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A tribute to the past reminds me how disappointed I am by the present

Topps released Heritage this week. You're going to have to wait until I can use my Target gift card on some though before I offer an actual rundown of the set.

I've been saving that gift card since Christmas -- something I almost never do -- specifically for Heritage. This year's set is using the 1974 Topps design, and although Topps has beaten every past design into irrelevance by throwing them into Archives and a thousand inserts each year, this year's Heritage still meant something to me.

Cards from the '74 set are the first ones I ever owned. (Yes, we are now getting into I AM OLD Heritage territory). The story has been told since the first posts on my blog but one day in 1974, my mom came home from the grocery store and handed me, I was 8, and my brother, he was 7, a cello pack of '74 Topps. To this day, I still remember the excitement of seeing certain cards from that set -- Eddie Leon, Aurelio Rodriguez, Tommy John -- cards can transport you to a specific fleeting moment better than anything besides music.
For this reason, I've always enjoyed the '74 set more than most collectors do, it seems. I suppose it's fairly staid compared with some of the designs from the '70s but there's no topping those pennant flags, and some of the cards -- just look at the Oakland A's -- are stars from that decade.
But Heritage is not the 1974 set and Topps has been leaning into that fact more and more over the years.
I have detailed how Heritage has gotten farther away from its original intent, which was paying tribute to past Topps designs by being as faithful to the original as possible. That's the way the set was when I first encountered Heritage in 2008. But because Topps can't help feeding the addiction of box breakers and the like, there are more and more trappings of the modern set apparent in Heritage.

In 2008, Heritage featured, aside from the base set and a few inserts, chrome parallels, along with chrome refractor and black-border refractor parallels. They were fun little sidelights, nothing found in the 1959 set that was the tribute design that year, but fun to chase.

Now, in 2023, Heritage contains those chrome parallels, but also stuff so far away from '74 that we've left Barry White and "Good Times" in the dust. There are black-and-white variations and image variations and name-position swap variations and throwback uniform variations and, for crying out loud, MINIS??? You just killed the unique feature in 2024 Heritage, Topps.
I know I don't have to collect any of this, and thank goodness, but there are other ways that Heritage -- that set about the past -- has crept more into the present.

Here is the 2023 Heritage Dodgers team set. Lots to say about this, but let's focus on the short-prints. You know, THAT THING THAT DIDN'T EXIST IN 1974.

My hope was now that we had gotten into sets that were not sold in series -- '74 Topps arrived all at once, 1-660 -- that we'd be over this short-print business. Shame on me for being so gullible. Yes, there are SPs for no reason related to any past reality, anything concrete at all, except Topps wants your money.

All right, now for another thing: the number of Dodgers in this set is relatively small, which is fine. But there are some noted names missing, and for the second year in a row, the big one is Clayton Kershaw.

Topps is continuing the habit -- again to get people to spend -- of postponing some stars until the Heritage High Numbers set, a set that traditionally had been about updating players with their new teams, etc. But we're not doing that anymore either, because none of Topps' sets now has any defining attribute other than where can they find money?!?!?

There are some other Dodgers missing like Chris Taylor and Tony Gonsolin. I assume players like J.D. Martinez and Miguel Vargas and Noah Syndergaard were saved to get them in their proper uniforms, but that doesn't explain why Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner are in regular Heritage -- and not as Dodgers.
Also, there are rookie cups in this set. Everyone knows that rookie cups didn't show up until 1975 Topps.

So, I know a lot of this is my issue -- there are a bunch of new collectors in the last couple of years who ask "what is Heritage" and when told there isn't much flash to it are instantly turned off, that's the way collectors are going -- I'm just an old collector who remembers things that a growing number of people don't.

But people don't know how nice (and calm) it was then and it certainly wasn't this:

My goodness, if I was pulling cards like this out of my cello pack in 1974, I don't know if I'd ever end up collecting cards. That blank spot -- are we supposed to write something in? -- probably is the dumbest card thing I'll see this year.

This is how the Angels' Justin Upton card looked in 2020 Archives, too. Topps has had years to mull over the impending '74 Heritage design and the Angels team name and decided to do absolutely nothing.

I know Topps has used "Angels" without a city name for a number of years, that's a dumb legal name thing that it probably has to dance around -- and this is another present-day issue that makes zero sense. But how about turning it into a San Diego/Washington tribute from the same year with Angels at the bottom and "Amr'n Lea." at the top or vice versa?

I would have loved if Heritage named the Angels what they were actually called then, "California" on the top and "Angels" on the bottom, but I suppose Arte Moreno's lawyers would have melted down.

So, anyway, I will buy at least one blaster of Heritage, probably be annoyed about the present, note that the backdrops are fake and pull out my binder of my complete 1974 set to remind myself of what that set really was.
Heritage used to try really hard to be about the past and it was fun. Collectors really appreciated it and admired the tributes. I'm not saying there isn't some of that in Heritage still. But what's really apparent now is that Heritage tries really hard to be about the present, and like many present-day card things, it's not much fun. The legalese and cash grabbiness practically leaps off of each card.
But, you know, yay, pennant flags.


carlsonjok said…
1974 is, hands down, my favorite vintage set. I would be all about putting together the 2023 Heritage set, but Heritage ticked me of back in 2011 with all the blankety-blank short prints. I refuse to participate in such artificial scarcity nonsense.

Having said that, I am reminded that I am one card short of a 1974 master set and I need to go find that San Diego small print version of card 599.
1974 is perhaps my favorite design of the 70s so I like this set very much. But the missing Los Angeles or Anaheim or whatever is pretty lame. Most of what Topps does is blatant and disgusting.
Heritage didn't go short for the Braves cards, but a couple of names aren't in there. SP's....they gave them 4.... and the who they are yeah don't get it with at least two of them. I think I am running over to Ormond Beach this coming week, and load up on the dime versions of Heritage. I'll grab some Dodgers that gift card unless you're actually going to build the set.......
steelehere said…
I don't believe there are any Dodgers on the 4 player rookie cards at the end of the set. The closest to it would be Cody Thomas who was drafted by the Dodgers but was traded to the Oakland A's prior to the start of last season in the Sheldon Neuse deal.
night owl said…
I was thinking of Tyler Cyr, but he might still be an Oakland A in the set. I removed the mention.
Jeff said…
This has been the Heritage set I was looking forward to. 1974 has always been my favorite set of the 70s.
Jimetal7212 said…
'74 was my birth year set. My old collection went as a far back as that set. Coming back in my intent was to start with '74 and nothing older. Somehow not only did I do that, but 70-73 and working some 6-s sets. Oops. But agree with the modern Heritage moving so far away from what made it good. But we know they don't care anymore. Funny thing popped up today in the DB forums. Bellinger is pictured on the box in his Dodgers uni, but the card itself is airbrushed (seriously that needs to stop) in a Cubs uni.
I thought at first glance those Angels cards were more of the fake "error" cards. Ugh.
Jimetal7212: I'm sure I'm giving Topps too much credit if I say that Bellinger is a tribute, but the 1974 wax box did have at least one card which didn't match the set... Glenn Beckert's 74T card shows him in a Cubs uniform but with a Padres border (He'd been traded 11/7/73) while the wax box shows the same Beckert photo but with a Cubs border
Old Cards said…
I like the 74 set. The first set with cards showing the previous year's All-Star game starters. Normally, I'm not a big fan of multi-player cards, but this was such a great concept. Only 9 cards to collect the starters, Simplicity is so nice.
About ten years ago, I was so looking forward to the year when Heritage would feature the 1967 design, because, well, it was the 1967 design.

But as that year approached, I realized that Heritage cards were poor imitations of the vintage sets:

The quality (resolution) of the photos was bad.
The poses were odd.
Some team colors were not quite right.
When autographs are included, today's players do nothing but scribble illegibly.
Those annoying "TM" marks!
But above all, I realized I have absolutely NO interest in any of today's players.

I can remember seeing others posting their 1966 Heritage cards, with all of the above shortcomings (except autographs), and I knew right then that I would not be buying ANY 1967 Heritage the following year.
Nick said…
I actually opened some 2023 Heritage today, and I agree with you that the Angels cards are ghastly. Do *something* with the city name, Topps - leaving it blank looks awful. Also really not pleased that the playoff highlights cards are all SPs this year.

Those gripes aside, I have to say my first go-around with 2023 Heritage was pretty fun. Quite a few of the cards I got have echoes of actual '74s (even a bunch of full-body action shots!).
Nick Vossbrink said…
I'm curious what Topps is going to do with the team colors. In Archives they've kept the 1974 colors even with teams like the White Sox who have changed colors since then. I'm hoping but not optimistic that they honor the intent of the 1974 set this time.
Nick Vossbrink said…
Also. You're 100% correct about the Angels. Looks awful and, honestly, that name change stuff has been in the past for YEARS now too. Heck Topps used LAA in 2020 Stadium Club without any problems.
Fuji said…
Saw a few boxes of this stuff at B&N, but didn't grab any. I grabbed the latest issue of Beckett Vintage Collector though and started reading it. Very excited to read your article and the one on Gwynn.
Johngy said…
100% on every point you made!
1984 Tigers said…
Jerry Morales had a card similar to Beckert. His in a padres uni but shown now with the Cubs pennant.

Is there a no position error like Jesus Alou or even a Bob Apadaco/a error too?

I love the 74s in general. Winfield rookie as well as Dave Parker. Nice in action of Ryan. All stars. Traded. Minor stars rookies like Madlock and Tanana.
John Bateman said…
Can 1975 save Heritage - Though I am looking forward to 1976 and 1977, also.

Not feeling it with 1973, 1974.

My biggest gripe is SP and the update set is a Series 2 when you withhold some of the Stars.