Gypsy Queen was all the rage in 2011. It was, like Allen & Ginter in 2006, a sensation. The case breakers made a ton of money on the set. The boxes went up in price helping out card dealers. The set was difficult to complete, but not so difficult that it chased off the set builders. It was a sensation. When building their 2012 release schedule, Topps had dollar bills in their eyes.
There’s a school of thought that when you have a big hit like this, you should let it stand on its own. Personally, I subscribe to it, but Topps and some collectors do not. If you look at Allen & Ginter in 2013, you see a fine set, but it’s a little on the boring side. Sure, Topps comes up with the occasional clever inclusion on the checklist among the non-baseball players. The autograph checklist remains excellent year after year. The relics are better than most. Still, it’s essentially the same set year after year. For case breakers and retailers, that might be a feature, not a bug. For someone with limited funds, I would prefer to see Topps come up with more new ideas.
So, Topps went ahead with a second Gypsy Queen set in 2012 and it was changed little from the first. It did seem to be produced in greater numbers. Maybe collectors just weren’t as interested. This time around, the values didn’t hold. The breakers didn’t make a killing. Boxes could be had much cheaper. This was, of course, bad news for the card shops. (For me, it was a plus and I went ahead and bought a hobby box. The only waste was that I actually pulled a John Smoltz auto card, which I had purchased separately just a few days before the box.)
I won’t be buying a box of 2013 and early reviews are mixed. Hobby boxes seem to be holding steady around a hundred dollars which suggests that demand is fine. On the other hand, unlike 2011, the product is still available in large numbers at retail. If you loved Gypsy Queen in previous years, you’ll probably love 2013. If you are bored with it, then you’ll be truly sick of it. The cards are exactly what you would expect. The borders are large with small pictures. The framed parallels look far better than the regular set. The relics and autographs are better than your typical Topps set, and are very affordable. Here’s a look at the Braves cards I picked up from a favorite case breaker.
The lineup of autographs in the 2013 set isn't exactly full of Braves. In fact, the only Braves player pictured in a Braves uniform on an autograph card is Freddie Freeman. I really wanted to pick up his mini auto, but those are numbered to 10 and have been selling at prices that reflect that. Freddie might not have the most legible signature, but the large Fs are beautiful. Justin Upton's auto card depicts him as a D-Bag despite the fact that his base card is a Braves card. I assume this is related to the lead time it takes for Topps to get the cards signed. Both of these cards can be found in the fifteen to twenty dollar range, with the Upton occasionally ticking a little higher.
With a combination of regular sized relics and mini relics, Gypsy Queen resembles Allen & Ginter. In fact, the two sets are similar enough that Topps should maybe consider alternating them with each year. It might prevent each brand from getting stale. Oops, too late. There are a good mix of Braves relics to choose from in both the full size and mini variations. Each can be picked up in the three to eight dollar range.
I don't hate the Gypsy Queen design, but I find it a hard design to love. The borders, graphics and title overwhelm what are otherwise good pictures. In fact, of the three pictured above, each is simply excellent. It's always great to see the Hammer in an early 70s Atlanta Braves uniform. (Aaron's deal with Topps from a few years ago is one of the great things to happen in recent card history.) The Upton picture makes it easy to picture a home run landing over 400 feet away. Heyward looks ready to streak down the base path. These are great cards, but they would be even better on a different design.
Like the three sluggers above, all three of the Braves retired pitchers on the checklist got awesome photographs. Sure, we've seen dozens of pictures of each of the three exactly like this, but isn't that how we picture them? Besides, who could ever be upset by a card of Warren Spahn with his back leg straight and the front leg high in the air as he prepares to throw one by someone? John Smoltz is getting a lot of attention from Topps lately, which is nice. I'd like to see Topps get Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux back into more products, as Braves of course.
The BJ Upton and Brian McCann cards are less successful. The airbrushed jersey on Upton isn't the right color or blue. The McCann card isn't necessarily a bad picture, but if the card didn't say McCann on it, you wouldn't know which catcher is pictured. Eddie Mathews gets the last of the retired player cards in the set for the Braves. We've seen this picture before, but at least it's a good one. There's no Dale Murphy this year. I wonder if, next year, we'll start to see Chipper Jones in some of these sets?
Here we have two great photographs of pitchers, and an utterly boring picture of another pitcher. The Tim Hudson and Craig Kimbrel photos are perfect examples of pitching action photography. You can picture their motions both before and after the photograph with ease. The Mike Minor photo is simply boring. That's OK of course. Every photograph can't be a winner.
I expect that this will be the final Michael Bourn base card showing him with the Braves. I would have preferred to see him pictured on the base path or in the field though. Topps continued to include Dan Uggla as much as possible in their sets, and since he was the starting second baseman, that's OK. What I do not understand is why Chris Johnson got a card and Andrelton Simmons did not? This isn't a knock on Johnson who is winning over Braves fans on a daily basis. Simmons was, however, one of the most exciting rookies in the game last year. He deserved to appear on the checklist.
I'm not sure if it's the process that Topps uses on the pictures, but Beachy's left arm looks impossibly ripped. As for Medlen, if people are going to continue to compare him to Greg Maddux, then I think it's fitting that he's making a funny face on this card. I like the Freddie Freeman photo a lot as well, but Topps needs to get a picture of Freddie putting a hug on someone. Get on it, Topps.
The insert sets aren't exactly bursting at the seams with Braves. The three cards above are the only insert cards featuring Braves. The McCann and Spahn cards are hardly exciting. As for the Heyward card, I think most of us would prefer to not be reminded that he insists on sliding head first so often.