Card collectors also eagerly wait for the beginning of February, because that’s when Topps releases its flagship baseball product. And Topps Series 1 is now out, signaling the traditional beginning of the card collecting season.
The 2017 product, however, does break with tradition in a big way. For the first time since 1995, there will be a card No. 7 that is not Mickey Mantle. Since a 1996 commemorative card at No. 7 to mark the passing of the Mick, Topps has chosen either to exclude No. 7 in its print run or use a Mantle card. From 1997 to 2005, No. 7 was left blank, while a Mantle card reappeared from 2006 through 2012.
Gary Sanchez — of course, he’s a Yankee — gets No. 7 this year. Do you remember the last player before then (other than Mantle) to have that number? It was Trevor Hoffman in the 1995 Topps set.
The 2017 Topps set offers a slightly different layout, with cards alternating between vertical and horizontal layouts. Perpendicular lines dominate the bottom of the card with the player’s name running horizontally near the bottom. The team logo lies to the left of the player’s name, with a small silver Topps stamp positioned at the top of the card. The smoky look that was part of the 2016 design is gone, and Topps uses mostly a full-bleed photograph except for the type at the bottom. Some collectors might find the slanting type a little disconcerting; personally, I prefer the type moving across the bottom, parallel to the card edge. But that’s my preference; other collectors might feel differently.
The card backs offer a different look, with Topps using the primary color of the player’s team as the dominant art. So, Clayton Kershaw’s card back is set in Dodger blue, for example. Topps also includes the Twitter handle of those players who have an account, so that’s a good way for social media fans to keep in touch with or follow their favorite players.
A hobby box contains 36 packs, with 10 cards to a pack. Topps is promising an autograph or relic card in every hobby box. Prices should be in the $65 to $75 range for a hobby box, depending on the retailer. There are 350 base cards in Series 1, and the hobby box I opened yielded 312 of them. There are also parallels in the set, with Rainbows falling four to a box and gold parallels (numbered to 2017) dropping at a rate of one in every 12 packs. Other parallels include Vintage Stock, numbered to 99; hobby and Jumbo box exclusive black (66); Mother’s Day Hot Pink and Father’s Day Powder Blue (both numbered to 50); Memorial Day Camo (25); hobby exclusive Clear (10); hobby and jumbo exclusive Negative (1/1); and 1/1 Platinum and Printing Plate cards.
There are plenty of inserts to chase. First Pitch returns, falling every eight packs on average. This subset highlights the ceremonial first pitch tossed by celebrities. It’s not quite as distinct in previous years; at first glance it looks like the base set until you flip over the card. The box I opened yielded four of the 20 cards made for Series 1.
Speaking of the past, the 1987 Topps Baseball inserts shows current players in the wood-grain design from 30 years ago. This is a 100-card insert set, and expect to pull nine from a typical hobby box. Five Tool falls every eight packs, and the card displays a five-photo collage of a player with a fiery look.
The final insert I pulled was one from the 10-card MLB Network Set. This set pays tribute to the members of the MLB Network crew, like John Smoltz, Harold Reynolds and Lauren Shehadi, for example. The card I pulled was a wide-angle set of the “MLB Tonight” anchors.
For those collectors that buy retail, packs in blaster boxes will contain one Jackie Robinson Logo Patch card, which will feature one of 50 stars. A 30-card subset, called Jackie Robinson Day, is also available at retail outlets and focuses on modern stars.
As usual, the 2017 Topps Series 1 baseball product delivers the goods. There are some nice inserts to chase, autographs and relics are available for those who buy hobby and jumbo boxes, and the base set is relatively easy to complete. It's affordable, too, and that makes for a nice combination.