So this year, like I usually do with this product, I splurged and bought a hobby box.
Topps promises three hits per hobby box. They could be autographs, memorabilia or even rip cards.
There are also buyback cards featuring original Allen & Ginter cards.
As usual, the subjects run the gamut, featuring baseball players — rookies, veterans and Hall of Famers. Stars from other sports are also represented, along with musicians (Lil Baby, Bun B, Gorilla Nems and DMC), comedians (Kyle Gordon, Adam Ray), sportswriters (Mandy Bell), journalists (Bomani Jones), broadcasters (Ari Chambers), artists (Captain Sandy Yawn), internet celebrities (Myles Montplaisir), actors (Robert De Niro) and businessmen.
You get the idea.
And don’t forget the Mud Guy, Jim Bintliff. You know, the guy who supplies the mud to take the shine off new baseballs.
The box I opened had 141 base cards and 11 short prints. As usual, completing the set is difficult because the short prints are so hard to find. Finishing off the base set is comparatively easy, though.
I’m not sure that I like this year’s design as much as I did with previous years. The art work is still beautiful, but I do not particularly care for the snaking banner that runs down the left side off the card front, across the top and partially down the right side. It is not horrible, but it gets away from the Gilded Age look that made A&G so distinctive.
The Allen & Ginter name is nearly buried in the top banner, although to be fair, there is a distinctive A&G logo in the bottom left-hand corner.
It does not look as bad when JJ Bleday’s card notes that his 2022 batting average was “One Hundred Sixty Seven,” rather than the more traditional .167. Things are looking up, though. He batted “One Hundred Ninety Five” in 2023.
Not trying to pick on Bleday — he has struggled with injuries and is a fine defensive outfielder, turning two double plays in 2023 — but just showing how the formal spellings can make tough statistics seem easier to swallow.
For subjects who are not baseball players, A&G prepares a 10-line biography, emphasizing career highlights and achievements.
Mini cards fall once in every pack. Most are parallels, although there are some mini insert cards. I pulled 15 minis, two of which were short prints. There were also five mini parallels that had Allen & Ginter backs.
Allen & Ginter serves up its usual — and unusual — types of inserts.
The largest subset is the 50-card Spotless Spans insert. These cards highlight a player’s particular streak — for example, Derek Jeter hitting safely in 44 consecutive road games beginning in late August 2006.
I pulled 12 of these cards. These cards are interesting because they play off unusual baseball statistics, which number geeks like me enjoy immensely.
Fun in the Sun is a 15-card subset that highlights fun things to do during the summer. I pulled three of these cards.
Music to Your Ears is a quirky insert, also consisting of 15 cards that feature musical instruments from around the world.
I was able to find four of these cards in the hobby box I opened.
Turning to mini inserts, The World of Wonder has 50 cards and takes the collector on a world tour of breathtaking sites. I found two of these cards in the hobby box I opened.
International Delights contains 20 cards and features culinary dishes from around the world. The card I found was a nice Italian meal — Ragu alla Bolognese.
“Only In …” is a 30-card set that features a notable trait about every MLB stadium. I pulled one card, which featured McCovey Cove at San Francisco’s Oracle Park.
I saw the listing for Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I chuckled. “Touchtank in the outfield,” the description reads. It’s a nice feature, but the Trop is noted for those maddening catwalks above the playing field, which can turn an east fly ball into an adventure.
The autograph was a framed signature of Cardinals pitcher, while the memorabilia cards featured Braves pitcher Kyle Wright and Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll.
The box topper in the hobby box I bought was a large base version of Ronald Acuna Jr. Other collectors might find box toppers that are signed, N43 versions (including cards that are autographed) and rip cards.
Not a bad haul. Allen & Ginter is a fun set to collect because it offers such a wide variety of subjects. The inserts can be odd at times, but are always fun to chase.
Once again, the set did not disappoint. Lots of good points this year. I would have preferred a more traditional A&G design for the card front, but mixing things up can be a good thing, too.