By William Robinson:
This year Topps Heritage returns for its 15th year. The set that we are harkening back to this year is the 1966 Topps set. A classic set that in its original version included rookie cards of Jim Palmer, Don Sutton, and Ferguson Jenkins. As usual for this set the base set includes 500 cards with the cards numbered 426-500 as SP high number cards. This year there are a lot of variants of the base cards these include Throwback uniform variants (see pictures), action variants (see pictures), bubblegum back variants (see pictures), color swap variants, traded variants, error card variants and blue back variants.
Inserts included in this set is a 100 card chrome variation set that includes refractors in purple, regular refractor, black and gold variations. There is also a 100 card mini parallel set that is hand numbered to 100. There is also a mini bazooka set numbered to 25. Returning are the News Flashback series highlighting major events from 1966. Baseball flashbacks highlighting baseball events of the 1966 season. New Age Performers highlighting some of the best players in baseball. Then and Now returns as well showing a superstar of classic baseball with one of today. New this year are retail only insert sets: A Legend Begins which is exclusive to Target, and a Legend Retires which is exclusive to Wal-Mart.
The hit cards in this set include: coin cards that feature nickels, dimes, quarters and silver dollars each numbered subsequently less. There are also cut signatures most significantly of Don Drysdale, Roger Maris, Willie Stargell, and Harmon Killebrew. There are also celebrity cut signatures including Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Dick Clark and Sammy Davis Jr to name a few each numbered 1/1. There are Stamp relics that are numbered to 50 as well. Clubhouse collection relics return as well as dual and triple and quad relics. The autographed checklist this year includes: Al Kaline, Sandy Koufax, Byrce Harper, and Brooks Robinson to name a few. There are also dual autos and some super high end autos as well including box topper auto relics and more.
I have collected this set every year since I got back into card collecting in 2012. Each year I have put together a master set. That includes all the inserts and the entire 1-500 set. If you look back to previous years and their consistent selling record on eBay I would say that as far as sets go this is a decent investment. The sets from previous years are hard to come by once you get to 2011 and back and command a fairly hefty price tag ranging from 30 dollars to over 100. There are definitely high end autographs available as well with Hall of Fame Autos like Sandy Koufax and Brooks Robinson and Al Kaline in this set this year. In previous years I have seen autos of Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. So I feel like there is a definite chance that you can have a decent return on your investment. However, if you just buy one hobby box there is a potential for disaster as each hobby box only contains either 1 auto or 1 relic card. So you could do as well as the previously stated autos or as bad as a Zack Geinke relic card as your hit card in a box. The price tag though isn’t hefty with hobby boxes being available for 68 dollars. Plus the point of this set is to build sets and not necessarily the hit cards.
That being said I feel like this set is starting to move away from its audience. This set was intended to build nostalgia for the more simple days of collecting and to appeal to the older more mature collector. As such the older collectors that I have spoken to aren’t very thrilled with the relic cards in general and do not love all the crazy inserts. I feel like they really do need to get back to basics with this set and draw more from the original set material than they have this year. It’s a shame that there aren’t autograph cards of Jim Palmer, Don Sutton or Fergie Jenkins. I think that if I would have made this set that I would have made that the highest priority. Also I’m not certain that 1/1 cut autos where the place to go with this set. What I would have done was include a box loader that was a PSA graded original card from the 1966 set instead. They do have buybacks but I’ve never seen any of those that would have any value as they are all no name guys and all in horrible condition. To me that just reeks of cheapness as you could easily pick those cards up for 50 cents each and slap a stamp on them.
I also feel like a lot of collectors would be happier if in this set they got rid of the relic cards in general. They feel like a cheap insert being as they are tiny pieces of material and in general hold no value at all to the older collector and thus in general hold very little value. Most collectors I know of would rather have the 50 year old gum from the packs than those cards. My advice is to sell them as soon as you get them because if you hold onto them they do not increase in value and after the mad rush ends when the cards first come out those cards are hard to get rid of. As far as a replacement goes I would replace the relic cards with chrome reprint versions of the highlights from the original set.
Building a master set will be difficult this year since it will have to include the insert sets that are retail exclusive as well. This is a bit of an annoyance I would say and I think it’s a trend that needs to end here. I understand the desire from Topps to create a reason to purchase retail, but this isn’t the way to go. The better way to go is to include more autographs in the retail product or more chrome cards or to make the retail variation of the cards much less expensive than the hobby version.
I have watched a few case breaks on line and in each case there appears to be a hot box that includes 1 purple chrome card per pack, also there is usually 1 colored chrome that is SP per case and the split appears to be 2/10 autographs to relics per case. There is also about 3 new age performer cards per box as well. Each box should have about 1 variation card also. With all of that information in hand it’s easy to see that there is a high stinker potential per box with the likelihood of getting a bad box being really high. Usually it takes anywhere between 2-3 boxes to get a base set. Each case that I’ve seen opened though did have a case hit, so there is a chance of hitting a home run but it’s really low if you are buying them buy the box.
This set is a beautiful set and the cards are well made. The colors are vibrant and they do probably draw back some nostalgia for those buyers who are old enough to remember buying them. I myself am not that old and so the nostalgia they bring back for me is looking through my dad’s old cards. I remember looking at my dad’s old cards in this set, the Mickey Mantle, the Hank Aaron, the Ernie Banks and sometimes pulling them out today. This set draws it’s popularity from a desire from collectors to get back to those simple days when you were only out to collect a set of these cards or get your favorite players. If they continue to water the product down with lame relic cards and useless inserts then it will wane in popularity as many of the new collectors are only interested in hit cards and lets be honest the hit cards are not the draw here. My advice for Topps is to be really careful in the future and try to just put together a nice set with a few interesting inserts and some nice autograph cards and to move away from the gimmicks. If not this set may not last another 16 years.
Design: B+ – The 1966 design isn’t necessarily a classic design for Topps. However, this is a faithful rendition of those cards and they do look very nice with the card stock they use. The cards present well and so a binder set will be a nice addition to your collection.
Inserts: C+ – The New Age Performers, and Flashback inserts are classic and are I would not change them. I could do without the Then and Now but understand why they are included as well. My main issue is with the retail exclusive inserts as they feel lame and forced. No one except the biggest collectors of Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax want an insert set with nothing but cards about them. Especially considering that Nolan Ryan hadn’t even been in the major leagues by 1966.
Rookies: B+ – There are some potential superstar rookies included in this set with Joc Pederson and Javier Baez and Jorge Soler.
Hits: F – I again feel like this set misses its mark completely in this area. I feel like they don’t really understand their market. The mature collector doesn’t care about having a tiny piece of fabric or a tiny piece of a bat that may or may not have been used by a player. I think this set would be better served without the memorabilia cards. My advice would be to replace them with chrome reprints of the best cards in the original set. Also I feel like the autograph checklist is sorely missing the inclusion of some of the rookies that made this set famous. I have always thought that Heritage should include autographs of all the players still living who were rookies in the set it’s celebrating.
Value: D – High stinker potential for each box as you can get left with some really crummy hit cards. The number of autographs per case is abysmal as in each of the two cases I’ve seen broken there were only two autograph cards per case. I can easily see someone getting stuck with only 10-15 dollars worth of cards in a hobby box. Each base set will be worth about 30 dollars for the next few years, and chrome cards are worth about 1-2 dollars each. A master set will typically go in the 300 dollar range but you may not be able to build a master set out of each 700 dollar case, likely having to go to ebay especially to get those retail only sets. I think the only real potential that you have to make your money back on this product is to buy it by the case but fear that unless you get something truly special in a case you aren’t going to make your money back.
Overall Grade C: If you are a heritage collector then I’m guessing you will probably hop on board to this year’s set if only for the reason that you need it to complete your collection. I know that I’m going to build my master set again this year. However, I do worry that Topps is trying to make this set appeal to a demographic that generally isn’t going to be interested in this product. I also fear that Topps as a company is really starting to cheap out on cards and that the market is prime for someone to come in with a higher quality product and steal the market share. Imagine if each box had a PSA graded version of a 1966 card, an autograph card inside each box with an autograph checklist that included all the rookies that were there in the original set. If there were chrome versions of the best cards of the original series and chrome versions of the new cards plus the current beautiful set. Yes that box may cost more to put out but I’m betting that people would pay more for it as well and be happier with the product in general. Stick with the people that brought you to the dance Topps and try to appeal to the mature demographic with this set. I’m hoping that next year with the 67s we go back to the basics and hopefully include a Rod Carew and Tom Seaver autograph card in it.