I’ve been waiting for this day since Topps drove the stake through the heart of the last remaining card manufacturer, Upper Deck. Finally, after 15+ years of oversaturating the market with autographs and game-used memorabilia cards, the official card company of MLB created a product that focuses on the art behind baseball cards. In a way, to me this proves that even Topps understands that their customers are chasing the nostalgia train and aren’t necessarily kids anymore.
It’s time to drop that silly narrative by #TheHobby shills of Twitter who claim that a large portion of collectors are children. Kids and teens can’t afford to collect baseball cards today and if you think a kid would choose a $20 retail box of Topps over the most recent Fortnite skin or the like, maybe it’s time to leave this blog and head over to the GOGTS Live infomercial that plays every week. Collectors, for the most part, look like me. We grew up on baseball cards and now have the income to afford anything we want.
Well, almost anything.
Make no mistake, Topps Project 2020 is not a kid-friendly product. Sure, maybe some of the artwork featured may be used to attract younger eyes but the base version of all cards each cost $20. If you only went for a set of your one favorite artist, that’s $400 for 20 cards. If you were a maniac and wanted all 20 cards from every single artist, you’re looking at spending $8,000. That’s not including shipping costs, as well as time spent chasing down all 400 versions of the 20 cards.
Of course, we can expect to see parallels because that’s just what collecting is about and has been so for 20+ years. Artist Proofs are $99 each, meaning a full set of those would run you close to $40,000. There are also Gold 1/1s which apparently are sent to collectors at random. A Trout Gold sold for over $7,000 on eBay recently. There’s no way to even guess what the full 400-card set in Gold would cost but thankfully not even Gary V’s money and connections could stretch that far.
Aside from the expensive price tag, during a worldwide pandemic which has left more than 6 million Americans unemployed, some of the art is questionable. Remember, all art is objective so what I may like, you might hate and vice versa. Well, my objective collecting butt absolutely loathes Keith Shore’s work (see above). So far it appears he’s only done McGwire and Don Mattingly but don’t forget, he will be submitting artwork for all 20 players in the checklist, unfortunately.
Another issue I have is the inclusion of Dwight Gooden. Yes, he was a Hobby superstar and an amazing pitcher but only for maybe 3.5 of his 16 seasons. He lead the league in Wins once, ERA, once, and won just two major awards (CYA, ROY). Meanwhile, Jose Canseco had a much better career and was arguably a much larger Hobby star in the late-80s into the early-90s. He also made more All-Star appearances and has as many World Series rings as ‘Doc’.
Maybe I’m being biased but in the world of collecting, Jose Canseco was an elite commodity for much longer than Dwight Gooden. Jose was blackballed from Topps products for close to a decade but made his return in 2014 so it can’t be the whole steroid thing that has kept him off the list. He’s literally in 10+ Topps products every year. My guess is that the reason Canseco didn’t make the cut is because Donruss beat Topps to the punch and his Rated Rookie is his most iconic early year card.
Regardless of my small gripes (no Jose, price, weird art), Topps Project 2020 is the best thing Topps has done in nearly a decade or longer. This project puts baseball cards in a new category, almost like a rebranding. In the opinion of a collector of 30 years, baseball cards should be considered artwork and not just an outdated and really, an unnecessary hobby from the golden days. To me, these cards are must-have items that have sparked my interest in cards for the first time in a long time.
Topps, you can keep your Allen & Ginter and 15 other products that barely change year to year. Those brands, to me, died a sad death many years ago. In fact, with the exception of products that include Refractors, I have not been interested in any Topps issues besides Stadium Club for nearly fifteen years. Even the shine of Clearly Authentic has faded. Project 2020, however, is a step in the right direction. Let’s hope they keep up this type of output moving forward and stop being the tired monopoly of the past decade.