Topps Update Sets Evolution Reflected in 2012 Edition

by Rich Klein

Topps has produced “Update or Traded” sets for more than 30 years and the evolution mirrors how we have changed as collectors. In the very early years of Topps Traded, these cards rarely featured rookies making their first appearance in a Topps set, but instead focused on players traded or signed as free agents.  Sometimes they created individual cards for players who’d been featured on the ‘Rookie Stars’ trio cards (see Cal Ripken’s 1982 Topps Traded card).  In a way, one can understand why that was 1982 Topps Traded setdone. Each of the three major manufacturers at the time (Donruss, Fleer and Topps) only produced one major set per year and saw no need to put a player in the “hobby-only” traded set when you can wait till the following season and put those players in the new set available to a wider range of collectors and fans buying at retail stores.  Update sets usually weren’t offered in pack form until much later.

Of course, that type of thinking led to one of the worst card decisions of the early traded set era. For some reason, the only player I remember in the 1982 Topps Traded set who had never had a card before in a set was Steve Stroughter. Never heard of him?  Well,  outside of a few friends and relatives and some die-hard old school Mariners fans, no one else has either. Stroughter was included in the 1982 Topps Traded set in place of any of these players, all of whom would have been better choices: Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Willie McGee, Ryne Sandberg. Those four players, as well as many others, would have been much better choices to make a debut in a Topps Traded set rather than waiting for 1983.

Flash forward 30 years later and instead of being issues in factory set form (the primary method for the first decade or so of Topps Traded) the 2012 Update set is now issued only in wax form be it regular packs or jumbo packs.  The rookies who can be added may be somewhat limited to the timing of this product, but there are tons of star players included thanks to the inclusion of the current year’s All-Star teams.  Topps’ checklist deadline for the product is obviously sometime in mid-to-late July.

2012 Topps Update cards, which come in wax boxes with 36 packs and 10 cards per pack produce plenty of cards for your dollar. My local card store (Triple Cards in Plano, TX) originally reported very slow sales at $61 per box but when I stopped by to pick up supplies he did mention that sales had improved and he only had six boxes left. Meanwhile, leading hobby online retailers were selling boxes in the $45-55 range. And, just as in series one and two boxes, each box produces one autograph or jersey card as the “hit”.

Here’s what we pulled from our box:

Base Cards:  288 out of 330 of which 281 were different and seven were duplicates. That is nearly 85 percent of the set

Gold Sparkle Cards:  Xavier Avery, Carlos Beltran AS, Matt Cain AS, Yu Darvish AS, Derek Jeter AS, Brad Lincoln. Clay Rapada, Buster Posey AS, Carlos Ruiz AS, Justin Verlander AS

Gold Parallel Cards (serial #d to 2012): Personally I agree (and may have written this in an earlier review) that the Gold Cards, when the first two series were originally released, should have been serial numbered to 2012 just as these cards had been numbered for more than decade. While doing this did add a ton of numbered cards to this product, I would wager in 2013 Topps will return to serially numbering these cards. As a note, all of my gold cards were either from series two or the update set and the cards will be broken down by series:

Series 2 Gold Cards: Carlos Beltran, Mark Buehrle, Cecil Fielder, Mat Gamel, Johnny Giavotella, Alex Gordon, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Harrison, Daniel Hudson, Johan Santana, Drew Stubbs, Andres Torres, Shane Victorino, Ryan Zimmerman. Update Gold Cards: Jacob Diekman, Zack Greinke, Jason Isringhausen ,Josh Lindblom Sergio Santos, Joe Smith, Donovan Solano

Black Parallel Card (#d to 60): Chris Sale AS

1987 Topps Minis: Elvis Andrus, Madison Baumgarner, Brandon Beachy, Carlos Beltran, Yu Darvish, Austin Jackson, Al Kaline, Matt Moore, C.J. Wilson

Blockbusters: Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Roy Halladay, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, Ivan Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Tom Seaver

Golden Giveways: I did receive seven of these cards and only got more coins. However, from looking at Topps’ Golden Giveaway website, since I have 10 or more of each type of coin, I have been placed into eligibility for a Ken Griffey Jr. autographed card. However, I really wish Topps would go out and purchase more vintage cards as the past two years before this one was a lot of fun for me in getting chances at older cards.

Golden Greats: Yogi Berra, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Tony Gwynn

Golden Moments: Johnny Bench, George Brett, Yu Darvish, Matt Holliday, Al Kaline, Matt Kemp, Mike Trout, Joey Votto

SP Variation: Andrew McCutchen AS. Just as with the Robinson Cano SP I pulled earlier in the year from a retail blasters my first thought when I pulled this card was how cool the card looked. So again, when I think card looks really cool, the card turned out to be an SP. I was told by a collector at Triple Cards these SP’s were coming out about one per hobby box.

All-Star Stitches: Matt Harrison

No autograph this time and my big hits are going for $2-3 on eBay but as always, a collector receives a nice number of cards for his/her dollar with a Topps base type product and isn’t it more fun to bust a box and look for neat cards then having a factory set sitting on a shelf?

Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]