by Chris Harris
The 2011 baseball season may be coming to an end, and with the prospect of a Milwaukee Brewers/Texas Rangers World Series one playoff series closer to reality, Topps is giving collectors a taste of next year’s Topps Heritage. 2012 Topps Heritage Baseball is tentatively scheduled for release in mid-March and will be based on the design of a card set that was originally released when Milwaukee’s team was the Braves and the Rangers were still the Washington Senators: 1963 Topps.
The base set will again consist of only 500 cards (76 cards fewer than the original ’63 set), all featuring the classic dual-photo design from the 1963 Topps set. Once again, the last 75 cards will be short-printed at the rate of 1:3/packs. Collectors can expect to find many of the same subsets from ’63 including League Leaders, team cards, team managers, multiple-player rookies and seven World Series Highlights cards.
The insert program includes some titles that should be familiar to Heritage collectors: Baseball Flashbacks, News Flashbacks, New Age Performers, and Then & Now. The 100-card Chrome, Chrome Refractor, and Black Chrome Refractor partial-parallels will also return. New for 2012 are Stick-Ons, a 46-sticker set based on an insert from the original ‘63 Topps set. Topps has also bought-back over 100 stickers from the original ’63 Peel-Offs set for random inclusion in Hobby packs.
Another insert new for 2012 Topps Heritage Baseball is a seven-card set dedicated to the life of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. Patterned after a similar set for Jackie Robinson in 2011 Heritage, all seven cards will be sequentially-numbered as a replacement of the World Series Highlights subset. Exclusive to Hobby packs will be a Stamp parallel of the set, with each JFK Story Stamp Collection card bearing an authentic US Postage stamp and serial-numbered to only 63 copies.
Of course for many collectors, the main draw of Heritage is the wide variety of on-card autographs and game used “Relics.” Once again, each 24-pack Hobby box should yield at least one “hit.” Over 40 players will sign for this year’s Real One Autograph set; and while most are obscure players who last appeared on a Topps card in 1963, the provisional checklist issued by Topps includes such names as Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, Adrian Gonzalez, and Clayton Kershaw. And as has been custom since 2001, all Real One Autographs will also be available in a red ink version, serial-numbered to 63. Other autograph/game-used sets that are coming back include: Clubhouse Collection, Flashback Stadium Relics, Flashback Autographs, as well as dual autographs and autographed relics.
One addition to 2011 Heritage that will be coming back for the 2012 edition are embedded coin “Relics.” Like the Mint ’62 cards in this year's set, each Mint ’63 will spotlight an event or personality tied to the year coupled with an authentic 1963 US coin encapsulated into the card. The Mint ’63 coin/cards are exclusive to Hobby boxes and will be seeded into packs as a “case hit,” with a ’63 Mint of John F. Kennedy (featuring an authentic JFK half-dollar) serial-numbered to only 48 – one for each year the Kennedy Half-Dollar has been in circulation.
If past Heritage sets are any indication, collectors should also expect the usual number of unannounced gimmicks, variations, and retail-exclusive inserts. One player whose rookie card appeared in 1963 Topps that card collectors shouldn’t hold their breath for, and for obvious reasons: Pete Rose.
Each box of 2012 Topps Heritage Baseball will contain 24 packs of nine cards, and will arrive at Hobby shops the week of March 14, 2012. Each Hobby box should yield one autograph or Relic card and either a 1963 buyback or a three-card advertising panel as a box-topper. Packs should set collectors back about $3 with boxes selling for around $60-$65.
Chris Harris writes the popular hobby blog StaleGum.com