Thursday, March 16, 2017

Card collecting for me will end in 2041

In 2041, I will be 75 years old. I don't know if I will be alive then. But I do know that if I haven't already stopped collecting current cards by that point, I will do it in 2041.

Why is that?

Well, if the Heritage brand is still a thing in 2041 that is the year it will showcase the current robots ... er, players on the 1992 Topps design. And we all know what happened in 1992.

Topps stopped using the dark, thick, luxurious cardboard that had marked most of its sets in the decades prior. You may argue that Topps didn't really stray away from its roots until the 1993 set and you may point out that the cardboard used in Topps' sets through the '60s wasn't really "dark," but that's just semantics.

The point is, people are buying Heritage because of the cardboard.

Not everyone is buying Heritage because of that. Some are buying it because of the nostalgia of the design. Some are buying it because they like the weird variations and goofy stuff that Topps now places in Heritage. But I know for a fact that some are buying it for cardboard reasons because I've heard of collectors who consider Heritage the flagship brand.

The real flagship set doesn't exist for them. Because it's not made from the traditional card stock that existed from the early '50s until the early '90s.

And, more and more, I see their point.

I don't know how you gauge "hobby talk" these days. The blogs don't really keep up with the latest discussions anymore. I've never been a forum person, and I don't know if that's the most relevant place anymore either. For me, "hobby talk" shows up on Twitter.

And in the last couple of days, there's been a decent amount of talk about past Topps designs and about Heritage. People are talking about this year's Heritage. Still.

Maybe you're saying "Heritage was just released a few weeks ago, of course they're still talking about it!" But you know how fast the world and the hobby moves these days. Talk about 2017 flagship dried up in about a week. Flagship would love to be discussed the way Heritage is discussed.

The Heritage discussion is much more loving. There is a fondness. Sure, people bitch about the short-prints and other modern hobby gimmickry, but the tone is more respectful than it is for flagship. Heritage is not dismissed like other, flimsier sets.

And, I say, it's the cardboard.

I have a love-hate relationship with cardboard in my life. Every other Thursday -- this Thursday -- is recycling day at the night owl nest.

That means that every other Thursday I pull out the box-cutter, head out into the back hall, and toil over a bunch of cardboard boxes, getting them down to small enough squares so the garbage collector will accept them.

This time of year the boxes are everywhere. First there's Christmas and then birthdays and the boxes pile up. And it's damn cold in the back hall right now.

But if all of that cardboard had pictures on them? That's another story.

I need "heft" to my cards. They need to be substantial. They need to be "something." The cards in flagship don't feel like "something" much of the time.

A real cardboard card is chocolate cake. Flagship waferboard, or whatever the heck it is, is a rice cake.

Solid cardboard is so rare in sets now. You see it in Heritage. It's also in Allen & Ginter and Gypsy Queen, although maybe not quite as substantial. Other than that, it doesn't show up a lot.

A few days ago, it dawned on me that the best way to improve the hobby -- for me -- is if real cardboard would return to Topps' sets.

But that's not totally realistic.

For one, there are brands out there that never appeared on the cardboard stock that Topps used in the '70s and '80s. Stadium Club for example. That would be just weird on cardboard stock. Same with Finest. And Chrome.

But flagship? Face it, flagship needs help. I don't know what Topps is doing with its design, but that's not the help it needs. Thicker cards is what it needs.

The weirdest thing to me is that Topps has a hard-to-find parallel in which it prints a current card on traditional cardboard instead of the usual slightly thicker notebook paper. So Topps is restricting one of the best facets of its old cards to a parallel that a lot of collectors won't even see.

But this is something I've noticed over the years.

I was once a collector who would hold flagship above any other set. That was a holdover from the years when there was no other set to collect. But even when I returned to the hobby about 10 years ago, I still considered flagship as the primary set. And it would get most of my time.

This was the case in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. In 2010, I completed the flagship set and ignored the Heritage set because Heritage featured the 1961 design that year and that design didn't appeal to me.

But in 2011 that changed. That was the year Heritage focused on the 1962 set. The cards with the wood paneling were wonderful. They were wonderfully thick. Wonderfully substantial. I instinctively collected the cards even without any plans to complete the set.

From that point, without really knowing it, I placed Heritage ahead of Topps flagship. I looked forward to Heritage more eagerly than flagship, even though flagship marked the start of the baseball card season.

Since then, Topps flagship has put out some designs that I don't like at all -- 2012, 2014, 2016 -- and one design I liked a lot -- 2015. I've had no problem ignoring the sets I don't like and I have very few cards from those three years.

In the past that would be unthinkable. Because I was "supposed to buy flagship."

But now it's the reverse. Heritage is "flagship." It's the set that reminds me of collecting when I was a kid. 2017 flagship certainly doesn't remind me of that.

I've got to think it's the cardboard.

And people are still talking about 2017 Heritage and I think it's because of the cardboard.

Over the years I've heard some collectors say things like "Heritage should end this year" or "Heritage has outlived its usefulness." I've never understood that.

Heritage is a better version of flagship to me. Sure the designs have been done before, but it's just a much more well-made card than flagship.

That's why I believe that in 2024 Heritage still will exist and that will be the year it is issuing its set on the 1975 design.

I am extremely excited for that year of Heritage. I've never bought a case in my life, but I think that will be the year I do. I may buy no other cards that year to focus on Heritage. I could drive myself literally insane pursuing a 660-card Heritage mini-set and an MVP subset that has tripled in size.

It might end me as a collector -- long before 2041.

But it will be a whole lot of fun, and I've got to believe part of that is because of the cardboard.


  1. I like Heritage even though I don't buy much of it. I'm more in the 'nostalgia' camp (I ignore the variation/goofy parallel aspect) but the cardboard is most certainly one of the reasons I like it.

    This is interesting...I just picked up a '17 flagship card, an original '60, '68 and a '17 Heritage. The Heritage stock is actually thicker, or at least sturdier than the two vintage cards. That might have to do with the amount the vintage have been handled thru the years. But the '17 Flagship card feels 'fragile' compared to all of them.

    1. I meant to mention...I'll be 89 in 2041. Please remember to send me your Orioles. My kids will forward them to the home. I hope.

  2. heritage is hands down my favorite set each year and something...the only thing in baseball cards that i truly look forward too. card stock is definitely one of the reasons why i love the set, but mostly because it's the "throwback" design with new players and Topps doing their due diligence in matching what made the original set special. i just wish the photos were a little more crisp, which i think they've done a better job of this year. also love the on card autos of the retired of the coolest aspects in my opinion.

  3. It's not just the cardboard (albeit) it is MAJOR, the 500 card set is so much better than countless flagship, of course with 401-500 being SP's which sucks bigtime, then the high #s come into play it is still more appealing than the old flagship. I've completed the base 400, and oh boy have 4 of the SPs already including Bryant. Way more excited with that than waiting on Series 2 before the Update Flagship. With Heritage bam 1 series then the high #s. I vote for Heritage as being the new Flagship too, now to trim the SPs and lose the variation BS.

  4. I totally understand this. I really don't collect either one because I have a lack of storage space so I tailor my collecting for that. But to me Heritage would be a much more desirable set to put together if I was going to do it. My one issue with Heritage is that I prefer action shots over posed shots. But I feel like the quality of the cards themselves is slightly more important than the picture on them.

  5. One thing to realize that we are now 25 years into the new upgraded card stock, and this will eventually become the norm (if cards will survive in the year 2025) as the traditional stock will become the minority years.

  6. When you're right, you're right. The reason I don't like flagship is primarily the design and also the "all action" photography. But, as much as I tell others I like Heritage because of the vintage designs and the posed photos, the card stock has A LOT to do with it (and, yes, Comishbob, Heritage stock is, indeed, a tad thicker and sturdier than the vintage cards they emulate; I checked that out the first time someone complained about the thin-ness of Heritage).

    The obvious proof, to me, that the stock makes the card, is that I gaze ever so fondly at my Heritage cards all the time--even the ones from a decade ago. But the (recent years--not the original and Fan Favorites editions) Archives cards--which also have Vintage card designs and posed photos--those I dismiss like a bad smell. Love the vintage designs in Archives (and I do like the autographs of lesser stars),but the cards themselves? Feh.

  7. This is why I hate 2013 Topps Heritage. It's 1964 Topps on an Allen & Ginter card. Also I think I'm stopping before they get to 1970.

  8. A case of 2024 sounds like a lot of fun. I'm definitely going to go after that set... but I'll probably just buy a completed set off of eBay.

  9. When I was a kid, opening a pack of Topps flagship meant being greeted by the welcome smell of gum. Now it smells like petrochemicals.