I remember it like it was yesterday. In actuality, it was twenty-four years ago when I pulled my first Refractor. Unfortunately for me, it was of Mark Grace and if I can be perfectly honest, the Refractor technology was so subtle at the time that I didn’t even know what I had until I got home and viewed the card under brighter lights. At the time, the ‘Refractor’ was only 3 years old and although they had been readily available in Topps Finest and Bowman’s Best, packs were hard to come by or just too expensive.
Those packs of 1996 Chrome were about $4 a piece, which for a 16-year old was just right. Sure, I could buy several .99 cent packs of Score or Upper Deck’s Collector’s Choice but I wanted a chance at something really special and 4 packs in, I struck Cubbie Blue oil. From that day on, I was a fan of Topps Chrome. I was never a set builder so Topps’ flagship did absolutely nothing for me but Chrome and Refractors won me over year after year and over two decades later, collectors seem to feel the same way I do.
Yesterday, on the eve of New Year’s Eve, Topps showed off a gallery of the upcoming 2020 Topps Chrome. One particular card stood out above the rest because it was a familiar friend … and I mean that 100% sarcastically. Take a look at the mock-up below of Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones. In case you missed it, it’s a reproduction of an almost twenty year-old insert but now featuring a shaded-out area for autographs. Where do I begin? Did anyone, anywhere want an All-Star Rookie Team reboot?
Take it from someone who had the originals two decades ago, they are over the top and not all that special. Adding an autograph is great and all but what Topps Company should really be doing is MOVING FORWARD with the ridiculously talented young stars of baseball and creating new inserts and designs. Either take advantage of the youth market or just come out and admit that the only people buying baseball cards anymore are grumpy old men and women and pander to us exclusively until we die off.
I’m not suggesting Topps not use throwback designs but c’mon man, how in the world does All-Star Rookie Team get a new coat of paint before a throwback to the ICONIC 1997 and 1998 Bowman chrome designs? Somehow, Topps showed love to the 1996 Bowman’s Best design but not the two legendary 1st and 2nd Bowman Chrome efforts? I don’t know who makes these decisions at Topps but they need to find a new line of business, pronto. Clearly, whoever it is doesn’t collect baseball cards.
I hear Panini America is hiring ….
As for 2020 Topps Chrome, it looks absolutely magnificent. I may pick up a box or three myself based on the much improved design. There is the whole issue with over 20 parallels in the set but in modern collecting, that is to be expected. Topps Chrome’s debut had one parallel, 2020 Topps Chrome has 20+. You either love it, accept it, or find a new hobby. I see many collectors, especially player collectors, choosing to move on but that is to be expected when you flood the market with 30+ products a year.
Topps and Panini have made player collecting nearly impossible if you are a completist. Player rainbows, which just a decade ago consisted of 8-10 cards, now range from the low 20s to the high 30s. The days when a player just had one “big” rookie card are long gone but now you can expect a player to have hundreds of rookie cards. Vladimir Guerrero, for example, has over 300. If you think that’s the key to creating future, iconic baseball cards, more power to you.
PS. You’re wrong, though.