Thursday, January 25, 2018
Sets of the Year: 2017
I guess 2017 was an okay year for cards, but what best sums it up is probably this: here we are, just days before 2018 is slated to come out, and yet I completely forgot I hadn't done a Sets of the Year countdown until a couple days ago.
After all was said and done, 2017 really didn't leave much of an imprint on me. Sure, there were some fine cards and sets released throughout the year, but I don't think I'll remember a whole lot about it down the line. (Heck, I've forgotten most of it already.)
But in keeping with tradition on this blog, I've decided to rank each of the major sets that came out in 2017. The rules are in line with years past: I must have bought at least one pack of any product and/or acquired a fair amount of said product through other sources, which means a lot of offshoot brands (Gold Label, Bowman Platinum, etc.) won't appear on this list.
And so here they are: the sets of 2017.
#10 -- Bowman (2016 ranking: #9)
The only thing I have to say about Bowman is that I really don't have anything to say about Bowman.
#9 -- Donruss (2016 ranking: #10)
Well, the impossible has happened: for the first time since I started these Sets of the Year countdowns, Donruss doesn't bring up the rear!
2017 Donruss was still ugly, don't get me wrong, but to me it finally accomplished what I've long wanted from Panini's version of the brand, in that it paid tribute to Original Donruss. Oh sure, they picked an odd mashup of just about the two worst Donruss designs out there -- 1990 & 1991 -- but still, it's a step in the right direction.
For the first time ever, a small part of me is actually kinda looking forward to what Donruss has in store this year.
#8 -- Gypsy Queen (2016 ranking: #8)
Gypsy Queen remains in the exact same spot as last year for the sheer fact that the brand continues to have little to no effect on me.
And this year's version didn't even have basic minis, which was really the only thing I liked about opening packs of GQ in the first place.
#7 -- Topps Flagship/Opening Day/Chrome, etc. (2016 ranking: #5)
This is by far the lowest I've ever ranked a Flagship set since I started these lists a few years back.
It's just a basic fact that 2017 Topps simply had no personality. No borders, very little color (though the backs were a treat), an overly-modern design, very little photo variety. Combine all this and you have a Flagship set that was pretty much stillborn off the presses.
Though 2018 Topps is still about a week away, 2017 Topps already feels like a distant memory.
#6 -- Topps Fire (2016 rating: N/A)
The lone debut brand to crack this list, Topps Fire was good for a big injection of color into what was a bland year for Flagship Topps.
A Target-only brand, Fire consisted of a few different designs within its base checklist. And while some of them may have been over-the-top (though this lightning one is probably my favorite), I commend Topps for at least trying something different with a new brand that did actually seem to grab people's attention when it first came out.
I wouldn't mind seeing Topps Fire again in 2018.
#5 -- A&G (2016 ranking: #6)
A&G is supposed to feel like a tobacco-era set, and this year's edition certainly accomplished that.
The picture-frame design was a fine touch, I thought: it made flipping through a pile of base cards feel a little like walking past the mantle shelf of a great-grandparent. And, of course, the Dude inserts alone probably knocked A&G up a notch or two on this list. All in all, a solid showing for one of the hobby's stalwarts.
It wasn't long ago that I was ready to completely write off A&G for dead, but now I can honestly say that a Card Year wouldn't quite feel like a Card Year without it.
#4 -- Topps Bunt (2016 ranking: #4)
Topps Bunt followed up its surprisingly nice 2016 debut with a solid sophomore showing last year.
If anything, the colorful design actually made 2017 a bit better overall. And while the brand strayed a bit from the cornerstones that made its inaugural-year formula such a treat -- I didn't get a complete base set from the box I bought due to the increase in colored parallels and insert sets -- Bunt is still the kind of set that makes low-end collectors like myself rejoice.
An entire box of Bunt costs just a few dollars more than a blaster of most brands these days, and the cards are nice enough to make you feel like you're getting a bargain.
#3 -- Topps Heritage/High Numbers (2016 ranking: #3)
Once again, the card market basically boiled down to The Big Three in 2017.
Heritage remains the longest-running offshoot brand in the hobby today, and they paid tribute to the infamous burlaps of 1968 this year. I'd say that '68 is arguably my least favorite vintage Topps design, but that's not what I really judge Heritage by. The main thing for me is replication of the original -- no matter my feelings for that original -- and I thought Topps did that quite well this time around.
Furthermore, they cut it out with that weird grainy-photo thing that's been afflicting Heritage for the last few years now: 2017 Heritage is full of fresh, clean photographs, and that made the burlaps a lot of fun to collect.
#2 -- Archives (2016 ranking: #2)
Oh, how I wanted to make Archives #1 this year, because, once again, Topps did an immaculate job with the brand in 2017.
Topps decided to pay tribute to the 1960, 1982, and 1992 designs in this year's Archives, but like 2016, it was the '90s tribute won me over. The '60 and '82 reproductions were fine, but they seemed a bit like clutter: 1960 Topps has been honored many times before, and '82 Topps had already been featured Archives a few years earlier.
But if the '91 Topps tributes stole the show in 2016 Archives, the '92s did the same this year. You almost never see '92 Topps (my birth-year set, no less) mentioned anywhere these days, which was why it was so refreshing to see it pop up -- resplendent with much of its original '90s glory -- in 2017.
All I can say is this: here's hoping 1993 Topps gets the nod in 2018 Archives.
#1 -- Stadium Club (2016 ranking: #1)
But in the end, I couldn't go against what is now the four-time reigning Set of the Year: Stadium Club.
When you get down to it, it's simply the most entertaining brand in the hobby today. No set quite gets the warm fuzzies going in me quite like Stadium Club. And year in and year out, Stadium Club continues to deliver on its promise with a mix of terrific (not to mention sometimes just plain funny) photography and that's sure to have something for any collector out there.
This revival version of Stadium Club has been going for long enough now that it's hard for me to have a clear memory of what the hobby was like without it, but, honestly, I don't think I want to remember what a Card Year looked like without Stadium Club at the heart of it.