Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A mini lesson

I am absolutely indifferent about the 1987 style mini inserts in this year's Topps set. I have been from the beginning. When the people who need to be first about such things breathlessly announced that Topps would be issuing a mini insert set in the style of '87 Topps, I let out a half-hearted:


And then a vigorous:


You didn't know a "meh" could be vigorous, did you? It can.

The "meh" was because, as I've said many times, I am relentlessly bored by '87 Topps. It will be the only '80s Topps set that I never complete. Or, at least, the last one I complete. So not even a mini version of '87 Topps could get me to purchase product.

The "huh?" was because I didn't recall mini versions of 1987 Topps back in '87. Most mini card sets of today are tributes to past mini cards -- think '75 Topps, tobacco era minis from A&G and the T-set issues -- but for which set were the '87 style minis a tribute?

There were those mini leaders cards with the wood borders in 1987, but those didn't look like the 2012 Topps minis. There was only a slight resemblance. No, as far as I could tell, this year's '87 minis didn't look like any set of the past at all.

Well, I was wrong.

It turns out there were mini-sized Topps cards in 1987 that looked like the cards in the base set. While I was closing bars at 4 a.m. and scrambling to get to a 10 a.m. lecture mere hours later, Topps was putting mini cards on the bottom of Topps wax pack boxes.

There is one now.

I don't come by this knowledge independently. Like I said, I had other pursuits in '87. But Max of Starting Nine was good enough to fill me in on the existence of '87 Topps box bottom minis. And then he was generous enough to actually send me some minis to help me demonstrate Topps' inspiration, if you will, for its '87-style mini set this year.

Even before Max sent those cards, I believed that he was right. He knows his cards. But when I tried to relay this knowledge on another blog, I was met with doubt.

People didn't recall mini-sized box bottom cards. Most of the box-bottom cards that Topps put out in the late '80s were regular-sized cards. So how could there be mini versions one year? Just what are you implying, Mister?

Hey, I'd be right there with them if I didn't correspond with Max. I never saw mini cards on the bottom of Topps boxes either.

But here, let me show you.

A common variety mini card from this year's 87-style mini set. You can tell it's from this year because of the wacky new Marlins logo.

And there it is next to the Don Baylor mini box-bottom card from 1987. As you can see they're approximately the same size. The Stanton card is slightly taller. Otherwise, they look identical.

So, there you go, Topps had a template for this year's '87 mini cards. And I take back the minor ranting that I did about this set and how it pays tribute to nothing.

But, as you may know, Topps didn't get the tribute right completely, because either Topps is perpetually screwing up or collectors are the most fickle people in the world, or it's some combination of both.

Here is the back of the Stanton card.

And here is the back of a regular card from the 1987 Topps set. The two card backs look basically the same except for the color shade and the 2011 minis have some sort of mini reference on the back.

So now -- if you haven't clicked onto another blog by now -- you're asking, why did I show the Milner card instead of the back of the Baylor mini box-bottom card?

This is why:

The box-bottom cards didn't contain stats or bio information. Like many of the box-bottom cards of the late '80s, it featured a brief write-up on some highlight from the past season.

So, similar to the 2011 Lineage minis -- although not as drastically awful -- the backs are not the same as the card that it most resembles from 25 years ago.

It's kind of a mix of the regular-sized '87 set and the box-bottom '87 set.

And now you know.

I'm sure there are some collectors who are asking: why is it important that a tribute set have a previous set on which to base its look and be as exact as possible? Why can't Topps just riff on some past set and add its own little quirks?

I suppose Topps can do that. Much like the remake of a popular song. We collectors sometimes get a little too caught up in tradition. Myself included.

Anyway, your reward for getting to the end of this is ...

MORE MINIS!!!!!!!!!!

These are also from Max, and they're the best kind of mini cards ever, the 1975 Topps mini set, which as you know I'm attempting to complete.

So much nicer than '87 minis.

My compliments to Max for dropping the knowledge today and for the cool cards.

He actually sent a few other cards, which I'll feature in a day or two. One blew my mind, and I need 48 hours or so to process it.


  1. No problem, always willing to spread some knowledge around. Plus, that Bull card is pretty damn epic, no?

  2. Interesting about the box bottom. I think Topps is really trying to pay homage to both the league leaders and the 87 set - it's like a glass half full thing.


  3. You forgot to mention that Eddie Milner is just plain old in the Outfield while Mike Stanton is an Outfielder. C'mon, Topps! CONSISTENCY!! ;)

  4. The irony with your comment...

    "I'm sure there are some collectors who are asking why is it important that a tribute set to have a previous set on which to base its look and be as exact as possible? Why can't Topps just riff on some past set and add its own little quirks" that's exactly what they did with 1987 Topps in the first place since it's essentially a rip off of 1962 Topps (The same can be said for 1986 Topps borrowing from 1975 Topps).

  5. I like 87 the best of all the 80s sets. Oddly enough 62 is my least favorite set of the 60s.

  6. HA HA! I'm late as hell because I've been drinking and drawing sketch cards all night and I'm still the first to point out that the 1987 box bottom carts were not in fact on the bottom at all but on the SIDE panel, specifically the back panel. That's why they are smaller. My freaky knowledge of obscure baseball card trivia comes through in the clutch again!

    (does happy nerd dance)

  7. I like it when there is some difference between the original and a Topps 2xxx's reproduction - it means you can tell visually that it is a reprint rather than the current setup of having to read the micetype to see it's an original back reprint of the Cards Your Mom Threw Out, for example.

    I can quickly tell the diff between 87 Topps Minis and the 87 Topps Mini insert in 2012 Topps because of the players involved. You certainly aren't going to find a Mike Stanton, Albert Pujols or Hanley Ramirez in 1987 Topps. ;)

  8. You know what ... I don't like them. I think I may have been more so inclined to like them if they made them refractors though!