Like many in the card blogging world, I like oddball card releases. When I was young it seemed like you couldn't turn around without finding a new baseball card set in a cereal box or attached to a snack. In recent years, though, the frequency of these card releases slowed way down. This year Topps has shown an increased effort to get cardboard out into the marketplace through alternate channels, releasing daily print-to-demand highlight cards and oddball sets tied to merchandise.
A couple months ago, Topps released a 50-card set that could be found in Wal-Mart's Marketside pizzas and breadsticks. I picked up a full set of them from an eBay seller and also busted a couple packs for my blog. They featured a brand new design and I think they were pretty well-received by bloggers in general.
More recently, Topps announced that it would be doing a promotion in partnership with New Era and LIDS. Anyone buying a New Era MLB cap at a participating LIDS store can receive one pack of four trading cards featuring 9 different MLB players who are also ambassadors for New Era caps. There are supposedly relics, relic / autos, and parallels included at astronomical odds. A few relics have popped up on eBay, but I haven't seen any of the parallels and I wonder if they actually exist. The relic / autos are numbered # 1 / 1, so there is a good reason they haven't popped up yet.
I didn't actually buy hats to get my cards. I didn't want to pay the prices these sets are going for on eBay, so I bought a partial set at a discounted price and then added the singles I needed to finish it out. I wound up paying much less than the going rate of about $50 for my 9-card set. If you multiply out the pack odds on these things you come up with a pretty astronomical print run for the base cards, but I can't help wondering how many of them will actually come to market or escape being tossed in the trash by hat-buyers who aren't card collectors. I still probably overpaid even after shopping around a little bit, but it's easy to get caught up in the wave of new oddball releases.
Although Topps reused the base card design from the 2016 Topps flagship set for these cards, they did at least swap the photos out on them. A couple of these players (Stroman, Betances) didn't appear in Series 1, so I am just assuming the photos are different from their Series 2 cards. That set released today or maybe yesterday, and I haven't seen any of it yet.
I think the reason for a lot of the photo changes is that the batters needed to be shown in the field or otherwise wearing caps instead of batting helmets or no headgear at all, because of the tie-in with the New Era brand. You want to show off the merchandise.
Part of me wanted to go buy a hat and get a pack of cards, but I have two caps (Houston Astros, Denver Broncos) that I never wear at all. When I was a kid I worked on our farm and neighboring farms, so I always had a hat to wear, usually a Houston Rockets cap. I wore caps fairly often after I left home and went to college, too, and again when I worked on the freight dock for FedEx. Once I got an office job, though, I got out of the habit and I haven't worn a cap much for years. It's hard to justify buying a new hat when I have two very nice ones that are still almost new several years after I bought them.
I am interested to see what Topps comes up with next on the oddball front. It is a marketing gimmick that appears to work, although I am a bad example when it comes to actually making the purchases that encourage this sort of thing. I did walk by a stack of Marketside pizzas the other day and I nearly bought one even though I already have the card set. I also at least considered going to buy a New Era hat, something I hadn't thought about for years. I guess in a secondary kind of way I have supported these promotions, as someone had to buy at least 16.67 pizzas or breadsticks and 2.25 caps for me to obtain these sets.
My only real gripe with these New Era cards is the reuse of the design from the regular Topps set. It would have been cool to see something different, like we got with the Wal-Mart pizza cards. It's not a huge complaint, but I like to see some variety in my card offerings.
I am a sucker for these card sets, so I am liable to be interested in whatever Topps comes up with next. Although Panini's holiday-themed sets aren't really what I consider to be oddballs, their Father's Day set is coming out soon and I think this Saturday I will be visiting my somewhat local card shop to get a couple of Father's Day packs. I can't decide what I should spend my money on there, though, as unopened wax hasn't really been on my radar much lately. I am leaning toward Star Wars Evolution or Topps Series 2, but if the promotion requires me to actually buy Panini product I will likely walk out empty-handed. Maybe if they have some Donruss basketball I will think about it. Right now my card shop's Facebook event simply says that every visitor gets one free pack and one additional pack for each $14 they spend, so there is a good chance that purchases of non-Panini products will qualify toward Father's Day packs. Whatever the case, if I get any of the cards I will be posting the breaks here. I am hoping to get some of the new NASCAR content that Panini has teased.