Monday, July 17, 2017

One thing flagship is doing right

I have yet to complete the Dodgers team set for 2017 Topps flagship.

While others bought a couple of boxes when Series 2 first came out and finished off their team sets that very day, I'm still missing the Kenta Maeda card.

I'm not stressing about it. Even if I don't buy any more Series 2 -- and I don't plan to -- I know it'll arrive at my abode relatively soon. Besides, there is one pleasant side effect to me struggling to complete the team set:

It means the team set -- at least for the Dodgers -- is more complete this year.

In fact, it's been more complete the last two years. Each of the last two years, there have been 28 base Dodgers over Series 1 and Series 2. That is more base cards for the Dodgers in a flagship set in almost 25 years. Not since 1993 when there were 29 Dodgers.

I am one of those team collectors that likes to see as many players from my favorite team represented in the flagship set as possible. It reminds me of trying to collect my team as a kid. And while Topps Total may not be ever coming back, it seems like flagship is heading in the right direction.

I went through and figured out the number of Dodgers in the team set for each year that Topps put out a flagship set since 1952. The numbers for each year ranged from a low of 15 to a high of 37. That may seem like a significant fluctuation, but we're talking about more than 60 years of cards. Topps hovers around the mid-20s most years with only a few extremes.

But let me break it down some more by decade:


1952: 33
1953: 21
1954: 16
1955: 18
1956: 24
1957: 26
1958: 28
1959: 35

Average number: 25.13

The 35 cards in 1959 in the second highest number for the Dodgers ever. Boosted by the rookie stars subset and a few extras (the Campy "Symbol of Courage" card), the team set ballooned to numbers never before seen.


1960: 37
1961: 28
1962: 27
1963: 24
1964: 31
1965: 29
1966: 27
1967: 29
1968: 27
1969: 24

Average: 28.3

The 37 cards in 1960 boggles my mind. How many cards were in a pack that year? These were mostly kids working off an allowance buying these cards then. Did anyone finish a team set then? There are also five World Series cards in this set that could be considered Dodger cards, but I didn't count them (nor did I count rookie players who appeared on a card with other non-Dodgers or players on the Dodgers who weren't current, such as many Turn Back The Clock subset cards).


1970: 27
1971: 24
1972: 31
1973: 23
1974: 26
1975: 26
1976: 27
1977: 23
1978: 27
1979: 29

Average: 26.3

Topps settled into a pattern for the Dodgers in the 1970s with only the very large 1972 set moving above the 30 mark. I remember first trying to complete the team set in 1973 and although 23 is on the small side for the last 60-plus years, it seemed almost impossible to me then.


1980: 28
1981: 28
1982: 32
1983: 25
1984: 28
1985: 27
1986: 31
1987: 31
1988: 30
1989: 26

Average: 28.6

The average number of Dodgers each year increased, mostly because Topps started issuing extra cards of all-stars during the 1980s. But team sets flourished during the junk wax era. The 31 cards each in 1986 and 1987 is the only time there were at least 30 cards in a Dodger team set in flagship in back-to-back years besides 1959-60. And it's the only time there were at least 30 cards three consecutive years.


1990: 29
1991: 32
1992: 29
1993: 29
1994: 27
1995: 25
1996: 15
1997: 21
1998: 17
1999: 19

Average: 24.3

The '90s progressed from the last time there were more than 30 cards for the Dodgers (1992) to the paltry totals of the late '90s that hadn't been seen since the 1950s. These were jokes of "team sets," but also a reaction to Topps dealing with various offshoots of its flagship set for the first time.


2000: 15
2001: 23
2002: 22
2003: 26
2004: 25
2005: 23
2006: 16
2007: 22
2008: 22
2009: 24

Average: 21.8

The lowest average for any decade. Topps slowly increased the number as the decade progressed, but I returned to modern set-collecting in 2006 and couldn't believe I needed just 16 cards to finish the Dodgers set.


2010: 21
2011: 18
2012: 20
2013: 22
2014: 25
2015: 22
2016: 28
2017: 28

Average: 23.0

Another relatively small average, but at least the decade has been on the increase. Also, unlike a lot of team sets from this decade, as well as the 1990s and 2000s, there isn't a ton of fluff in the 2016 and 2017 team sets -- little repetition of players, etc.

To me that's the best indication that the flagship team sets are returning to the way I remember them during the mid-to-late '70s and early '80s.

Here is the rundown in graphic form:

It's probably difficult to read. If you click on the image, you should be able to see it better.

The top 10 totals for the Dodgers are:

1960: 37
1959: 35
1952: 33
1982: 32
1991: 32
1964: 31
1972: 31
1986: 31
1987: 31
1988: 30

The 2016 and 2017 totals at least make the top 20. Obviously, I would like to see even more Dodgers represented in the flagship set (I realize Update makes up for a lot of that) but this is at least something I can see that's right about the last two years of the set.

Of course, all of these Dodgers from 2016 and 2017 are appearing on designs I don't like at all, which kind of kills the thrill.

But nobody said team collecting has gotten any easier. In fact, since the '90s, it's been crazy difficult, with all the parallels, inserts and variations.

So I find the positives where I can. This is one of them.

(P.S.: This is just one team, your mileage may vary).


  1. I love this set size, etc. I had a chart I made with graph paper back around 1983 when I started putting the Orioles team sets together. Every year had a column and an 'x' box which was my goal for that set. I filled boxes with every card I picked up. Loved watching the columns build.

    To answer your rhetorical question... I ***think*** that I completed the 1960 set. I know I finished off several starting in 1961. I sometimes wonder if I've bought back any of my old cards.

  2. 16 cards covers the starters, pitchers, and a couple relievers or rookies. That's barely scratching the team's surface. But I have to wonder if expansion teams had any part in this. Topps' set size in the early 90s went over 800 cards, and then was 660 for the longest time. To have a good, well-represented set, the non-subset cards alone need to be around 900 cards now for a decent 30 cards per team. 450 cards per series. With the bump in set size over the past two years you can see an improvement (and the Dodgers seem to have more popular players too now).

  3. I would like to see a breakdown of the number of players who finished the year with each team and the number of cards the team got in the next years set. I can tell you that the number of guys missing from each years team set has increased greatly from the late '80's up through now, but like Ryan said, expansion and set size could have much to do with it.

  4. Topps couldn't even fit the Dodger's third baseman into their 1996 set. That's just sad.

  5. I wonder if the pattern of ups and downs correlates at all with the relative success of the Dodgers at the time?

    1. Chris I was thinking the same thing. One would think getting to the post-season the year before would increase interest in any one team, thus adding some of the 'known' players. Of course when I was a kid I never thought about the technical whys or hows I just collected the cards I liked, or more often could get my hands on.

    2. I'd have to look into it, but at first glance it doesn't appear so. The team sets for 1960 and 1982 do increase (the years following Dodgers World Series wins), but that can be attributed to other factors in each case. And there are other years (like 1989) in which the total dropped. In recent years, Topps seems to reward more popular teams with more cards so I think there may be a correlation with that.

  6. Very interesting... This is the kind of thing I've often wondered about but never did the research. I was particularly intrigued by 1960, but I suppose it makes sense... 572 cards, only 16 teams. I ran a quick query against my database to get an idea of the breakdown by team. MAJOR DISCLAIMER: My database doesn't have teams for the combo cards, and shows one card with the 1960 *ATLANTA* Braves, so that tells you how much of a grain of salt this should be taken with. Anyway, in my query the teams range from 32 cards for the KC Athletics to 40 cards for the White Sox. It says something when even a 96-loss team like the KC A's gets over 30 cards.

    At the risk of rambling too long, one other thing that plays in to team sets in vintage years would be trades and cards coming out in series. If the Dodgers made a June trade of John Doe to the Cubs for Joe Blow, John Doe might've shown up in the 1st series as a Dodger and Joe Blow might show up in the 6th series also as a Dodger.

  7. Have you taken the next steps and worked out the percentage of each base set are Dodgers cards and also what the mean percentage is for every team and how the Dodgers compare?

  8. Wow. 1960, 1952, and 1959 blow my mind. For some reason, I alway though that there were around 300 cards in those old sets. It must have been impossible to build a complete set back then.