Mario broke the news yesterday that Major League Baseball has extended Topps’ exclusive license to produce baseball cards with team logos. While there are several serious and legitimate complaints about Topps’ efforts in recent years, we need to remember that in this case, Topps is not to blame. MLB has every right to limit who produces their product, even if collectors don’t like it. If there has to be only one, I am personally glad it is Topps. The company’s long history with baseball makes them the logical choice in an exclusive deal.
Major League Baseball is the one to blame here. While Topps could and should assign a group of employees to focus on quality control so that they are above reproach, I’m not sure a non-exclusive license would necessarily eliminate all the problems they have faced. Humans make mistakes. Typos. Errors. It is what it is. Who knows, competition might cause more intentional errors just to move product.
I’m not thrilled with most of what Topps is releasing. In the past, I was a defender of Archives, and I’m still looking forward to its release this year, but I think there is a bit of retro-overload. Between Archives, Heritage, Living Set, and so many retro inserts, it is easy for an old grump like me to get confused. I can barely read the copyrights on the back, and it is frustrating when I have trouble figuring out if a card is 2015 or 2018. If they didn’t reuse the same designs so often, maybe it would be better. But Topps loves 1987 and 1983 and 1953 and it’s just difficult to keep up with everything.
I don’t buy much product off the shelf. I’m a Reds collector. Buying a blaster for $20 and pulling 2 or 3 cards of my team is silly when I can wait a few months and get the full team set for $4, then pick up a few inserts that interest me here and there. So my money isn’t important to Topps. Unless the high spenders cut back their purchases, Topps won’t try to change. They are successful, and can pretty much do whatever they want without any real competition (don’t get me wrong, I love Donruss, but they aren’t real competition). Complaints lodged on Twitter and blogs don’t amount to squat when you’re still devouring the product as soon as it is released.
MLB is the one to blame for all the “monopoly” complaints, not Topps. MLB could have opened up the license to allow Donruss or Upper Deck or Honus Bonus to produce a licensed product. I’m sad there will be no other licensed cards in the near future, but I’m glad Topps still has a license, even if I don’t buy a whole lot directly from them.
The Night Owl posted a list on his blog last night of all the non-baseball subjects in Allen & Ginter since the brand’s 2006 inception. Has it really been around that long? I perused the list and only came up with a handful of cards that I would care to have in my collection: Jack the Ripper (2007), Bram Stoker (2008), George W. Bush (2011), Bobby Knight (2012), and Tommy Lee (2013). I had originally commented on his post that I only found four, but I had overlooked Stoker in my initial reading of the lists. A sixth would have been added if Mr. T was not identified as Clubber Lang in 2015. Hundreds of non-baseball cards in these baseball card sets, but only five that I would actually want.
As many others noted in the comments section, the checklist is getting worse each year. The biggest omission in my eyes is one of the greatest writers in American history, Edgar Allan Poe. You could make the case for other writers in the horror genre, such as H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman, but Poe must come before all others.
Unlike Lovecraft, King, and Gaiman, however, Poe is not without cardboard glory. He was featured in the 1952 Topps “Look ‘n See” set, and the card is fairly affordable depending on condition. There is also the 1992 Starline Americana set, 2009 Topps American Heritage, 2009 Topps Mayo, 2011 Obak (which featured a younger Edgar along with his five brothers), 2011 Goodwin Champions, and 2012 Golden Age. I am almost ashamed to admit that I own none of these issues.
There is one other interesting Edgar Allan Poe card, and perhaps the one that I want above all others: the 2013 Garbage Pail Kids “Adam Bombing” Edgar Allan Poe. I’m a huge fan of GPK, and this card just captures everything there is to love about the brand’s irreverence.
One of these days I will load up my COMC cart with all the Poe cards I can afford. And I may pick up those five A&G non-baseball players I want at the same time.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani (2016)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume Two
introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani
Abrams ComicArts, 2016
Many fans of the greatest space opera contend that the best film of the series is Episode V, better known as The Empire Strikes Back. It is fitting, then, that the book chronicling Topps trading cards for the film exceeds the initial volume in quality. The creative driving force behind the design and writing of the cards, Gary Gerani, tells the process of meeting with LucasFilm executives to read the script and select images for the cards. The movie’s big reveal was kept secret from Topps at the time; Gerani recalls the first time he learned of Darth Vader’s familial relationship with Luke Skywalker was when he saw the film in Manhattan.
Initially, Gernai and Topps were told they could not use Yoda in their set, as he was a “mysterious creative element” that George Lucas and Irvin Kershner wanted to keep him a surprise for the public. Lucas eventually relented, and Yoda is prominently displayed on several cards in the series. Gerani wrote the copy for many of the cards, making up dialogue that fit with several of the characters’ personalities.
In addition to the reproductions of all three series of cards, front and back, the book also features images of sell sheets, packaging, stickers, and the 30-card set of giant photocards. Also, as in the first volume, actual promotional trading cards are also including with the hard copy purchase. In addition to that, Topps has included a code for a free pack of digital trading cards on their Star Wars Card Trader app.
Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani (1977)
Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One
introduction and commentary by Gary Gerani
Abrams ComicArts, 2015
These books that reproduce the original Topps trading cards are priceless, especially when the subject matter is Star Wars. In 1977 and 1978, Topps produced five series of cards to promote the movie, 330 cards in all. Topps employee Gary Gerani gives a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at the concept and production of the trading cards in the introduction, and provides commentary throughout the book for various cards.
I have seen several of these cards, and own a handful, but having the entire set available in one place is a real treat. I especially love the behind-the-scenes cards that were produced as a part of the fifth series in 1978. In addition to all of the cards, the art from the wrappers and stickers are also reproduced here, as well as a special section at the end featuring the 16 non-Topps cards that were included as giveaways with Wonder Bread in 1977.
Purchasers of the hard copy of the book also get four special bonus cards taped inside the back cover. All in all, Star Wars: The Original Topps Trading Card Series, Volume One is a wonderful look back at a simpler time of collecting.
I always saw Kickstarter as a way for independent artists to generate excitement for their projects while raising funds to properly create their vision. But recently, a handful of corporate Kickstarter campaigns have popped up. I shouldn’t have been surprised when the above image showed up on my Instagram today, but I can’t help but be disappointed. More than 60 people have contributed to a project which, in my mind, should be fully funded by the creator. Topps is a major company, and does not need pre-project backers like independent creators.
Am I being too hard on Topps? How do you view these major corporations—who have plenty of cash to fund their own products—who go the Kickstarter route?
I know, I don’t have to buy them. And believe me, I won’t. But are there really people out there that want trading cards of British royalty?
Topps is getting ripped to shreds on their Facebook page over this junk.
There are so many better ways (in my opinion) for Topps to use their time and resources.
Just closed on a house over the weekend, so we’ve been busy packing and making moving plans. Between that and working 8-12 hours a day (including weekends), I haven’t had much time for blogging. My apologies. It’s just too difficult to write a coherent post with pretty pictures and such at work.
But I have been keeping up on my reading. There is a new blog out there, bdj610’s “The Topps 300 (and then some…)”…a response to Topps’ awful attempt at a “top 60.” Get over there and comment on Jaybee’s selections so far, make some suggestions and let’s show Topps how it should have been done!
I would also like to ask you a personal favor to me. Would you be so kind as to take a few seconds to vote for Hard Rock Nights as “best radio show” in the Kerrang! Readers Poll 2010? You do not have to register or even give your e-mail address…just click on that link and fill in the box with “Hard Rock Nights.” Then you can go back and vote on other categories (like Black Robot for “best band”…hint hint).
I do not host the program anymore due to my hectic schedule and the fear of burning out, but it is still alive and well in the capable hands of Brian Basher (who was threatened by Hard Rock Cafe last week…but he stood his ground and they backed down!) and I would really appreciate your continued support. I am still involved with the program, but to a much lesser extent than before.
Speaking of Hard Rock Nights, there is a brand new website for the show! There’s a lot of work left to be done, but it is now live and will be improved over the coming days and weeks.
Ok, now that I’ve got all that out there, I need to get back to being busy doing nothing.
Topps, you’re stupid. Sorry, but it had to be said. Pick the top 60 out of a pre-selected 100, which aren’t really the top 100 to begin with? Maybe there wasn’t an easier way to do this, but you could have at least given a better selection of cards…maybe select from 500 different cards. There would have been a better chance of making people at least a little happy.
Above are the cards I voted for. If the field had been more diverse, I may have still picked the Pete Rose and Johnny nBench rookies and the Satchel Paige card. I doubt the Dwight Gooden record breaker would have made the cut. But yes, I would rather have a Gooden reprint than another Mickey Mantle. I like pulling Mantle cards from packs, but it’s not as exciting as it once was.
If I could truly pick my personal top 10, I would include the 1987 Bo Jackson, which is much more iconic than the ’86 Traded version. And the 1985 Eric Davis. There wasn’t a kid in Cincinnati in 1985 that didn’t drool over that card.
Better selections could have been made, a better field could have been offered for the vote. But it is what it is. Oh well.
After I stopped drooling over that card, I looked at some of the others the big dawgs posted. I’ll be honest, I like the base set, but the inserts and subsets don’t do it for me. Way too much yellow…it’s like 1987 Topps and 1991 Fleer had a baby. *shudders*