Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 2022 Topps Gold Label baseball set, which will be released in September:
A month after its release, 2022 Topps Series 1 baseball was finally available in my area Target and Walmart stores. Better late than never, I guess.
Because it might be difficult to complete the set by simply relying on retail blasters—something I have done for years — I will buy the complete set when it is available. That will make it three years straight. No suspense there.
However, for the sake of reviewing, I bought a blaster box. These include seven packs, with 14 cards to a pack. Among those cards is an MLB Medallion, which is a manufactured relic. Blaster boxes have player jersey numbers, and I pulled a Miguel Cabrera No. 24 card. There are 25 different medallions that can be found in retail blasters.
As usual, Topps’ flagship set consists of 330 cards in Series 1. A collector can expect to see a diverse offering of veterans, rookies, Future Stars, League Leaders and team cards. Thanks to off-season fan voting, the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is card No. 1 in the set. It is the first time the pitcher-slugger has been placed at the coveted leadoff spot.
Last year’s No. 1 card was Fernando Tatis Jr.
The design for this year’s Topps set is a big improvement over the 2021 set, which had the player’s name at an angle along with some unnecessary bars that were slanted in the same direction. The 2022 version has the player’s nameplate at the bottom of the card, with his team name to the left inside of a baseball icon. That is a much cleaner look, in my view. The full border, for the second year in a row, also adds to the card’s more orderly look.
There are examples of vertical and horizontal designs for the card fronts. I prefer vertical designs, but do have to concede that Tony Kemp’s card (No. 114) is a wonderful example of how to emphasize a horizontal look. Well done.
The Topps logo is stamped in foil in one of the top corners of the card. Some are stamped on the right, while others are on the left. Not sure about the inconsistency, but it honestly does not detract from the card’s overall appeal.
One big flaw I saw with this set was that the card backs, which utilize a horizontal design, are not lined up in the same direction. If you put cards in a binder, the backs will not be in alignment. One will be right-side up, and the next card back could be upside down. Very reminiscent of the backs of 1954 Topps cards. If you are OCD, this will drive you nuts.
That being said, the year-by-year statistics look good, and I love it when it is possible to include the player’s stats from his minor league days. To me, that’s a throwback to the backs of 1960s Topps cards. The card back is anchored by the player’s team logo in the upper left-hand corner and the checklist number in the upper right-hand corner. There is a brief biographical sketch that is three lines long.
The blaster box I bought had 83 base cards. There was also a blue royal parallel of Austin Riley and a Rainbow Foil parallel of Ketel Marte.
There are plenty of inserts to be found.
By far the nicest was a Diamond Greats Die-Cuts card of Carl Yastrzemski. This insert honors 25 greats, including Yaz, Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Roberto Clemente, Johnny Bench and others. It’s a shiny card, with an action shot of the player.
Another insert of note is 2021’s Greatest Hits. This subset takes a look at the game’s 20 top offensive performers from last season. I pulled two of these inserts — Ohtani and his Angels teammate, Mike Trout.
Stars of MLB is a retail-exclusive insert that comes one to a pack. I did pull seven of them — Ohtani, Nolan Arenado, Mookie Betts, Bo Bichette, Kris Bryant, Rafael Devers and Jacob deGrom. I also pulled a chrome version of this insert, which appear once in every 10 retail packs. That card was of Tatis Jr.
As it has done in previous years, Topps pays tribute to a retro set. This year’s honor goes to the 1987 Topps set, which had a woodgrain look to it. It is amazing that this set is already 35 years old. The card I pulled was Reds first baseman Joey Votto.
The final card I pulled was one from the Home Run Challenge promo series run by Topps. Bichette is featured as the player to “Pick the Game.” Collectors register online and pick the date the player might hit a home run.
If he does, the collector wins a parallel card. If a collector decides to “double down” to predict whether the homer travels more than 425 feet, then a special parallel will be awarded.
All collectors who register will be entered into the grand prize drawing, which is a trip to the Home Run Derby during the All-Star break.
With Mickey Mantle back in the Topps fold, the company released a “limited and very rare” subset. The Salute to the Mick will have three cards each in Series 1, Series 2 and the Update series.
The 2022 Topps set is cleaner and subtler in its design, which is its biggest strength. I only wish it had arrived sooner in my area. Some of my collector friends had already completed the set by last week. But that’s just a sign of the times, I guess.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1983 Topps baseball set:
Panini Playoff football is the kind of set that fits like a comfortable shoe. You pretty much know what to expect each year.
So, the 2021 retail product was fun to open. Panini promises either an autograph card or a relic in every blaster box, and I enjoy products like that. For people who don’t want to invest heavily into a set, it at least gives a casual collector a reason to sample it.
I bought a blaster, which contains eight packs. Each pack contains seven cards.
Typically, Panini promises at least one rookie card per pack, but I got lucky and pulled eight of them. One pack had two rookies, which was kind of nice.
The base set has 200 cards and an additional 100 rookie cards.
Of the 56 cards in the blaster, 44 were base. The design is relatively simple, with the player’s photograph a tightly cropped action shot. The card is framed with colors that borrow one of the team’s primary colors.
The team logo is beneath the player’s photo, and his name is below that, stamped in silver foil. The design of the card front is vertical, with the “Playoff” logo at the top center. The player’s position can be found in small type in the upper right-hand corner for veterans, while for rookies it is positioned in the bottom right-hand corner.
The design for the card backs are also vertical, with an even tighter cropped photo of the player on the left-hand side of the card for veterans and on the right-hand side for rookies.
The backs also contain 10 lines of type highlighting the player’s achievements and top moments. Vital statistics, such as height and weight, are placed above a two-line string of statistics for current players. These show 2020 stats along with career numbers. For retired players, there is one line of stats that provide career numbers.
The base set includes all the current stars, plus Hall of Famers like Brett Favre, Warren Moon, Joe Namath, Randy Moss, Jerome Bettis, Ray Lewis, John Elway, Marcus Allen, Joe Montana and Warren Sapp, to name a handful.
As far as inserts go, I only pulled three from the blaster. That is not a surprise. If you are keen on inserts and hot cards, then a hobby box is the way to go. Those have two autographs and one relic, plus 12 inserts.
I pulled two Rookie Wave inserts of Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond. The insert is a new addition to Playoff and has 30 cards. The cards have a nice chrome look to them; as an added bonus, the Mond card is a Prizm.
Another new insert, Thunder & Lighting, is a 20-card subset. I am thinking Panini made a spelling error and meant “Lightning,” which makes sense because the players involved are a lightning combination. Maybe Panini was going for an obscure pun, like “lighting” up the scoreboard, perhaps? If so, it fell flat. It looks too much like a typo.
The one “hot” card I pulled was a Rookie Stallions relic card of Ravens wide receiver Rashod Bateman. The inserts are actually a 40-card subset, but this card has a generously sized uniform swatch.
There were four advertising promos in the blaster, too—a contest to enter you child to be a “Kid Reporter” for Super Bowl LVI. Since that game has been already played, well … it’s a little too late for that. But it might be fun to scratch off just to see if you had won.
The Playoff set is a nice one to start off the new year. With the draft and minicamps around the corner, this set is inexpensive to collect and does reward the collector. There are plenty of parallels that can be found in hobby boxes, but at least in the hobby box I pulled, they are pretty much nonexistent.
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the 1982 Donruss baseball set, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about the upcoming 2022 Topps Allen & Ginter set. It's one of my favorite sets to collect:
Here is a review I wrote for Sport in American History on the book, "The Point After," by Sean Conley:
Here's a story I wrote for Sports Collectors Daily about Kurt Christensen, an Iowa farmer who also collects unopened trading card products. In late February he brokered a deal to buy a box of 1986-87 Fleer basketball with unopened packs, a find that should yield at least three Michael Jordan rookie cards.
I love to blog about sports books and give my opinion. Baseball books are my favorites, but I read and review all kinds of books.