Greetings on this Memorial Day weekend. This is my long weekend gift to you. No, I'm not going anywhere. It's much too busy at work at this time of year to ever consider Memorial Day as a time to get away.
But I know many of you are. You won't be reading blogs much, or even posting to them much. I thought I'd leave this here to last the weekend. These posts are a lot to digest anyway. Maybe I'll add another post before you're grumbling about the end of a 3-to-4-day weekend, maybe this one will still be at the top when you return. We'll see.
With these four sets, I'm starting to approach some sets that are certain collectors' favorites. Maybe I've already done so with some of the earlier sets, but I haven't exactly heard many people proclaim 1997 or 1961 Topps the love of their lives.
However, a couple of the sets to follow I know for a fact hold a place in the heart of some collectors. Maybe it's the first set they ever collected, maybe ... well, that's got to be all it is. I don't know why you'd consider these the best for any other reason.
These sets have some good points though. In fact, they're pretty solid sets. But I can't say I'm fond of any of them. A big shrug of my shoulders for sets No. 40 to 37. But to see why, you've got to read on.
40. 1993 Topps
The year 1993 was my last active year of collecting modern cards until 2006. I didn't chase them as eagerly as I had the previous two years, but I bought quite a bit of everything just like in 1992.
The two sets that I bought the most was Topps and Upper Deck. I bought Topps because it was Topps. You dance with the one who brung ya. I bought Upper Deck because, my goodness, have you seen the 1993 Upper Deck cards????
I was so enamored with the look of 1993 Upper Deck that I quickly dropped everything else, abandoned my mantra of sampling a little bit of everything that had been engrained in my collecting head since 1981 Donruss and Fleer hit the stores, and professed my devotion to Upper Deck. I think I spent the last half of the summer buying nothing but UD.
From that moment, '93 Topps was inadequate in my eyes. The photos could never match what was on '93 Upper Deck, the design wasn't nearly as classy and direct. I was now viewing Topps as second-best for the first time in my life. And 1993 Topps was officially a disappointment.
To this day, I hardly look at my 1993 Topps cards. With the exception of the Dodgers and certain notable cards in the set, like Kirby Puckett, I barely know what I have from '93T. The '93 Upper Deck set is sitting in a binder, complete. The '93 Topps is sitting in a box, ignored.
I've never been able to grasp what is going on with the design of this set. The Define the Design name for '93 Topps is the "photo corners set". I didn't come up with that one, but I guess I agreed with it at the time. It could look like the photo slots from an old-fashioned scrapbook, or it could look like something else, I guess. I'd actually prefer that those diagonal corners were removed and the name line and team name line extended to the edges of the card. I'd like that design much more. Simple, colorful, direct.
The '93 set does feature a number of memorable cards that show that Topps was attempting to keep up with Upper Deck's photography.
There is this ...
And this ...
And this ...
But there is also this ...
Come on, Topps, step up. Upper Deck is eating your lunch.
Poor Chris Gwynn isn't the only example. But mostly, the issue with '93 Topps' photos is the sameness of the action. Pitchers pitching off the mound, many looking indistinguishable from the next. Hitters swinging at the plate, repeat, repeat, repeat.
If there was more of this, 1993 Topps wouldn't be as forgettable a set.
But right now, all that stands out for me about '93 Topps is that it was the first Topps set with Marlins and Rockies cards. Yeah, I know, exciting stuff.
Same could be said for the backs.
In the end, 1993 Topps isn't that bad of a set, but it did commit the ultimate faux pas when it comes to a company that is trying to make money.
It chased this longtime Topps collector to the competition.
39. 1985 Topps
You'd think that writing an entire blog devoted to a set would mean that it is one of my favorites or that I have grown increasingly attached to it as I've continued to blog about it.
I can't say that about 1985 Topps.
I hold much affection for 1985 as a year. That's one of the reasons why I started that blog. And since I bought the entire '85 set in one shot at the start of the year, the blog has helped me explore the set and find things I didn't know about it.
But I don't like it more than I did before. In fact, what the blog has done has underlined my issues with '85 Topps.
The set features a few things that will keep it in collectors' minds forever -- the U.S. Olympic team subset, the Mark McGwire rookie card, Clemens, Puckett and Hershiser rookies -- but you know me as a collector, I don't care about that stuff.
I care about the collection of cards in the set, and how they look. 1985 Topps is average at best.
The assemblage of geographic shapes at the bottom I've never understood. Even though the Dodgers fare very well in the color scheme chosen for them, the design looks thrown on there and messy. The position designation is jammed in next to the name, in the same color and font, and gets a bit confusing on first glance.
The photos are OK for the time period, many aren't the clearest. But for me, the photos in 1985 Topps are a regression from previous years. Let me see if I can find a way to explain this ...
Oh, yes ..
I know ...
WHAT'S WITH ALL THE HEAD SHOTS?????
After two straight years of sets with almost nothing but action, Topps returned to the '70s with countless photos of giant faces. I know this pleases some older collectors who remember the '60s, etc., but in the 1980s, action was considered forward-thinking and the wave of the future. The photos in the 1985 set do not move anybody forward. They remind me of 1979.
If it weren't for the rookies and subsets, this would be a stagnant set.
Normally, I ignore the backs when I'm ranking these sets, but I actually gave '85 Topps a few demerits for its backs. Red-on-green type is never cool, and only acceptable if the front of the card is as tremendous as 1975 Topps.
I think I probably did a smart thing buying this entire set at the start of the year. I don't know what I would have done if I had accumulated 25 cards of Denny Walling staring into space.
38. 1994 Topps
It's a good thing that the photos in 1994 Topps are so memorable because the design makes me squirm.
This is often called "the home plate design" by collectors because the photo border outline looks like a partial home base. (I'll probably add this name to my Define the Design list because I can't see anything else anymore). But that's not why I don't like the design.
I don't like it -- surprise, surprise -- because of the color scheme. All of Topps' player cards in this set feature a green base where the name starts. It's the most prominent color in the design. Green is a tricky color to use with cards. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it makes the most awful cards.
I'm not crazy about it here, but I could let it go if the color wasn't paired up with orange so often in this set.
Orange and green should not be grouped together unless they're two different scoops of sherbet in the same bowl. See the Miami Hurricanes, see 1992 Score. Just yuck.
I am so appalled by this combination that I can't see the photo beauty in this set:
|Has Canseco just carved his own bats?|
The cards without the orange in them don't look half bad.
There are lots of other quality photo examples (the often-cited final farewell George Brett card, for example). Topps was very nearly matching Upper Deck in photo quality at this point. Five years of playing catch-up was starting to pay off.
Unfortunately, all that orange-and-green and ... um, a players' strike ... cut my Topps card purchasing way down in 1994. BAD memories with this set.
So let's just turn the card over to the back and be done with it.
Ugh. More orange and green.
37. 1982 Topps
This is another set that you could file under "disappointment." I've heard this from myself as well as other collectors.
It's a little difficult to explain why that is. The '82 set isn't noticeably lousy and I consider it a step up from the 1981 Topps set. The hockey-stick design is quirky fun, although not as identifiable as caps or flags like in previous years.
And 1982 Topps brought a few new -- or "new to us" -- aspects to the table.
Team leaders checklists replaced the team photo checklists that had been a part of Topps sets for over 20 years.
And although "In Action" cards first appeared in 1972 Topps, it was new to collectors like me and interesting enough to make a lasting impression as a key element of '82 Topps.
One of my first impressions of these cards in 1982 was how redundant they were (we weren't used to having multiple cards of the same player in one set). But I got a kick out of seeing the base card and the "in-action" card side-by-side in a binder. Even if the base card of Bowa is a little more "actiony" than the "in-action" card.
I think where the disappointment lies is that while Topps boasted "action" throughout its set, a lot of the cards were as far from action as possible.
The scanner treats this card better than it deserves. It is dull and also hazy. There is a hazy quality to a lot of '82 Topps cards, and then there are the unfortunate few Cubs cards in which the players look hazy and their faces are also speckled with spots (see Mike Griffin and Joe Strain).
Photo quality is a drawback, which is interesting given the emphasis on "in-action".
Are there good base cards in this set?
We also appreciate 1982 Topps as the last base set with cartoons until 2006 (I'm not counting that "Talkin' Baseball" guy on the back of '86 Topps). And I'll always remember 1982 Topps as providing me with my first opportunity to land a full Traded set.
But I don't appreciate that 1982 Topps ignored the World Series from the previous year, especially considering who won that year.
In fact, don't tell anybody, but '82 Topps might have gone down the rankings a little bit because of that one.
Night Owl can be vindictive in his countdowns.
Up next: Sets #36-33.