Complete Set Sunday examines the completed sets that got to stay in my collection and why - a pretty self explanatory exercise. Today's edition, brought to you on an early Monday morning (oh well), will look at 2001 & 2002 Topps American Pie.
I have seen more than a few debates on card blogs over the years about who exactly the audience for pop culture cards is. Lemme tell ya, I am. The trivia nerd and history buff who loves pictures of stuff on cardboard. I mean, I love to see Gary Carter or David Wright on a card, but to mix it up and put Marilyn Monroe? or Jimi Hendrix? or General Ambrose Burnside? Now you're talkin'!
Topps has a long history with non-sports cards. Be it movie tie-ins, or wacky stuff like Garbage Pail Kids or Mars Attacks, or the Beatles, or Evel Knievel, or Charlie's Angels...they have all had Topps sets. So in 2001, when Topps decided to meld baseball and pop culture, I was intrigued. When I got a JFK piece of Berlin Wall in the second pack I ever opened, I was hooked. I immediately bought a box of the stuff and gobbled up packs when I was in the mood.
It very nicely wove pictures of 60's and 70's baseball icons - mostly new pictures too, diving into those Topps Photo Archives we keep hearing about but seem to see less and less of over the years...
...with people and events from the same period. It was a well designed and well executed set with a specific audience (the Baby Boomers). I never did get the Elvis leather jacket piece I craved (and it is always too pricy on ebay) but I have always been pleased with this set.
Oh and it turns out, not only is the "Sunday" part a lie this week, the "complete set" part is too. I discover every year or two when I look at this set that I am missing a few cards. Those three devious cards have been added to my newly updated wantlist.
Anyway, 2002 brought a second American Pie set, and as usual with Topps, they got more and less specific at the same time and thus the message was muddled. The baseball part they got right, once again going with rarely seen pictures of retired stars.
They all got little subsets too, like Courage and Perseverance and Innovation and why they chose those players for that description was written up on the back. It was a nice little hook.
The Pop Culture followed the same idea, with the little subset concept, but the choices were not as focused as the year before and all over the place...and with the Bazooka Joe card, a little self serving.
But overall, the 2002 set had some nice stuff and the inserts were once again interesting (if difficult to come by) and I put the whole set together to live side-by-side with the year before. But then 2003 brought a new wave of faux-vintage baseball sets - Fan Favorites, Retired - so American Pie got cut and didn't return until last year. When I sold off my sets, I decided to keep them and they have been in the same binder since I put them together. I liked the quirky choices and the different subject matters, so they got to stay.
2011 was a tough year all around in my life and I did not do a lot of collecting. But I did notice one day shopping at Target that they had brought back American Pie. I went on ebay and checked out the cards. Instead of building a set, I plucked off a couple lots and made a few themed pages:
Music: (dig that Zappa card)
And, um, other stuff I thought was neat:
The only real problem with this set was the lack of baseball players, it was just pop culture, which has been a real hit or miss category for the last few years, ie., Donruss Americana, Upper Deck A Piece of History, just to name a couple. I thought Topps did this kind of set much better with American Heritage, combining people with classic Topps baseball designs:
I should probably just break down and put this set together and include it in a future edition. Plus, the obligatory Chrome parallels are numbered to /1776; if only Topps would add nice little touches like that to sets more often.