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The evolution of A&G

I've mentioned the changes in the checklist and the philosophy of Allen & Ginter a couple of times recently.
People still insist on labeling A&G as "that quirky set where you never know what you're going to get," but those people really aren't paying attention. It's still "that quirky set" but all of the "quirk" is stashed in the inserts and hits now, and that's become more and more the case over the last five years and is especially the case this year.
You had a much better chance of coming across a card of a "bridge" or a "door" in 2008 or 2010 or 2014 than you do now. And the same goes for coming across inventors or Olympic heroes or former presidents.
People are still operating off that A&G stereotype, but actually today's A&G, here in 2020, has more in common with other currently released baseball sets than it ever has. It is more of a baseball set than it's ever been.
I'm sure that pleases the "what's an egg doing on my baseball card?" crowd, yet I continue to hear those same complaints about this year's A&G.
But, here, I'll explain it to you in cold, hard numbers. I just updated my "All the Things You Love/Hate About Allen & Ginter" post as I do every year. The 2020 A&G set contains fewer non-baseball player cards -- 26 -- than it ever has. And it has zero cards of inanimate objects, like the Grand Canyon, or news events, like the Fall of the Berlin Wall. That's only the second time that's happened. You can check that post out if you want. It's the most direct way to demonstrate how Allen & Ginter has evolved.
But there is another way -- and that is by looking at a 2020 A&G team set.
I just received my A&G Dodgers set in the mail. It's the fourth team set I've ordered this year (Heritage, Big League and Archives were the others). I started out doing this to keep myself from buying a bunch of retail packs in a quest to get Dodgers, but it turned out to be a necessity as there were no retail packs to buy.
So, I'm evolving right along with A&G.
Anyway, here is the A&G Dodgers team set:

That is 16 cards, and if you're thinking that's fairly large for a team set by traditional A&G standards, you are correct. (By the way, I battled and battled with these images in the new-and-improved Blogger, and please notice, the space between paragraphs is apparently still an issue).

A&G has contained more Dodgers cards in its set one other time -- there were 17 in 2018 -- but the 16 in 2020 is the continuation of a trend that started around 2013 when the size of the Dodgers team set jumped noticeably. I'm assuming that's the case with other team sets.

The Dodgers A&G set used to contain around 8-to-12 cards. But it has increased as A&G has grown into a "legends set." Why there are more legends in A&G these days -- and have been in the last four years -- is up for debate, but my theory is that Topps can control their legends licenses more easily than corralling rites for non-baseball names and other entities.
This theory is boosted a bit by the change in the theme of non-baseball subjects, too, as Topps has moved more toward social media notables rather than more commonly known historical or pop culture figures. (My knowledge of the non-baseball subjects in this year's A&G set has dropped to an all-time low).
The growth of the legends in the set has interested me for some time and I've written posts about that, too. It interests me because it's a part of the set that is not contingent on who is playing right now, like how checklists were formulated for just about every baseball set for decades and decades. Instead, it is contingent on who Topps has in its license stable and what those licenses say.
Going through all of the past Dodgers A&G sets, I've noticed that legends didn't become a regular thing for the Dodgers until 2012 (this year was also the first big change in the direction of A&G). Then, since 2012, there is a main theme for the Dodgers legends: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson are top tier legends.
Koufax and Robinson appear in every set since 2012, except 2015 and 2016. Legends were shut out of A&G in 2015 and limited in 2016.
There are definite "tiers" for Topps' legends players and I'd love to see the details to figure out how they work. But all I can do is list what Dodgers legends have appeared each year. So here I go:
2012: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson
2013: Top tier: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson. Second tier: Duke Snider
2014: Top tier: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson. Second tier: Duke Snider, Tom Lasorda; Third tier: Bill Buckner, Don Sutton
2015: None
2016: None
2017: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson
2018: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson
2019: Top tier: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson. Second tier: Tom Lasorda; Third tier: Gil Hodges, Mike Piazza, Pee Wee Reese
2020: Top tier: Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson. Second tier: Tom Lasorda, Duke Snider; Third tier: Shawn Green
(I based the tiers on how often each has appeared in the set).

The randomness of some of the legends is both wonderful and weird. 2020 is the third time that Lasorda has appeared in A&G and he's shown up in the last two years (they chose a particularly advanced Lasorda for this year).

I like Tom Lasorda cards, but I don't think he needs to be in every 350-card A&G set.

Frankly, my chief complaint about A&G, after the fact that it's become more of a social media popularity contest than a replication of the original A&G set from the 1800s, is that we're stuck with many of the same legends over and over. I'm a huge fan of Robinson and Koufax. One of the biggest. But I don't need another present-day card of either of them ever again. You want to make me happy and generate that drive to collect? Put Orel Hershiser or Willie Davis in A&G.

But, yeah, I know, the licenses decide who can and cannot go in the set.


One benefit of present-day A&G is there have been fewer inserts to collect, at least in terms of Dodgers. After reaching highs of 7 and 8 different Dodger insert cards between 2014-16, the totals have decreased. There are just three insert cards for me to collect this year.
I kind of like this Debut To Remember insert set and not just because each Dodger card recounts a heroic performance against the Giants.
If guys like Kyle Farmer and Ross Stripling are in the checklist, this may not be a case of "shove every hot rookie and star into the set" set, which automatically makes it interesting to me.
Everything evolves, even card sets, and I get that A&G needs to change with the times in order to survive. It's certainly not the direction that I'd like it go, but that's OK, I have plenty of other cards to buy that still interest me.
I just wanted to point out -- again -- that A&G is really not the set that a lot of collectors think it is anymore, so maybe quit selling and stereotyping it as such.

In fact, if you really hate pulling cards of revolving doors, then, actually, this could be a set for you.


Nachos Grande said…
I think Topps is trying for more of a "middle ground" with A&G lately to appeal to the more baseball-centric card collectors but also keep the people that like the quirky stuff. I could do with less celebrities in the base set (and get rid of all the MLB legends). Bring back landmarks, inanimate objects, and historical figures for the base set. Inserts are still wonderful. For the relics, I'd like to see more of the "weird stuff" bits like dominoes, torch wicks, and swimsuits.
Nick Vossbrink said…
This is a good rant. The legends creep is something that really bugs me with Stadium Club too. Giants team set this year was almost exclusively legends and rookies. Yeah I know we don't have any stars but that's still a lazy-ass checklist.

Would love to see more weird social studies or science cards in the Ginter base set. Would also love to see some creativity for picking non-baseball subjects that go with the baseball subjects (eg slipping a Queen of England card in a CL with a Reggie Jackson Angels card).
Commishbob said…
I've always been part of the "what's an egg doing on my baseball card?" crowd, but I certainly see and can appreciate the appeal of A&G. And, like you, I love both Robinson and Koufax, but if *I* notice that they seem to be in every set, you can be sure they are since I don't do much with current sets except read about them in blog posts.

Oh, and the 'new' Blogger is making me re-think my stance on guns. The only thing worse is the 'new' WordPress. /oldguyrant

Lastly...'67 Tony Gonzalez on his way to you this week. Found an extra.
Fuji said…
Like the majority of Topps products these days... I feel A&G is a little stale. I'd like to see the shelf certain products for a few years and release them on a cycle every few years. This would give Topps extra time to develop and design each product, while giving collectors a break from products that can sometimes be viewed as "lazy" or "boring". But I know this won't happen, because there are enough collectors out there who need their Ginter.

Maybe they could revamp A&G into a "living set". Then you'd only Lasorda once. Then again... you'd only see the "revolving door" once too.
gcrl said…
thanks for sharing the images. the set reminds me of 2008 with the colored backgrounds. i am still confused by mookie betts dodger cards that lack the nike swoosh on the jersey. there is no reason for topps to be using a photoshopped photo of betts at this point.

also, i use the "normal" text structure on blogger instead of "paragraph". it is easier to control line spacing that way. not sure if that is the issue you are referring to or not, but thought i would share.
As you saw in my post, I am a huge fan of this set. Others complain after opening it and seeing the quirky stuff and I just wanna say did you actually ever open this before. This set is all about quirky. Everyday I see a new comment about it.
bryan was here said…
I made a pit stop at the Wally World discount Emporium the other day and breezed by the card section (or what passes for one these days). There was exactly one solitary pack of A&G left. That was it. I snagged it and was pleasantly surprised when I opened it. All players, none of the non-players. It's not a bad set, just one I wouldn't go out of my way to buy packs of on a normal basis.
Bo said…
I'm guessing the trend to more social media personalities is that they can then promote their card, and with it Topps. Albert Einstein or the Grand Canyon can't do that for Topps.
GCA said…
Ginter is my new flagship. I love the legends, but they can indeed become repetitive. If they could cross rosters with Archives and get some of those non-HOF but fan favorite guys in there it would be perfect. You can't get legends in flagship, they make them SPs.
The inserts for the last couple years have been awesome. This year they're a little flat, except for the Monster minis.
I was a bit disappointed that four out of the nine hits I got from three boxes were comedians or writers I'd never heard of. But the hits are generally trade bait either way.

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