Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2014 Topps Series 1: Changing strategies

The dawn of the new card season is here, my friends.

No matter your feelings towards Topps, I'm sure most of us will admit that it's nice to see 2014 products hitting the shelves. It's one of our first reminders of the fast-approaching baseball season.

Me, I'm admittedly still a Topps devotee. I may not agree with everything they do, but when all is said and done, I still get excited over quite a few of their products.

Flagship is by fair their most consistent source of pleasure. To me, there are few better feelings than seeing those new cards hit the shelves at the beginning of every year. Even wind chills in the deep negatives couldn't stop me from making that walk across the street to my local Target.

I think I was the first one in my area to get a glimpse of these things. All the rack packs, blasters, and hanger boxes appeared to be fully stocked. In a purchase that was largely funded by a Christmas gift card, though, I changed my strategy a little bit.

Last year, I went a little blaster-crazy with Flagship. After looking at the numbers, however, an epiphany hit me. If you're mostly in this thing for the base cards (which I am), then you're really not getting the most bang for your buck out of blasters.

The five-dollar rack pack (36 cards) and three 10-dollar hanger boxes I bought (72 cards each) kick the tar out of what I would've gotten with a blaster. (Blasters contain eight 10-card packs and a special manu-patch.)

So, for thirty-five bucks, I netted a grand total of 252 cards. For five dollars more, two 20-dollar blasters would've landed me a total of 160 cards, plus two manu-patches, which I honestly don't care much about anyways.

It looks like I may be abandoning the world of blasters for good.

Hanger boxes and rack packs are great for your first buys of a given product.

Yes, they're mostly comprised of base cards, but they also give a nice sample of inserts and parallels as well. Perhaps not as many as you'd get from loose packs or a blaster, but a good mix nevertheless.

Let's begin with the parallels.

Things picked up right where they left off in 2013 with these Target Red parallels.

Nifty, but not as great as last year.

The serial-numbered golds are back in 2014, as usual.

Those neat ruby parallels appear to have taken the place of last year's emeralds. I'm always open to a nice dosage of shiny.

Again, though, I think I liked 2013's emeralds better.

And then there's these.

If you didn't believe it before, I don't think there's any denying it now.

Topps is officially overdosing on parallels. They added not one, but at least two new borders in 2014. Neither are serial-numbered, and I have a suspicion they're both retail-exlcusive.

This is just overkill, Topps. Do we really need green parallels? Do we really need ye...

Okay, I didn't want to admit this, but I actually think the yellow parallels are kind of cool. They bring out the '91 Fleer in me.

They're still overkill, though.

But cool.

But overkill.


I don't know what to feel.

I figured I'd get this out of the way now before we look at the inserts.

I pulled a jersey card from my rack pack.


Speaking of overkill, let's take a look at these.

The theme of 2014 Topps appears to be some sort of "The Future Is Now" campaign, which explains the Miller.

While it's hard to see with the foil-drenched Fielder, Topps also launched a very Upper Deck-ish "Upper Class" series in this year's Flagship. I think it's just a way to give the big names even more cards, which, of course, is what we all want.

Or at least what Topps thinks we all want.

Between parallel overkill and throwaway inserts, I'm sick of being negative.

Let's take a look at the upside of 2014 Topps, shall we?

I'll admit, I was skeptical when I first heard about the concept of these '89 minis late last year. I didn't think they'd be able to compete with the '87 or '72 minis that Topps has produced these last couple years.

After pulling a couple of these in-person, though, I'll hold up my hand and say that I was wrong for assuming that these would be inferior. They're not. They're rather neat.

Heck, they're not just neat. They're awesome.

It might be a little tough to tell from the scan, but these aren't your basic minis. They're actually die-cut minis. The little ribbon at the bottom juts out beyond the card's standard rectangular borders.

I was lucky enough to pull a couple good ones with "cover boy" Mike Trout and 2014 Hall of Fame inductee Tom Glavine.

I'm definitely looking forward to picking up more of these throughout the year.

I think Topps has another good thing going with these "Super Veteran" inserts as well.

They're an obvious homage to the 1983 subset of the same name, though this year's edition is just different enough to make things interesting.

Much like Topps did in '83, I enjoy the black-and-white/color split photography. The 2014 renditions, however, have a nice glossy finish to them.

Understandably, we get caught up in a lot of the All-Star, MVP, and Triple Crown hype that guys like Miguel Cabrera get.

Sometimes, we forget that they were once starry-eyed rookies, just like everyone else.

Now, though, let's get to the real meat of the Flagship bone.

The base cards.

They're the reason I made the switch from blasters to hangers, after all. Above all else, I wanted to sample more of the base cards.

Yes, there is something to be said about busting open an actual pack, as opposed to the plastic-wrapped brick that comes out of a hanger box. But, in the end, it's all about the cards. And you simply get more of them out of a hanger.

Had I went the blaster route, perhaps I wouldn't have pulled this laughable "made you look" Jayson Werth.

In accordance with just about every other review I've read about 2014 Topps, I'm not huge on the base design.

It's almost perfectly average, and perhaps a little too Bowman-esque for my liking. I think it's a big step back from the stellar 2013 design. Kudos to Topps for fitting "Diamondbacks" into that teeny-tiny allotted space, though.

Still, that doesn't mean these don't have their high points. I do like the fact that Topps included positions on the fronts, something that they haven't done since 2011.

In terms of overall designs of the decade, 2011 and 2013 are at the top of the mountain for me.

After getting good look at this year's Flagship, I'd put 2014 ahead of 2012, but just behind 2010.

Overall, it's hard to tell one Flagship back from another these days.

But, if you look hard enough, you'll find something that sets 2014 apart from the rest of the pack. Check out that stat column on the far right.


Topps actually included WAR (Wins Above Replacement) on their card backs this year. I remember hearing rumblings about this a couple months ago, but I'd completely forgotten about it until I checked the back of this Beltre.

I don't know how to feel about this. It reeks of gimmickiness, but, then again, it's a worthy effort to cater to the sabermetric baseball fan.

It'll certainly piss off the "traditionalists" in this hobby.

Update is usually where the latest and greatest rookies are found, but Series 1 has a few good ones to show off.

That's Xander Bogaerts's first Flagship card, I believe. I recently added him to my list of "binder guys". With a name like Xander, I didn't really have a choice.

I also like that Topps brought back the "Future Star" label, even if it does come in the form of unscannable silver foil.

It's a nice flashback to the late '80s, a time when many of today's collectors were first getting into the hobby.

I get the feeling that I've seen these before.

That's because I basically have.

Fellow blogger Johnny beat Topps to the punch by including both of these terrific shots in his spectacular "2013 Quarry Unlimited" checklist.

I like them a lot better on Johnny's design.

Topps has certainly upped their game in the photography department these last few years.

I'm happy to report that the trend is continuing here in 2014. I found great shots all over the place, and a bunch of them fit snugly into my many mini-collections.

These are a couple nice "double dip" and "throwback" hits. About half of the White Sox cards I pulled featured those 1980's softball-ish throwbacks.

I have a soft spot for the whole "jersey number on the pant leg" thing.

I'm rather fond of that "play at the plate" shot on the McCann.

I can't help but wonder if the placement of the Topps logo on that one was intentional, as it appears right where the nameplate would be on Gregor Blanco's uniform. That is, if the Giants' home jerseys had names on the back.

Like last year, there are celebrations abound in 2014 Topps.

The "Gatorade shower" fad might be wearing out its welcome, but I'd be lying if I didn't say they made for neat photos.

While it might not be on par with last year's release, there's still a lot of reasons to celebrate 2014 Topps.

Although I rather enjoyed a lot of the cards I showed tonight, I will say that none of them were amongst the top ten I pulled from my initial 2014 breaks.

More on that coming soon.

Until then, I can definitively say that I'll be buying more in the future. Heck, I still have a Wal-Mart gift card burning a hole in my pocket as we speak.

After all, Flagship is still the cheap, fun product we've all come to know during our hobby careers. 

I don't see that changing anytime soon.


Laurens said...

Nice, in-depth post - looking to get some 2014 Topps myself.

buckstorecards said...

The fact the relic card appears to have come from a throwback jersey is pretty cool. I've got one of Evan Gattis, and it is driving me nuts trying to find what game the Braves wore that one.

I still think I'm going to wait for Heritage this year, but will chase the Jays/Mets/neat photos from the base.

JediJeff said...

The problem with WAR is two fold:

a) There is no set standard for WAR calculation. There are a few out there, and from them you can get some significant deviations. If they were all within a few points, it would be okay, but not always.

b) WAR is subjective. It's imperfect. WAR attempts to quantify something that is really an assumption. RBIs? That is easy to figure out. HRs? Ks? Put outs? All numbers that are exact. But WAR tries to put a number based on an ultimate guess. It is not 100% sure because who really knows how good the person that replaces him can be. If say Trout gets replaced by a 3 yr old kid, I think we can be certain of his WAR. But what if Trout's replacement is someone like Joe Charboneau? Is it the rookie year Joe or the sophomore year Joe? Big difference in those two players, yet they are the same person.

To me, WAR is cabbage. Some people like it, and other people don't. You can't quantify the number of people that will like cabbage in a room because it is too subjective.

Mark said...

All these parallels are making my head hurt. It's gonna be a long year tracking down team sets for any/all of them.

Johnnys Trading Spot said...

you can box up that relic and send it to me :)

hiflew said...

Awesome. I hadn't seen the Escobar or the Murphy yet. I had a couple that matched 2012 QU and 2013 Topps as well. I remember Dexter Fowler and Devin Mesoraco matched last year also. I agree that my Murphy is better just because you can tell that the big red object is an apple. Here it looks like Murphy is running in front of the big balls on the Wipeout course.

night owl said...

Dude, I've been saying ditch the blasters since at least 2012! Those things are death. Jumbo packs and rack packs have been the way to go for some time now.

deal said...

I am fan of Rackpacks as well. 72 Cards for $10 or $11. When you do the math, it is basicaly the price 6x12 card packs will be next year when they are in the $1.59 bin at your favorite big box.

Struck out at my target y-day, so it was a warm welcome to see your 2014 packs.

Mark Kaz said...

Good write-up, Nick. I agree, the '89 minis are the cream of the insert crop from what I've seen. Hoping to find some of the new cards later today!

Ana Lu said...

Last year Alexei Ramirez card was with an alternate White Sox uniform too wasn't it? Like it!