Friday, July 25, 2008

Will's For Allen & Ginter

Will here, NOT GELLMAN. This week I've been obsessed with several new pop-culture phenomena, Baseball Boss, Duels, virtually attending Comic Con and yearning to buy some Allen & Ginter, which I finally got to do today. I won't bore you with a pack pull, because let's face it, I bought three packs, that's not really much to go on. I did get a Carl Crawford framed jersey, which is very cool, but I was really more interested in some of the other inserts this year.

I really love Allen & Ginter for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because the cards are just so beautifully cool. I honestly may have to decide at some point that I'm not going to buy anything else, but try to collect a full set of A&G and the only way I'm going to be allowed to do so is to focus my collecting.

There's so many reasons to like A&G, so I've decided to do a pros and cons list for the set, call it lazy blogger syndrome:


  • The Card Stock - Not only is it pristine, it's thick and unglossed, making it perfect for signatures. Well, at least I think it would be, I haven't tried to get any signed, but I can imagine. Glossy cards are just too damned hard to have autographed.

  • The Card Fronts - No other set looks quite like A&G. Other sets do the computer enhanced art work, but A&G consistently sets the bar on quality. At least to my unprofessional eye that is. I mean my degree is in English, not Design, but I know what my eye prefers: clean and simple design with repetitive motifs that both reach back to an earlier time and also remind us that we're in modernity, which leads us to:

  • The Card Backs - The typography is consistent with the fronts, as is the overall design.

  • The Descriptive Backs of Non-Ballplayers - Seriously, the backs of non Baseball players are way better than the statistics. Card-backs aren't known for their verbosity or even relevance really (face it, who really remembers the BACKS of cards) and years of reading goofy Topps copy make it seem like these are mere kitsch, but they are pretty informative as well. For example, the back of the State of Kansas/Nate Robertson let me know that Nate had been drafted three times by two different teams. Oh and Joey Chestnut has other competitive eating categories in his resume besides hot-dogs.

  • The Minis - Who doesn't like minis? I don't like it when there's an entire set made up of only minis (I won't be buying Goudey ever again), but one per pack doesn't stink.

  • Variety of Subjects - The conceit of the A&G set itself is that it's an update of the vintage Tobacco cards, of which baseball cards were only a small portion. There were hundreds of other subjects, and Topps is doing a great job of taking an "anything goes" attitude towards what's appearing on the cards. So far they've had subsets based on Roman Emperors, Flags of the World, Snakes, Sharks, States of the Union, Historic Figures, World Leaders and Ancient Icons. That's just the insert sets, the BASE set has some really different folks on the fronts, from Danica Patrick and Freddy Adu to Albert Einstein and Herman Mellville, you never really know WHO is going to appear in A&G, and that's half of the fun. Makes opening up packs pretty fun. For example, today I pulled the champion eater guy and a speed-skater along with my ballplayers. IN A&G I love that. Other sets, not so much, though for some reason the political cards this year aren't bothering me at all.

  • Retail Packs are only THREE BUCKS - At least they were last year. I'm hoping they'll be the same price this year. Haven't seen them at retail quite yet. This year's hobby packs were only five bucks, so that's not bad either. Last year I couldn't find them for less than six, and then the few packs I was able to purchase kind of sucked. I never felt like I bought a bad pack at three bucks each.


  • Too Many Parallels - It just proves that NO set that Topps puts out is immune to the peril of parallels. I don't even care about Parallels anymore. Not even 1/1's because really, are they TRULY one of one? Theres thousands of other cards that look exactly like that one only with a different color border. I guess those super-fractors are technologically different, but I haven't seen one, so I can't really make an assessment. The Wood cards are mildy interesting, but not that much. Silk cards don't really do much for me either.

  • Short Prints - I hate short prints in a base set. Really I do. It kills set collectors and makes it that much harder for those who even consider putting together the set. The last time I put together a set of sports cards it was in the 20th century, and I've been very hesitant to try it again due to the huge number of short-prints these days.

  • Rip Cards - I don't like the concept of rip cards one iota. I feel like the card companies are really into the whole Willie Wonka Golden Ticket idea as being the one reason that people still collect cards. I guess there's SOME validity to that, but rip-cards take it to the extreme. TO have to destroy the card to get to the inside is just strange. In an upcoming Basketball set there's going to be real cash in the rip cards. Isn't that a lottery?

  • Funky Collation - I haven't experienced this first hand, but the reports coming out of the far east of multiple rip cards coming from one box or case is alarming. The playing field needs to be leveled. Collectors in other countries shouldn't get special treatment because of their location. Just like the boxes of product provided to Beckett for their box bust videos, or for the Topps Rip Parties should be regular run of the mill boxes from anywhere in the production line, and therefore not loaded with impossible "hits", collectors in other countries shouldn't be able to get their mitts on an AMERICAN product first, and then sell ONLY to American collectors on eBay. I'm sure this isn't just a Topps-only issue.

  • The Crack the Code Contest - I think it's just a bad idea all together. These contests are really only designed for a FEW devoted individuals that have the wherewithal (and funds) to actually try to break the code. It just seems to me to be too gimmicky. I don't particularly care for contests where the amount of money that you spend on an item is the deciding factor.

These are some pretty minor complaints to be honest. The Crack the Code is most probably a one time only deal, since once the code is cracked, it makes it easier to work a similarly conceived contest the next time. I will most likely never pull a rip card, though I did almost bid on a Vladdy Rip card last year. I'll also probably not even buy enough of this product for the collation to affect me. In fact, I've already been pretty lucky pulling a relic out of my first three packs. I also pulled an ad-back parallel and two short prints, so that won't kill me either.

I don't really have any positive or negative opinion of the DNA 1/1s and the other super-rare cards. For A&G's theme, the DNA cards aren't such a stretch. The only thing I would point out is that the Lincoln Hair 1/1 that's on the box cover is NOT the same card that's on eBay at the moment. If there is only one of those cards out there, Topps is guilty of false advertising. The hair strand on the cover of the box is much longer (and curlier) than the picture that's on the eBay auction. Look for yourself, don't take my word for it.

Also, please remember these are just MY opinions, I could be misinformed.


  1. Might be time for a NOT GELLMAN banner.

  2. Has any of the artwork that you've seen been a retread of previous Topps product photos?

    Don't quote me on this, but it seems that there were some cards in the '07 set that had the exact same "photo" used in another Topps set from last year.

    I can't remember who and I might be wrong but I was wondering if you've come across any in the '08 stuff you've seen?

  3. I went out of my way to buy a 2007 Fyodor Dostoevsky card (one of my favorite writers). I usually don't like the kinky cards Topps throws into their sets, but a lot of the non-athlete Allen and Ginter's cards are neat, in my opinion.

  4. Geomon - I'll at least identify myself at the beginning of the post, much like Charlie does. Perhaps I should come up with a small icon.

    JV - yes I'm noticing that there are reuses of photos, particularly Howie Kendricks' card is pretty much the same shot as last year, though when you compare the two cards you notice that while the pose is the same the coloring is vastly different, as is the cropping.

    Both Topps and UD reuse photos quite often, I wish I knew why, they should have quite a large pool of photos to choose from.

    Pacifist - The non-baseball cards in A&G are as much of a draw as the baseball cards to be honest. What's so odd is that hobby bloggers hate the inclusion of non-sports cards in sports sets, except for A&G. Personally I don't mind to be honest. In fact, I love the political inserts during an election year. If they continue the political inserts next year, then I'll have an issue.