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Blog Bat Around: 2009 Hopes & Fears in Card Collecting

Once again, it's time for another Blog Bat Around hosted by a member of the baseball card blogging community. This time, Dave at the Fielder's Choice is hosting. This is the third Blog Bat Around topic (I didn't participate in the first one - my entry for the second one is here).

The topic:
Part 1:
What type of sets would you like to see produced in 2009 and beyond? What sets from 2008 and past years do you want to see return, and which brands would you like to see killed off? How could existing brands be improved and what new types of card sets would you like to see created?

My response:
2008 was a good year for me in terms of collecting, but not a great year. First, I started the year off trying to complete Topps Heritage and Allen & Ginter (they were the only two sets I completed in 2007, and I loved both sets that year). I managed to complete A&G rather easily, but I still haven't completed Heritage (want to help me?)

After my local retail store supply of Heritage dried up, I picked up a few packs of Baseball Heroes (lured by the decent number of cards, early '90s design, and low price of a box), Upper Deck X, Topps Chrome, Upper Deck Masterpieces, Upper Deck Goudey, Upper Deck Timeline, Topps Stadium Club, Upper Deck base, Topps base, Upper Deck Spectrum, and Upper Deck Artifacts. As you can, I at least sampled almost all the low and mid-level sets the "big two" companies had to offer this year.

I've written extensively about my personal feelings on most of those sets, so you can check my archives if you wish. Today, I wish to focus on 2009 - using the sets of 2008 (and previous years) as a guide.

What I'd like:
If I like a set, I buy it by the boxful, which means it doesn't take me too long before I have the vast majority of a set (the remaining cards I usually try to acquire via trades or eBay). That said, I hope the card companies spread out their set releases... If I had my way, here's what the schedule would look like (starting with February since January is half over already):

2009 - February:
Topps: Topps Heritage
Upper Deck: Upper Deck Series 1
Heritage is my favorite set year in and year out. I enjoy tracking down the short prints (and I've even completed the Chrome parallel set one year). Having a set loaded with short prints and parallels coming out first means more time to slowly acquire/trade for the needed cards...and it gives those of us living in the cold weather a "summer time" type activity to do while the snow flies outside.

2009 - March:Topps: Topps Series 1
Upper Deck: Collector's Choice
If I had my way, Upper Deck would scrap it's "kid based" First Edition and replace it by the formerly "cool" Collector's Choice. If UD made Collector's Choice a 300 card set, with a few inserts (including something kid-centric, stickers or "stand up" figures perhaps), the set would probably sell quite well.

2009 - April:
Topps: Opening Day
Upper Deck: Baseball Heroes
I, personally, don't buy Opening Day - but I understand it's place in the scheme of things. If Upper Deck axed First Edition, then Opening Day would have the "gimped base card" market all to itself. Opening Day makes sense to offer in April (it focuses on the season at hand)- and Upper Deck could counter with a set that focuses on the stars of today and yesterday.

2009 - May:Topps: Fan Favorites
Upper Deck: Goudey
For me, May would be a GREAT month of cards. I loved the idea of Fan Favorites and wish it would return as a "modern retro" type of product, complete with a chrome parallel version. Meanwhile, Goudey would have the floor as the "collector's set" for a few months, giving people time to track down the short prints, mini cards, etc.

2009 - June:
Topps: SP
Upper Deck: Masterpieces
I realize that Upper Deck said they were cutting Masterpieces, but since it's my list I say it should stay. I've never bought anything "super high end" so I just picked SP as the product there. Whatever those that like to buy highend-wise like should be released in June while Upper Deck can counter with a nice set that appeals to the more budget-based collectors.

2009 - July:Topps: Allen & Ginter
Upper Deck: Fleer Ultra
Now that Heritage and Goudey each had their time to shine as the "short print" collector's sets, it's time for Allen & Ginter to make its appearance. Upper Deck can counter with something to appeal to the "other" collector's with a shiny, glossy set full of gorgeous photos and interesting subsets/inserts in the newly revived Fleer Ultra.
2009 - August:
Topps: Stadium Club
Upper Deck: Series 2
August will be the month of stellar photography. Stadium Club for the mid to high end collectors and Upper Deck Series 2 for everybody else.

2009 - September:Topps: Series 2
Upper Deck: Timeline
Just like in the beginning of the release calendar, Topps releases their version of the base set a month after Upper Deck, meaning the glut of "base packs" in stores can be reduced which may make both sets sell better. Upper Deck releases it's "short print infused" set of Timeline, which makes set collectors excited going into the fall.

2009 - October:Topps: Bowman Chrome
Upper Deck: Spectrum
October is the month of the playoffs and World Series fever - so what better way to celebrate that than with some Chrome and flashiness? Now, I personally don't buy Bowman, but I think it has enough of a following that it shouldn't be discontinued. Spectrum, on the other hand, could be a decent set for October if Upper Deck changed the card design to something nice and kept the set size at 100 cards. I'd build that set in October.

2009 - November:
Topps: Topps Total
Upper Deck: Fleer Tradition
No better way to get over no more baseball than to have two epic sets released. Fleer tradition can appeal to those who like the "old" style of baseball cards while Topps Total can have every player from every team from the 2009 season.

2009 - December:
Topps: Topps '52
Upper Deck: Documentary
The final month of 2009 brings a huge set from Upper Deck (done correctly this time - matching pictures to what happened in the game, etc.) while Topps ends the year with a preview of next year's rookie class and one last hurrah of retro style cards.

I prefer my release schedule because it means two sets per month, one per manufacturer. This gives each set a chance to make a splash and be noticed by consumers...but nothing will linger too long without something fresh to replace it. I've axed a number of products including Bowman, Finest, SP Legendary Cuts, Co-Signers, Moments & Milestones, Heritage High Series, Piece of History, First Edition, and X. Obviously, some of those sets have already been confirmed as appearing in 2009, but if I had my way they wouldn't.

The Topic:
Part 2:

Should new sets be geared more toward set collectors, or should the number of hits (autographs and game-used relics) be increased? What about short prints? Parallels? Inserts? Gimmicks? What do you love about current cards, what do you hate, and where should the card companies go from here?

I'm a set collector, but I'm not sure what "geared to set collectors" really means. I love collecting sets with a reasonable number of short prints just as I enjoyed collecting sets like Baseball Heroes that had no short prints. Since I buy a fair number of cards, I think I prefer at least a few short prints because I can use my doubles as either trade bait or eBay fodder to pick up any missing cards.

As for parallels, I don't mind them as long as they aren't over done. I love the mini A&G cards, in fact, I'm trying to complete the mini set right now. I like the Chrome cards in Heritage and I like the colored parallels in Baseball Heroes. That said, there shouldn't be ten different versions...and each version should be easy to tell apart (otherwise, what's the point?!)

As for the "hits", I think it's dependent on the product. I don't mind buying Topps or Upper Deck base cards and not getting any hits - so long as I get some interesting inserts and lots of great photography for a low price. I don't need relics in Goudey or Heritage either - the other subsets and inserts make up for it. I do, however, want on-card autographs in both Goudey and Heritage, they just seem to "fit". On the other hand, sets like Baseball Heroes or Fan Favorites could benefit from having relics of different players, both current and retired.

In conclusion, I think there is a lot of room for improvement on the card companies part - but most of it could be done by simply LISTENING to the consumer and THINKING logically about the set. The idea behind Documentary, for instance, was great - but the execution of the set was atrocious. The idea behind Topps Heritage High Series appeared to be only about selling more cards to people who knew their set wasn't truly "complete" without the high series cards...despite the fact that the set has virtually no stars or other cards worth collecting.

There are also sets like UD X that have no redeeming qualities, from roller marks and hanging chads, to parallels that can be "homemade" with a steady hand and an xacto knife using the ugly base cards, UD X was a complete disaster. If companies reduced the rubish and focused on putting out fewer, but higher quality, sets, the entire industry would benefit.

What do you think? Did I miss any sets that MUST return in your eyes? Is the release schedule too much or too little? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. I like your monthly breakdown, although I'd get rid of a few more sets that you have staying around. Quite interesting.

  2. Great idea of having 2 release per month - and I definitely agree with bringing back Collector's Choice! I'd take Spectrum and Documentary off the table though. SP is actually an Upper Deck Brand. And I'm a fan of Finest and Legendary Cuts so I'd like to see those stay.

  3. i like the look of the Votto card


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