Saturday, February 7, 2015

New Cards Have Come to Light!

This week's release of 2015 Topps has been quite well-received by the blog community. I must admit, I've been looking forward to it myself for a long while, so after a business dinner on Thursday, I stopped at my local Target and picked up a 36-card value pack.

Throughout my whole collecting career, I've never purchased new product so close to its release date. Usually I am content to see what ends up in the discount boxes or to wait for the price to come down, as I did with 2014 Stadium Club. I did buy last year's factory set on release day (which was the day after the All-Star Game), but the base cards had been out for months by then, so that doesn't really count.

So what newly-released goodness did $5 purchase?

2015 Topps #45 Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran in those iconic Yankee pinstripes was the first card out of the pack. And this set is a beauty, front and back.

Based on the pre-release images I'd seen, I thought this set was at least partially white-bordered. I expected to see the team colors on the bottom of the card, then a gradual gradient shift to pure white on the top. Turns out, that's not the case. The upper borders have a faint gray color that looks a bit like ice or frost. It's pretty faint, and it gets blown out a little in scans.

There is that ripple surrounding the team logo in the lower right, which is leading many collectors to refer to this as "the fingerprint set". There are a few other assorted curved lines and three rows of dots on the bottom that rather looks like something you'd find on a printed circuit board. Those concentric lines and various curves remind me a bit of 2014 Finest.

Overall, I really like this design, and I think it's been Topps' strongest effort in at least a decade. And there is that conspicuous and welcome lack of foil, aside from the Topps logo. That does make me wonder just how different Opening Day will look this year. It might take a sharp eye to tell the two apart.

2015 Topps #311 Jhonny Peralta
The one gripe I have about the design is that position circle next to the team logo. On most cards it blends in quite well, but for a few teams, it sticks out like a sore thumb. A black circle with yellow text would work better here.

2015 Topps #125 Troy Tulowitzki
Fortunately, that gripe doesn't extend to the Rockies' design. With any set color-coded by team, you're bound to have a few teams that work better than others. I didn't find any Oakland cards in this pack, but I'd be really interested to see that vivid shade of green in this design.

I just noticed that all three of those players above are wearing some pretty serious-looking elbow armor. I can't blame them, frankly. I was hit in the elbow by a pitch in little league, and let me assure you, it isn't an experience I'd like to relive.

2015 Topps #139 Gary Brown (RC)
I can't tell whether Giants prospect Gary Brown has elbow armor on, but I doubt it. The guy was called up in September last year following the annual late-season roster expansion, but the reason I doubt his use of elbow armor is that he's going old-school and forgoing the use of batting gloves! There are still a few players around the league that prefer that, like 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers, but the last one I distinctly remember was ex-Cub Mark Grace, who retired not long after he finally won his World Series ring with the 2001 Diamondbacks.

There were quite a few team cards in this pack, which make up the bulk of the series' expansion from 330 cards to 350. Speaking of the Cubs, one of those team cards was a bit more special than the rest.

2015 Topps Snow Camo #196 Chicago Cubs /99
This is an example of the Snow Camo parallel, which are serial numbered to only 99. It's an appropriate theme for Topps to pick, based on my interpretation of what the top borders look like on the base cards.

Topps may be finally taking a hint from their fans and cutting back at least a little bit on the colored parallels. There are still lots of them, but like last year, there aren't different border varieties depending on whether a pack came from Target, Wal-Mart, or Toys "R" Us. Those were purely an annoyance and I never saw any value in those.

2015 Topps Snow Camo #196 Chicago Cubs /99 (Reverse)
Here's a look at the back of 2015 Topps. Here, they point out that the Cubs had a successful end to the 2014 season thanks to a slew of promising rookies. Design-wise, I particularly like the "Series One" text above the card number. I think that would be a great addition to the insert cards as well, though I am thankful that the insert card numbers are a bit less like alphabet soup this year.

On the topic of insert cards, this pack didn't disappoint in that area.

2015 Topps Highlight of the Year #H-29 Justin Verlander
This isn't my favorite of the 2015 crop of insert sets, but this card has a bit of personal significance. I traded for Verlander in fantasy baseball in 2007, so the Lucky Numbers were the beneficiary of this stellar pitching performance. I'm in a points league, and if memory serves, Verlander earned 126 points that day.

I was lucky enough to pull an insert of a Rockie as well.

2015 Topps First Home Run #FHR-38 Troy Tulowitzki
This photo is from Tulo's first week as a Major Leaguer, and it's really strange to see him wearing #14. Rockies fans from the Blake Street Bombers days will recall that Andres Galarraga wore that number, as did Josh Rutledge in recent years. Rutledge was traded to the Angels this off-season, so #14 now sits idle in the hopper of Rockies uniform numbers. In case you were curious, Tulowitzki now wears #2, just like his now-retired idol Derek Jeter.

The last card I'll scan shouldn't be too hard to guess, based on the title of this post.

2015 Topps First Pitch #FP-01 Jeff Bridges
The First Pitch insert set seems to be the fan favorite this year, as I've seen almost all the cards from this 15-card set across various blogs by now. I expect we'll see some more of this set in Series Two and Update. Bill Murray would be a great candidate for a card, as would army veteran Brian Keaton.

After watching that Bill Murray video, I think Topps missed an opportunity to engage internet users. How great would it be for this card to have a URL for the actual first pitch video, especially if Topps embedded it on their own site?

Anyway, to recap my first pack of 2015 Topps, I didn't pull any photo variations (I think), but a couple Tulowitzki cards, pretty good inserts, a fairly rare serial numbered parallel, and some wonderfully-designed base cards point to a bright collecting year ahead.


  1. Heck of a rack pack there, Adam! Can't go wrong with The Dude. (Just ordered two copies of that card off Just Commons earlier this afternoon.)

    And, goodness, that snow camo parallel is beautiful. I never thought snow and baseball could mix so well.

    1. It looks even better in person. My scanner overexposed most of the camouflage pattern.