by Chris Harris
It has been a decade since Topps last released their Archives brand, but when 2012 Topps Archives Baseball goes live in late May, collectors will discover a card set that is a little different then the Archives sets they may be used to.
Because of licensing restrictions that weren’t in effect during the previous decade, Topps can no longer create a set like the old Archives – that is, a set made up exclusively of reprints of retired players. Instead, as a work-around the current rules, 2012 Topps Archives Baseball is a hybrid of four different Topps products: Heritage (current players on classic Topps Baseball designs), Archives (rookie card reprints), All-Time Fan Favorites (on-card autographs of retired players), and last year’s unsuccessful Lineage brand (odd-ball inserts).
The 200-card base set will be divided into five 40-card subsets. Four of those will feature a variety of players, although mostly current stars, on cards meant to evoke one of four classic Topps designs: 1954, 1971, 1980 and 1984. The remaining 40 cards make up the short-printed All-Time Fan Favorites subset. Like the All-Time Fan Favorites sets of the middle part of the last decade, the checklist features retired player cards in the design of a classic Topps Baseball set, but with a different photo than the original card.
For 2012 Archives, the All-Time Fan Favorites will be short-printed and seeded at the rate of one-in-four packs, with an on-card autographed version every twelfth pack. Among those committed to Archives include such Topps-exclusive signers as Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, and Ken Griffey, Jr. Joining them on the All-Time Fan Favorites autograph checklist are a group of players who, while not the most popular players among The Hobby as a whole, certainly have their share of fans, like Steve Balboni, Mitch Williams, Will Clark, Bill Madlock, and Ron Kittle.
In addition to the two All-Time Fan Favorites autographs in every 24-pack Hobby box, collectors can also expect to find “Relics” done in the style of the 1956 Topps set, framed mini autographs signed on cards that look like the ’83 Topps set, and autographs signed on the player’s original Topps card. Collectors can also find redemption cards good for items out of the Topps Vault like uncut sheets (including a ’68 sheet with a Nolan Ryan rookie) and signed contracts from the likes of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Tommy Lasorda, and Mike Schmidt.
Rounding out the inserts, like last year’s Topps Lineage, Topps has reached deep into their past to create inserts out of such “oddball” sets as the 1967 Topps Stickers, ‘68 Topps 3D, ‘69 Topps Deckle Edge and the ‘77 Topps Cloth sets. There will also be another batch of 50 rookie card reprints.
2012 Topps Archives Baseball is scheduled for release the week of May 21, 2012. Each Hobby box will contain 24 packs with eight cards per pack and should retail for around $5/pack.
Check out the slideshow below for a sneak peek.
Update 5/12: Topps tweets out bonus content for Archives with images
Chris Harris writes the popular hobby blog Stale Gum.