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What is “Vintage” Anyway?

About a month ago, Topps’ official Twitter feed posted this question.

“What’s the first thing you think about when you see vintage Topps?”

This was followed by a picture featuring three unopened packs of Topps cards: A 1988 Topps Baseball wax pack, a 2007 Topps Baseball retail rack pack, and a 1986 Topps Baseball wax pack.

The reaction could be summed-up by the one-and-only Eric of @ThoseBackPages:

“no vintage shown in this image.”

So this Tweet got me thinking. Surely, no serious collector considers any of these sets as “Vintage,” right? But if you’re under the age of 30 who just got back into The Hobby during the pandemic, why shouldn’t you think that a set that was produced before you were born be considered “Vintage?”

And besides, what is “Vintage” anyway? What does it mean anymore? For the longest time, Beckett considered anything made before 1981 – the first year of the Topps/Fleer/Donruss Troika – as Vintage, and everything afterwards as “Modern.” I’m not so sure this definition works anymore.

Under this standard, 2023 Topps Baseball and 1981 Topps Baseball, two sets that have little in common other than a brand name, are both considered “Modern.” By the same token, 1980 Topps Baseball and T-206 are both considered “Vintage.” 1975 Topps is vintage and 1984 Donruss modern, but both have a lot in common with each other.

The “Vintage/Modern Binary” isn’t working anymore, and I think it’s clear that we need to create more categories. But what, and why? And who gets to set the timeline?

I thought you’d never ask, so allow me to do so. I think the Vintage “line” should be pushed back from 1981 to 1974. 1974 was the first year the Topps flagship set was released in a single series, and as such has a lot more in common with early-to-mid-80s sets than the high number driven sets of the early 70s. Now, let’s sub-divide this time period into pre and post-World War II eras, and sub-divide the post-War era into the time before and after Bowman exited the scene. We now have these three eras of “The Vintage Age.”

  • Pre-War era (pre-1948)

  • Immediate Post-War era (1948-1955)

  • Topps Monopoly Era (1956-1973)

So now where do we draw the line as to what is “The Modern Age?” Clearly, anything before The Junk Wax Era is not “Modern.” Is 1994 a fair cut-off? I think so. This leaves us with a two-decade period beginning in 1974 and ending at the end of the JWE. I’m calling it the “Classic Age.”

  • The Interregnum (1974-1986)

  • Junk Wax Era (1987-1993)

(I couldn’t think of anything better than “Classic Age” and “The Interregnum,” so if you could think of something better, I’d appreciate it. Also, I understand some define the beginnings of the JWE as 1986 and the end as 1994, YMMV.)

And finally, we have “The Modern Age,” which I’ve subdivided into three separate eras.

  • Post-Strike Era (1994-2009)

  • Exclusive-License Era (2010-2022)

  • Fanatics Era (2023-present)

I think you can break down the Post-Strike Era further into the post-2006 “Rookie Card Rule Era.”

So, we have three “Ages” and eight “Eras.” I really, really, want people’s feedback on this. What do you think?

Do you know what else has been griding my gears lately? The constant backdating of new product. As I write this, the 2023 Stanley Cup Finals are taking place. And yet, Upper Deck is about to release Fleer Ultra Hockey. Not this year’s Ultra Hockey, but last year’s Ultra Hockey. 2021-22 Ultra Hockey. This is one of seven, count ‘em, seven “2021-22” hockey products UD will be releasing over the next two months. Not to be outdone, Topps just released 2021 Topps Chrome Tennis. Look, I get pandemic-related product delays. But the pandemic is long over, and this is getting ridiculous. These are not “2021” products. No one should seriously pass these off as 2021 products. And if this back-dating is being done for rookie card purposes, shame on you, you’re not fooling anyone. If this keeps up, and collectors allow the manufacturers to get away with this, it wouldn’t surprise me if Topps cranked out a 1950 Bowman Baseball set, complete with a “real” Mickey Mantle rookie card.

Hidden Gems Alert. In the words of the immortal Joel Gertner: “Well, well, well.” It appears that the Hidden Gems inserts do exist after all. It’s taken a while for them to emerge, but the first two batches have.

Here’s what I know so far. Nine of the first fifteen cards in the set were, in fact, seeded in packs of Series One; however, the cards were missing in early Hobby and Jumbo packs. These are cards #HG-2 through #HG-5 and #HG-11 through #HG-15 (card #HG-1 has yet to emerge). Based on the evidence I’ve collected; these cards appear to be exclusive to S1 retail packs. Why these were not included in Hobby or Jumbo packs, I have no idea.

The next five cards (#HG-6 through #HG-10) are in packs of Heritage. Who knows if any more of these cards will be produced in future Topps releases.

Last week I was on the Sports Card Nation podcast with fellow Hobby News Daily contributor John Newman. In this hour-long episode, I discuss why, what, and (more importantly) how I collect, and how I remained a collector, even after The Junk Wax Era. I also discuss BaseballCardPedia, its history and my role in it.

I’m going to be on Hobby Hotline at the end of this month: Saturday, June 24th, at 11:00am ET (12:30pm in Newfoundland), with The Good Doctor himself Jim Beckett. It’s always fun, and humbling, to be on a show where you’re not the most experienced collector.

Also, I just got word that Dr. Wax Battle passed away. Dr. Wax (a.k.a. Rick Dalesandro) owned The Backstop in Toms River, NJ. He was one of the first Hobby shop owners to record his customers opening packs and boxes, and posting the results to YouTube – a pretty revolutionary concept for 2006. I even made the pilgrimage to Toms River once or twice and recorded a few video box breaks with The Doc. Dr. Wax was a character and a guy who well ahead of his time. He will be missed.

To wrap-up, if you got any questions, comments, trade offers, you can slip into my DMs, or shoot me an e-mail. All my wantlists (separated be year) are up on my website.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world


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