Author: Matt Warburg
To start with, I should thank Mario & Topps for arranging for me to receive a free box to review. Although I have collected Heritage on and off since its inception (2001-2005, 2007, 2009), for reasons which will become clear later in the review this is the first box I have ripped since 2005.
To start with, the base cards and checklist are good but unspectacular. My only quibble would be the fact that both Tim Lincecum and both David Wright cards are SP’s. Being an issue based on a previous release, you know exactly what you are getting in terms of design, although I have to say that I find the player photographs to be rather uninspiring due to the fact that almost all of them are posed shots rather than action photos in keeping with the original design. The only photo that struck me as being particularly horrible was the one of Jim Thome, and the airbrushing was done very skillfully for those players who changed teams during the offseason.
The main problem I have with Heritage, and the primary reason I do not buy boxes any more, is number of SP’s and how they are seeded. With 75 SP’s in the set, and only eight per box, you are looking at 10+ boxes (assuming near-perfect collation) costing $600-700 to acquire enough SP’s to complete the set by ripping wax and trading, something that is both patently ridiculous and decidedly unaffordable. So Topps: either reduce the number of SP’s and/or increase the seeding ratios!!! If you want to continue having 75 SP’s per set, then seed them 1:1 so that three boxes would get you 72 out of the 75 SP’s. Alternatively, reduce the number of SP’s to 50, but seed them 1:2, so that four boxes would get you 48 out of the 50 SP’s. Either option would make it much more affordable for collectors to complete the set solely through buying wax boxes, which would then encourage collectors to do so and increase sales. Given that it currently takes only $200-300 to complete the set using Ebay versus about $1000 using wax boxes alone, many collectors such as myself don’t even bother to buy any boxes when building the set.
The other issue I have with Topps Heritage are the inserts, which I find to be rather boring and uninteresting. Given that most Heritage collectors buy the product primarily to complete the set, there is really no need to have seven different insert sets (Baseball Flashbacks, News Flashbacks, Then & Now, New Age Performers, Chromes, Dice Game, and Babe Ruth 61) plus relics and autographs. I’d get rid of everything except the Chromes, which are fairly popular, and make the Baseball Flashbacks and Then & Now inserts subsets within the regular set (like the Baseball Thrills subset), instead. News Flashbacks have no place in a baseball set, and the New Age Performers not only look virtually identical from year to year, but seem to be an insert set without a theme (the two I got from this box were Tommy Hanson, a hot rookie, and Albert Pujols, a nine-year veteran superstar, two players with absolutely nothing in common).
As to the relic and autograph cards, the less said the better. The autograph checklist is absolutely horrible, with only four HOFers, only eight current players, and twenty-four retired nobodies, and let’s face it….nobody buys Heritage for the relics. Mine was a swatch of Kevin Millwood’s pants, which I’m not sure I could give away even if I tried. So Topps…if you are going to do relics in Heritage, at least limit them to HOFers whose jerseys/pants/bats are actually scarce and somewhat valuable. As the owner of my local card store put it, “…nothing quite beats the thrill of pulling a 1:367 autograph except discovering that the guy you pulled (Bobby Malkmus in his case) was a career .215 hitter with a whopping 8 career home runs and 123 lifetime hits.” And enough with the seat relics…those got boring about two weeks after the first one came out ten years ago.
As to the “dice game” cards, my comment would be that while they are an interesting idea, it was poorly executed. At eighteen cards, and seeded 1:72, there is no hope of completing the set, and the fronts would have been much more interesting had they used different photos than each player’s regular card. The fifteen-card Babe Ruth insert set is pathetically lame, as evidenced that completed sets are going for about $1 each on Ebay, if they even sell at all.
The bottom line is this: out of the 192 cards in the box I opened, only 170 of them helped me to accomplish my primary goal of completing the set. As good as the cards often look, that doesn’t change the fact that Topps Heritage makes it way too difficult and expensive for collectors to complete the set. This is why both I and many other collectors choose not to buy Topps Heritage wax boxes and instead choose to complete the set via Ebay, where a base set can usually be had for about $20-30, and the SP’s for about $2-3 each. Right now, Topps Heritage is a good base product cluttered by too many pointless insert sets, lousy relics/autos, and overly numerous and stingily seeded SP’s. Make it easier and more affordable for collectors to complete the set, and it becomes the best set out there.
Base set – B
Inserts – D
Cost of completing the set solely through buying wax – $600-$1000
Overall grade – C