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Friday, January 11, 2008

2008 Topps Heritage checklist preview

Wax Heaven has the scoop on the 2008 Topps Heritage checklist. Click on the link to access the eight pages worth of Subject to Change checklistiness. I plan to attack this set to the tune of at least two Hobby boxes so the subject interests me greatly. I've gone over the checklist and here are my thoughts about the set. I obviously don't have any '08 Heritage cards to show off (now that would be a real scoop!) so I'll decorate this post with some originals from my Braves team set.

This is the first Heritage set that is actually smaller than the original. The original 1959 set was 572 cards, this one tops out at 500.

The short printed cards from the original 1959 set were all in the high series (numbers 507-572), although the first series cards (numbers 1-110) are slightly harder to find than the common middle series cards. The high series cards are distinctive in that while the rest of the set has red and green ink on the backs, the high series is red and black on the back. I would like to see Topps have the short prints go back to being the high numbered cards after last year's skip-numbered SP's. Even better would be if they printed them all with the red and black ink so they were easier to pick out.

Another thing about the '59 set is that it was printed on two kinds of card stock. The low and high series as well as a middle series (somewhere in the 200's, but I don't remember the exact card numbers) were all printed on white stock, while the rest were on gray cardboard. The 1956 set was printed on both white and gray stock as well, and Topps had a hobby-only parallel that had 110 cards or so printed on lighter stock for their 2005 Heritage set. It would be cool if they did something like that again this year, it would show that they are actually paying attention to the details after they put out some sloppy sets towards the end of last year. I might actually forgive them for butchering '52 Rookies if they did something like that.

Now for the actual checklist. I'm going to start with the insert cards since that's the page I have open now.

New Age Performers: It's the typical star-studded 15 card set. The only odd choice in there is John Lackey. I know he had a good year in '07, but seriously, John Lackey? Is he really one of the top 15 players Topps could have put in that set? If I pull that card, I'm going to cut out a picture of John Smoltz out of a magazine and glue it to the front so I'll have a good card.

Then & Now: This is always my favorite insert in Heritage. Matching up the league leaders from the year the original set was released with this year's leaders was a great idea. A-Rod is matched up with Eddie Mathews so there's thankfully one Brave in the set. The Magglio Ordonez/Orlando Cepeda and Ichiro/Minnie Minoso are also fantastic cards.

Flashbacks: This is also always a nice set full of vintage stars. Bob Gibson has a rookie year card in t he set and there's another Eddie Mathews card for me to chase.

News Flashbacks: Making an insert set of news events is a neat concept by Topps, but the checklist tells us one thing: nothing much happened in 1959. Card number 5, NASA introduces the first seven astronauts, is the best card of the bunch in my opinion.

Real One Autographs: This is always a great autograph set, although they are so scarce that it would be easier and cheaper to buy the original cards and then track down the players and have them sign it in person. Lots of great names fom the 50's in here: Solly Drake, Morrie Martin, Don Mueller, J.W. Porter, Bill Renna, George Susce, Preston Ward, Gus Zernial... The big hits though are Yogi and Joba. They have a dual autograph in the set also which has to be hands down the best hit of the entire set. The card that caught my eye was of Eddie Haas. Eddie has a rookie stars card in the '59 set with an extremely unfortunate photo. Eddie remained with the Braves organization after his playing days were over and was a long time coach. He had the unfortunate task of replacing Joe Torre when he was fired as the Braves manager. Either Joe got his players to overachieve, or Eddie caused them to underachieve. Either way, the Braves were terrible under Eddie and he was replaced before the season was over. Half the Flashbacks set also has an autographed version and there are cut auto inserts that include Mickey Mantle and... Roberto Clemente?!? Never mind about Yogi and Joba being the hit of the set...

Clubhouse Collection relics: The usual suspects are in the relic sets. There a handful of legends, including Yogi and Bob Gibson and the typical collection of contemporary stars. Craig Biggio gets one last relic card and the only Brave is John Smoltz unless Topps didn't have enough time to airbrush a Dodger uni onto Andruw Jones. The Flashbacks insert set has a regular relic parallel and some have stadium relics as well. Eddie Mathews doesn't have a stadium relic card, so Topps must have used up all their Milwaukee County Stadium relics already. There is also a bunch of dual relic cards including a Mantle/Brooks Robinson card and autographed relics including Joba's only relic card from the set.

Ok, that's all the inserts, now onto the actual base card checklist.

The number one card in the set goes to Vladimir Guerrero, a nice choice. Mark Teixeira is card number 4, and he better be in a real Braves uniform and not a stupid velour muumuu with a Braves logo on it this time. For those of us interested in the "premium" card numbers, here are the players with the first ten round numbers. 10 - A-Rod. 20 - Jeff Kent. 30 - Paul Konerko. 40 - John Smoltz (This is Warren Spahn in the '59 set!). 50 - Griffey Jr. 60 - Andy Pettitte (oops). 70 - Carlos Guiillen. 80 - Grady Sizemore. 90 - Hideki Matsui. And the all important card #100 is.... Jack Cust?!? No rookies in the first 100 cards, but there's lots of good young players including Ellsbury (#6), Tulowitzki (#21), Carmona (#26), Upton (#54), Pedroia (#73), Gordon (#86) and Hughes (#92). Buddy Carlyle gets a Heritage card, good for him.

The second hundred cards is notable for the Rookie Stars set patterned after the original Sporting News set from '59. Unfortunately most of the big names in the subset all have cards from 2007 and earlier. There's a Brandon Jones card in there so at least the Braves are represented. After Cust got card #100, the primo card numbers all sort of derailed (Jack Wilson gets card 160, need I say more) although Albert Pujols comes in at card #150. Yovanni Gallardo gets card #200, whoopie.

Rookie cards start showing up in the 200s after the Rookie subset is finished. Hopefully these will be normal looking cards and there won't be Rookie Stars subset cards randomly dotted throughout the set. Justin Ruggiano (#253) gets the "first rookie not in a subset" honor. The absolute coolest thing is Topps using the Combo Cards like in the original set. Card #212 in 1959 was "Fence Busters" featuring Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews. The same card in the Heritage set has Chipper and Andruw Jones. That is going to be a freakin' sweet card. However if they put Andruw in a Dodgers uniform I will hunt down the airbrusher who did it, strangle him, and post it on YouTube. That would seriously kill the whole set for me. You hear me, subcontracted Topps airbrush dude? If you screwed up that card, tell me now so I can avoid this set altogether and you will avoid a gruesome fate! Some Combo Cards however (Derek Jeter, Chien-Ming Wang & Robinson Cano) are better than others (Matt Chico & Jason Bergmann). Card #300: Chase Utley. Getting better.

Things get weird in the checklist after card 300. First there's a second Troy Tulowitzki card (#367). There are also a couple of interesting players, Yoba Chamberlain (#348) and Jason Variteck(#380). Card 383 in 1959 was "Words of Wisdom" from Casey Stengel to Don Larson. The analogous card in 2008 features Willie Randolph and John Maine. Um... yeah. Tom Glavine is card #312. I wonder if Topps will airbrush a Braves uniform onto a recent photo of Tom or if they will use an older photo and airbrush wrinkles onto Tom's face. There aren't really a whole lot of rookies in this set, Braves catcher Clint Sammons (#362) is one of the few. The 1959 set has several variation cards where the biography on the back either has or is missing a traded or optioned line. Card 362 is one of them, and Topps could probably stick an option line on Clint's card since he's got almost no shot at making the team with Brayan Pena, Javy Lopez and Corky Miller all fighting with him for the backup catcher spot. It Topps does variation cards in this set, I'd rather not have them copy the option line from the original set. I'm all for authenticity, but who wants to be scanning every card for a traded line. I'd prefer they do an old/new logo variation like they did with the '54 Heritage set. And include a Braves variation logo this time dammit! However, if Topps were to mess with John Smoltz' card in homage to the '59 Warren Spahn error with the wrong birthdate, that would be fine with me. A John Smoltz card with a birthday from 1921 would be the coolest card of the year. Vanity numbers: 350 - Jimmy "MVP" Rollins, 400 - Daniel Cabrera.

The last 100 cards in the set features the All Star subset which should look sweet. Brian McCann gets an All-Star card so I'm very happy. There's a couple more combo cards, a couple more checklists and a Rookie Card of new Braves centerfielder (assuming they don't sign a vet or simply give Jordan Schaefer the job) Josh Anderson. The Braves Checklist card is #420, oddly one card away from the 1959 Braves checklist number (#419). I'm looking forward to the team cards, I hope they look as cheezy as the ones from '59. I'm guessing Topps didn't choose to bring back the "Baseball Thrills" subset from '59, unless Ryan Theriot had a thrill sometime last year. Hmmm... Maybe that second Tulowitzki card was a Thrills card? Just what I need, another reminder of his triple play against the Braves. I really hope these are the bulk of the short print cards even though Brian McCann and Chipper Jones (#450, baby. Awww yeah) are among the high numbers. It's only right that the All Star subset should be shorted, since the original All Stars are so dang tough to find. Card #500 - Justin Verlander. Good one, Topps.

Man, this set looks awesome. If I weren't scared of Topps pulling shenanigans with the regular set and inserting a super rare George Mitchell photoshopped into the crowd behind Roger Clemens card, causing the prices to get jacked up, I'd probably skip the Topps box till later and use the cash to buy an extra box of this.

Update: Only took me a week to figure out I misspelled heritage in the title.


Kevin said...

Hey, thanks for explaining the difference between the gray backs and white backs! I was just looking at the few 1959 Orioles I have last night, and noticed the difference. I was worried that one of them might be a reprint.

I can't believe they gave Daniel Cabrera #400...I don't know if I hate any baseball player, especially one on my own team...but if I did, it would be him. I can't explain how aggravating it is to watch a 6'7", 230 pound beast waste his talent. But I digress.

Wax Heaven said...

2 Hobby boxes? I am shocked.
Good luck. I will probably do one myself. You know where to look if you need some extras to finish your set.

dayf said...

Two is the bare minimum I'm getting this year. Every year I buy one hobby box and then fool around and buy blasters and random packs trying to build the set. This is expensive and I never ever come close to getting the set this way. I'm not screwing around this year, especially since the main source I use for finding commons might be permanently moving to Alabama.

Hopefully I'll be able to build the set more quickly this way and save enough money from random pack purchases for a box of Finest. I've got to get at least a mini box this year.

Steve Gierman said...

I've already committed to one box. That should be enough for me, as I only plan to collect a handful of cards then sell and give away the rest.

Wax Heaven said...

Steve, you aren't going to collect full-time in '08?

dayf said...

Yeah, if you're not planning on building the set it's not worth going for more than one box. They've put some neat stuff in this year's edition, so even one box would be fun to open. I'm really hoping to pull a Vintage card.