I Love This Set

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A squirrel. People have apparently paid over $600 for a baseball card of a freaking squirrel. (You can find them in the $99 to $200 range right now on eBay, but I would hardly consider that a return to sanity.) Ladies and gentlemen, I give you 2012 Topps Series One, also known as the box of baseball cards as lottery ticket. As seen on Yahoo News, it’s a squirrel on a baseball card! It’s a super short-printed card of Albert Pujols with a computer generated Angels uniform! There’s also a super short-printed card of Jose Reyes with a computer generated version of the Marlins awful new uniform! There are cards made of gold! There are cards made of wood! There are authentic autographs of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax!

It was just a few short weeks ago that cases with 6 Jumbo HTA boxes of Topps Series 1 were selling for just over $500. You could even get a single jumbo box for just under $100. Of course, at that point, all the product promised were baseball cards. Now? Reputable dealers are selling the very same cases for $750. The boxes are north of $120. Yes, now the product promises the potential squirrel!

Of course, that’s not all the product promises. There are also the same old parallels as last year. (Wait, I’m sorry. Last year, it was Diamond parallels. This year the parallels are gold. My apologies.) The inserts are mostly new, if non-sensical. (Golden Futures? Golden Moments? Gold Standard?) They are also somewhat boring since they feature the same old players. (Well, the mini inserts done in the style of the 1987 Topps set are pretty great.)

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Then you have the autograph list. Sure, it includes Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, and it also includes Brian McCann, Tommy Hanson, and Chipper Jones. I’ve busted a lot of these boxes the last few years. You won’t get an Aaron or a Mays. Chances are the autograph in your box won’t be McCann or Chipper or Hanson. On the other hand, you might land that Adam Lind or Chris Sale. There will be Chris Coughlan cards coming out of nearly every box. (The good news is that Topps did not include Felix Pie autographs this year.)

I was ready to hate 2012 Topps Series One.


For five straight days I made the trip to Target. Topps put a release date of February 1 on the product, but it always hits retail a little early. Some years, it hits the shelves as early as a week before the release date. There’s a Wal-Mart just two of three minutes from my house, but they never get the releases on time. Often, they don’t even get a product until it has been out for a month. Target tends to be reliable. Unfortunately, the closest store is 15 to 20 minutes away. Not a long drive by any means, but long enough.

Each day, at a different time of day, I made the trip over. I looked over each of the boxes. Occasionally, they just stick out a single box of packs and if that’s all they have, I want to get as many of those packs as I can. Each trip ended in disappointment. Even worse, I have this pathological hang up that doesn’t allow me to walk in the store and leave without buying something. On different days, I left Target with new socks, new batteries, a box of oatmeal, razor blades and a bag of gummy bears. At no point did I walk out of Target with 2012 Topps Series 1.

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The day before the release, I couldn’t get away to Target. I planned on going in the evening. My wife, who was having dinner with her best friend in Athens, called and asked what it was I was looking for. She had found it. She bought me a blaster and some loose packs. When she got home, I was bouncing up and down like a small child. I tore into the packs with a frenzy.

Every season is the same. Topps announces the new set. The announcement disappoints me a little. As the date approaches though, I’m as excited as I was when I first started collecting. The first set of the year means a new set to complete. It means new backs of cards to read obsessively. It means opening a pack of cards and with an increasing sense of hope, thumbing through each of the cards hoping to see an Atlanta Braves logo.

More than anything though, it means that the season is about to start. It means that pitchers and catchers are about to report. It means that baseball is near.


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I was ready to hate Topps 2012 Series One, but then I saw a picture of Tim Hudson’s baseball card. Wow. This is a perfect baseball card. This card is a symbol of everything I love about card collecting and why, despite an often bitter disappointment at the direction of the hobby, I will never stop collecting.

What I love most about baseball cards are the memories the cards invoke. More often than not, those memories have little to do with the card itself. This card though, this beautiful card, captures one of those moments that we won’t forget. It was that day against Toronto. It was that day Tim Hudson threw eight shutout innings. It was that day the Braves only scored two runs in support of those eight innings. It was the day Tim Hudson hit the only home run of his career and spent an eternity rounding the bases. Check out Huddy watching the ball sail over the fence as if he had done it a million times before. Check out his teammates celebrating in the dugout. I’ve never seen a better card.

I love this hobby. I’m like a lot of long time collectors. I can spend hours complaining about all of the little things that Topps does wrong. No one will ever convince me that silly cards of squirrels, super short printed cards, or fake error cards will help the hobby. I don’t think you can trick kids into thinking collecting cards is cool. How many gimmicks can you add to the product? How do the gimmick cards get people more interested in the regular baseball cards that make up the set? I can go on and on.

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I love this set because of what Topps got right. Cards 1 through 330 are why I love this set. It isn’t the player selection that I love. The Braves, in particular, got the shaft here. There are only nine cards in the 330 featuring a single player from the Braves, and three of them are Craig Kimbrel. Yes, only seven Braves got solo cards in Series One. It isn’t the design, although, it’s certainly solid. I miss the player’s position though. I love this set because of the photography.

Over the last few years, Topps has really stepped up their game with the player photos. This year, they made an astonishing leap. These are the finest photos to ever grace baseball cards. Middle infielders are depicted leaping over base runners. Catchers are shown blocking the plate. Outfielders are shown diving after fly balls. The composite shots are even more impressive. The Hudson card would be impressive if it simply caught his reaction to the home run shot, but by including his teammates celebrating in the framing, the card becomes a classic.

The first set of the year is here. The most important set of the year has arrived. It’s a classic. If this year’s Topps base set can’t get you excited about collecting, then this hobby isn’t for you.

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2012 Topps Series 1 Atlanta Braves Checklist

Information was compiled from data available at www.baseballcardpedia.com and Sports Card Radio.

Base Set (Also available in the following parallel versions: Golden, Black, Wood, Printing Plates, Platinum, Target Red, Wal-Mart Blue)

  • 20 Craig Kimbrel
  • 58 Tim Hudson
  • 85 Jason Heyward
  • 87 Craig Kimbrel RCup
  • 113 Craig Kimbrel RB
  • 115 Tommy Hanson
  • 159 Chipper Jones / Albert Pujols / Todd Helton AL
  • 192 Chipper Jones / Albert Pujols / Andruw Jones AL
  • 215 Freddie Freeman
  • 215b Freddie Freeman Short Print (Celebrating with Teammates)
  • 227 Mike Minor
  • 305 Chipper Jones

Silk Collection

  • SC-8 Craig Kimbrel
  • SC-22 Jason Heyward
  • SC-29 Tommy Hanson
  • SC-49 Freddie Freeman
  • SC-53 Mike Minor
  • SC-88 Chipper Jones
  • SC-97 Tim Hudson

1987 Topps Minis (These are mini cards designed in the same style as the 1987 Topps set.)

  • TM-9 Jason Heyward
  • TM-17 Craig Kimbrel
  • TM-18 Michael Bourn
  • TM-24 Dan Uggla
  • TM-32 Tommy Hanson

Golden Moments

  • GM-36 John Smoltz

Gold Standard

  • GS-16 John Smoltz
  • GS-21 Chipper Jones

Gold Futures

  • GF-4 Freddie Freeman
  • GF-10 Craig Kimbrel
  • GF-11 Julio Teheran
  • GF-21 Arodis Vizcaino

Classic Walk-Offs

  • CW-9 Rafael Furcal

Timeless Talents

  • TT-9 John Smoltz / Craig Kimbrel
  • TT-10 Ryne Sandberg / Dan Uggla
  • TT-11 Johnny Bench / Brian McCann

Prine 9 Home Run Legends

  • 1 Hank Aaron

Golden Greats Coins

  • GGC-HA Hank Aaron

Solid Golden Greats

  • SGG-HA Hank Aaron

Retired Rings

  • RR-HA Hank Aaron

Gold World Series Champions Pin Cards

  • GCP-CJ Chipper Jones

Golden Moments 24k Gold

  • GMG-CJ Chipper Jones

Retired Number Patch

  • RN-HA Hank Aaron

Historical Stitches

  • HS-HA Hank Aaron

Golden Moments Relics

  • GMR-DU Dan Uggla
  • GMR-MP Martin Prado
  • GMR-TH Tommy Hanson
  • GMR-BM Brian McCann
  • GMR-THU Tim Hudson
  • GMR-CJ Chipper Jones

Golden Greats Relics

  • GGR-51 Hank Aaron
  • GGR-52 Hank Aaron
  • GGR-53 Hank Aaron
  • GGR-54 Hank Aaron
  • GGR-55 Hank Aaron

Gold Futures Relics

  • GFR-CK Craig Kimbrel
  • GFR-JT Julio Teheran

Timeless Talents Dual Relics

  • TTDR-SU Ryne Sandberg / Dan Uggla
  • TTDR-BM Johnny Bench / Brian McCann

In the Name Relics

  • ITNR-BM Brian McCann
  • ITNR-JJ Jair Jurrjens
  • ITNR-CKI Craig Kimbrel
  • ITNR-JV Jonny Venters

Golden Moments Autographs

  • GMA-BM Brian McCann
  • GMA-CJ Chipper Jones
  • GMA-TH Tommy Hanson

Golden Greats Autpgraphs

  • GGA-HA1 Hank Aaron
  • GGA-HA2 Hank Aaron
  • GGA-HA3 Hank Aaron
  • GGA-HA4 Hank Aaron
  • GGA-HA5 Hank Aaron

Gold Futures Autographs

  • GFA-FF Freddie Freeman
  • GFA-JT Julio Teheran

Timeless Talents Dual Autographs

  • TTDA-SK John Smoltz / Craig Kimbrel

Golden Greats Autograph Relics

  • GGAR-HA1 Hank Aaron
  • GGAR-HA2 Hank Aaron
  • GGAR-HA3 Hank Aaron
  • GGAR-HA4 Hank Aaron
  • GGAR-HA5 Hank Aaron

Gold Futures Autographed Relics

  • GFAR-FF Freddie Freeman
  • GFAR-JT Julio Teheran

Timeless Talents Dual Autographed Relics

  • TTDAR-SU Ryne Sandberg / Dan Uggla
  • TTDAR-BM Johnny Bench / Brian McCann
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