Yesterday I was watching people find 2015 Topps -- mostly in the Midwest, but it's in a lot more places today -- and checking out the Toppstime video of customers opening a bunch of this year's product. It was all very exciting and as usual made me want to go to Target right now to see if any made it here. But one troubling thought mingled with the giddy ones as I was watching all of this.
For the most part when the new Topps cards hit, people will show one or two base cards to give viewers an idea of what it looks like, and then go straight to the inserts, hits and other assorted chasery. You almost never see another base card again.
Then I was looking at the inserts as they were shown and they all seemed very disposable to me. Not only were many of them similar to the inserts we've seen in past years, but inserts, in general, are only loosely connected to the base set. I don't consider them affiliated with the base set -- or at least my brain doesn't.
To illustrate, I'm showing this Sandy Koufax insert from 2011 Topps. It came from Lonestarr of Life and Baseball Cards. I recognized it immediately as a card I needed, but until it came into view, I had forgotten about it completely. I can't even tell you what it's from -- Update? Some special Megabox thing? A Walmart exclusive? A hobby shop exclusive? No idea.
Looking at the card, I couldn't even tell you what year it was from other than "recent."
Yet, as people opened more and more 2015 Topps, I saw more and more inserts and "hits". It was almost the only thing they continued to show and there was one guy on the video, who I later learned was the owner of the hobby shop that was hosting the break, who flipped out only if there was a buyback or insert.
These are disposable cards for me. Unless I like the insert set enough to collect it -- which happens maybe once every 10 years -- these cards lose their meaning as soon as the year is over.
The base set -- you know all those cards that look the same and have some continuity? -- that's what stays with me. I will remember what a base card looked like in 2015 in 2025, just like I remember what a base card looked like in 1994 or 1982 or 1976. Show me a card of Harry Spilman and I'll know what year it was made. But an insert of Tony Gwynn from 2012? Or one of those store exclusives? I'll get back to you.
There is no frame of reference for cards like those. And the more they look the same and the more often we see the same players -- Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente -- the less connection there will be.
I realize this makes the most sense to people who collect sets or team sets or have a strong sense of history. People who just collect "The Card" or "The Player" probably don't care or maybe have an easier time telling you what set it's from.
But to me, part of the beauty of collecting is knowing what the cards looked like in 1986, just like I know what songs came out in 1986, what was making news in 1986, who the big stars were in 1986. An insert of Cal Ripken from 2015 isn't going to tell me anything other than "here's another Cal Ripken insert".
That's a bit of a damper when people are going loopy for 2015 Topps right now, and I didn't intend to do that. You're probably going to see a post devoted to 2015 Topps right here in the next few days. But trust me, I will be focused on the base cards.
I do really appreciate the Koufax card I received -- from whatever it was from -- especially since I didn't even have it on my want list.
And let's look at the other cards that arrived from Lonestarr that I really like and won't cause me to launch into a diatribe over inserts.
A short-print of the Dodgers' #3 starter. This heads to the 2014 Allen & Ginter completion quest. The Dodgers have way too many short-prints in this particular set.
I'm glad I spent so much time trying to learn how to pronounce Erisbel's name and then the Dodgers go and get Jimmy Rollins.
Sending me 1975 Topps is a very good thing. Yes, I completed the set over 10 years ago. But I am always on the look out for upgrade specimens. Skip Pitlock looks very worthy, but I haven't checked to see if he will enter the most hallowed binder I own.
Chromey Paco better be an option in the bullpen this year. I'm terribly afraid he'll end up with the White Sox, which is where almost every unloved Dodger pitcher goes to die.
Another super-sharp vintage card. Purdin and I share a birthday. And that's all I can tell you about him right now.
Hey, Mr. Russell, welcome to my new outlook on 1983 Donruss.
I was very upset when the Dodgers traded Rick Rhoden. Maybe more upset than any other L.A. trade until the Vance Lovelace incident. I know, I know, if the Dodgers didn't trade Rhoden, they wouldn't have gotten Jerry Reuss, but you don't understand! The Dodgers are supposed to hoodwink everyone in trades!
The piece de resistance of the package. This is an insert from 2014 Topps Museum. Pretty nice.
This is what Upper Deck Masterpieces would look like if those cards were actual paintings.
I like this card quite a bit.
Yes, I do like inserts. Some I like very, very much
But give me a year or two and I will have no idea when this card was issued.