Collecting the Braves in 2013

Topps needs to get EOF to sign for one of their products this year.

The new Topps set, cards for the new Braves players, and a wish for some new and different autographs.

2013 Topps Baseball Series 1

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It seems like it has already been six months since Topps started teasing Series 1 of the 2013 set. I’d like to say I’m excited by the pending release, but I’m not. Even if I wasn’t sick of Topps continued emphasis of "The Chase" cards over the base cards, I would be fatigued with the current structure of the base set. Looking at the sell sheet and the early checklist, it looks like another variation on the same structure that has been in place since at least 2006. The diamond and gold parallels of the past two years look to be replaced with an emerald parallel set. There will be pink and desert camouflage parallels as well this year which simply screams boring at the collector. Instead of mini inserts based on the 1987 design, there will be mini inserts based on the 1972 design. Some collectors will continue to get screwed on their promised hits when they get a fake manufactured relic rather than actual game used material. Expect the usual variations like stupid animal cards and cards of players in street clothes and cards of players with shaving cream on their heads. (If there’s an "infield fly rule" variation, I just may stop collecting forever.)

Of course, Topps sees little reason to innovate with the base set since they place little to no emphasis on selling it. According to the sell sheet for 2013, the emphasis is on "The Chase". Topps says, "Card-collecting is also about the chase – for the Rookie card, for the autograph, for the white whale." You see what’s missing, right? There’s nothing about chasing the set. It would be nice to see Topps actually promote the art of set building, but that won’t happen. I’m starting to wonder how long it will be before there are more insert and parallel cards per pack than base cards. Funny thing though, Topps is actually doing a good job with the design and photography of the base set. The white bordered 2013 design looks good and continues a recent stretch of excellent designs by Topps. My only real complaint is the lack of the player’s position on the front of the card. That’s a minor complaint though. I like the 2013 design.

I’d like to think I was going to boycott the 2013 set like many of my fellow "old-time" collectors, but I still don’t know if that’s the case or not. Other than a few stray retail packs, I certainly won’t be purchasing any unopened material. The guy I usually buy my base sets from typically ends up offering the 330 base cards at fifteen dollars after the initial rush of set buyers have purchased their cards at a small premium. Typically, I’ve been one of those early buyers. This year, I will wait. If he offers me the cards for fifteen bucks, it will be hard for me to say no.

As for Braves collectors, expect to be slightly disappointed by Series 1. Some of the team’s better players will be included in the base set of Series 1, but the Braves are hardly represented in the early checklist of inserts and autographs. There will be a John Smoltz manufactured relic. There will be a Brandon Beachy autograph. There will be Jason Heyward and Dan Uggla relic cards. Currently, there’s not a single Braves card scheduled for the insert sets. This isn’t necessarily bad for Braves fans. It will keep the prices down for Braves Series 1 team sets and means that Series 2 should be loaded with Braves cards.

First Braves Cards

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The Braves made a splash by signing free agent B.J. Upton to a five year, 75.25 million dollar contract and his first Topps card picturing him as a member of the Atlanta Braves will be the most anticipated base card of the year for most Braves fans. Upton isn’t checklisted at the moment for Series 1, but there are lessons that can be learned from the inclusion of Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols in Series 1 last year. As anyone who collects Topps base sets knows, Series 1 is used to produce cards numbered 1 through 330. Well, Topps is never one to let a bad gimmick idea pass them by, so they airbrushed up a limited number of cards showing Jose Reyes as a Marlin and Albert Pujols as an Angel for inclusion in Series 1 packs. The cards were numbered 331 and 332. Now, these were not simply early release versions of their cards. Yes, they were included at the same spot in the checklist when Series 2 was released, but different photographs were used.

Topps, who was granted an exclusive license to remove confusion from the marketplace, made 2012 Series 1 more confusing and the job of completists more expensive and more difficult with the Reyes and Pujols decision. I don’t expect anything to change in this regard in 2013. It is my hope that BJ Upton is simply checklisted in Series 2 with a nice picture of him in his Braves uniform. Still, no one should be surprised if a super short-print of Upton in a Braves uniform is included in Series 1.

It would be nice to think Topps would include cards of Jordan Walden and Gerald Laird in Series 2, but if they get cards from Topps this year, I would think it is more likely they get their cards in Update Series, which will be released after the conclusion of the season. Neither have been included on the pre-release checklist for Series 1, but the actual checklist usually differs, so there’s always a chance. (Actually, if either were included in Series 1, I’d expect them to be pictured with their previous team since I doubt Topps would go to the trouble of airbrushing a Braves uniform on a backup catcher or a setup man, no matter how hard he throws.)

Braves Autographs

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Andrelton Simmons has quickly become a favorite of a lot of Braves fan and Braves collectors, me included. Despite the splash he made during his injury-shortened rookie season, Simmons is woefully under-represented in Topps various autograph checklists. Tyler Pastornicky was seemingly included in every product, but Simmons was nowhere to be found. Topps should be working hard to get the young shortstop to sign for as many sets as possible in 2013.

There are other Braves who need to be better represented with inserted autograph cards. With his smashing performance in the starting rotation last year, I’d hope that Topps was all over Kris Medlen getting him to sign. It would also be amazing to see Eric O’Flaherty given an autograph card. EOF continues to put up great numbers for the Braves, and it would be nice to see him get an auto card in what will probably be his last season in a Braves uniform. Since Peter Moylan got two autographs, I’m hoping Cory Gearrin gets one and I know I’m not the only one who hopes Topps got Ben Sheets to sign a few on his way to retirement last year. I also hope Topps gets Evan Gattis signatures into Bowman this year, along with more of the recent international signees.

As for veteran autographs, I’d expect to see plenty of Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Beachy and Freddie Freeman cards across Topps products again this year. Tim Hudson, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla have always signed for Topps and I don’t expect that to change this year as well. Hopefully, they’ll be able to get Martin Prado to sign more this year. He’s had several over the years, but I think his performance warrants more cards.

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