This year’s edition, which pays tribute to the 1974 Topps product, was the last set I actively collected as a youth. I had always said that when I completed an entire Topps set, I would stop. In 1973 I came within five cards of finishing the set (I have since found them), but in 1974 I managed to collect all 660 of them.
So, I decided to stop collecting.
That, and I was heading to college soon, made the decision easier. Never mind that in 1975, Topps put out one of the more memorable sets of the decade, with great rookies and colorful designs.
That’s the luck of the draw.
I decided to collect again in 1996, in part because the death of Mickey Mantle made me revisit my collection.
But here’s a look at the 2023 Topps Heritage set.
This year’s model has 400 base cards and 100 short prints. Like all Heritage sets, the design remains true to the original card set. The color scheme for the teams that were around in 1974 remains the same for the 2023 version. Naturally, the teams that have been added to MLB since 1974 have their own distinct colors.
Like the ’74 set, the card fronts have vertical and horizontal layouts. The backs are horizontal and include facts about the player when space allows.
There were 64 base cards in the blaster box I opened, plus three short prints (Matt Duffy, Mike Minor and Keegan Akin). This must have been a hotter box than usual, because I also pulled four inserts and a relic card.
There are parallels and variations in the set, but not in the retail version. Hobby boxes contain flip cards numbered to five and black border cards numbered to 50.
The hobby set also has image variations.
There is a quirk in collation this year, as card No. 100 does not exist. Meanwhile, there are two players occupying card No. 327 — Kolten Wong and Andrew Chafin.
The 2023 set does have league leaders (card Nos. 201-208) and nine All-Star cards (card Nos. 331-339), just like its 1974 counterpart. But there are no manager cards — of course, the 1974 manager cards looked kind of silly with the skipper’s photo taking up most of the card while his coaching staff was represented by cutout head shots. That was a slight improvement over the 1973 set, which had coaches featured against a brownish backdrop to the right of the manager’s photograph.
Come to think of it, they both stunk. Perhaps it was better that Topps decided to skip the manager cards this year after all.
The inserts will be familiar to Heritage collectors. There is a 10-card Baseball Flashbacks subset, which features the top events on the diamond that year; News Flashbacks, a 10-card set that concentrates on major events in ’74, like Richard Nixon’s resignation from the presidency; New Age Performers, a 25-card feature that is tailored to current stars in the game; and Then and Now, a 15-card subset that pairs a top player from 1974 with a 2022 star.
A new insert is a Stamps card that features four players. If you wanted to, you could break each card into four separate stamps. There are 20 cards featuring 80 subjects.
Heritage retail includes 1974 Deckle mini cards, which are limited to 600 copies.
As a bonus, I pulled a Clubhouse Collections relic card of the Phillies’ Nick Castellanos. It’s a nice powder blue swatch, although it is not necessarily game-used, as Topps writes in a disclaimer on the back of the card.
Certainly, technology has changed a great deal since 1974. It will be rare, for example, to find a miscut Heritage card — that seemed to be a thing with Topps during the 1960s and ’70s — and the card stock is firmer and the photography is sharper.
Heritage collectors will enjoy the blast from the past and the nod toward the future.