collector -- and I vehemently thank Topps for that -- but the meager 200-card checklist isn't anywhere near Total standards. You won't find backup catchers and middle relievers here, sadly. There aren't many surprises in Topps Bunt's player selection.
All the big stars you see in every other set are in this one, too.
One thing Topps Bunt has going for it is a look at players in their new, unairbrushed 2016 duds.
A lot of these guys have appeared in other 2016 sets like Heritage, Archives, etc., but most feature them in photoshopped unis. Best I can tell, Topps Bunt uses absolutely no airbrushing, which means real, actual photos without retouching.
No funny stuff.
Another thing I like about Topps Bunt are all the cheaper, bigger-name rookies.
Base cards of guys like Schwarber and Story in most other sets will run you a pretty penny, but they're easily obtainable in Topps Bunt.
But I still can't get over the fact that a guy born in 1996 (Urias) now has a place in my binders.
Topps Bunt features a lot of the same legends you'll find in most other sets (Robinson, Clemente, Mays, etc.), but Topps did sneak in a few surprises with the likes of Bo and Vlad.
It's also a joy to see Rod Carew in this set, because -- and maybe this is just my imagination -- he seems to be quite underrepresented in the current hobby.
It's kind of refreshing to see a Topps set without a gluttony of parallels.
Parallels seem to drive prices up (why else should a rack pack of Chrome cost $10?), which is why I don't mind that this platinum Lorenzo Cain /99 was the only parallel I pulled out of the entire box.
Between frugality and parallels, I'll take frugality.
For such a low-end set, the inserts are fairly high-quality.
I enjoy both the "Franchise of the Future" and "Lightforce" series, and even better is the fact that Pops is one of my favorite guys to collect.
Being an old soul at heart, I always like designs that harken back to old-time media -- be it newspapers, magazines, or, in this case, programs.
Front to back, these Bunt Program inserts are done extremely well and are among the best cards Topps has produced all year.
There's a very '70s vibe to them that I just love.
Equally awesome is the Unique Unis set.
It's mostly a throwback-themed series -- which you know I can appreciate -- but Topps threw in some random examples as well, such as Ken Griffey Jr.'s 1999 Home Run Derby garb.
But my favorite of the bunch -- and maybe my favorite of the entire box -- was this one.
Not only is it my first card featuring those cringe-worthy '70s White Sox throwbacks, but, as luck would have it, these just so happen to be the very same style of jerseys that were at the heart of the infamous Chris Sale fiasco last month.
In using the name of the set as a precedent, Topps Bunt strikes me as something of a safety squeeze. There's not a lot of risk here for Topps -- it's not a last-ditch suicide squeeze. It's more of a let's-move-a-runner-over-and-see-what-happens type of move.
With a low price point and a relatively small base set, it seems like Topps is just throwing this set out there and letting us decide what to do with it.
And me personally, I see a whole lot of potential here: Topps Bunt is a legitimately unique set that satisfies both physical and virtual collectors alike.