by Chris Harris
To say that Topps’ once popular Heritage Baseball brand is in need of a facelift is a gross understatement. After years of issuing the same formulaic product (500 cards, with a “hit” in every box, Chrome parallels, and a series of unannounced “gimmicks”), collectors starting taking to their Twitter accounts and blogs (including some comments posted by Rich Klein on this very website earlier this year) to voice their complaints. More importantly than just venting their frustrations, they started to vote with their wallets with 2012 Heritage Hobby boxes dropping below the $50 mark.
So what’s Topps’ response for 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball? Is it making a base set that mirrors the exact same size as the original it represents? Will they cut down on some of the mind-numbing gimmicks that have compromised the integrity of the base set the last few years? How about seeding the hits at a rate that, while making them scarcer, also helps them retain their long-run value?
Nope? They’re adding Mini cards.
Yes, you read that right. Mini-sized parallels: A concept that had nothing to do with the 1964 Topps set Heritage is supposedly based on.
The structure of 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball is almost exactly the same as it has been the last few years. The base set is only 500 cards deep (87 cards less than the original) with 75 cards short-printed, and based on the design of the 1964 Topps Baseball set. The usual “Action Image” and “Color” variations that are meant to “add value” but instead leave collectors frustrated are also here.
The actual 1964 Topps set did not have any significant errors, and those errors weren’t important enough for Topps to justify replacing them. And while corrected error short-prints (such as the Ryan Madson “slash” cards in last year’s Heritage, which were based on similar corrected error cards on Jack Baldschun’s ‘63 Topps card) do have a place and add a touch of authenticity to the Heritage experience; it appears that, once again, Topps is going to exploit the uncorrected errors in ’64 Topps just to create more gimmicks. And seeming just for the hell of it, all the Houston Astros cards will have Colt .45s variations – this despite the fact that all the Houston players in the ‘64 set were all listed as “Colts,” and that the Astros wouldn’t come into existence until a year later.
The rest of the product is, quite literally, a cut-and-paste from last year. The same insert sets that have been standard for years, and collectors seem to actually like (Baseball & News Highlights, Then & Now, Memorable Moments, and New Age Performers), are back for another go-round along with buy-backs of two ’64 Topps inserts: Topps Tattoos and Bazooka Stamps. Clubhouse Collection “Relics” and Real One Autographs are back again, with Topps promising twice as many autographs as before.
The Chrome and Chrome Refractor parallels also return along with the aforementioned Minis. One new parallel that, unlike the Minis, does add some authenticity to Heritage are the Venezuelans. Back in ’64 Topps test marketed a baseball card set for the Latin American market – the only difference between the American and Venezuelans sets are 1) The Venezuelan set is only 370 cards and 2) The backs on the Venezuelans are black as opposed to orange. The 2013 Topps Heritage Venezuelans will also have black backs, but it is unclear how large the checklist will be.
Rounding out 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball are the Hobby-exclusive box toppers: At least one of which comes in every sealed box. Joining the three-card advertising strips and buy-backs are the 1964 Topps Giants, which should be familiar to collectors of 2011 Topps Lineage.
2013 Topps Heritage is scheduled for release the first week of March. Each Hobby box will contain 24 packs of nine cards with a retail price (initially) of $70. 12 boxes will come per case. See the preliminary checklist, slideshow and more info below.