It was Thursday afternoon, I was sitting in my car, stuck in traffic on US–78 when I made the decision. For the past week, I had seen post after post after post online showing off box breaks of Topps newest product, 2012 Topps Archives. Topps hadn’t used the Archives brand since 2002, but the formula used this year differed from the older Archives sets. The previous sets featured a checklist of nothing but retired players. Due to restrictions in place with their current exclusive licensing agreement, a new set can only contain so many retired players. Sure, I would have preferred this set contain nothing but retired players. Still, Topps did an excellent job with the design of the set.
The first 200 cards in the base set are based on the designs of previous Topps sets. The first fifty cards are done in the style of the 1954 Topps set. This design, with the small black and white action shots juxtaposed with the larger color shots, will never grow old. Cards 51 - 100 are done in the style of the 1971 Topps issue. Over forty years later and this design remains the finest black bordered set ever issued. Cards 101 - 150 were designed to match the 1980 Topps set. The 1980 design is simple, but it remains one of my favorites, not least because it was the first Topps set I tried to put together. The non short printed section of the base set concludes with fifty additional cards using the 1984 Topps design. While not as iconic as the 1954 and 1971 designs, the 1984 design is a fine representation of the Topps design aesthetic from the mid 1980s and has not been overused, so the cards look fresh to my eyes. These 200 cards are mostly current players, but there is a smattering of retired players included as well.
It wouldn’t be a Topps retro product if there weren’t short prints, and Archives includes short prints at a rate of one in every four packs. The forty short prints have been done in the style of a set that Topps put out in 2003 through 2005, Topps All-Time Fan Favorites. These forty cards each feature a retired player on a card based on a past Topps design. Numerous designs are included in this portion of the set. It’s important to note that these cards are not reprints of previously issues Topps cards, but new cards based on numerous old designs. There is one additional short printed card, which I will discuss later. The set is complete at 241 cards.
Continuing a trend that Topps started with Lineage last year, Archives included several insert sets based on older Topps oddball sets. There is a 25 card insert set based on the 1977 Topps Cloth Stickers specialty set. These stickers use the same design as the 1977 Topps set. In 1967, Topps issues two small sets of stickers for the Pirates and the Red Sox. That design is represented with a 25 card insert set. There is also a 15 card set in the style of the 1968 Topps 3-D test issue and a 15 card insert set based on the 1969 Topps Deckle Edge set. There is a 50 card insert set featuring reprints of older Topps cards. The inserts sets are closed out by two ten card insert sets that mimic the design of cards that were included in older base sets. The first set is done in the style of the In Action cards included in the 1982 base set. The second set are Classic Combos, like those in the 1958 set. There is a wide variety of inserts with a strong mix of current players and retired players.
For Atlanta Braves collectors, the set is something of a mixed blessing. The team is well represented in the base set with 11 of current Braves featured, and three retired individuals included in the short prints. It’s good that the Braves are well-represented in the base set, because the team has been nearly completely left out of the insert sets. The lone Braves insert card is a Deckle Edge Orlando Cepeda. How amazing would a Chipper Jones card in the 1968 3-D style have looked? How about a Tim Hudson cloth sticker? As a Braves fan, it’s hard not to be disappointed.
On the other hand, the autographed cards on the checklist might just make up for the lack of Braves cards in the insert sets. Of the six autographed Braves cards included in the set, chance are that you and I will never lay eyes on three of them. There are two different Hank Aaron autographs inserted into packs. One autograph is featured on buy back cards from a previous Archives set. The other is on a card based on the 1973 Topps design. Both will be selling in the 400 to 600 dollar range on eBay. Topps has also included a series of autographs signed onto miniature cards in the design of the 1983 Topps set. These framed cards include Chipper Jones on the checklist and the cards are selling for around 85 dollars. There are only 25, so they will be a tough pull and a tough find.
The final three autographed Braves cards are the clincher though. The autographs are based on the Topps All-Time Fan Favorites sets issued from 2003 to 2005. While these sets featured many of the great players, they focused heavily on the “hometown hero” type of player. It isn’t often that Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream and Ron Gant have their autographed cards included in a major release. If you are a long time Braves fan, you’ll want to snatch these cards up as soon as you can. Right now, you can find all three in the 8 to 15 dollar range on eBay. All three players are beloved by Atlanta fans and are rarely included in a new set. It’s even rarer for them to be asked to sign. I highly recommend these cards.
As I mentioned at the top, I had made a decision while sitting in traffic Thursday afternoon. I decided I wanted to complete this set. Before I made this decision, I had decided that I would go to Target on my way home and buy up a few blasters looking for Braves cards and trade bait. As I drove home, I kept thinking to the two Chipper Jones cards. The base card, in the 1971 style, is perfect and one of the best Chipper cards produced to date. The black border frames a great shot of Chipper’s right handed follow through. He also has an autograph card, numbered to just 25 copies, that just might be the best Chipper Jones card issued to date. The card is a framed mini of a 1983 Topps styles card. I wanted that card. I wanted four chances at that card. Instead of stopping by Target, I pulled into my local card chop and purchased two hobby boxes.
I jumped straight into the first box as soon as I got home. I knew the likelihood of getting that Chipper autograph was slim, but the box was still a blast to break. Seeing today’s players on these designs was a blast. The inserts, especially the cloth stickers and the 3-D cards, rate among my favorite cards Topps has ever used as inserts. I had planned the save the second box for Friday, but my self control was lacking and I dived right into that box as well. Here’s where disappointment set in. Despite opening two separate boxes taken from the bottom of the same case, I managed to get identical stacks of non-SP base set cards in each box. Three of the SP cards in the second box also matched SP cards I received in the first box. My disappointment here was major.
Now, I’m in a quandary. Do I try to complete this set? I find myself a long, long way from doing so. I mistakingly thought that second box would get me closer. I certainly have no wish to risk disappointment by purchasing another hobby box. On the other hand, I did spend money on two hobby boxes, and if I don’t try and complete the set, what will I do with the other cards? I’m sure I can trade some away, but do I want to be stuck with dozens of cards I’m not collecting?
One piece of news I discovered about this set while researching this post may have lowered the boom on my desire to complete the set. That 241st card in the base set is a super short printed Bryce Harper card. I get why Topps wanted to rush this guy into as many products as possible. What I don’t get is why Topps decided to include this card on the main checklist? They have made this set nearly impossible to complete. Should I really try and complete a set I know to be impossible to complete? What do you think?
2012 Topps Archives Braves Checklist
Thanks to Sports Card Radio for the checklist!
Base Set (Also available in a Gold Parallel version.)
- 5 Freddie Freeman (1954 Design)
- 19 Brandon Beachy (1954 Design)
- 36 Martin Prado (1954 Design)
- 58 Tommy Hanson (1971 Design)
- 61 Brian McCann (1971 Design)
- 63 Tim Hudson (1971 Design)
- 77 Chipper Jones (1971 Design)
- 83 Craig Kimbrel (1971 Design)
- 127 Jason Heyward (1980 Design)
- 179 Michael Bourn (1984 Design)
- 183 Dan Uggla (1984 Design)
- 224 Terry Pendleton (1992 Design, Short Print)
- 228 Ron Gant (1992 Design, Short Print)
- 240 Sid Bream (1992 Design, Short Print)
Deckle Edge Inserts
- 69DE-OC Orlando Cepeda
All-Time Fan Favorites Autographs
- FFA-HA Hank Aaron
- FFA-RG Ron Gant
- FFA-SBR Sid Break
- FFA-TP Terry Pendleton
- Hank Aaron
Framed 1983 Mini Autographs
- 83M-CJ Chipper Jones
1956 Topps Relics
- 56R-DU Dan Uggla
- 56R-JHY Jason Heyward
- 56R-PN Phil Niekro
- 56R-THD Tim Hudson
- 56R-TH Tommy Hanson