11 June 2015

Pack of the Day 99: The Decline and Fall of Topps Archives

Topps Archives has been one of my favorite sets of the last few years. I opened up a bunch of the 2012 and 2013 sets and I got through quite a bit of the 2014 product, too. Even though the base cards and inserts were largely rehashes of previous designs, there were enough different things going on to keep any given blaster or hobby box interesting. Although 2014 was the weakest of the three years, it was still pretty good. I felt like the base set took a step back with the SPs no longer featuring a number of different historic Topps designs and the inserts lost some variety, but there was still some fun stuff like the wooden Firebrand inserts and a couple different shiny parallels. Just as I had in 2013, I put together the full 2014 Gold parallel set.

Although I didn't do much research beforehand, I was looking forward to the release of 2015 Topps Archives. Today I went out and picked up a blaster box from Target. Here is the pack design and a scan of the retail odds:


2015 Topps Archives Retail Blaster Box Pack Odds
 As you can see, there isn't a lot going on as far as inserts. It's kind of like Topps is expecting the gimmicky allure of Will Ferrell's cards to carry the whole thing. You'll also see the the SPs from the base set fall at ridiculous odds. In past years the SPs in Archives have been at around 1:6 odds, I believe, so the SP part of a base set was difficult to put together, but not prohibitively impossible. At 1:47 packs this year, the SP set is going to be something not even worth bothering with. Outside of that you have some parallels and some autographs, as well as the Will Ferrell cards.


The non-SP base set is made up of 300 cards, with each group of 100 featuring a design from a different year in Topps history. The first hundred cards feature the 1957 design. It's nice enough and the photographs are all right, but the main thing I noticed about these cards while sorting through the four packs I opened in the car was that these things are almost transparent. The cardstock is so thin that while looking at them in the sunlight I found the backs of the cards bled through when looking at the fronts, and the images on the fronts bled through when trying to read the backs. Also, the cards feel extremely fragile in-hand, like if you hold them too firmly the stack will fold in half. A couple of the packs had cards that were damaged across the top edge because of the packing process and the fact that these things are paper-thin.


The 1976 design is nice and colorful, and I think Topps did a generally good job of mixing in different photographs. I don't know for sure, but I feel like that Hunter Pence photo is a repeat from another set, as well as the Jon Singleton card in the first scan. In artificial light the bleed-through isn't as pronounced, but the cards still feel cheap and fragile in-hand, like they are just asking to be creased. 

The 1983 design also looks decent. I guess I can give Topps credit for that. The base cards are okay design-wise and I would probably be a whole lot happier with this set if the cards weren't so thin. I guess that may be a bit superficial, but a big part of collecting baseball cards is in the tactile experience of sorting through stacks and holding the cards in-hand. You expect certain sets to feel a certain way. Modern sets tend to have thinner glossy stock, while older sets are thicker and rougher. It feels like Topps went with thin and rough in an attempt to split the difference between old and new, and the combination just doesn't work. 


I got three cards in the box that weren't standard base cards. I pulled one of the Will Ferrell cards, this one featuring him in a Cubs uniform. These are seeded at a rate of one per blaster, so this was expected. There are ten different Will Ferrell cards, and each one also has an autographed variant limited to 10 copies.

I also pulled a Gold parallel of Brock Holt. The pack says these fall 1:47 packs, so they only show up about 1 in every 6 blaster boxes. The Silver and Gold parallels are no longer printed on shiny foil, which for me was a big draw in the 2012-2014 sets. I considered putting together one of the parallel sets this year to keep with my annual tradition, but not like this. The 'gold' border is more of a diarrhea brown color, and it just isn't that appealing.


The Gold parallels are numbered out of # / 50, with this Brock Holt card being # 13 / 50. In past years the Gold cards have been numbered out of # / 199, which was a big factor in my decision to collect the sets. A print run of ~200 makes the cards a little pricey, but not overly so in most cases. The Silver set this year is numbered out of # / 199, but it's not foil and I don't really want to collect a full set of gray-bordered cards. The increase in the size of the base checklist from 200 to 300 is another reason I won't be chasing a full parallel set this year. That's 100 more cards to buy, and that is just too much.


 I also got a Presidential Chronicles insert, which features a selection of U.S. Presidents. This is an insert set that really belongs in Allen & Ginter or maybe Heritage. Each President supposedly has a 1 / 1 cut autograph in the product, so I guess availability of cut signatures is how Topps decided which Presidents to include. This insert falls 1:8 packs as well, so you can expect to get one in each blaster.

And that's it. No deckle edges; no cloth stickers; no acetate Gallery of Heroes or wooden Firebrands; no 4-in-1 stickers; no throwback All-Star cards; no shiny parallels; no attainable SPs; no fun. Topps has taken one of my favorite products and removed nearly everything I liked about it. I like the base design enough that I will probably order the 300-card set from a case breaker on eBay, but I won't be building the inserts and parallels and SPs like I have for the last three years. People are going to buy and break this stuff because there is that chance at a Will Ferrell autograph, but I really wish that collectors would let this product sit on the shelves and rot so that Topps would get the message that this is not what Archives should be.

12 comments:

  1. I really haven't messed with Archives too much the last couple of years. The Major League and Ferrell autos really drove up the price of the set. I'll still try and get the Pirate Fan Favorite autos, but I'm pretty sure I'll be passing on opening a box.

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    1. Yeah, I liked the 2012 and 2013 sets because there was a lot of different stuff in the boxes and they could be had at a fair price, usually just a little above the price of the flagship set. The Major League autographs and Will Ferrell autographs have driven prices per box right up over $100, and most boxes just aren't going to be worth that price.

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  2. It's funny to see Harmon in his Twins gear on that 1976 design. This was a great opportunity for Topps to do a "card that never was" and put a photo of Harmon playing for KC (which he did in 76).

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    1. Topps is good at missing opportunities.

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  3. I opened one hobby pack yesterday and found 8 base cards. You're right, they have taken the fun out of the product. The odds at pulling just about anything other than base cards are pretty silly.
    And just how are we supposed to complete the full 330 card set if the SPs fall 1:70 in hobby packs and 1:47 in retail. Assuming perfect collation, then one would have to purchase 1,410 retail packs to find all the SPs. Ridiculous.

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    1. Those SPs are going for big money on eBay. It is frustrating that they built the checklist out that way. I don't really like sets with 1:6 or 1:3 SPs, but they make for an okay challenge to collect. This is just ridiculous and prices most set collectors right out of the product. It's almost like Topps is trying to kill Archives.

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  4. I think the set looks great, but why did they mess with the parallels? And the paper stock?

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    1. I don't know. It probably saved them a few cents per sheet in production costs.

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  5. I have to get a peek at this paper-thin stock for myself. One of the many reasons I prefer Heritage over Archives is the usage of semi-realistic card stock.

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    1. The flimsiness of the cards is pretty irritating. I could get past it if the other issues I have with the set weren't there, but the combination of it all really gets to me.

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  6. Man, the deckle edges and cloth stickers were awesome! Reading about the card stock bums me out.

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    1. They had a lot of fun inserts in the previous sets.

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