You Won't Complete This Set

This year, Topps Series 2 offers more to an Atlanta Braves collector than Series 1. Among the goodies are the pictured Jason Heyward Short Print Variation. This card has been selling between 8 and 10 dollars on eBay.

Topps Series 1 is, year after year, the biggest selling product in the hobby. Its release is timed to capitalize on the excitement most baseball fans have at the beginning of Spring Training. Its release signifies the opening of the card collecting year. Series 2 arrives late spring to much less fanfare. Topps always hold over many stars for the second series. They always add a different insert set. (This year, they added the A Cut Above which features beautiful full bleed photography on die cut cards.) They gimmick it up. (More on that later.) Still, it just doesn’t sell as well.

For Braves fans, 2012 Topps Series 2 trumps Series 1. Where Series 1 featured only 7 different Braves in the base set, Series 2 features 12 different Braves in the base set. Like Series 1, Series 2 includes a single Braves player among the short print variations. (In this case, Jason Heyward gets a variation short print of his Series 1 card. On the new card, he’s featured in a 1970s vintage Braves jersey.) The insert sets are again filthy with Braves. There are a number of great Braves autographs available, including John Smoltz. There are plenty of opportunities for you to spend your money on Braves cards.

The checklist itself is a little curious. Tyler Pastornicky’s first card in a Topps base set was expected since he won the starting job out of Spring Training. Seeing Jose Constanza in the base set is a little strange. WIth his initial performance after his call up last August, I expected him to be included in the 2011 Topps Update Series. Instead, he got his first card as a major leaguer in this year’s Heritage set. I truly thought it was the only Topps card on which he would appear. The other choice are obvious, with the possible exception of Julio Teheran. Still, as the Braves top prospect, his inclusion isn’t nearly as surprising as Constanza’s.

The Braves Series 2 checklist lacks a card as definitive as the Tim Hudson card from Series 1. That’s not a slight though: the Hudson card is one of the all-time great baseball cards and remains the definitive card on this year’s design. The Braves cards are not lacking for great photography. Brian McCann is seen reaching to tag a runner at the plate. Jose Constanza is diving for a ball in the outfield. Uggla is shown driving a ball out of the park on a checklist card, and is then shown receiving congratulations from coach Brian Snitker as he rounds third after another homer, or possibly even the same home run. Pastornicky is making a throw and Hinske is making a catch. The action photography is simply flawless.

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One of those things that Topps got right in 2012 was the action photography. Each card features a nearly perfectly framed action shot. Topps has been building to this for the last several years, and they’ve finally perfected it. Great. Next year, I think they should go in a different direction and return posed photography to the set. I’d even bring back the head shot. Sure, you get this stuff in Heritage, but the photography is rendered so that it resembles a vintage set. It would be great to see posed shots and head shots using modern techniques.

As great as the base set is this year, the insert sets are a mixed bag. These yearly themes that Topps has used the last two years get tiring quickly. Last year they used a diamond theme and this year they’ve gone with a gold theme. Ugh. Golden Moments, Gold Standard and Gold Futures are back from Series 1 and seem just as pointless now. At least the relic and autograph versions look good. The A Cut Above insert set is on of the better looking Topps insert sets in some time. Die cut cards are cool when used in moderation and the full bleed photography on the cards is just great. Another insert set, Career Day, is also nice, but doesn’t feature any of the Atlanta Braves. The best of the inserts remains the mini cards designed in the style of 1987 Topps. The Warren Spahn card is especially great.

No matter the inserts, it’s the base set that people will remember or not years down the road. This year, it is hard for me to imagine cards number 1 through 660 being any better. There is one card with which I have an issue. That is card number 661.

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I’ve been on a mission to complete every Topps set released in my lifetime. I was born in late 1970, so I’m looking to complete all of the sets from 1971 through today. The 1972 set was released in six series and the cards in the 6th series are remarkably rare. Even the commons can drain your wallet. I’m hundreds of cards short of completing the high number series. Yet, somehow, I bet I’ll complete the 1972 set before I get my hands on card 661 from this year’s set.

Topps, after his major league debut, decided they needed to get Bryce Harper into Series 2. Rather than just getting him into the 330 cards that typically make up Series 2, they decided to short print a card number 661. This means, without card 661, you do not have a complete set. Stories abound of people opening multiple cases of the product and not coming away with the card. It is currently selling on eBay in the 100 to 150 dollar range. While I’m sure many of the high end collectors and the prospectors love the card, it is nothing but a slap in the face of the type of collector that loves base Topps.

As set builders, we tend to hate gimmicks that distract from the goal of building that base set. Still, when these cards are clearly variations, it is easy to just roll our eyes at them. In fact, since these cards often send the prices of the product skyrocketing, you can pick up the base set from a disinterested seller on eBay who has busted case after case looking for the rare cards. A card number 661 is not a variation. It is not a gimmick. It is a checklisted card that a collector cannot reasonably expect to pull from a pack without massive amounts of luck. It is a shame.

There is a way Topps can make up for the problem though. They can produce card number 661 for Update Series. Preferably, the card would be exactly the same. Anything else means my 2012 set will never be complete. Imagine the number of vintage high number commons I can buy for a 150 dollars.

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2012 Topps Series 2 Atlanta Braves Checklist

(Thanks to Sports Card Radio for the checklist.)

Base Set (includes the following parallels: Gold Parallel, Black Parallel, Platinum, Wood Parallel, Printing Plates)

Short Print Variations

  • 85 Jason Heyward

A Cut Above

  • ACA–21 Hank Aaron

Gold Futures

  • GF–34 Brandon Beachy
  • GF–35 Randall Delgado
  • GF–40 Jason Heyward

Golden Moments

Gold Standard

Mound Dominance

  • MD–11 Warren Spahn
  • MD–14 John Smoltz

1987 Topps Mini

  • TM–78 Brian McCann
  • TM–93 Warren Spahn

Silk Collection

  • SC–103 Martin Prado
  • SC–137 Brandon Beachy
  • SC–158 Brian McCann
  • SC–160 Dan Uggla
  • SC–172 Jair Jurrjens

A Cut Above Relics

  • ACAR-HA Hank Aaron

Own the Name Relic

  • OTNR-CJ Chipper Jones
  • OTNR-DU Dan Uggla
  • OTNR-JHE Jason Heyward
  • OTNR-JS John Smoltz
  • OTNR-TH Tim Hudson

Team Rings

  • GTR-CJ Chipper Jones

World Series Pins

  • GWSP-HA Hank Aaron

Solid Gold Futures

  • SGF-FF Freddie Freeman

Golden Futures Autographs

  • GFA-JH Jason Heyward
  • GFA-RD Randall Delgado

Golden Futures Relics

  • GFR-BB Brandon Beachy
  • GFR-RD Randall Delgado

Golden Futures Auto Relics

  • GFAR-BB Brandon Beachy
  • GFAR-JH Jason Heyward
  • GFAR-RD Randall Delgado

Golden Futures Coins

  • GFC-FF Freddie Freeman

Golden Moments Autographs (Gold Parallel Available)

  • GMA-FF Freddie Freeman
  • GMA-JH Jason Heyward
  • GMA-JS John Smoltz
  • GMA-MMI Mike Minor
  • GMA-RD Randall Delgado

Golden Moments Relics

  • GMR-BMC Brian McCann
  • GMR-CJ Chipper Jones
  • GMR-DU Dan Uggla
  • GMR-MBO Michael Bourn

Golden Moments Dual Relics

  • GMDR-JS Chipper Jones / Mike Schmidt

Golden Standard Auto Relics

  • GSAR-CJ Chipper Jones
  • GSAR-HA Hank Aaron

Golden Standard Autographs

  • GSA-CJ Chipper Jones
  • GSA-HA Hank Aaron

Golden Standard Relics

  • GSR-HA Hank Aaron

Mound Dominance Relics

  • MDR-JS John Smoltz

Mound Dominance Autographs

  • MDA-JS John Smoltz

Mound Dominance Auto Relics

  • MDAR-JS John Smoltz

Historical Stitches (Retail Only)

  • HS-CJ Chipper Jones
  • HS-JS John Smoltz
  • HS-WS Warren Spahn
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