Updated: Oct 30
As you may or may not have heard Topps just released a new conceptual set in collaboration with the Bob Ross Estate aptly titled "The Joy Of Baseball". The one hundred card base set which sold out very quickly features today's baseball stars with Ross's beloved landscapes in the background all framed by a clean Gypsy Queen-esque border. It is a nice touch that the base cards all appear to have a Bob Ross facsimile signature order in the corner as well. This helps to drive home the artist and painting aspect of the cards while giving Bob the props he deserves.
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The "Collectors Box" is the only offering that comes with an exclusive Topps Paintbrush Pen which is a nice touch and goes with the theme but falls short of what could have been. It is hard to believe that with all the money that Topps and Fanatics has that they didn’t buy an original Bob Ross painting and either cut it up to incorporate pieces of the canvas as relics into a limited number of cards or run one of the most talked about redemptions of all time with it.
There could have been 50-100 original painting canvas cards and one super unique one of one with Ross's signature on it. Can you imagine the buzz this would have created with everyone chasing this amazing card or the redemption for the painting? Is it possible that Topps already planned something like this in the set as a an easter egg? One can hope!
I understand that art is nothing new to trading cards. Every card to me is a piece of art from the photo to the design, right down to the packaging. I know that artists have always been involved, even long before Dick Perez and Gene Locklear. This new era has been something entirely different unlike anything we have seen.
We have seen Topps release special sets in recent years with the likes of Andy Friedman, Naturel, and Lauren Taylor but this one just feels more mainstream, more commercial. It screams that art is in fact for the mainstream, it is here to stay, and Topps is going to push it.
Card Art Community Influencing Trading Card Manufacturers
It is noted that the Bob Ross cards look very much like some seen within the card art community, specifically those created by Jay Gaunt who can be found on Instagram under the handle @jay_local.hits. Jay, who is one of my personal favorite card artists has long been making sports cards incorporating vintage postcards with landscapes into his cards. The cards have an antique vibe with neutral and calming color palettes. Jay does an excellent job of capturing moods while mixing the old with new.
One can't help but wonder if these cards and/or the idea of running a set like the Bob Ross set wasn't influenced by the card art community. For those that aren’t aware it wasn’t long ago when Fanatics first burst onto the trading card scene that artists in the community were being reached out to by Josh Lubers' people at Zero Cool and receiving cease and desists over Topps images in NFT's.
Topps of course also featured my friend and fellow artist Luke The Cardist (@lukethecardist on socials) in 2023 Topps baseball, we know they are watching and we know they like what they see.
Regardless of influence it is great that Topps is being creative and delivering more unique and art driven products. I believe the rise of the card artist over the last few years has had a positive impact on the hobby and the industry. We have proven that there is a true market for these cards.
I do often wonder why we don’t see Panini doing much if anything at all in the way of incorporating art more into their products? We have Diamond Kings, Downtowns, and Kabooms, but what about something more authentic, organic, and original involving current and relevant artists? At a time when Panini is battling to hold on to licensing one would think they would be looking for new and more interesting ways to captivate their audience.
Will Panini, Upper Deck, Leaf, or even hobby newcomers like Vee Friends soon start to collaborate more with artists and tap into the community? Which of the other manufacturers are going to step up and embrace this new era of art in the hobby?
Only time will tell, but in the meantime the card artists will continue to provide what the manufactures cannot and make sure the bobby is full of happy little collectors.