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One out of three ain't bad

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.


#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.


#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.


Zippy Zappy said…
Woof, the '79 motif cards are a beaut this year. I'm quite jealous of those '79 Yanks. I'll have to assemble the set myself too at one point. Card stock et al.
Tony Burbs said…
Yea, I'm having a hard time getting past the team banner alterations on the '91's myself - very odd. Definitely some good and bad with this product.
Mike Matson said…
At least they didn't throw the Nationals logo on that Carter.. It does look odd for the logo to be there, rather than just the "expos" wordmark..
Mark Kaz said…
As the kids say, Topps is trolling us big time with the frunked up team banner on the '91s. Such a shame, as it was one of my favorite sets as a young'n.
Brian said…
This set is a real head scratcher. There's the Jim Rice '53 and you're thinking, yeah, great job! Then you look at the Ziegler and just shake your head... The '91s are really nice, love the 65th anniversary change up, but why oh why do they clutter up the team name ribbon? The 1979s are pretty much perfect, though the giant head of Randy Johnson was probably better suited on the '53 design. Lots to like, but still some really curious choices.
Brett Alan said…
I generally don't see the point of putting old time players in Archives. Look, right there on the wrapper, the selling point is "MLB stars in classic Topps designs". Which to me implies current stars, not guys who already were on those designs. And of course you're right that they should not do a '53 if they can't spring for a painting. That's the very essence of the '53 design. Also, if they absolutely must put a Topps logo on the '53 cards, use the red and black logo they actually used in 1953! At least they didn't change the logo on the '79s.

That Puig sure is purity, though.
gcrl said…
Garvey as an sp is a gut punch. we thunk alike - i wish they would have given him a 91 or 53 design instead of 79 since he was in that set. they removed his all-star banner and used a circa 1972 photo to boot.
Let's tie two of those years together.....In 1991 Topps laid out what I deem as the first Archives set and it was the 1953 set...So why repeat the 53's now?
AdamE said…
I don't like the 79 cards. 79 had always looked so plain to me. It always seemed like it was missing something. They are like sspc cards only with the team name at the bottom.

They should have put the team logo in the baseball and the Topps logo in one of the top corners or something.
It's actually nice to see Whitey Ford pitching as opposed to his same photo day fake pitching stance over and over and over.
steelehere said…
I'm guessing you like the picture for the Jim Rice 53 Topps Design because it's the same photo as his Rookie Card.
Brett Alan said…
Er, I meant it was PURTY. Stupid auto correct!
Fuji said…
The 91T Jackie Robinson is a great looking card... so are the Doerr and Jose Fernandez.
Tony L. said…
1979 cards make me feel nostalgic as well since I really remember collecting those cards as a 7-year-old. Sure, I have cards from 1977 and 1978, but I can't recall ripping them open. But I definitely remember the 1979 set coming out of packs.

Maybe I'll try to put a "1979 Master Set" together of every card Topps has put out with that design....
CaptKirk42 said…
Archives always confuses me. 4 different "classic" designs that have no apparent connections to each other. A weird mix of classic team logos with current and now apparently some made up logos. The putting players who were in the original design with a different photo an completely new team also gets me. I don't know what to collect anymore. Trying to collect older sets is difficult enough, current sets are impossible to collect even the dang supposedly "base" base cards. I'm still a bit ticked with Archives for the 2012 stupid short print of Bryce Harper that priced me out of ever getting it the second the card was released. That is just the plain version not the autograph version.

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