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2024 Topps Baseball Series One and Other Thoughts

2024 Topps Baseball Series One was just released and now that I’ve allowed some time for it to marinate, I have some thoughts.  First off is the base set, and yes, everybody is raving about the design– me included.  I mean, who doesn’t like the neon, and the 1986-esque two-tone border?  


Over the last decade-and-a-half, we’ve been subjected to some unimaginative and downright boring Topps base sets.  If I were to give you a random year from this era, could you even remember what that year’s Topps set looked like?  From 2009-14 we had asymmetrical layouts with plain white borders – the epitome of boring.  Then came 2016-20, a.k.a. “The Borderless Years” which, in retrospect, never really fit in.  We had a one-year respite in 2015 with the multicolor borders, but other than that, Topps Baseball has been kind of “meh.”  (Not coincidentally, this was around the same time Topps acquired the exclusive MLB/MLBPA licenses.)  2024 is not “meh.”  Years from now 2024 Topps Baseball’s design will be remembered as one of the best-looking sets of all time; right up there with 1959, 1975, 1987, and 1991.  

Which is a shame because, you know and I know, Topps’ product development team will spend the rest of our lives beating the 2024 design into the ground like a dead horse.  At this point, they just can’t help themselves.  Every year, a Junk Wax Era set gets chosen for a 100-card insert AND a 100-card Silver Pack Chrome set with this year’s victim being the 1989 Topps Baseball set.  In addition to the two, 100-card bloatfests previously mentioned, we also get a 24-card Ken Griffey, Jr. tribute set also done in the ’89 style.  (Which would be great if Topps hadn’t already done a 30-card Griffey tribute insert set six years ago.)  


I mean, 100 cards!  And that’s just Series One!  Add 100 more in Series Two and 100 in Update, and that’s a 300-card set!  What is the point of this?  Is there something in Topps’ contract that I’m not aware of that REQUIRES them to include reprint inserts in every Topps release?  And why 1989 this year?  Who makes the 35th Anniversary of anything such a big deal?  Does anyone even like or even want these?  


Going back to the base set, another big positive for this year is the expanded base set.  It’s now 350 cards – twenty more than last year – and while that may not seem much, that’s still twenty more Major Leaguers with the privilege of having their own Topps card.  (I’m assuming Series Two will also be 350, so that’s 700 cards.)  Of course, when I was a kid Topps Baseball was 792 cards deep – and there were only 26 MLB teams, compared to 30 today.  700 is better than 660, but Topps should be at a minimum 800 cards.


As for the rest of 2024 Series One, the rest of the inserts are standard Topps fare.  Blasters are no longer saddled with a one-per-box manurelic.  (Does anybody really like these things?)  The retail-only Stars of MLB are almost as common as the base cards and are just pointless – quarter and fifty-cent box fodder that no one really wants.  Speaking of cards no one really wants, let’s talk about the parallels.  Boy, there sure are a bunch of parallels.  Too many.  I could probably write an Atlas Shrugged-length novel on the state of parallels in 2024, but I will save this topic for a future column.


I’m not even going to waste much ink here discussing the Kevin Hart gimmick cards.  If you’ve been following me for any part of the last decade, you know how I feel about squirrel cards, twinkle cards, pie in the face cards, unannounced variations, and other such bullshit.  Again, I’m not trying to turn a 1500-word monthly column into a novel.  


All in all, though, this is the best Topps Baseball set (and can we stop calling it “Flagship” already?) of the exclusive license era.  Admittedly, that is a pretty low bar to clear.  From what I understand of Topps’ production process, the planning for 2025’s set is about to commence.  Let’s hope Topps can build on the positives of this year’s set and deliver the Topps Baseball set we deserve next year.



 


As I mentioned above, I could easily spend another 1200-1500 words on the “Junk Parallel Era,” but I’ll save it for a future issue.  For now, I’d like to start a new segment for this column.  As many of you who follow me on social media know, I attend a card show just about every weekend.  When I get to these shows, I head straight to the tables with the quarter, fifty-cent, and dollar boxes.  So, in the spirit of Bixby Snider, here’s a new feature I’m calling.


I BOUGHT THAT FOR A DOLLAR!


If you’re like me, you’ve noticed a new breed of dealer that’s been popping up at card shows over the last few years: The “New Money” dealers.  You already know the type: A young white male who probably re-entered The Hobby during the pandemic.  He deals almost exclusively in slabbed, chrome-stock cards, skewing heavily towards basketball and football.  These are the kind of dealers where you take one glance at their table, and politely move on.


But every once in a while, I stumble upon something interesting; and so it was on a recent Saturday when I went to a card show in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  This “New Money” dealer was straight out of central casting.  In addition to the showcase full of slabbed Prizm basketball, he had a few dollar boxes as well, most of which was pure dreck: five to ten years’ worth of Topps parallels; five to ten years’ worth of Bowman parallels; five to ten years’ worth of Topps and Bowman filler inserts; five to ten years’ worth of Chrome Refractors.  All stuff that will probably never sell at any price and that he’s stuck with.


(I promise! This is NOT the Junk Parallel Era column.  That’s soon.)


But I did find something worthwhile.  You might remember back in 2008, Cleveland made a midseason trade sending their ace C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee where he proceeded to dominate the National League, pitching the Brewers to their first playoff appearance in over a quarter century.  Topps commemorated C.C.’s trade on card #170 of the 2009 Topps Baseball set.  But that wasn’t the only C.C. Sabathia card #170 in ’09 Topps.  After the 2008 season, Sabathia (now known as “CC” instead of “C.C.”) signed as a free agent with the Yankees.  In much the same way 2024 Topps has short-printed cards of Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto with their new teams, ’09 Topps had a short-print of Sabathia depicted as a New York Yankee.


This is the thing with a lot of these “New Money” guys.  Because they’ve been out of The Hobby for so long, they haven’t built-up the institutional knowledge that a long-time collector, like me, has.  They probably looked at that CC as a Yankee card and thought to themselves, “Ehh, it’s only CC Sabathia.  He’s good, but not that good.  Just throw it in the dollar box.” 


And there sitting in a dollar box, a fifteen-year-old Topps gimmick card that once sold for as much as $20-$25, and still gets $10-$15, available for only a buck.  So yeah, I BOUGHT THAT FOR A DOLLAR!



Alright, you know the deal by now.  If you got any questions, comments, trade offers, you can slip into my DMs, or shoot me an e-mail.  All my wantlists (separated by year) are up on my website

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.


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