50 Years of Topps

2001 Topps Baseball celebrates a major milestone

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"This is a great product for set building, taking into account the price..."
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In a hobby that is quickly becoming dominated by products costing $5 to $10 per pack it's always nice to see a base level product come out with the excitement and anticipation we've seen in 2001 Topps Baseball.   From the moment that Topps started to advertise their 50th Anniversary series I've been getting email from people asking when it was coming, what I expected, and even what the price will be.  Usually it's an expensive product that causes those questions.

For those of you who can only think back to the 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card and are wondering why 2001 is the "big year", you have to look back further to 1951 when Topps put out a card game in two series which now go by the names Redbacks and Bluebacks.  By 1952 they had graduated from these small sets to a full blown 407 card set we all recognize as the start of a new generation in collecting.

The history of Topps is something we could go on about for many pages, but it's the new product we're looking at today and quite an interesting one it is, especially for something made in 2000 (and 2001 when the second series arrives).  The first thing to note is the set size, 810 cards will be in the final product not including the year end Traded set.  That makes it one of Topps largest ever.  Getting to this total wasn't easy as Topps has brought back Manager cards, league leaders, playoff cards, and more.  Fortunately for set builders there are no short prints.

2001 Topps Roberto Clemente 1956 Reprint Game Jersey CardThat's not to say that 2001 Topps won't keep those of us who like pulling a big card busy.  In the past few years Topps has teased us with a few decent autograph cards in their base brand, but with 2001 they really go wild.  Autographed cards range from Hall of Famers like Ernie Banks to young stars like Rick Ankiel.  There's even a special tribute to the famous "Shot Heard Round the World" that is signed by both Ralph Branca and Bobby Thomson.

They didn't stop with autographs as Topps got out their shears and ripped into some cool jerseys.  In addition to Nolan Ryan and Hank Aaron jerseys, they've produced the first ever Roberto Clemente Game Jersey card as part of their unique Topps Originals insert set.  The Clemente (picture on the left) has the swatch imbedded into a reprint of his 1956 Topps card.

Speaking of reprints, 2001 Topps is full of them as the first series has 10 reprint cards from each of the five decades of Topps Baseball.  As usual the cards have a gold foil logo so no one will mistake them with the real thing, but for those of us who can't afford the real thing it's nice to get a reprint direct from the company that made the original.

If reprints aren't enough for you then Topps has done something truly wild.  In one of the biggest buy backs ever, they have managed to purchase at least one of every single card they've produced in the fifty years to be inserted into the new product.  Expensive cards (and oversized ones) are being handled by redemption (one of the few times I can understand using redemption cards).   Also, they have bought hundreds of unopened packs and boxes of Topps products covering all fifty years.  How cool would it be to find a redemption for a pack of '52 Topps?1969 Tommy Helms card found in a 2001 Topps pack

Unfortunately, if there is a downside to the vintage cards, it might be their condition.  While I've only seen a few of them pulled, they've been in good condition at best.  I pulled the 1969 Tommy Helms All-Star card myself and I have to admit it was quite a disappointment.  I realize that it is not easy to find mint condition cards from every set they ever produced, but I've seen tons of 1969 cards in far better condition then this one.

In all that's a small complaint and when you consider that this is still your basic Topps product with packs selling for $1.50.  Opening a pack  and finding the Clemente jersey makes you almost forget about the poor condition of the Helms card (which is a common anyway).  You might want to act fast to find some hobby packs and boxes as the retail packs are missing some of the better inserts and hobby shops are selling out fast and raising prices.  If you really want a deal then look for the Home Team Advantage jumbo packs.  Not only do you get over 4 times as many cards per pack, but each pack has two or three inserts and the odds on autographs and jerseys are much better.

I'm sure as the year goes along we'll have much more to say about the 50 Years of Topps, but for now lets just buy some packs and enjoy.  Also, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, Topps has made a good decision by releasing the boxes well before the holidays.  If there's a baseball card collector on your shopping list this might be the perfect answer, a good price and a great product from a classic company.

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