Stadium Fantasium

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Good Thing

Congratulatory letter from sportscardinfo.com

Back on February 16th, sportscardinfo.com ran a contest that offered a 2019 Topps 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medallion card of former Red Sox 1B/DH David Ortiz. Now I usually don’t enter contests unless the prize is something I can really use, especially if I need it for my set collections. Since I mostly focus on Topps flagship and recent Topps Heritage baseball, this contest definitely fit the bill. This was one contest prize I really wanted.

All contestants had to do to enter was comment on the contest post (limited to one comment/entry per day). The contest deadline was February 22nd and a total of 79 comments/entries were submitted and randomized. And to my surprise, I was the winner of this card!

2019 Topps Series 1 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medallion card of David Ortiz
2019 Topps Series 1 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medallion card of David Ortiz
Back of 2019 Topps Series 1 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medallion card of David Ortiz
Back of 2019 Topps Series 1 150th Anniversary Commemorative Medallion card of David Ortiz

In case you hadn’t noticed, sportscardinfo.com generously runs quite a few contests. As we give sportscardinfo.com a big Stadium Fantasium thank you and standing ovation, make sure you take a look at the right sidebar’s “Blog Contests Lineup”. There you’ll find some of the current contests being held by fellow hobby bloggers.

So are you a frequent participant in hobby contests in the blogosphere and/or on Twitter? Let us know in the comments below. Until then, stay tuned…

The Breaks

Okay, it’s time to share some more 2019 Topps Series 1 Baseball cards that I got from a few group breaks. I think I may have overdone the group break buy-ins this year but those darn things are so darn attractive to me–darn it!

For each of these breaks, I was really hoping to get the Dodgers spot but, except for one group break, they were already taken. As one old-school rapper once proclaimed, these are the breaks…

The Mets Cards

These cards are from a pick-your-team full jumbo case break from my local card shop, Hall of Fame Baseball Cards, located in Arcadia, CA. You can view their videos here. Along with 84 Mets base cards (lots of duplicates), I got some nice inserts/parallels and a 1984 Jacob DeGrom jersey card.

2019 Topps Series 1 Mets Inserts
2019 Topps Series 1 Mets Inserts
2019 Topps Series 1 Mets inserts/parallels a Mets relic and silver pack 1984 chrome cards
2019 Topps Series 1 Mets inserts/parallels and a Mets relic

Silver pack promo cards (1984 Topps chrome design) were also included and as you can see above, I got two Darryl Strawberry cards. One of those will go to the Stadium Fantasium Trading Block. (Fun fact: According to my gf, Darryl Strawberry’s grandmother used to live three houses over from us.)

The Angels Cards

I bought into a second jumbo case break at Hall of Fame Baseball Cards but this one was a random team break. No Dodgers for me in this case break but that’s okay because the Angels are my second favorite team. From this break I got 93 base cards, some more nice inserts, a couple of cool silver pack 1984 chrome cards but no relic or auto.

2019 Topps Series 1 Angels inserts
2019 Topps Series 1 Angels inserts
More 2019 Topps Series 1 Angels inserts with 1984 chrome cards
More 2019 Topps Series 1 Angels inserts with 1984 chrome cards
The Dodgers Cards (Woohoo!)

So I thought I was done buying into group breaks with Hall of Fame Baseball Cards. But about a week after I bought into the above case breaks, Hall of Fame Baseball Cards offered a pick-your-team hobby 1/2 case break. I checked to see if the Dodgers were still available and sure enough they were still available. Of course I jumped on this. So this half-case break resulted in 68 Dodgers base cards, a few Dodgers inserts (including my first Revolution of the Game insert), a Joc Pederson Advanced Stats cardback (#’d to 150, inserted 1:75 hobby packs), a Corey Seager SP (shortprint) and a Clayton Kershaw Retro Hat Logo relic. I am very pleased with these Dodger cards.

2019 Topps Series 1 Dodgers inserts and a SP
2019 Topps Series 1 Dodgers inserts and a SP
2019 Topps Retro Hat Logo Patch RHLP-CK front and back
2019 Topps Retro Hat Logo Patch RHLP-CK front and back
The Cubs Cards

Another case break I had bought into was one done by online casebreaker Crackin’ Wax. I’ve been in case breaks with Crackin’ Wax‘s husband-and-wife team for maybe three or four years now and they are top-notch. You can see there YouTube videos here. This was a pick-your-team jumbo case break. Again I was too late to take the Dodgers so I chose the Cubs. I ended up with 142 regular base, a Willson Contreras vintage stock variation (#’d to 99), a short-print Kris Bryant photo variation card, a 1984 Kris Bryant jersey relic, and quite a few inserts/parallels/chrome cards.

2019 Topps Series 1 1984 Cubs inserts/chrome and a Cubs relic
2019 Topps Series 1 1984 Cubs inserts/chrome and a Cubs relic
More 2019 Topps Series 1 Cubs inserts including a variation SP and a vintage stock card
More 2019 Topps Series 1 Cubs inserts/parallels including a variation SP and a vintage stock card
2019 Topps Series 1 Cubs parallels
2019 Topps Series 1 Cubs parallels

I do love the insert cards and parallels and I’m glad I got plenty of  those from these group breaks. I think I did pretty decent too with three hits out of four breaks. The two SPs, the vintage stock card, the Advanced Stats card and the Home Run Challenge cards are also very cool.

Sorting through all of these Series 1 cards in preparation for Series 2 will keep me very busy for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, stay tuned…

The Impression That I Get (of 2019 Topps Series 1)

2019 Topps #258 Eddie Rosario and #322 Brian McCann
2019 Topps #258 Eddie Rosario and #322 Brian McCann
Base Cards: The Design

Late in January, I pre-ordered a jumbo box of 2019 Topps Series 1 Baseball from my local hobby store, Hall of Fame Baseball Cards in Monrovia, CA. I picked up my box the same day the store held their annual Topps Series 1 rip party. I had a great time and broke my box right there in the store. And I gotta say, right off the top that I really like the 2019 Topps flagship baseball design. It’s a welcome departure from the last three years of rather similar designs (which I also like):

Examples of 2016, 2017 and 2018 Topps flagship baseball designs
Examples of 2016, 2017 and 2018 Topps flagship baseball designs

It’s definitely not more of the same but the 2019 design does share one unique trait with the 2016 design. In the 2019 design, the circular tile pattern in the border and on the left side of the photograph serve the same function as the smoke effect in the 2016 design. The color/pattern is changed for the various parallel cards’ color schemes. Other than that, the 2019 design stands on its own (although one can argue that it is reminiscent of the 1982 Topps design):

Comparison of 1982 Topps vs. 2019 Topps
Comparison of 1982 Topps vs. 2019 Topps
Base Cards: The Photography

The photography and choice of pictures is pretty good for the most part. However, Topps is still over-processing the photos to make them slightly resemble a screenshot from a video game or an outtake from the movie “300”. The players and the lighting just look a bit too artificial:

2019 Topps Series 1: Base cards
2019 Topps Series 1: Base cards

Take a look at the whites of the players eyes above. Joey Gallo’s eyes especially look a bit creepy and definitely unnatural. The lighting in the vast majority of player photos makes it look like the ballparks had identical gametimes and weather. Did almost all game action takes place on an overcast day?. Maybe there just weren’t any suitable player photos shot at night or even in the shade. Very few of the player cards feature abundant sunlight.

These photo effects are not new to Topps as they have been used in flagship baseball and other Topps products over the last few years. And I have to admit I’m growing weary of it. These photographic effects are probably popular with the younger, videogame-playing set. And when company management and/or the client (MLB) want a card product that is different and innovative, this is the result. Hopefully the management at Topps will soon realize this look has been played out for flagship baseball cards and return to a more “normal” photographic look. These digital effects can be saved for other card products.

As others have pointed out, the partial borders of these cards to seem to be a compromise between those who like full-bleed photos and those who like traditional borders. Credit Topps decision-makers with a pretty good compromise. Personally, I like the full-bleed photos a lot but borders are cool too. The main thing is that we keep some card features standard (such as card dimensions) while avoiding falling into a prolonged rut with the same ol’ thing every year. As seen below, photo repetition apparently is tough to avoid (especially when about 1000 semi-unique images must be used for one master set and you’re on a deadline):

2019 Topps Series 1: Pitchers in action
2019 Topps Series 1: Pitchers in action
2019 Topps Series 1: More pitchers in action
2019 Topps Series 1: More pitchers in action
2019 Topps: Yet more pitchers in action
2019 Topps: Yet more pitchers in action
2019 Topps: Popping right out of the card
2019 Topps: Popping right out of the card

Despite my nitpicking about photographic digital effects and photo repetition, I still like the base cards a lot. I think it’s safe to say that it’s not hard to satisfy most of us set collectors. Here are some examples of base cards with exceptionally nice photos:

2019 Topps: Fielders in action
2019 Topps: Fielders in action

Action shots of players displaying their glove magic is always cool. And if you think those were good, check these out:

2019 Topps Series 1: Popping right out of the card

As seen above, a handful of Series 1 base cards have part of the player or player’s equipment overlapping the left border. This really makes the picture “pop” and is a welcome sight. Of course, this is not a new effect. We’ve seen a similar effect as far back as 1988 Topps and there’s probably cards older than that can claim the same feature. Still, I think this adds a certain intensity to the card and adds to the aesthetic appeal of these cards.

Base Cards: The Subsets

Kudos to Topps for adding a new subset to this year’s base set–Stadiums! I’d seen stadium cards included in previous editions of Topps Opening Day but that’s a product that doesn’t fit into my budget or time schedule. This subset is a very refreshing addition to the Topps flagship set.

As in previous years, Topps includes subsets featuring the World Series Highlights, League Leaders, All-Star Rookies, Future Stars and checklists:

2019 Topps: A sampling of World Series Highlights and Stadiums
2019 Topps: A sampling of World Series Highlights and Stadiums

All of the subsets are done pretty well, my previous nitpicking notwithstanding. Of course the World Series Highlights subsets would look more impressive had the Dodgers won the World Series but it is what it is–sigh. We still have to tip our Stadium Fantasium hat to the Boston Red Sox for having such a dominant 2018 season and postseason.

The World Series Highlights card backs offer a recap of one of the games won by the eventual World Series champions. The card backs generally use some elements of the front design and look quite good.

Quite a few other reviews/opinions of 2019 Topps Series 1 have expressed some dissatisfaction with the large light-gray surname being placed above the smaller first name and I agree with those reviews. It throws things off a bit in a negative way but it’s not a deal-breaker. I think perhaps the first and then the last name should occupy the large white space and then have the team name and position occupy the color stripe below. And while we’re at it, change the light-gray font color to the color of the smaller stripe shown on the right side, then highlight the letters with a thin outline the same color as the large stripe. Or at least put a thin outline on the light-gray letters.

Oddly enough, the stadium cards get the name placement right with the city name placed above the team name. The back of the stadium cards are also well done. The design and included info are all top-notch, although the starting lineup and rotation are always subject to change at any given time.

I’d like to see this subset return next year but with pictures of the outside of the stadiums or pictures taken from another viewpoint inside the stadium. These kinds of cards definitely bring fans just a bit closer to the experience of being at the stadium.

2019 Topps: A sampling of League Leader cards
2019 Topps: A sampling of League Leader cards

The League Leader cards don’t distinguish themselves much from the regular base cards. I’d love to see old-school multi-player league leader cards in flagship but player collectors probably wouldn’t care much for that. Besides, we already have that in Topps Heritage cards. Still, I’d like to see a league leader card design that somehow looks attractive and substantially different from the regular base cards.

A sampling of 2019 Topps Rookie All-Stars
A sampling of 2019 Topps Rookie All-Stars

Traditionally, the Topps All-Star Rookie cards are just the player’s base card with the Topps All-Star Rookie cup element. The same holds true in this year’s set. It’s very nice to see this tradition continue.

A sampling of 2019 Topps Future Stars

Future Stars cards are back again, this time with a rainbow gradient banner instead of last year’s gold tile banner. The player image being imposed over the banner results in very eye-catching cards.

A sampling of 2019 Topps checklists
A sampling of 2019 Topps checklists

Another traditional aspect of Topps flagship baseball is checklist cards. Almost no one actually marks these checklists anymore to track their collection but they can still be a useful reference in a pinch. The images on the front of the card are always pleasant. I always like seeing camaraderie between players on the same team or between opposing teams.

Parallel Base Cards
2019 Topps Series 1: Some gold and rainbow foil parallels

My jumbo box didn’t yield any very low-numbered parallel cards. Out of the ten jumbo packs in the box, I got only two gold parallels (serial #’d to 2019) and five rainbow foil parallel cards (not serially #’d). The gold parallels look pretty good to me and so do the rainbow foil cards. In fact, this year the rainbow foil seem to me a bit more shiny and even silvery (at least at the right and bottom borders). Somehow the rainbow foil cards seem more attractive than in previous years. These cards make me want to actually pursue building a complete rainbow foil set (of course that’s easier said than done).

More Parallels, Insert Cards, Hits and an Awesome Super Short Print
A sampling of 2019 Topps inserts and foil-stamp parallels
A sampling of 2019 Topps inserts and foil-stamp parallels

Reprints! Many collectors believe reprint insert sets have been overdone but I really don’t mind them. The top three cards in the image above are part of an insert set called Iconic Cards Reprints. There are 50 cards in the Series 1 portion of this insert set, not to mention a 150th Anniversary parallel version numbered to 150.

I should’ve showed these earlier with the other parallels but there is also a foil-stamped 150th Anniversary parallel of the base set. These parallels are not serially numbered.

Another sampling of 2019 Topps inserts
Another sampling of 2019 Topps inserts

The 150 Years of Professional Baseball insert set could be a huge monster of an insert set. For Series 1, there are 150 cards in this insert set, divided into three 50-card segments (Greatest Players, Greatest Seasons and Greatest Moments). This insert set will continue in Series 2.

2019 Topps: 1984 Topps insert cards
2019 Topps: 1984 Topps insert cards

The 1984 Topps insert set is very well done and looks like it will also be a large set (as many as 250 cards) based on last year’s 1983 Topps insert set. The Series 1 portion of this set has 100 cards. My jumbo box netted me ten 1984 Topps inserts with two of them being Jacob DeGrom–d’oh! As with all Topps insert sets, there are also parallel versions.

2019 Topps: The best of my jumbo box
2019 Topps: The best of my jumbo box

The best cards from my jumbo box tended were heavy on AL East teams. The auto and relic hits weren’t anything earth-shattering but I did get a Legends super short print variation of Lou Gehrig #230. SSPs were inserted into jumbo packs at a rate of 1:495 so I got very lucky with this one. As of this writing, that particular card has been selling for around $50 and up. Of course I am keeping this one along with all of the other cards in this box (except for duplicates). I’m also glad I got a Home Run Challenge card and a Greatness Returns insert card. The Greatness Returns cards (a 25-card set in Series 1) are especially attractive and are inserted 1:10 jumbo packs.

For the past few years, many of those who purchased Topps flagship baseball cards have complained about there being too many insert sets. I think Topps may have misunderstood these complaints because less insert cards are included in packs compared to last year. I love insert cards and I’m really disappointed in this development. And to make matters worse, Topps apparently forgot to include photo variation short print cards in Series 1 jumbo boxes even though jumbo pack wrappers state that short print cards can be found in jumbo packs at approximately 1:17 jumbo packs. Luckily, my jumbo box had a Legends super short print!

2019 Topps offers another nice insert set: Evolution Of. This set features old stadiums, vintage equipment and past players in old uniforms on one side of the card and their modern counterpart on the other side. My box didn’t contain any of these cards and yet the wrapper states the pack odds as 1:1.

There is also a Revolution of the Game insert set issued at a rate of 1:26 jumbo packs. My box did not have any of these (a 10-card set in Series 1).

2019 Topps Silver Packs
2019 Topps Silver Pack 1984 Chrome Cards

As a nice added bonus for purchasing hobby or jumbo boxes from the local card shop, customers also receive packs of 1984-style chrome refractor cards. Each pack contains four cards out of a Series 1 50-card set. There is also an autograph version and several parallel versions. And as luck would have it, I got an orange parallel version of the St. Louis Cardinals Patrick Wisdom #’d 18 of 25.

Rip Party Bonus: Hobby Packs

So despite a very rainy Saturday afternoon (Feb.2), attendance was pretty good for the rip party.  We had a great time opening our boxes, spinning the prize wheel and participating in various contests galore. I did fairly well in the trivia contests and won five hobby packs of 2019 Topps Series 1. I didn’t get any hits in the hobby packs but here are the insert cards I did get:

2019 Topps Series 1 inserts from hobby packs
2019 Topps Series 1 inserts from hobby packs
The Bottom Line (Finally!)

As it turns out, my jumbo box gave me 343 out of 350 Series 1 base cards. The five hobby packs I had won gave me only one of the seven remaining base cards I need to complete the Series 1 base set. The six cards? #’s 53 (Brandon Crawford), 144 (Jake Arrieta), 178 (Jose Altuve), 194 (Felipe Vazquez), 239 Christian Yelich–League Leaders) and 331 (Cesar Hernandez).

Considering how many unique sports and non-sports cards that Topps issues each year, it’s rather surprising to me that their product quality is above average. Sure Topps has its detractors but just about every product they offer gets the attention and money of many collectors/investors. Many, many other companies have their share of product defects and recalls, so it’s probably unrealistic to expect perfection from every Topps product. That’s why I tend to be rather forgiving whenever I buy Topps product with my hard-earned money. I buy these cards simply for the fun of building sets and not for investment purposes.

So, recognizing that there is room for improvement in this product, I give 2019 Topps Series 1 a score of 8 out of 10.

I’m expecting more 2019 Topps Series 1 in my mailbox soon from several group breaks. Stay tuned…

Hey Nineteen

Banner - 2019 Topps Baseball

Hey ’19 indeed! The big week is finally here with the release of 2019 Topps Baseball Series 1 and Super Bowl LXIII featuring my Los Angeles Rams! Woohoo!

In recent years, I’ve tended to spend a bit too much money on Topps flagship baseball and this year is no exception. I’ve already ordered a jumbo box (that I’ll likely pick up on Saturday) and bought spots in four group breaks (in hindsight I’d probably be better off saving that money for 2019 Topps Heritage but I just love group breaks). And like most years, I purchased some new flagship cards at Target before actually getting my jumbo box in hand.

2019 Topps Baseball value pack - Target
2019 Topps Baseball value pack - Target
2019 Topps Baseball hanger box - Target
2019 Topps Baseball hanger box - Target

So this year I got one 34-card value pack and one 67-card hanger box. That’s 101 cards for about $15. And as usual I didn’t get anything great out of retail. Here’s a quick peek at what I did get:

2019 Topps Series 1 cards from a retail value pack
2019 Topps Series 1 cards from a retail value pack

The Jeff McNeil (Mets) RC card is officially my first 2019 Topps card. And in keeping with the ‘Hey Nineteen’ theme, the Martin Perez (Rangers) card is #219 and the Alex Gordon (Royals) card is #319. The Max Scherzer card is a nice example of the League Leaders subset, even though the League Leaders card fronts are very similar to regular base cards. Up next is a 1984 Topps Baseball insert card of Shohei Ohtani and a 2018 Topps Now Review of Juan Soto. I was hoping that at least three insert cards would be packed inside but I guess this is par for the course. Following that are two of the horizontal cards from the set. The stadium cards subset is a welcome innovation for flagship. Stadium cards have been pretty popular in other card sets and I’m so glad to see them appear in this set.

2019 Topps Series 1 cards from a retail value pack
2019 Topps Series 1 cards from a retail hanger box

The hanger box yielded four insert cards: 2018 Topps Now Review Gleyber Torres, 1984 Topps Baseball Matt Carpenter, a rainbow foil parallel of Joey Votto, and a nice-looking Greatness Returns insert featuring Nolan Ryan and Shohei Ohtani. Base cards included in the hanger box included Willson Contreras (which is #119), Rhys Hoskins, Ranger Suarez (he really should be playing for Texas), and Justin Upton. Which brings to the last three cards featured in this post:

A few more 2019 Topps Series 1 cards from a retail value pack
A few more 2019 Topps Series 1 cards from a retail value pack

As seen in the Nick Ahmed card and Jack Flaherty card, the player’s left hand extends out over the border, resulting in a photo that really pops. Not every card does this but it is very effective.

Pop quiz: How many baseball cards were featured in this post?

In general I really like the design of 2019 flagship Topps but I also really think there a couple of things that could have been improved upon. Stay tuned for a more in-depth review of 2019 Topps in the near future…

About Me

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Long time set collector with a particular passion for Topps flagship baseball cards along with some cards from other sets/sports (almost no Upper Deck, Panini, high-end or hockey to see here).

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