Collecting 2012 Topps Allen & Ginter

Heyward_silk_mediumThe collecting year marches on. It has been a few weeks since Topps released Allen & Ginter, and collectors are responding favorably to the annual, uh, favorite. Although the set is no longer the sensation it was when first released in 2006, it has remained popular while staying true to its roots. The set still features the best baseball players of today, historically great players like Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson, and other famous people (such as Erin Andrews). Each box still contains three relics or autographed cards, and the checklists for both are large and feature almost every team. The set itself is composed of 350 cards, of which 50 are short printed. That might seem like a lot, but a short print is inserted into every two packs so they are easier to come by than some of the other retro sets. (In Topps Heritage, for instance, there’s a short print in every three packs.) It just may be the best value Topps releases each year.

Much of the added value comes form the mini cards inserted throughout the packs. There are mini parallels of all the cards in the base set, including the short printed cards. Each of these come in a number of variations with different borders on the front, or different designs on the back. Even more popular among a certain class of collectors are the other mini sets. These strange insert sets have been popular since the first A&G revival in 2006. This years insert mini sets includes the World’s Greatest Military Leaders (like Alexander the Great), Man’s Best Friend (featuring different dog breeds), Musical Masters (featuring great composers), People of the Bible, Culinary Curiosities (like Rocky Mountain Oysters), and Guys in Hats, among others. You might not think there would be many people interested in these sets, but you would be mistaken.

Aaron_mediumIronically, it’s the inclusion of non-baseball cards that caused a bit of controversy when Topps first revived the brand. The web was packed with collectors complaining about the cards and forecasting that the set would be a massive failure. They were wrong. The set was almost universally hailed as the set of the year and has retained much of its popularity. It has receded a bit the past two years, but seems to have recovered this year. Truthfully, I think Allen & Ginter and Gypsy Queen are too similar to both make the schedule each year. I’d like to see Topps put them both on an every other year schedule to help keep them fresh. Every year, I sit on the fence about whether I want to build the set or not, then I see the cards, and I realize I have to collect the set.

In 2006, I was one of those people who just didn’t get Allen & Ginter and didn’t think they would collect the cards. I decided not to preorder any boxes. Right after release, prices on the boxes spiked and didn’t come down. I’ll buy a single pack of almost anything, so I picked a retail pack and I was wowed by the sheer beauty of the cards. I started buying up all I could from retail, but it didn’t get me very far on my goal of completing the set. I’m still over a 100 cards short, but I figure I’ll knock it out at some point. The next few years, I bought either 2 or 3 hobby boxes upon release to get a leg up on the set. I still haven’t completed any of those sets either, but I’m close. Looking to save money, I then switched to just buying the complete set straight off of eBay. Case breakers typically make their money back on the autographs, the relic cards and the minis. They’ll put the complete sets up for around a hundred dollars each.

Make no mistake, it is far more fun to build the set yourself than it is to buy the set complete. Unfortunately, the cost of completing the set on your own is prohibitive. If you buy three hobby boxes to start, you are looking at laying out over 200 dollars right from the start. With 24 packs in each box, you will get 12 short printed cards per box. Over the three boxes, you’ll only get 36 short printed cards and there are 50 in the set. At best, you’ll still be 14 cards short of having all the short prints. In all likelihood, you’ll obtain several duplicate short prints so you’ll be well short of completing the set. You also want have all 300 cards in the base set as you’ll also end up with numerous duplicate cards here as well. You can hound eBay, card shops and card shows to purchase the remaining cards, but you won’t find every card a bargain and who has the time to chase down every single card? You can also look for people to trade with online. You’ll typically find yourself able to complete the base 300 cards through trades, but everyone is short on the short printed portion of the set, and nobody has more than a handful of short prints to trade.

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I’m not trying to scare you off of buying boxes. Opening packs of baseball cards is the purest joy you can receive from the hobby. My goal is to complete sets however, and I’m tired of being short on so many sets. Before the Allen & Ginter boxes were released this year, I would regularly hit up some of the big online card retailers and build a shopping cart with three hobby boxes. I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Instead, I bid on a full set online and won it for just a hundred and five dollars. Maybe I didn’t get the pleasure of opening packs, but it was still satisfying putting all of the cards into sheets and then into a binder. Best of all, I don’t have that nagging dissatisfaction at failing to complete the set.

Since I didn’t spend two-hundred and forty dollars on boxes, I used the money I saved to pick up some of the other Braves cards from the set. I picked up all the Heyward minis I could find. I bought the Julio Teheran autograph for just eight bucks. I found a dealer who sold me the Michael Bourn, Brain McCann, Freddie Freeman and Martin Prado relics for just fifteen dollars before shipping. Best of all, I located a framed silk-mini parallel of Jason Heyward, numbered 8 of 10, for just thirty dollars. So, instead of spending two-hundred and forty dollars and finding myself several dozen cards short of completing the set, and with a stack of hits I have no interest in collecting, I spent around a hundred and seventy-five dollars, and I completed the set with a nice stack of Braves extras. For me, this was the way to go.

I highly recommend this set. As for how you should go about completing it, I’ll leave that up to you. Just choose whichever method will bring you the most fun.

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2012 Topps Allen & Ginter Braves Checklist

Thanks to Sports Card Radio for the checklist data!

Base Set (includes the following mini parallels: Base, A&G Back, Gold Border, Black Border, No Number, A&G Baseball back, Wood, Printing Plates)

Highlight Sketches

What’s In a Name

  • WIN–14 Chipper Jones
  • WIN–25 Dan Uggla
  • WIN–32 Freddie Freeman
  • WIN–37 Jason Heyward

Silk Cloth Parallels (#/10)

  • Brian McCann
  • Chipper Jones
  • Dan Uggla
  • Freddie Freeman
  • Hank Aaron
  • Jair Jurrjens
  • Jason Heyward
  • Tim Hudson
  • Tommy Hanson

Rip Cards

  • RC–15 Dan Uggla
  • RC–46 Jason Heyward
  • RC–50 Craig Kimbrel
  • RC–69 Freddie Freeman
  • RC–75 Brian McCann
  • RC–78 Tommy Hanson
  • RC–88 Hank Aaron

Autograph Cards

  • AGA-BM Brian McCann
  • AGA-DU Dan Uggla
  • AGA-HA Hank Aaron
  • AGA-JT Julio Teheran

Red Autographs (Inside Rip Cards)

  • AGA-BM Brian McCann
  • AGA-DU Dan Uggla
  • AGA-HA Hank Aaron
  • AGA-JT Julio Teheran

Relic Cards

  • AGR-BM Brian McCann
  • AGR-CJ Chipper Jones
  • AGR-DU Dan Uggla
  • AGR-FF Freddie Freeman
  • AGR-HA Hank Aaron
  • AGR-MPR Martin Prado
  • AGR-MBO Michael Bourn
  • AGR-THD Tim Hudson

Book Cards

  • BC-MB Brandon Beachy
  • BC-MB Mike Minor

Box Loader Highlight Cards

Box Loader Cabinet Relic

  • CR-CJ Chipper Jones
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