Is it really that time again to be talking Topps Heritage????
It seems kind of early but Topps has released preliminary information about 2014 Topps Heritage available in March. As expected, the 14th annual release will focus on the year 1965 which is one of my favorite designs of all time. Everyone who reads my blog knows that Topps Heritage has been my favorite modern day brand of cards. I have always enjoyed the refractors, relics, and autographs using players of the past and present on vintage Topps designs. I will now be previewing this product and adding my comments both good and bad on this year’s offering.
The design of 2014 Topps Heritage is one of my favorites. It ranks right up there to 1952 and 1957 in my opinion. I like the large pennants that feature the logos and team names. Here is a sample of a 2014 Topps Heritage card:
There will be 425 base cards in the set with an additional 75 cards being inserted one in every two packs as short prints for a total of 500 cards. Base variation cards are back and this year offers more variations than last year. Error cards will be intentionally made to reproduce the errors that were made for the 1965 Topps set.
Back in 1965, Topps made a few errors that went uncorrected and a couple of cards had minor variations. Here is a list of those cards. Clicking on the card will direct you to eBay so you can see what these errors are selling for.
Three other types of base variation cards in 2014 Topps Heritage include throwback uniform, action image, and logo variations. Here is most likely a throwback uniform base variation card:
In my opinion, I would like to see Topps cut back on the amount of these types of cards. They do not cost much to make, which is why Topps likes for collectors to go after these. They are what I call “gimmick” cards. Want to know my definition of a gimmick card? A gimmick card is a card that costs relatively nothing to make in hopes that collectors will shell down big bucks on product for a chance to get one. These variation cards drive Heritage loyalists crazy when trying to build master sets due to the number and scarcity of them. In fact, I know of some people that have stopped collecting Heritage altogether because the challenge of a master set has been too hard to complete due to the number of chase cards out there. I remember the days when a Topps Heritage set included variations in the SP set. Now, in addition to the 75 SP cards, there are several different variation cards not to mention the blue and red cards you can find at Walmart and Target.
Topps Heritage collectors will find the four usual insert sets that they are accustomed to: Then & Now, New Age Performers, Baseball Flashbacks, and News Flashbacks. In 2014, there will be two more insert sets to collect in 1st Draft inserts and Topps Embossed inserts. Here's a preview if what those cards will look like:
Just as Topps has done with regular Topps, Topps Heritage has increased the number of different parallel cards over the years. For 2014, Topps Heritage will include: base cards, chrome cards, chrome refractor cards, black refractor cards, gold refractor cards, black backs, and mini base variations. Here is a picture of a mini card and a black refractor card:
I believe that the more variations there are the more likely you are going to drive set collectors away. With so many different variations to collect, the definition of what constitutes a master set has become puzzling. It used to be that a master set consisted of the base set, short prints, and the four main insert sets. Nowadays, collectors aren’t so sure. Topps Heritage master sets have become increasingly difficult to complete each year due to the number of different parallels and variations that exist. So much so that some Heritage enthusiasts have given up the chase. Although player collectors like the variety, I believe that Topps Heritage was built with set collectors in mind and it seems lately Topps is losing focus of that.
It is my opinion that Topps Heritage should cut down on the number of inserts, get rid of the gimmick cards, and focus more on what collectors want more of – relics and autographs.
2014 Topps Heritage will have a nice offering of relics and autographs. The Clubhouse Collection relics are back and I have to admit that this is my favorite Clubhouse Collection design from any year.
The Clubhouse Collection relics will also have a gold parallel serially numbered to 99 just like they did last year. Dual Clubhouse Collection Relics will be numbered to 65 copies. New for 2014 will be the inclusion of Triple Clubhouse Collection Relics which will be numbered to 25 and Quad Clubhouse Collection Relics numbered to 10. There will be plenty of different autograph types to chase after in 2014. In addition to Real One Autographs (and most likely red ink autographs), collectors can find Dual Real One Autographs numbered to 25 each and Triple Real One Autographs numbered to 5 each. Combining relics and autographs together, collectors can chase after Clubhouse Collection Autograph Relics numbered to 25.
There will also be Clubhouse Collection Dual Autograph Relics numbered to 10 as well as Flashback Autograph Relics numbered to 25.
Boxtoppers, also known as boxloaders, will be found inside every hobby box of 2014 Topps Heritage. Collectors can find three-card panels with advertisements on the back. Back in 1965, these panels were used to help promote the sale of Topps baseball cards. Collectors can also find original cards embossed (defaced) with a gold 50th Anniversary stamp. I have contacted Topps in the past about stamping these original cards and have asked them to survey their customer base to see if collectors would prefer not to have these cards stamped. I feel very strongly against the embossing of these original cards. I would much prefer to find a vintage card that's in it's original condition. The last type of boxtopper are oversized baseball player cards. These cards can also be found in relic form numbered to 25 and autographed numbered to 10.
2014 Topps Heritage will also have some pretty expensive pulls although very hard to find:
1965 Topps Set Redemption Card -- this card can be redeemed for the complete set of 1965 Topps cards.
Cut Signatures -- these rare cards will feature the cut signature of a famous person. Each card will be a one of one.
I have to admit that my passion for Topps Heritage is not as strong as it once was. It seems that every year I keep expecting Topps to deliver a product that equals or surpasses the excitement of 2001, which is the favorite of almost every Heritage collector, and each year I become a little disappointed. I have a couple of ideas to give Heritage the jolt it needs and I will share those in a little while. Here is one reason why I think Topps Heritage is not as strong as it once was. In my opinion; Topps has let down its loyal fan base due to the increasing number of non-baseball related cards and gimmicks.
Back in 2008, Topps Heritage came out with a new insert set called “News Flashbacks”. This 10 card insert set commemorated news events that occurred in 1959. These events included events such as Alaska Becoming the 49th State and In Cold Blood Murders Committed.
While some Heritage collectors simply saw this as another insert set to collect, I saw this as the mark of a change in Heritage. This was the first time in Topps Heritage history in which an insert set was made that didn’t focus on baseball. In my opinion, this also marks the beginning of a downhill slide for Heritage. From this point on to present, the focus of baseball is becoming less and less as more and more non-baseball cards are being added to the mix. The last time I checked the product was called Topps Heritage Baseball. I understand that there are other successful “baseball” products such as Allen & Ginter which isn’t made up entirely of baseball players. However, just because one product is successful with non-baseball cards doesn’t mean it will translate over to other brands like Topps Heritage. Topps needs to drop the gimmicks and provide collectors real value for the money they spend. Here is a list of a few of the crazy gimmicks that Topps has done with Heritage that do not cost Topps anything yet for some reason people pay ridiculous prices for:
1) 2006 Topps Heritage #255 Alex Gordon Cutout – this card was slated for production but immediately stopped due to the fact that Topps “discovered” Alex Gordon hadn’t yet played in an MLB game and thus Topps was not allowed to produce cards of him. Topps cut out a big square in all of these cards during production so they did make their way into circulation with a hole in the card although very short printed. These cards routinely sell for around $200.
Whether this was an intentional marketing strategy or an honest mistake by Topps, we will never know. Intentional or not, Topps saw the success of what this error craze created so they created more errors for master set collectors to collect. This card is what I call the original Topps Heritage gimmick card.
2) 2008 Topps Heritage #201 Johan Santana and #440 John Smoltz -- these two "error" cards fueled the sales of 2008 Topps Heritage. Again, they don't cost much to make yet for some reason collectors like to collect them. I remember seeing these cards sell for over $200 each back in 2008. A check of eBay shows that a Santana error recently sold for $22.50.
Error cards in Topps Heritage have historically not held their value over time. This is another reason why I would like to make a push for more autographs as those tend to hold their value and even appreciate in value.
3) Coin Cards – Topps is continuing the use of coin cards in the upcoming Heritage release. These coin cards were neat when they first came out in 2011 but I think that these coin cards have stayed around too long and need to be discontinued. Topps is “banking” on hoping that collectors don’t realize that 1965 was the first year that dimes, quarters, and half dollars are not made from 90% silver as they have been in year’s past. Coins from 1965 are very common. In fact, if you grabbed a handful of dimes and quarters, chances are you will probably find at least one from 1965. I will admit that half dollars from 1965 are harder to find because there is 40% silver content in them but not as much as in 1964.
The reason why I bring this up is that I hope that collectors realize that these are gimmick cards. Guess what the nickels and dimes from 1965 are worth? If you answered face value then you are correct. However, glue a 1965 coin to a card and limit the production of it to 15 or less and collectors will put down a lot of “coin” for one.
5) Beatles Buybacks -- these cards were selling for over $100 each when first released. They are very hard to find in packs. However, if collectors would consider that all this card is simply a 1965 Beatle card, which can be found for a dollar or two, with a gold foil stamp, maybe they would reconsider putting down so much money on one.
Topps likes these kind of inserts because of the low cost and hopes that you will too. They are counting on it with 2014 Topps Heritage as they have included the following Buyback cards: Hot Iron Transfers, Gilligan's Island, Flash Gordon, and King Kong. C'mon Topps! King Kong in Heritage???? That's so A & G-esque!
I have a great idea for Topps Heritage in 2015, which would be the 15th anniversary of the brand. Get rid of the silliness if Gilligan and give the Heritage loyalists who have stayed with you since 2001 something real that will actually hold value over the years and add prestige to a declining brand -- AUTOGRAPHS!
If you look at all of the different Topps autograph sets since 2000, there is one set that clearly stands out in my opinion. It is from 2001 Topps Archives. Why was this autograph set so popular back then and even more so today? I know a couple of reasons why. Number one is player selection. This set boasts one of the largest offerings of Topps autographs ever. Topps originally planned for 170 different subjects with quite a bit of star power featuring Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Willie Mays, and several others.
The second reason is Topps numbered the back of the cards so set collectors could attempt to complete the set. If Topps were to try to do something like this in the future, I understand that due to unforeseen circumstances, some players will not be able to sign. This is where you replace those who can’t or won’t sign with backup redemption cards. By doing this, you will still have a large, numbered autograph set for set collectors to go after. Also, in order to keep set collectors interested, every card must have a print run of at least 50. If a card is numbered to let’s say 10 or less, set collectors will probably not even attempt to go after this set. I once collected a set of 240 cards serially numbered to 150 and it is was quite challenging and fun. I would be up for another challenge similar to this if Topps would make another autograph set similar to 2001 Topps Archives. I would like to see Topps Heritage increase the autograph lineup and make every box contain two relics and one autograph. One thing that Topps Heritage has done right every year with autographs is all of them are ON CARD! I will never understand why anyone likes sticker autographs. I can't stand them and do not own one. Never will. Another way to further enhance the autographs is to serially number every autograph. This way collectors will know that Topps didn’t overproduce a players autograph such as Brian Giles and Cristian Guzman in 2002 Topps Heritage. There must be thousands and thousands of those floating around!
Another idea that I have proposed to Topps in the past is to have a promotion to engage fans throughout the season. Here is what I proposed last year:
Follow The Triple Crown PROMOTION!!! – 384 cards – one per two boxes -- If you end up with the six cards representing the player or players with the highest batting average, home runs, and RBI in each league, you can turn these into Topps for a special prize never before offered in Topps Heritage: A triple signed Topps Heritage Real One Autograph card! There will be 64 cards from each category (64 AL HR leader, 64 AL AVG leader, 64 AL RBI leader, 64 NL HR leader, 64 NL AVG leader, and 64 NL RBI leader). You would need to collect all six cards to turn in for the triple signed Topps Heritage Real One Autograph card.
Although Topps did not do the promotion last year, they did thank me for my input and stated they would review it with their marketing team. They responded back to me by saying that they liked the idea behind this but didn’t think that a promotion such as this was the right fit for Heritage. (But Beatles and King Kong are???) They did state they might try something similar in another brand. Because of my recommendation to Topps for triple autos, I like to think that I was partially responsible for the Real One Triple Play Autographs that were found in last year’s Heritage.
And there you have it. My very opinionated preview of 2014 Topps Heritage. Overall, it looks very similar to last year with a few new inserts and gimmick cards. I can only hope that Topps will do something big in 2015 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Topps Heritage. If only they would listen to my suggestions.....
Think the marketing department at Topps will take notice of this post? I can only hope so as I would like to see Topps Heritage bounce back and gain the popularity it had in the early 2000's. Thank you for reading my blog. I would like to hear your comments!