It's a Brave New World in producing baseball cards …

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   I’ve decided that I’ve spent too much time over the years carping about changes in the wacky world of modern baseball cards, so now all I am going to do is take note of those things that elicit wonderment, if not exactly awe.

   I’m not kidding here. What I used to bemoan, I now merely observe. Topps sent out a flyer recently about the first series of 2009 Baseball (shown above left), and it boasts so many bells and whistles that the base cards seem like little more than an afterthought. Not grousing, just pointing out.

   But, oh, what flash and pizzazz! There are silk cards, autographs, relics, patches, stamps, cuts, printing plates and even original artwork (shown below right). Some of those mentioned are the comely one-of-ones (artwork, printing plates, All-Star Nameplate patches), that curious post-modern creation that the card companies developed several years ago and for some reason have run into difficulty finding a way to top it ever since. But I’m not complaining.

Sketch-Cards.jpg   There’s even a reprint of Mickey Mantle’s 1958 Topps card which I typically might have liked, but alas, like me, it’s a relic, and limited to 58. Topps’ new arrangement with Curtis Management also allows for a cool “Legends of the Game” short-printed variation, allowing for names like Ruth, Wagner, Gehrig and Hornsby, to name a few, to mingle with the Fukudomes, Shin-Soo Choo and even Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see how they squish that name on the back of a jersey, to say nothing of a baseball card.

   The very same 17 “Legends” also appear in another neat insert replicating the great Turkey Red cards, which Topps has used in its own issue in recent years. I’m not saying it was my idea, but eight or nine years ago at a National Convention, I took a certain Topps executive by the elbow and guided him over to a table nicely adorned with Turkey Reds and splained to him that here was a design that the Topps graphic crew ought to be reviving.

   I still chuckle at what the hobby is going to be like in 20 years when they try to find someone with firsthand knowledge of all the elements of a particular issue. I guess that’s what reference volumes are for.

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