Monday, March 7, 2016

Against the grain

When I was scanning and posting cards for the 2016 Heritage post last week, I completely missed the graininess of most of the photos in the packs.

It took the comments -- which probably set an all-time blog era record for long-windedness -- for me to realize that, yup, graininess is a disease that has infiltrated Heritage.

I don't like it.

I don't like it because 1967 Topps was the opposite of grainy. Based on my limited experience with 1967 Topps, the photos in that set were the clearest and most vivid up to that time. And they stack up in clarity with many sets that followed. Add the wide expanse of space dedicated to the picture in '67 and it's as close to looking at your high-definition device until the advent of Stadium Club.

So, why this?

There's fuzz on my HDTV!

Now, it's not a deal-breaker or anything. I sometimes think that people get hypercritical over things like this, but it is still pretty evident and puzzling.

Some side-by-side examples:

Those might not be the best examples of '67 Topps' sharpness, but you can definitely see the graininess in comparison with the 2016 Heritage.

That's not to say every Heritage card suffers in comparison. Here's one that isn't too bad:

But the question persists, why are the Heritage cards grainy?

I'm not a photographer so I don't know if it has to do with the way photos are taken now versus then. But I doubt that's it because I'm told the actual photos used for the Heritage cards didn't feature any graininess. One of the comments on my earlier post implied that the graininess is purposeful, that Topps is trying to achieve some sort of effect, and has been doing that with Heritage for awhile.

Maybe I'm being exceedingly clueless again, but I'm lost as to what effect that would be. Are they trying to make the photos look old?

I need answers!

It's diminished my enthusiasm for this Heritage set a little. This is the only 2016 set that I can see myself buying more than a couple of packs of this year. This was going to be my default set for 2016.

But I'm not disgusted by it or anything. Make every card grainy and get rid of the 75 SPs and I'll enthusiastically collect the entire thing.

The Heritage set still captures one of my favorite aspects of 1967 Topps, that you can look at the photo and watch the scenery unfold behind the player seemingly for miles.

The '67 look is just too good to completely ruin.


  1. Topps has that same ugly filter they've been using since 2001 to make the cards look older. I would go as far to say some of the cards from 1962 set show better sharpness and clarity in the photos in contrast to the modern Heritage sets.

  2. Yeah, the fake old grainy thing has been happening for the long haul with Heritage. Consider yourself lucky that you didn't notice until now. It kinda made some sense with the really early Heritage sets (but not really, and they did an even worse job). They need to stop doing this by at least 2020, when the awesome run that begins with the '71 design arrives. That said, this is (unexpectedly) my favorite Heritage set since 2009 (1960 design). I LOVE the card stock.

  3. Maybe it's just the size of the space devoted to the photos that made it so apparent. I don't remember it being this obvious for, say, 2011 Heritage.

  4. Oh, and look at the Heritage autographs - every last one of them is a scribbled, indecipherable mess. (Were they just scratched in by a Topps lackey?)

    By contrast, look at the fine penmanship of Mickey Lolich, Robert Rodgers, Tommy Harper, et al. Better quality control by "old Topps", or do players just don't care any more?

    1. "Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!"

      That is all.

  5. With the scanners issues I've been dealing with lately... I guess it's best if I stay away from Heritage (or at least blogging about it).

  6. It does seem really more apparent for this set. It may be that the 67 set represented an improvement in photo quality by Topps over previous sets, which would make it seem more apparent. Also, the less intrusive design elements you mentioned make it more apparent.

    Unlike the "enhancements" Topps seems to do in the flagship set, I do mind the graininess on Heritage. It doesn't look "retro" - it looks bad! It would go better on a set like Turkey Red, maybe, or an earlier set like the early 2000 Heritage sets.

  7. It gets worse. There's actually an insert parallel they call "grain front". The idea is that the front of the card is grainy and coarse like the backs and the glossy side (for whatever little gloss there is this year) is the back. They fall about 1 a case, I think. About the only thing I can think of that would be an even dumber idea is an insert parallel of cards with gum stains. Oh, wait.....

    (And this from the guy who loves Heritage)

  8. 1967 Topps had the name, a DOT, and the position. They got lazy and left out all the dots.

    If you're replicating an old design. Get it right. Or give it up.

    1. The 1967 1st series did not have the dot. Maybe they are replicating that early design. (not that I would ever defend Topps) :)

  9. I first noticed that grainy focus issue on my 2014 Topps #US155 Devin Mesoraco All-Star card. I thought there were print spots on the thing too, but I noticed that all of the Mesoraco AS cards were like that after searching for a replacement. I couldn't imagine an entire set being put out like that on purpose.

    1. What's next, will they switch to black-and-white and call it retro?

    2. Nah, they already did black & white with the Bowman Heritage. But don't be surprised if they announce a new insert parallel of cards damaged to resemble cards that were used in bicycle spokes. Or, if they get lazy about it, all new "pre-creased" cards. Those suckers will bring in big bucks on the secondary market, if the gum stains are any indication.