Braves Gimmicks from the Low End

Upton Brothers gimmicks, a great Heyward photo and the unnamed Homer. Topps low end sets have hit the shelves.

2013 Topps Opening Day

Have you got a hundred dollars lying around? Do you want to spend it on new Braves cards? For the 2013 Opening Day set, Topps has included BJ Upton and Justin Upton cards showing the brothers holding up their new Braves jerseys at their first press conferences as Braves. The cards are great shots of the brothers smiling big while showing off their awesome #2 and #8 jerseys. It’s hard to imagine a Braves fan who wouldn’t want these cards. The only problem is that they’re gimmicks.

Yes, Topps has decided that the time has come to gimmick up their last remaining gimmick free set. Opening Day is not a popular set with most collectors, but Topps has long insisted that it does well at retail. It’s the set that Topps gears towards children. It’s a mere 220 cards and easy to complete. They include cards of the mascots. (Obviously, Topps doesn’t really understand kids or what they would want in a baseball card product.) There’s only a single parallel set. It’s not a set with short prints that can’t be tracked down. The product isn’t structured around hits. In fact, the few autographs included are rare enough that it’s a big deal when you pull one. It’s affordable, with regular wax packs priced at 99 cents. It’s easy to find at any retail establishment that carries Topps products. (It’s also the set that most hard core, old time collectors would like to see Topps get rid of and replace with Topps Total.)

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Well, it was all these things. Clearly, the alleged retail popularity of Opening Day is waning (or was nonexistent). Topps was faced with a dilemma. How do they increase interest in the product? They could have rethought the structure of the product by making it bigger or rather than tying it to the base card design with mostly identical photographs, they could have tried something original. Heck, they might have even considered scrapping it from the schedule and replacing it with Topps Total like many hard core, old time collectors have wanted. One thing is certain though, Topps has no idea how to make people want regular baseball cards so they turned to the only play in their current playbook. Gimmicks!

So far, according to baseballcardpedia.com, collectors have discovered thirteen different short print variations in 2013 Topps Opening Day. Most off the cards, like the Upton cards, are press conference photographs of players who changed teams over the off-season. A few, which literally give me nausea, feature Giants players celebrating their World Series victory or participating in their stupid parade. All are utterly unnecessary. Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, they will lead to a short term increase in interest, but what happens next year? You can look at all of their other products and see where this is going. More variations. More parallels. More hits. Rarer hits. Eventually, the product will have no resemblance to the set of the past and the cards that make up the set, those cards numbered from one to two hundred twenty, will simply not matter any more.

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I’m not saying that these card variations are bad for every collector. Certainly, if you are have a BJ Upton or Justin Upton player collection, you’ll want these cards. If the only cards you are interested in are cards of your specific team, you might not have a problem chasing them, as long as you are willing to lay out some serious bucks. The listings on eBay are priced from thirty to a hundred dollars. I can’t tell you if they will be worth the purchase, but I think I can say with a degree of certainty that they will never be worth more than they are right now.

I have one last comment about the set. They included Chipper Jones in their Superstar Celebrations insert set, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, like his Heritage card with Bryce Harper, the shot is of Chipper’s back. There’s a lot to like about the card. I love the really stupid look on Dan Uggla’s face. It might be the last time we get to see Peter Moylan on a Braves card. Still, they couldn’t have found a shot where we could see Chipper’s face?

2013 Topps Stickers

So, there’s no longer a set of baseball cards released by Topps that is free of gimmickry. There is, however, an excellent Topps baseball product that is still free from stupid gimmickry. 2013 Topps Baseball Stickers can be found on the shelves of your local Target and Wal-Mart and it’s nice to have a product that I can thoroughly and whole-heartedly recommend. For 99 cents, you get a pack of eight nice stickers. For a dollar more, you get the sticker album which includes the simply amazing Jason Heyward sticker you see pictured here. Best of all, every single sticker in those 99 cents packs has its own place in the album. There are no parallels sucking up space in a pack. There are no rare variations. The product is what it is and it is worth every penny.

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This year, in a nice touch, Topps included at least one veteran for every team. For the Braves, that’s John Smoltz. I’ve gotten a veteran in almost every single pack I’ve opened so far, and I love that. Still, I’m not saying that this is a perfect product. With only nine spots for each team, I could have lived without taking up one of those spots with the mascots. Worse yet, why does Topps refuse to print “Homer the Brave” on the mascot sticker? In the past, they’ve used Homer’s name, but now he just gets the generic Atlanta Braves designation. I have no idea why this is the case, but it stinks. I could also live without the number of stickers devoted to the Giants World Series victory. Ugh.

Still, this is my current favorite Topps product. It’s simple. It’s cheap. It’s nice. And if you buy any, and you want to trade with me, just shoot me a note on Twitter. Let’s have fun with it!

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