Chipper Jones and Topps Heritage in 2013

The 2013 Topps Heritage set should include a modern update of this classic 1964 Topps Braves team card.

Will Chipper Jones get one last Topps base card? Will 2013 Topps Heritage live up to its potential?

Chipper Jones in 2013 Topps Products

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Last week, I wrote about my expectations for 2013 Topps Series 1. I mentioned that while there are Braves included on the initial checklist, there were not very many on the initial insert list and so on. One thing I overlooked completely, as was pointed out by several commenters, was Chipper Jones. As I watched Chipper’s final season unfold, I wondered throughout if Topps planned to honor him in anyway. His most recent base card appeared in Update Series last year. That card, pictured above, is his All Star card and depicts Chipper raising his hat to the fans in Kansas City in appreciation of their standing ovation. If this card proves to be the final Chipper Jones base card, it’s a nice one capturing a nice moment.

I use the word “if” because even though Chipper is not included on the initial checklist for 2013 Topps Series 1, it is by no means a guarantee that Topps will not release a Chipper Jones base card in 2013. It does make it improbable however. I would think that if Chipper was to be included on a base card, then he would be on the early checklist. Additionally, I would think he is less likely to appear as a retired player in Series 2 or the Update Series. This will disappoint many Braves fans. Personally, I would like a final Chipper Topps base card just to have a baseball card with his full career stats on the back. I don’t expect Topps will release a base Chipper Jones card in 2013 however.

This is by no means unusual for Topps. Hank Aaron played his last season for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976, but did not receive a card in the 1977 Topps set. One interesting case is that of Lou Brock, who played his final season in 1979. The St. Louis Cardinals great was included on a highlights card in 1980 Topps, along with Carl Yastrzemski, to commemorate their achievement of the 3,000 hit milestone. Brock did not receive a regular base card in the set. Willie McCovey completed his storied career in 1980, and Topps did include him in their 1981 set. (Fleer, however, did include McCovey.) All of this would suggest that Topps typically doesn’t give a base card to a retired player.

There is one recent exception to the retired players don’t get base cards rule, and that exception is of interest to Braves fans. Greg Maddux wrapped up his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. The following year, Topps included him in their base set, and also in the Heritage set. I would love to see Topps do the same with Chipper Jones, but don’t hold your breath. He does not appear on the preliminary checklist for either. (On a personal note, I would much prefer to see Chipper not included than see Topps include him with an unannounced short printed card.)

2013 Topps Heritage

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Topps Heritage should be a no-brainer, but Topps changed course mid stream, and that sure thing has become both predictable and boring. The first Heritage set was produced in 2001 and remains one of the most important sets released in the last 20 years. In fact, Baseballcardpedia claims that it may have saved the art of set collecting. The 2001 Topps Heritage set was a tribute to the iconic 1952 Topps set. It wasn’t just that the cards in the set were designed in the same manner as the 1952 set. Topps tried to emulate the 1952 set in many different forms. The first 80 cards were short printed with red and black back variations. Additionally, to match the infamous high numbers from the 1952 set, Topps short printed the last 97 cards in the 2001 Heritage set. The Heritage set also contains 407 cards, just like the 1952 set. The attention to detail was astonishing and the inaugural Heritage set remains one of the high points of collecting this century.

In 2002, Topps decided against mimicking the exact number of cards, which is probably attributable, at least partially, to the short size of the 1953 set on which the 2001 Heritage set is based. Over the years, the tribute Heritage sets have begun to differ more and more from the original sets. By 2008, Topps settled on what would become the standard size for all the Heritage sets that would follow. The base set would be 500 cards, with cards numbered from 426 to 500 short printed with one appearing in every three packs. Additionally, Topps continued to include the same insert sets in Heritage year after year. There is New Age Performers, which is one of those modern age insert sets that lacks any real meaning. There are the Then and Now inserts which depict a modern player along with a comparable player from the set on which the Heritage set is based. The entire thing has become very routine.

Again, this is typical of Topps recent approach with products that are ostensibly geared towards set builders. Topps puts plenty of energy and effort into the gimmicks which have begun to litter their base sets. They go above and beyond more often than not in their attempts to produce compelling high end products, like Five Star. Topps even puts effort into gimmicking up Heritage now, with various parallels and variations that are only loosely based on the original set. (They are now adding mini versions of the cards to the mix this year.) The base set itself has become an afterthought. Sure, quality work is put into the design of the cards. The 2013 Heritage set looks to be a perfect copy of the 1964 design. Where Topps drops the ball is on the checklist and on the composition of the set. Would it have killed Topps to release a 587 card Heritage set this year? Would it kill them to make the short printed cards a little less rare this year, since the high number cards of 1964 aren’t nearly as scarce as they are many other seasons? No, it would not have. Unfortunately, hey have found their rut and they are happy sticking to it.

It would be easy for a Braves fan to look at the early, pre-release checklist for this year’s Heritage set and find themselves alarmed. There is not a single Braves player mentioned anywhere on the checklist. Rest easy Braves fans, there will be plenty of Braves players included throughout the set and the insert sets. Of this, I have no doubt. In fact, other than the rote and basic composition of the set, there is a lot to like about Heritage still. The hits, especially the autographs, are far more rare than in other sets. (There is typically one hit per hobby box, and this year there will be two autographs per case.) The autographs are always on card and often feature older players who don’t typically get autos in other sets. The box toppers will feature both buy-back cards from 1964, and will include new versions of the 1964 Topps Giant cards. (The 64 Giant cards are one of the great sets.) Additionally, Topps has repurchased tattoos and stamps that were issued in 1964 and framed them for inclusion with the set. I’ll leave it up to you decide whether the pluses make up for the gimmicks and the unimaginative set composition.

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