Topps continues celebrating with Heritage Baseball
People keep asking me what's wrong with our hobby. It's not a new question, but lately it's getting easier to answer. Outrageous pack prices, too many products, grading, and general collector boredom come immediately to mind. Young collectors are learning about our hobby by paying $20 for a pack of cards that has a game used bat card in it only to find out that most of the bat cards are selling for $5 or less. They don't care what base cards look like. All they want to know is what their latest find is worth.
Not surprisingly, older collectors are starting to look at old cards as the future of their collections. Prices on high quality pre-1970 baseball cards are setting new records every day and it looks like the manufacturers are paying attention. While they have yet to take care of the problem of high pack prices and over production, the latest trend has been to release sets that remind us of the cards of years gone by making us ask one question. Can everything old be new again?
Fleer has been leading the way for a couple years with their Tradition line which has become their basic set. Upper Deck joined in this year with UD Vintage, which is odd since their first set came out in 1989. While both of these sets are nice and remind us of the past, it has taken Topps to really bring us back with Heritage Baseball. As a continuation of their 50th Anniversary celebration Topps has created a modern set that pays perfect tribute to their most famous set 1952 Topps.
407 CARDS & GUM
In an attempt to bring us back to the past Topps has created a 407 card base set (just like 52 Topps) and they've even short printed cards 311-407 and made red and black backed versions of cards 1-80 (also mimicking the original set). Each base card is in the original 1952 Topps design. They've even brought back gum! Each eight card pack comes with one stick of gum, thoughtfully wrapped in plastic to spare us gum stains.
Of course it's 2001 so just making some nice old cardboard style cards couldn't possibly be enough. Topps has filled Heritage with autographs, game jersey and bat cards, and even Time Capsule cards with pieces of Korean War worn uniforms. The autographs are great featuring current stars as well as stars from the 1952 set replacing their facsimile autographs with the real thing. Beyond the autographs and memorabilia cards which actually have an old look to them, the only link to a modern set is the Chrome parallel set.
The only downside to Heritage has been the price. While 1952 Topps came in 1 cent packs, Heritage started at about $4 per pack in most stores and is now being seen for $5 or more in my area. When you compare it to most $5 products Heritage stands out as the best, but it would have been nice if it weren't so much so young collectors could buy more and learn a little about the early years of our hobby.
In all I enjoyed all three of these old style products and I look forward to some more. Hopefully the manufacturers will recognize that this is a good direction for the hobby to head, but not so good that they feel it necessary to make too much. As with everything in sportscard collecting, too much is not good. Maybe Heritage can be a once a year venture allowing Topps to modernize their sets year by year. If that's the case then I'll be waiting for 2003 for my favorite, 1954 Topps.
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