by Rich Klein
Since its release last month, there have been plenty of articles and 2011 Topps Heritage box breaks. Heritage is clearly one of the hobby’s most highly regarded products year after year and for a refreshing reason.
It’s not all about the “big pull” but rather more about the relationship between the cards and the predecessors they’re designed to emulate.
Now, we can really detail how deeply Topps has studied the 1962 set and how they do their best to have Heritage mimic the original.
Some are obvious, such as using the Babe Ruth Specials for cards 135-144, the In Action subset for Cards 311-319, the World Series for cards 232-237 (both the 1961 and the 2010 World Series went five games) and the All-Stars from cards 390-399 and 466-475. But how about some of the more subtle nods to the original set?
A brief digression here; the 1962 Topps set was the first set I ever finished as a "hobbyist". I had been given a nice head start when I inherited my brother's collection of 1962's and thankfully he had collected the last two series so although I needed more superstars, at the time I was working on the sets, the better players were not that expensive overall.
The late 1970s was a much more innocent time in the hobby. For the longest time I needed card #318 for the set and the only information I had was that card #318 was Action Card 8. It was not until on one of my monthly trips to Sports Corner (then the leading baseball card store in the country), that I saw the Mickey Mantle ‘Switch-Hitter Connects’ card and realized that was the one I needed.
Back then, unless you saw the card there really was no way of knowing it was Mantle. The checklist information was also a bit primitive. I still remember writing down Jackie Jensen as a possible card I needed for the set. More often than not, I just guessed who might be included.
I believe Ralph Nozaki (who became better known as Rick O'Dell, a reasonably well-known Chicago radio DJ) had already done his first errors and variations book by then, but unless you were a serious collector, the book was not well known. Thus, chasing down the "green tints' and other variations were another task in itself. Yes, I was truly going for a 1962 Topps Master Set back in the days when that information was piecemeal at best.
Today, we have 30 plus years of Beckett catalogs to help with this detailed information.
Topps has already released information on the 2011 Heritage short prints and variations but it’s also an interesting project to put the sets side by side and find the similarities. Here are a few cards from 2011 Topps Heritage that show how many 1962 set quirks are part of the current set.
- Card #9 Juan Uribe: Designed to match the original Jim Davenport card. Both were Giants’ 3rd basemen.
- Card #64 Nick Markakis matched the original 1962 Topps card of Russ Snyder who was also an Orioles outfielder.
- Card #76 Freddie Freeman matched the original 1962 Topps Howie Bedell who was also with the "Rookie Stars" designation on the front
- Card #107 Madison Baumgarner matched the original 1962 Topps Mike McCormick card as both were Giants pitchers. The pose is even very similar on that card to the original
- Card #177 J.A. Happ -- matched the 1962 Topps card of Bobby Shantz who was also designated a Houston pitcher, albeit with the Colt 45s.
If you understand the original set the enjoyment of this set is exponentially increased. When I purchased my two boxes at my local card store, we played some trivia where I explained to the other collectors breaking the product why the card had that number and many of the collectors started doing their own research to see how the cards matched the original. Topps does a really good job with this but my only complaint is that this product could be even better.
How could Heritage be better?
I would like to see a 600 card set with the last 100 cards being short prints instead of the current 75. It would more neatly parallel the original set these cards are based upon. Plus with 30 teams in the majors you would still be averaging 18-20 cards per team so all the key players for any team would be included. But I'm personally excited already for the 2012 Topps Heritage set -- any wagers that card #401 would be either Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Ivan Nova? If Nova continues to be in the same role -- he would be the closest match to the original in the 63 Topps set which was Jim Bouton.
2011 Topps Heritage hobby boxes have 24 packs with nine cards per pack. There should be a relic or autograph card in each box and most hobby boxes have one original 1962 Topps buy back card. Hobby boxes currently run $80-100, with some hobby shops actually beating online retailers in price. My local shop owner realized how popular the product was with his clientele and both aggressively bought cases when offered by Topps and bought them very early on the secondary market. They’ve sold through 11 cases so far.
One of my other favorite comparisons with products that do well in the secondary market is to compare the retail blaster boxes with the hobby boxes. In this case, the comparison is a bit easier.
The hobby boxes of Heritage have 24 packs with the guaranteed "hit" and the "box-topper(s)” while in retail all one gets is eight packs for $19.99. Hobby boxes have the "Jackie Robinson" specials. In all three boxes I’ve opened, I’ve gotten a Robinson special as well as an original 1962 buy back. All things considered, the price point makes perfect sense if you are looking for bigger hits.
Now, if you just want to work on the basic set and the short prints but are not as concerned with "hits" or "inserts" then the retail boxes, which do seem to actually be drying up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and do contain autographed cards, are for you.
If you’re wondering, here’s what we pulled out of our hobby box:
Base Set: 194 of 425 with no duplicates
Short Prints: Michael Bourn #432; Jorge de la Rosa #441; Elvis Andrus #449; Ian Kennedy #458; Jose Bautista AS #472; Baltimore Orioles Team #476; Kila Ka'Aihue #481; Rookie Parade Pitchers #495
Chrome Parallels: Jhonny Peralta; Josh Thole
Chrome Refractor Parallel: Babe (Ruth) Joins Yanks
Flashbacks: Cuban Missile Crisis, Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson
Then and Now: Bob Gibson/Jered Weaver; Frank Robinson/Josh Hamilton
New Age Performers: Cliff Lee
Jackie Robinson Special: #138
Ad-Sheet Box Topper: Jim Thome/Franklin Gutierrez/Ryan Theriot
1962 Topps Buy Back: Charlie James
Red Autograph: Jim Donohue
The 1962 Topps set really helped me grab the life-long passion I have had for the hobby, so this year’s Heritage product is special. However; it is great to see Topps deliver on the promise while teaching newer collectors a little something about baseball card history. Hopefully, they’ll continue the tradition in 2012 and beyond, while perhaps increasing the size to make it even more fun.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]