Saturday, June 7, 2014


     I have been in the middle of some major spring cleaning here at Starting Nine World Headquarters.  Not just the collection, which is getting a sprucing, but the whole darn house.  Which means two things, I haven't had time to blog much and I have to go to the store to buy something new every other damn day to replace or improve what's there.  Yesterday found me at Target and wandering around Target means but one thing, walking by that card nook 5 or 6 times.  This, as always, is too much to take and I found a few jumbo packs of Archives in my basket at the end of the trip...
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I opened this Friday night while watching yet another disappointing Mets loss so maybe my enthusiasm was low so I waited until this morning to write about the cards; I can't say my mood improved much. 

Let's start with something they did very right, the 1973 design:
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This is one of my all time favorites and they nailed it.  They got the fonts right and the position logos are there in all their glory.  My only quibble?  The pictures are all tightly cropped the way they have been this year and maybe they would have gotten things perfect if they had chosen a few off beat, wide angle oddball shots like they did back in the day

They also did they 1980 design:
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And again, the design and font looks wonderful, the only problem?  They just used the 1980 design in Archives two years ago.

Now we get to where things start to come apart:
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Okay, disregarding that the 1989 set is hardly a classic, let's look at the major flaw that makes this a failure.  They got the design elements of the team name and the angle of the ribbon and even the curved corner correct but look closely at the player names.  Once again, right font (which is always appreciated and a surprise from Topps) but the alignment is all wrong.  They all seem to be justified to the left and this is not how the original set looked.  Yes, it's a small thing but to someone who opened a million packs of this stuff, it is huge.  Look at the Sonny Gray or Bob Gibson or even the Adam Eaton or Joe DiMaggio.  The names on the 1989 set were centered and it makes 90% of these cards look all cockeyed and wrong.  It wasn't that good looking a set to begin with, so to flub this detail and make it look worse is just inexcusable. Plus, haven't we seen that picture of Adrian Gonzalez some place before?  Somehow, the page I made for current players has three of these '89 cards on it.

Let's have a brief six card palate cleanser.  Back to the 1973 design, these six vintage players look like they could come straight from the original set, if it weren't for a few team issues and the "Topps" logo...and maybe the fact that Juan Gonzalez was 4 years old in 1973, but I digress.  Even with a Tom Seaver photo they have used 100 times before, these six cards show what is right and good about this set.
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Oh but we are right back at it with those bottom three, they show what is so so wrong.  It's like Topps did 95% of their job on this set and just said "eh, fuck it" and didn't bother with the rest.  It is what I find so frustrating with Topps and their exclusive agreement with MLB; they have no motivation to give that last 5% - which is maybe the hardest five percent - the little things that are the difference between a disappointing set and a "wow! this is freaking awesome!" set.  So what is wrong with those three cards?  Well, the Yankees cards are blatant and obvious to anyone who collected back then.  The Yankees team name was white and not blue.  The Braves blue was much lighter on the originals as well.  These are the little things that are the difference and they would make me pull my hair out if, well, it wasn't mostly gone already.

What is the other great failing of the 1986 design?  It is the smallest defect but really the largest....
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Those damn copyright/trademark logos after every team name!  The originals did not have these and in the long run, they are superfluous as most of us have railed against oh so many times before.  The backs of these cards get marred by three or four lines of copyright information and ownership rights and the like.  If all that information is there, why on earth do they feel it necessary to mess the front with this as well?!?!?!?  If you have it on the back, you don't need it on the front and vice versa.  It's like I'm taking crazy pills here...  I am way too worked up for a Saturday afternoon but it just looks awful here; little bleach spots that are pretty illegible but so terribly noticeable.  Between that and the color issues (the Brewers and White Sox are incorrect as well), it ruins all the things they did get right. 

I didn't pull any short prints in four jumbos but I did nab a couple of inserts.  Those 1980's style glossy all star ones were never much to get excited about 30 years ago and nothing has changed.  That deckle edge Derek Jeter is beautiful, I hate to admit. 
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There are six more vintage player cards that, once again, look tremendous and proper to the era.  I made a veteran page that tries to highlight the best looking of these cards.  Want to know something as a fabulous aside?  My brother got me a yellow A's Reggie Jackson jersey for my birthday.  I should take a picture of me wearing it holding that card. **UPDATE** Turns out that Reggie is a short print because they made the short prints this year in the same designs as the base set.  We can also put that on the "fail" side of the ledger for this set.

Also in the "so close but so far away" column are the backs.  They did so many things right with the backs but then once again dropped the ball with the little details...
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I will let it pass that they can't print complete batting records for the vintage players without the font being so tiny as to be illegible but it is still frustrating.  You can also see the aforementioned copyright information and, come to think of it in tiny illegible font, you can believe every single card has that on it.  Topps got the colors and the fonts all correct on the back and even decided to include cartoons where they were appropriate and even matched the style of each set.  Problem is, they only made about 10-12 cartoons for each 50 card subset so they repeat over and over again.  Are you telling me that in Topps vast archives, they couldn't come up with 40-50 separate cartoons?  Or if they wanted to use new ones, were they too cheap to commission that amount.  Once again, it is the little things that kill.


Stubby said...

I don't think they have a choice on the trademark mark next to the team names. Think its pretty well mandatory these days. And don't think teams wouldn't sue them out of existence if they didn't put it there. We're a much more litigious society these days and there's much more money involved. For instance, do you really think Topps WANTED to put the full "Cardinals" name on those tiny pennants in Heritage? Don't you think they'd have just used "Cards" like they did in '65 if they legally could? For that "TM" thing, you're going to have to blame/take it up with MLB, not Topps (and, no, it doesn't matter if you put it on one have to use it every single time...its the law).

jacobmrley said...

Topps is a trademarked name and the TM is not next to every single mention of the word or in every single logo. I am pretty sure with all that legalese on the back, that would pretty much cover the front. The NFL is the single most litigious entity ever (they sued a church group for using the words "super bowl" once and heck, they might sue me for saying it here...) and Topps doesn't put a c/TM by every single football card team name. This is either overkill, a lack of vision, or a lack of proper negotiation. I can very easily put it on the doorstep of Topps. If MLB insists on it, then they should get it in the contract that they don't have to put it on the front if the disclaimer is all over the back.

View From the Skybox said...

I have to agree, the 1973 subset was outstanding. It was love at first sight for me, then when I flipped them over and saw the black card backs... even the disappoint of everything else wasn't enough to get me down.