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:

Pack 1

#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

Pack 2

#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

Pack 3

#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

Pack 4

#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

Pack 5

#55 - Jim Edmonds, Cardinals

#16 - Paul Konerko, White Sox

#99 - Adrian Beltre, Rangers

#GG-19 - Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays, Golden Grabs

More gold.

#56 - Nelson Cruz, Mariners

#96 - Ian Happ, Cubs

Pack 6

#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?

Pack 7

#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

Gold-Minted Four-Pack

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.


  1. Somehow, I think I've seen the only cards I'd want from this set in this post.. lol

  2. If the Griffey's not spoken for, I'd be interested in trading for it.
    I do like the 'Diamonds and Lightning Bolts' but the rest... meh.

  3. This set reminds me of 1996/97 Skybox Z-Force Basketball and I don't know if that's a good thing.,so,=1996~2f97+skybox+z-force,_RC,i100

    1. Z-Force is what I thought, too.

    2. I was thinking that. Either that or something like a reimagined Fleer Metal.

  4. Chief Wahoo is Back. This set reminds me of a bad version of Topps Bunt.

  5. Something very unnatural and weird about these cards Agree. You got burned.

  6. These things are a mess! How the heck do you know if you pulled an insert? They all look like they could be some kind of parallel card and it doesn't look like there is anything to distinguish what type of card they are. I think these cards work better as an insert set or perhaps if they did just 1 design and then did color parallels that you could distinguish from a base card it could work.
    I do like the nicknames you gave them.

  7. Maybe it's my age and the fact that I grew up with McGwire as a Cardinal, but I don't ever remember him making an appearance in a modern set as an Athletic...actually, I hardly remember him making any appearances in modern base sets at all, although I'm quite sure there's something I've missed. It's kind of like seeing Bonds as a Pirate; probably just as important in his career but not something I associate him with beyond a little "Oh yeah, he played for them before..."

  8. If you don’t have a home for those Astros, please let me know!

  9. I can use the Chipper, Miller, and Inciarte

  10. Since I have people claiming cards both here and via email, this is where it stands:

    Cardboard Jones: Griffey
    P-Town Tom: Konerko, Jenkins, Beltre, Russell, Gurriel, Sanchez, Bregman, Dozier
    Dimwit: Springer
    John Miller: Chipper, Miller, Inciarte

    I also likely already have places for the Red Sox, Cardinals, Orioles and Blue Jays.

  11. I like the idea of a Topps Elements set. Every card will have 120+ for each chemical element. Then I can say things like "I finally got my Bismuth Billy Butler and my Radium Rick Rhoden!"

  12. Oh, and I'd love the Dozier if you don't have other plans for it. Thanks!

  13. I wonder whom they feel they are marketing this set to. I mean, the design to me screams "this is for young people", but do kids (even teens) want cards of Johnny Damon and Fergie Jenkins rather than guys playing now? I suppose the answer is that it's marketed to collector, but I'd love to know how their thought process works on these things.

    Then again, my local Targets don't seem to have any in stock, so maybe they know more than I do....

  14. The Pirates checklist was pretty weak so I probably won't be buying any. With that being said I kind of liked the set. This feels like it was made for people who like cards from the mid to late 90's

    I want it to sell well just because I think there is a market for retail only sets that are not "hit" heavy. I've said on my blog a few times I would like to see Topps Total come back this way.

  15. I had been pondering trying some of these, but you've talked me out of it (especially at that price point)... Thank you from saving me from another hobby regret.

  16. Hopefully Topps considered and bypassed 'Earth' and 'Wind' designs, and has learned a lesson about playing with 'Fire'.

    The Diamonds & Lightning Bolts design could have been saved (or made even worse) if it had been die-cut.

    I would really like the Flying Embers Diamond design, if it weren't for the bizzaro black and white skin effect. The Maeda and Hunter Dozier are decent, and I'd consider paying $0.50-1.00 for a player or team I liked. To me it looks more like paint splatters, but 'Flying Embers' sounds way more FIRE-Y...

  17. Good to see McGwire featured as an Athletic. And although I don't like the design, I do like seeing nicknames on cards. Other than that... this set is "meh" to me.

  18. Went looking for some of this earlier this week. Of course, there was none. But now I don't feel like I missed much. Though the OPC hockey I got instead wasn't anything to jump for joy about either.

    There WAS a Topps "Air" set - it's just called 2016 Topps flagship, where the air was colored white.

  19. I would take the Jays if you had me in mind.. lol
    I wouldn't mind the Votto either..

  20. Well deserved dig on the Goldschmidt. If you want to rid your collection of that card, I'd gladly trade you for it.