Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Card 129: Checklist 1-132

Who Can It Be Now?/A Few Minutes with Tony L.
It's a checklist card listing all the cards from 1-132, including the self-referential entry at card 129. 

Checklist cards make us old guys' hearts warm. We get to be the people who yell at kids to get off their lawn, with all their shiny cards these days.  I mean, remember when Topps didn't spray multiple short prints, parallels, autographs, inserts, relics, and retired players throughout their card sets?

More to the point, remember when Topps itself knew what cards were going to be included in a set long before the set hit the streets? 

I know it's unfair in some respects to pick on Topps for eliminating actual checklists. Topps is a business, and consumers drive businesses to provide the types of goods and services that the consumers want. It is simple economics. If collectors are not interested in a product and don't buy it, it's pretty likely Topps will kill the product or put it back into the archives until enough nostalgia or pent-up demand pushes toward a re-release. 

You know, like Stadium Club in 2014.

Still, set builders are collectors too. Not everyone wants only to be in a group box break to chase an autograph from Jose Abreu or Kris Bryant or whomever next year's hot rookie/prospect will be. 

Personally, I used to have the set-builder mindset. I definitely had that mindset as a kid. When I got back into collecting, I started with the set-builder mentality. Then, I took a look at all the parallels and short prints and the different products available and decided then and there that trying to build new sets was a fool's game.  I went the route of player/team collector instead, and I'm happy with that.

But, if every set builder gets discouraged from all the parallels, inserts, short prints, and inserts in every set, what does that mean for the future of baseball card sets? 

I think the answer there lies in some of the "special" sets, like Topps Archives for example. In 2014 Topps Archives, you have 20% of the set being short printed. Within the 250-card set, there are twenty-one New York Yankees. There are thirteen Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers. And, there are eighteen St. Louis Cardinals. That, right there, is more than 20% of the set for three teams.

On the other hand, there are five Milwaukee Brewers. There are four Miami Marlins. There are four Colorado Rockies. There are three Minnesota Twins. And, there is only ONE San Diego Padre -- team icon Tony Gwynn.

Why are there so many of some teams and so few of others? That should be an obvious answer, but two reasons spring to mind for me. 

First, the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals have much longer histories in baseball. When the set is comprised both of active and retired players who are major league "greats", those teams should have more "greats" because they have more players to choose from.

Second, those three teams -- along with a few others -- tend to have very strong fan bases. In other words, Topps prints 21 New York Yankee players in the set as Yankees because they know that team collectors will chase that set. Among the baseball "greats" from the Yankees included in the set are Paul O'Neill -- a good player, but not a candidate for the Hall of Fame -- and Orlando Hernandez, whose story of defecting is far better than his major league record.

But attracting the Yankee team collectors to buy Archives (for example) has to be a major marketing influence for Topps. There literally is no other reasonable reason why the Yankees backup catcher John Ryan Murphy is in the set and Brewers shortstop and 2013 NL All-Star Jean Segura is not.

Throw in the parallels and inserts that Archives has, and it makes set collecting an expensive proposition.

And nowhere to be found is there a checklist card!


  1. Topps has actually been incorporating checklist cards into its Base sets as well as in their Update sets each year since 2009. There are typically a total of 15 checklist cards each year (5 for each series plus traded). The catch is that the checklists are only apparent on the card backs. The card fronts typically depict some player feat that had occurred during the previous year. I recently posted a blog about this year's series 1 and 2 checklist set (on 9/11), and was actually about to post a blog about this year's Update checklist set soon.

    1. You're right -- I blanked on that when I was writing this, as I was looking at all the other sets that Topps issues over the course of the year outside of the base set and update.

  2. I'm a set builder too (either complete sets or team sets of the Giants. I don't collect the new cards because of all the parallels and inserts. Vintage only for me nowdays.