I think I might have dated a Gypsy Queen one time …


   Obviously, if I were somehow capable of reshaping the universe, I’d promptly tackle all the truly important stuff like world hunger, disease, war, launching a semipro recreational waterboarding circuit with members of Congress as the waterboardees, etc., at which point I’d turn my attention to the more whimsical, dare I say even frivolous.
   It wouldn’t even be atop this junior varsity list, but I’ve long lamented the fact that our hobby of card collecting has mutated over the last 20 years into something that might well be unrecognizable to collectors from an earlier era.


   For example, it’s certainly ironic that a self-avowed card guy would take up employment in the early 1990’s with Sports Collectors Digest just as the hobby – and by extension the magazine – would find themselves very nearly estranged from the new-card market. The culprits behind this sad development are as numerous as they are varied, but the result has been that newly-issued cards have an extraordinarily modest footprint in our pages these days and have for quite some time.

   I am, of course, ultimately responsible for the extent of that footprint, but we we’re simply responding to changes in our hobby in general and the advertising world in particular as we moved away from coverage of new cards to an expanded role in our pages for vintage cards and memorabilia.



Still, as a card guy I miss a lot of the fun we used to have in that arena, and am at least grateful that the sole surviving baseball card manufacturer, Topps, makes a bunch of cards with a retro feel that warrant some mention each year in SCD.

   While I’ve heard criticism that Topps has overcooked the usage of “old” card designs for new issues, I don’t think I’d be on board with the scolding. It’s nice every year to be able to include the Topps Heritage issues in our pages, along with any number of newer creations that have effectively mimicked the look and feel of just about every notable tobacco and gum issue ever produced.

   And so I am kind of looking forward to seeing the cards from the 2011 Gypsy Queen issue, which is slated to be released in mid-April. My enthusiasm stems not from any nascent nostalgia over real Gypsy Queens, but rather from some aesthetic appreciation of the look of a handful of the early samples.

   Since the original Gypsy Queens were black-and-white photographs much akin to the more widely known Old Judges, Topps is clearly doing little more than to try to make use of the trade name … and maybe the attractive graphic design of the logo. I don’t know if there’s much real currency in the name itself – certainly not for younger collectors – but they might like it because it sounds more like the name of a motorcycle gang than a baseball card set. Maybe there are marketing possibilities with T-shirts and leather jackets.

   I checked with my favorite baseball card maven, Clay Luraschi of Topps, and he explained that the images in the set are made to appear like artwork but are in fact another computer program designed to elicit that painted look. From the few samples I’ve seen (some shown here), Topps may be getting ever closer to truly nailing that difficult challenge. These look cool.

   Ultimately, when these kinds of issues are successful, the bells and whistles like autographs, relics and snazzy parallels generally seem to get the credit, but for me, just as it was 51 years ago when I saw my first 1959 Topps card, I just like the way they look.

   Oddly, enough, that used to be enough when it came to baseball cards.

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