Grand Cards: The Best Discontinued Set of the Last 10 Years

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Best Discontinued Set of the Last 10 Years

It's here (sorry for the delay)

I had a lot of good responses in the comments That read something like Masterpieces, Masterpieces, GOTG, Masterpieces, Goudey, something Topps did 8 years ago, and you know what? Those were right on.

UD Masterpieces was a phenomenal set--in fact, 2007 and 2008 masterpieces remain the ONLY sets that I have completed in their entirety since I returned to collecting, so, yeah. It was pretty great.

I've collected cards from Greats of the Game and I love me some Goudey (especially 2007), but they're not it either.

Then three people said "Topps All-Time Fan Favorites." Let's see: Retired players, new photographs on old card designs and on-card autographs. Yeah, I'd say that that is a recipe for fantasticness. One problem: with all the different designs, it didn't really feel like a set per se. Oh, it was cool, but it falls just short of greatness for me.

This doesn't:

That was Lance Parrish that you were looking at in my original post Lance. Parrish. Quiz time, how many mainstream, non-buyback cards does this 8x All Star, 6x Silver Slugger, 3x Gold Glove winning Catcher who sports 324 career home runs and 1000+ RBI have since he retired in 1995? 15. Four of those came out in 1996. Nine (!) came out in 2003. Was 2003 the year of Lance Parrish? Is there some reason that this borderline hall-of-famer has been effectively ignored by the hobby (who's top comparables include 3 Hall of Famers, Jorge Posada, Ron Cey, Benny Santiago and Bill Freehan), but Ty Cobb has ELEVEN cards in 2011 Topps Series 1?!?!

Oh, and that's another thing...


At least he got some love from Upper Deck, in Greats of the Game and Legendary Cuts etc.

At this point in the show, I realize that I may have digressed from my main point: Topps Retired is the best discontinued set of the last 10 years.

My reasons are twofold, and simple:

1. The cards use a modified design of each year's Topps base set, giving the set a cohesive feel that ties in nicely with the flagship Topps release

2. The checklist highlights the many, many players who were STARS, including some should-be Hall of Famers that have barely graced ANY sports cards since 2006. Right Alan?


I've got LOTSLOTSLOTS more to say about this fantastic set and how it compares to things nowadays after the jump.


So here's the thing. When Topps and Upper Deck became the sole licensees of baseball cards in 2006(?) they were limited in the number of retired players they could use in products. Then, in 2008 they signed an agreement that gave them the rights to use the images of dead players that CMG owns the rights to, in a disgusting reminder that someone can own you after you're dead. The result has been every retired player that you've seen in card sets for the last 3 years. Hint: They're all in the Hall of Fame.

That has lead to a perverse situation. One in which Ty Cobb has had 1,518 cards released since 2008. In which Al Kaline has had 2,481.

Lou Whitaker has 0. Same with Alan Trammell*. Same with infinity other fantastic baseball players who were household names in their day and have been tossed aside like they were Rico Brogna or Paul Gibson or Scott Lusader or Milt Cuyler or countless players that I can name because baseball cards exist. Somehow, the card companies are incapable of recognizing that there are tiers of greatness, not "The Top 10% of the Hall of Fame" and "Everybody else."

*Not counting unlicensed Donruss/Panini releases


I didn't get into this set until I lost an auction for that Lance Parrish card. I thought, "this is neat," then it sold for more than $10 and I was like "oh well."

Just my luck that the seller had two of them, and I got one in a second chance offer. And then the next day a 2003 Kaline came up for bid. Then within a week someone was listing their entire collection from the 2005 set. In two weeks I went from 0 to 60...err, 6

My subconscious obsession actually started earlier than that, at the National in Baltimore, when I found this fella for $3:

I have found that the worst part of these cards were those big honking cases they came in. This Evans was liberated from this encapsulation, something I would never have the balls to do. And then some jackass did this:

Put the sticker right on the case. Jackass. So I tried to get the sticker off, failed, and broke it out of it's case. Much better. I think I'm going to do it with all of them. They are phenomenal.


And that's really it. The cohesive design, the on-card autographs, the simultaneous chrome (autographs) and not chrome (base set). These are players that should be on cards today but instead we're force fed the same few stars over and over again until you just want to grab the director of product development at Topps by the throat and scream IDONTWANTTOSEEANOTHERTYCOBBCARDUNTILI'MINMYCOLDCOLDGRAVE. This coming from a man who recognizes and admits that Ty Cobb is the greatest Tiger of all time and used to like getting cards of him (and still likes the Topps SPs). It shouldn't have to be this way.

Where's my Kirk Gibson? My Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker? They're in Topps Retired. And I'll bet, if this set were still alive today, I'd get to see cards of them. And maybe of Virgil "Fire" Trucks and Cecil Fielder and Tony Phillips and Mickey Lolich and Willie Horton and Norm Cash and John Hiller and...

This is the way it should be. Don't get me wrong, I want 90% of my cards to be of modern players in modern sets. But give me my retired players back. They've been gone for too long.