A year ago, I was never madder at a card product than I was at Archives. A product that I had always viewed as a disjointed disappointment full of unfulfilled promise had committed the almost unforgivable act -- short-printing some of its own base cards so severely that it was nearly impossible to complete the set without spending more money than is reasonably expected to complete a modern set.
It wasn't much of a deterrent for me because I never try to complete Archives (still, it was the principle of the thing). It's a jumble of 3 or 4 different past designs that makes for an odd completed puzzle. It's a disconnect for my senses and seeing it either compartmentalized by design every 40 cards or so, or a jumble of just those three/four designs would give me a headache if I were to see it in a binder.
So I simply try to get the Dodgers each year. Yet, it's 2016 now and I'm still lacking two Dodgers from last year's base set. One is the Jackie Robinson card, which is one of those infernal shortprints and still going for around 50 bucks online -- ridiculous.
This year, Archives trimmed its list to 10 base card SPs. Like that's going to appease me. There shouldn't be any for a product this flimsy. Plus three of those 10 SPs are Dodgers. So I'll be looking for those at this time next year and beyond. Beautiful.
Still, here I am displaying a pack of 2016 Archives, featuring Bull Durham Movie Cards (I don't care about those). Obviously I bought it. Obviously I bought it for a reason. And not just for a blog post -- I don't do that anymore.
So what was the reason?
Believe it or not, the 1979 design -- one of the three used for the base cards this year -- spoke to me.
Particularly this card.
Archives -- if done right -- will evoke nostalgia in those who collected cards during the year portrayed in the design. Archives had failed to do that with some of its past tributes -- notably 1980 and 1982, but also 1971 and 1973 and even 1983. Last year's 1976 design probably came the closest, but still didn't take me back to the '70s.
But that Yasiel Puig card. That full body, game-action card. That is something that I remember seeing in '79 Topps all the time. That photo says "1979" like Peaches and Herb and the Devil Went Down To Georgia. And that was it. I had to find out what the other '79s looked like.
There are two other designs in the set -- 1953 and 1991 -- but really, I don't care. I wanna see the '79s.
I ended up buying two of the jumbo packs, which give you 18 cards for $5.99. Yeah, I know. But have you seen 2016 flagship?
Let's open both of them.
JUMBO PACK 1
#116 - Stephen Vogt, Athletics
You can spot the top card through the little Bull Durham advertisement window. I was so excited to see a '79 design peaking back at me that I grabbed that first one.
By the way, the A's were a disaster in 1978 -- Charlie O. had gutted the remainder of the three-time World Champions and put nobodies in their place. The '79s A's team set is filled with people like Dell Alston, Rob Picciolo and Jeff Newman (as well as future somebodies like Mike Norris and Tony Armas). I had no idea who I was looking at when I spotted an A's player in 1979. That's what this card reminds me of -- nice job Archives.
#18 - Chris Sale, White Sox
The '53 tribute is OK, but it will always fall flat unless they are paintings instead of photographs. I've also seen too much of this design in past Topps tributes to itself.
If you know the '53 set, you know that the bio on the back features the player's signature in red behind the bio type. This is what is on the back of the Sale card:
I swear I turned this card over and my first reaction was that some child had gotten into my pack and scribbled red crayon all over the back of this card. I mourn for Chris Sale autograph collectors.
#107 - Corey Kluber, Indians
Yay! More '79s. The Indians were also awful in 1979. Players like Dan Briggs, Wayne Cage and Paul Dade.
#64 - Brad Ziegler, Diamondbacks
Yikes. The graphic person definitely tried to make this look like a painting. But it's freaky. Ziegler is a baseball card collector and it'd be cool if Topps asked the card-collecting players which design they wanted. I'm thinking not many would choose '53.
#170 - Brandon Belt, Giants
The Giants were terrible, too, in 1979. Johnnie LeMaster, Greg Minton and Marc Hill. Dammit, why can't we go back in time?
#35 - Jim Rice, Red Sox
OK, that's not a bad looking '53 tribute.
#106 - Oscar Gamble, Yankees
It freaks me out when I see players who had cards during the Archives year featured, especially when they're portrayed with a different team than who they were with at the time.
Here is the original '79 Gamble and the Archives Gamble side-by-side:
Archives Gamble needs more afro.
#96 - Duke Snider, Dodgers
If this card looks familiar to you it's because it appeared, in a somewhat altered format, in the 60 Years of Topps insert in 2011.
You can see it's the same image, just cropped a little differently. The logo on the Archives card is different from what was used in the '53 set. I don't remember seeing a white B on a red background in Brooklyn's logo history but maybe I'm missing something.
#176 - Willie McCovey, Giants
Here is a player that also appeared in the '79 set, and with the Giants, too.
The Archives McCovey is a younger McCovey.
#36 - Hal Newhouser, Tigers
The '53s work better with players of the past. Newhouser had a card in the original 1953 set.
#173 - Billy Williams, Cubs
The Cubs were also lousy in 1979. But it wasn't Billy's fault. He was long gone by then.
#69TS-TR - Tyson Ross, Padres, 1969 Topps Super insert
These '69 Supers are 1 in 3 jumbo packs according to the odds on the wrapper so I was surprised that this is serial numbered to 50. I am going to assume it's a "black back," which vaults the pull into 1 in 20,628 packs. Wow.
(EDIT: Speculation on Twitter is this could be the "red back" version, which appears 1:380 jumbo packs. The stumper is nothing about the back of the card is red. It could refer to the tint of the card stock but unless I can compare it to a regular Supers back or the black back, I have no idea).
#FS-BB - Bob/Bret Boone, Father-Son insert
This insert is a tribute to the 1985 Topps Father-Son inserts, which you can see on my other blog. So if you're a Phillies collector I guess this goes in your Phillies binder, which is kind of odd, but as a team collector I know I do stuff like this.
#246 - Gary Carter, Expos
#217 - Hector Olivera, Braves
#241 - Rob Refsnyder, Yankees
#234 - Jake Arrieta, Cubs
#269 - Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
The 1991 design cards are all backloaded in the jumbo packs (and I believe in the loose packs, too, from what little I've seen). I have no idea why.
Out of the 3 designs, the '91 fiddles with the design the most, with regard to the team name. A few examples:
I don't know why Topps does this. They have to know their own past designs. They're either messin' with collectors like me or it has to do with some legal issue, maybe their MLB license, in which case I'd love to see the wording in the license. There's probably something in there about no green M&Ms in hotel rooms, too.
JUMBO PACK 2
#123 - Luis Severino, Yankees
Back to the '79s! Yay. Finally we have a team that was good in 1978 (although not so good in '79). Many of the Yankees cards in the '79 set were action cards, so this is a good choice.
#45 - John Smoltz, Braves
#192 - Vladimir Guerrero, Angels
#62 - George Brett, Royals
I'd much rather see him in a 1979 design.
#189 - Whitey Ford, Yankees
Yeah, Brett and Ford should've been flipped. Ford just looks weird with the '79 design.
#78 - Eddie Murray, Orioles
His signature on the back is perfectly legible.
#21 - Travis d'Arnaud, Mets
#161 - Jose Fernandez, Marlins
The Marlins get the blue ribbon, which in '79 was reserved for the Pirates and Twins.
#17 - Elvis Andrus, Rangers
#156 - Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
Really the only card I wanted.
This card is a dead-ringer for the '79 Reggie Smith card.
Yasiel needs some work to do to get to Reggie Smith status. But it's already one of my favorite Puig cards.
#46 - Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
#274 - Michael Brantley, Indians, blue border parallel
It's numbered to 1/199, so you know that means I can sell it on ebay for $10,000.
#FS-PP - Tony Perez-Eduardo Perez, Father-Son
I would have gone with Tony's 1967 card personally. Or maybe 1976 or '77.
#268 - Carl Edwards Jr., Cubs
#251 - Bobby Doerr, Red Sox
#238 - Rod Carew, Twins (put him in '79!)
#201 - Jackie Robinson, Dodgers
Not nearly as difficult to get as last year's Archives Jackie
#264 - Luke Jackson, Rangers
I'm still distracted by the altering of the team names in the '91 design.
Obviously, I didn't pull any of the 10 base-card shortprints. The wrapper says those SPs appear 1 in every 29 jumbo packs. I don't know what the odds are for any other configurations (jumbo packs were the only versions available to me).
These are the base SPs:
301 - Kenta Maeda, Dodgers
302 - Randy Jones, Padres
303 - Tom Gordon, Royals
304 - Al Kaline, Tigers
305 - Steve Garvey, Dodgers
306 - Tito Francona, Indians
307 - Phil Nevin, Padres
308 - Charlie Hayes, Phillies
309 - Kris Benson, Pirates
310 - Sandy Koufax, Dodgers
Really hitting Garvey-collectors in the gut with this one. Three fricking Dodgers.
I've heard talk that the card stock -- another Archives drawback -- might be a little sturdier this year. I dug out previous Archives cards and really don't notice a difference.
As for collectability?
I will take any 1979-themed Archives cards. I don't care about the other two designs. It's all I'm interested in besides the Dodgers, obviously.
After last year's rant, I think that's a pretty good achievement for Archives.
In other words:
I want you, I don't really need you, and there ain't no way I'm ever going to love you. But don't be sad, one out of three ain't bad.