PRODUCT REVIEW: 2016 Topps Series 1

Posted: February 10, 2016 by Crackin' Wax in Review
Tags: , ,

When I decided that I would go back to doing product reviews, I completely forgot one of the major components to my reviews of the past—a scanner. Which I no longer have. Which I meant to purchase before now. Which I did not do. I also completely forgot to hold back some cards from the case break to show off, so I’ll be using my own Twins cards. Yeah, this review won’t be as “fancy,” but I’ll still get my points across. I think.

img_5251 img_5252-1

Since the day (in 2015) when Topps revealed a mock-up of the 2016 design, I have felt that this was a bold, strong move in terms of design direction. Eliminating the well-known and classic plain white border of recent flagship designs took some balls, and I believe that the implementation of this particular borderless design proved effective. Without borders, however, Topps needed to do something for their now-standard parallels (Gold, Black, Pink, etc.). Their solution, one that I feel is visually stunning for flagship, was to add smoky-white corners on opposite ends while allowing the remaining two corners to retain the full photo bleeds. These white corners would then facilitate the different parallel colors.

The choice in photography this year is absolutely breathtaking. Not only are improvements in equipment evident, but the skill of the photographers are on full display here. Without the excellent job done by the design team in choosing amazing photos and cropping them into the designs properly, those factors would be lost.

My one slight criticism of the design comes with the remainder of the design. The razorblade nameplate and plastic-y shiny logo-holders (as I’m calling them) look and feel like something straight out of ESPN’s SportsCenter. If this were a set put out by the network in Bristol, that would be acceptable. However, this just doesn’t feel like Topps. I do like the fact that foil stamping has been reserved for the Topps logo, and I’m on board with the usage of the team logo peeking out from underneath the logo-holder. I also love that this flagship set isn’t just pain and boring. It’s a nice change of pace from past sets.

Let me be clear, though. Flagship sets, when executed properly, are always best when kept simple. This design is not simple. It is much more complex and design-heavy than their standard flagship release has typically been. That is not to say that this style cannot work. I just hope that, now that they have chosen to go in this direction, Topps does not feel the need to undergo yet another drastic redesign of the flagship base set for 2017. Or, ya know, go back to the simple staple of base design that has worked so well in the past. Just don’t be boring.


This year’s flagship set, I felt, was bogged down heavily by inserts. The three shown above are just a small sampling of what Topps produced for this year’s Series 1. Shown here are examples of the Berger’s Best set (honoring Topps design pioneer Sy Berger), Perspectives (an absolutely incredible addition to the set showcasing outstanding in-game photography), and Pressed Into Service (highlighting rare occasions in which position players have taken the mound). Not shown here are Back To Back; 100 Years At Wrigley; Walk Off Wins, and retail exclusives Amazing Milestones; MLB Debut; The Greatest Streaks, as well as Bunt Player Cards and MLB Wacky Promo Card stickers.

One insert set that has been around now for a number of years are Topps Original Buybacks. These are cards that Topps has brought back into the fold (or still have lying around) and are then foil stamped and re-issued. This year, they took the buyback to another level. Well, another few levels, really. Topps offered up color variations in their stamps with one such variation being a 1/1.

I have a problem with this kind of insert. While this may in fact be the only 1987 Cal Ripken Jr. All-Star card adorned with a gold 1/1 buyback stamp, this card is not a 1/1. There are thousands of this card floating around. The difference is that Topps put foil on this particular copy nearly 30 years after it was originally released. I am happy to recognize that I pulled something that is, in reality, hard to pull. What I cannot recognize, however, is that the card in question is a true 1/1. I could take any card in my collection and do the exact same thing to it—that does not make it a 1/1. It makes it a highly circulated card with additional foil added to it. What makes that any different than a 1952 Mantle with doodles all over it? Is that a 1/1 because that’s the only 1952 Mantle with those doodles on it?

Oh, yes. They included stamped buybacks of on-card autographs. In my opinion, pulling this particular card should be a lot harder than pulling the above Cal Ripken. Since this autographed buyback is not a 1/1, does that mean that there are other Topps Chrome Matt Davidson autographed rookie cards with 65th Anniversary buyback stamps floating around out there, yet there was just the one junk-wax-era 1987 Ripken All-Star card packed? Does that mean that there are other variations of the same Cal Ripken card in circulation thus further diminishing the “value” of the 1/1?

A standard case of 2016 Topps Series 1 advertises 12 hits. The case we broke overperformed on that front, especially if you count the Cal stamped 1/1 and the autographed buyback as hits. There were plenty of possibilities to be had including faux leather autographs, coin and stamp cards (some with autographs), Laser booklets of different varieties, In The Name relics, Postseason and World Champion relics/autographs, Cut Signatures, standard Scouting Report relics/autographs, and many more.

Clear Acetates #/10

Silver Framed #/16

Laser Booklet

Nolan Ryan (Rangers) No-Hitter Pin

Scouting Report Relics (Rangers)

Scouting Report Autograph

Back To Back Dual Relic #/99 (Brewers)

Postseason Patch Auto (Cubs)

Scouting Report Relics

All of the hits seem to be a step above what I would consider standard fare. Yes, these hits are still obviously low-end hits, but the design work (especially on items like the Laser booklet, the No-Hitter Pin, and the Back To Back dual relic) raises the bar. While I can only speak to what I saw in person, I can only assume that the other types of hits found across the product are similar.

Based solely on this individual standard hobby case, I can tell you for sure that I had a lot of fun with it. Yes, I have my few little nitpicks, but Series 1 delivered on its annual promise—to get collectors excited about baseball again. Topps achieved that with a bold new design, some spectacular inserts, and slightly improved hits. One could argue that Topps Series 1 is the best selling baseball card product year-after-year simply because it’s the first set each year, it is the most well-known, and it is THE standard in trading cards. It wouldn’t really make much of a difference if Topps gave us a dumpster fire for Series 1, most collectors would still throw their dollars and loose coins at their LCS, OCS, or local retailer just for the thrill of opening the new set of cards. This year, Topps ensured that our money was well spent. Yes, improvements could (and should) be made, but they did not disappoint in doing the one thing that they should do this time each year—reminding us all just how fun collecting should be. Down by a run in the bottom of the 8th, you bloop a double to the gap in right to score the go-ahead runs giving your closer a chance to win the game. Well done, Topps!

We raised $200 in the 2016 Topps Series 1 charity case break, and now we have the chance to raise even more! We’ll be ripping a case of 2016 Topps Museum Collection Baseball on April 2 and will be donating to VDay. Because of the amazing turnout for the advance presale (exclusive to members of our Group Breaks Mailing List), we only have a limited number of teams left. Want to be part of the most exciting high-end break of the year? Want to do some good for a great cause? Then be sure to grab a team in our 2016 Topps Museum Collection charity case break! Want to be part of the next exclusive advance presale? Just subscribe to our Group Breaks Mailing List!


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