Wednesday, October 11, 2017
I rarely regret any card purchases I make these days.
The money I reserve for cards is meant for cards of my choosing, whatever that may be. It may be vintage, oddballs, newness, money grabs, junk wax, whatever. If I buy it, it means I want it, and it is never the wrong call. Don't tell me I shouldn't have purchased it. I'm not buying insurance here.
But I knew I was going to test this mind-set by buying some of the latest new 2017 Topps product, something called "Topps Fire," which was an insert set last year.
This is what that insert set looked like:
When I first saw these, I'm not sure what I thought, but I'll bet the word "weird" was in there somewhere. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that baseball cards of the future will never feature green grass again, but this was a little too far off the map.
It certainly didn't seem like something on which to base an entire set, but I'm sure Topps compiled several focus groups, polled all the card bloggers and arrived upon a rational, well-researched plan.
OK, none of that happened, we just have a set called Topps Fire now and we're supposed to collect it and try to make some sort of sense out of it.
After seeing a couple of bloggers post cards from this set (both based near Chicago -- hmmm), I decided to find some of my own. The strangeness of the set had intrigued me enough that it might be fun to examine.
It's a Target-only thing and when I arrived at my Target, there was a single blaster of the stuff sitting on a shelf. I didn't want to buy a full blaster of it, I was kind of hoping for a rack pack. But considering how quickly this stuff is disappearing off shelves, I counted my blessings and bought it. "FORTY-SIX CARDS!" the box screamed and I quickly calculated that to mean about 45 cents a card and then tried to forget that I used to buy a pack of cards for 35 cents.
The blaster featured seven packs of six cards each, plus some sort of "gold-plated" four-card pack.
Let's do the dirty deed:
#154 - Luke Weaver, Cardinals
Here is your first look with one of the three base designs in this set. I'll call this the Space Tornado design. The strange thing about this card -- and depending on your perspective, it's one of five or six strange things about this card -- is any area that features skin is black-and-white. This weirds me out.
#145 - Chipper Jones, Braves
This is design #2. Let's call it the Flying Embers Diamond design. Chipper Jones is one of many retired players in this set. When I first saw these cards, the old-timers looked out of place amid the splashy modern design. It's not quite as odd when I see the cards in hand, but I would've rather seen all current players in a modern set like this.
#15 - Adam Jones, Orioles, orange parallel?
This card arrived reverse side front, I'm assuming so I could see that it was numbered to /299. I think this is the orange parallel, based on the orangey look behind Jones' helmet.
What disappointed me is that this is just another foil-board card. In fact, foil-board appears on most of the parallels and inserts in this set. There's no way I would have bought this if I knew that the old, tired foil from the 1990s was the main theme in Topps Fire. Topps does restrict the foil to the card background, which helps the image, but when are we going to get rid of foil forever?
#134 - Manny Machado, Orioles
Here is the third design for the base set. I'll call this the Diamonds & Lightning Bolts design. These are the brightest cards in the set.
#190 - Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
Back to the black-and-white faces. But I do like the color-coded frame.
#149 - Joey Votto, Reds
#140 - Adam Duvall, Reds
#94 - Ryon Healy, Athletics
Just showing you the back so you know that you'll never need to turn over any of these cards ... ever.
#144 - Hunter Dozier, Royals
This card is something of an outlier, but I'll show that near the end.
#FT-10 - Andrew Miller, Indians, Flame Throwers
Every third or fourth card in a pack is an insert or parallel and they're all foiled-up. The gold treatment is a little fun although I thought we were through with Topps' obsession with gold.
#169 - Dexter Fowler, Cardinals
Before I get so far that nobody is reading this anymore, I want to mention that I'm sure this set is very polarizing. There are going to be people who think this set is absolute crap, a complete waste of time, evidence that Topps is officially bereft of ideas or thought. Others are going to think that these cards are fresh, exciting, innovative, and highly collectable.
In other words, Topps can't win.
#87 - Wil Myers, Padres
#83 - Ken Griffey Jr., Mariners
#53 - Johnny Damon, Red Sox
#131 - Larry Doby, Indians, flame parallel
Just a guess on the kind of parallel. The card is not serial-numbered and the flame parallels are the most plentiful.
#119 - Brian Dozier, Twins
#170 - Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
#104 - Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals
#8 - Aledmys Diaz, Cardinals
#22 - Mark McGwire, Athletics
#39 - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks, green parallel
This is numbered to /199. Nice swing there on Monday night, Goldschmidt.
#159 - Chris Archer, Rays
#28 - Johnny Cueto, Giants
#109 - Christian Yelich, Marlins
#55 - Jim Edmonds, Cardinals
#16 - Paul Konerko, White Sox
#99 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers
#GG-19 - Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays, Golden Grabs
#56 - Nelson Cruz, Mariners
#96 - Ian Happ, Cubs
#117 - Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays
#103 - Addison Russell, Cubs
#197 - Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankees, parallel of some sort
I don't know what this is. Except it's covered in foil.
#121 - Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
WAHOO! This purchase finally has MEANING!
#193 - Jake Arrieta, Cubs
#147 - Yasmani Grandal, Dodgers
More Doyers! ... I've seen this card online before. It's weird. Where's his other arm?
#126 - Alex Bregman, Astros
#74 - Fergie Jenkins, Cubs
#106 - Yulieski Gurriel, Astros
#M-25 - Chris Davis, Orioles, Monikers insert
I'd like these a lot more if they didn't have foil on them.
#36 - Ender Inciarte, Braves
#13 - Mark Melancon, Giants
I guess the Dawson is cool.
I put the three designs together mostly out of curiosity:
The Flying Embers Diamond design
The Diamonds and Lightning Bolts design.
The Space Tornado design.
You'll notice that every one of these Space Tornado cards features black-and-white faces.
Except for one:
No, I don't know why.
There's a lot I don't know about this set.
However, there's also a lot I don't care about in this set.
I won't say I regret buying these cards, but I do admit to feeling a bit burned by them. I was intrigued because I kind of like the idea of mixing art with cards, especially if you're going to go the cartoon route.
This doesn't get me there though. I have no knowledge of graphic arts and what is inventive and what is not. I just know that this doesn't do it for me. They kind of look like an Upper Deck set from 10 years ago, as if Upper Deck X and Upper Deck Spectrum had a baby.
I will be distributing these cards to my various trade partners (Dodgers excluded, of course). Not much sizzle, only fizzle with these.
I suppose though with the number of these I see for sale on ebay, that we'll soon be getting Topps Water and Topps Wind and Topps Air. In fact, that would have made a pretty good set, if you combine all of the elements together and call it "Topps Elements".
There you go, Topps, now that's an idea.