I think I have bought at least a little Topps Heritage just about every year since it first came out in 2001. Back then, it was a sensation due to the ascension of faux-vintage and some would go so far to say it was the absolute pinnacle of that trend. After all, Topps has the deepest history of design and tradition, so it seemed right that if anyone was going to mine this properly, it would be them. I built that first 2001 set with a lot of boxes and patience and some help from that new-fangled internet thing eBay. I have since sold off that first set but you never really forget your first. I think pound for pound, the most fun I have ripping boxes and packs for set building purposes has been Heritage, at least since it came out.
But like all things, eventually the excitement died. For me, it was around the time they stopped putting gum in the Heritage packs, which was half of the joy. I mean, gum? With baseball cards? What an innovation! (sarcasm alert) In 2010 and 2011, now that I think of it, I don't think I bought any Heritage at all, since I recall those 1961 and 1962 sets being on my want list for page completion for a while. I dabbled a little with retail purchases the last couple of years and then this year, as I covered the other day, I dove head first back into a hobby box. I did this out of excitement and boredom. I did this because I love the 1965 Topps set. I did this because I am an impulsive pain in the ass.
So let's take a look at what came out of the first hobby box of Heritage I have bought since 2008 (the also beloved by me 1959 set).
First and foremost, I have decided to not build the base set. I don't find it as annoying and daunting as some with all of Topps' short prints and such, I just decided not to. So the official nine pocket page will be the shining reminder of this box break:
The 1965 is such a great simple design with vivid colors. Topps got a lot right with this set. They integrated the new teams like the Marlins and Diamondbacks (or Blue Jays and Rockies as shown above) using the same border colors they used back in the day. They didn't get cute. Another nice thing is that since the team name gets smaller at the end within the pennant element, the infuriating copyright/trademark symbols Topps insists on including are deemphasized. Both of these things go a long way to keeping the set looking very clean and pure to its roots. I found that one or both of those things were miserable failures of the 1961, 1963, and 1964 Heritage designs. These look as good as the 2003/1962 set did.
The '65 backs are also wonderful and Topps also did right by those too:
The font is right, the cartoons are right, and the complete stats are always appreciated. I also found out there is a great trick to finding out if you have one of the many short print or variations without having to go insane looking them all up. Amongst all that disclaimer fine print is a little code at the end. Base cards have a number of 7119, anything else has a different code. Those specific codes can be found here and thank you for the Cardboard Connection site for teaching me that. I have no idea if that is a new thing or not, but it is new to me.
Speaking of short prints, these are the high numbers I got.
At a ratio of 1:3, I got the proper amount in my 24 packs. The Chris Davis there is both a high number and an action short print. The portrait photography in the set is consistent with the original and it is funny how an action shot sticks out. You certainly don't need a code to figure that short print variation out.
I don't do pack-by-pack breakdowns, so instead we will look at a few of the other base cards.
The league leader cards lead off the set and they look great. They are also very consistent with how the original set looked, i.e. since the 1965 NL ERA leaders card only had two players on it (and two pretty damn good pitchers at that) the 2014 Heritage set only has two pitchers on it. This is a shame because it denies me another Matt Harvey card in the set since he came in third in the league last year. Consistency giveth and taketh away. The Coco Crisp card is a stark contrast to his card in the flagship set with his afro brushed down instead of out. It also sadly emphasizes his receding hairline (I feel your pain, Coco). Carlos Beltran knows how to take care of such things, just shave it all off. The rookie cards are handled properly in this set, which is a relief since they bungled it so badly the last couple years. They happily don't repeat anyone and they have the design correct. It is kind of funny to see the word Diamondbacks fade away into such tiny nothingness. On the other end of the hair spectrum, Bryce Harper's pseudo duck tail look is given full attention, which is odd because I don't know why they would take a hatless photo of him since the odds of Bryce being traded are about even with the odds of me breaking into the Mets starting rotation. The last two are nice photos I cannot seem to recall why I highlighted. Let's just stick with that, they're nice. Moving on...
One cool thing, as always, is the old school Rookie All Star Trophy...
...and I pulled six of them. That will definitely help with my want lists. I also am keeping the only World Series card I got and the great image of poor Ryne Sandberg managing the Phillies. He put all those year in with the Cubs only to have them screw him over for the likes of Jim Riggleman and Dale Sveum. That's loyalty. Lastly is Miguel Gonzalez, the latest major leaguer to share my birthday. Lucky Gemini.
Let's get to the parallels and inserts.
I got two chrome parallels and a single refractor, which is under-performing the claimed ratio, but since I don't really care about these cards, it's just as well. Just about all of these cards are destined for eBay unless you see something you must have, in which case you should email me ASAP before I post them. The New Age Performers and Then and Now are well worn veterans of the Heritage sets and these particular designs are fitting and near perfect.
This is how I feel about the News Flashbacks but the Baseball ones are pretty cool, especially when they are Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente. I supposed Topps made them vertical this year to mix things up. One new insert set this time around is the 1st Draft which is appropriate since 1965 was the first year of the draft. The draft concept is one I hope they make a regular feature as it is always great to pull old stars and getting a babyfaced Nolan Ryan in a Mets uni is greatest of all. The last card there was my big "hit" (I suppose), a CC Sabathia Mint card with an actual 1965 nickle embedded in it. Considering I have a 1948 nickle in my pocket as we speak, I will try to contain my elation. That it is numbered to /15 gives it all its "value" - I can't get this thing on eBay fast enough.
Alas, in all this pack ripping, I only got four Mets (aside from the aforementioned Nolan Ryan). Really, it is three and a half Mets since there is a Phillie prospect sullying the card with Wilfredo Tovar on it.
All in all it was not a tremendous box but luckily, also not a terrible one. It was well collated with not a double to be found. The set itself is very well designed and executed and it's nice to see that Topps can actually do that when they try. I guess they figure that since this is the one real big set set-building lovers love, they better not muck it up as much as they have in the past. I still miss the gum, though.