Actually, thanks to the arrival of a new team set and a few other individual cards, I actually had the opportunity to pick the card referenced in the title of this blog. After thinking it over, the choice became obvious because it encapsulated so many different things — positive and negative — about the current state of the Phillies, modern card collecting and my feelings about where the hobby is today: 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen, #326 Chase Utley.
What I love about the card begins with the retro design of the set, which is based on the 1887 N174 set with the same name. Now, retro sets have their detractors (see the Dec. 10, 2010 post on Bad Wax about this set when it was first announced), but I am a sucker for sets like this. I heart them the way a 16-year-old fangirl loves Justin Beiber. Actually, I don’t know how a 16-year-old fangirl loves Justin Beiber, but I think I can imagine how it is, and that’s how I feel about retro sets — especially when compared to many of the designs used on modern sets (but more on that at another time). Adding to the awesomeness of the design is the use of an action shot. I know that action shots are actually anathema to the notion of producing a retro set, but while I do love the retro design concept in general, I really could do without the head shots and capless photos that Topps feels are necessary to its Heritage offerings. The other primary reason for picking the card: Chase Utley, the best player on the team over the past five years, which happens to be the greatest period in team history. Picking him and this particular retro set also appropriately highlights the fact that this year’s team is also the oldest in Major League Baseball, and as such is far more injury-prone than any other team. Utley’s current stint on the DL just serves to accentuate this fact.
But as I said in the opening paragraph, there are a few negatives surrounding this card. First and foremost, it’s an SP. Topps justifies its insistence on including short prints in nearly every retro set it produces by saying it helps to duplicate the scarcity of particular cards in its vintage sets. Yet, it’s not fucking necessary — the only reason why cards from its pre-1973 sets are scarcer than others is because of the way Topps issued cards during that era. By insisting on issuing these SPs, Topps is only annoying team/full set collectors such as myself and creating a false sense of scarcity that really doesn’t exist. Another issue the card represents is the monopoly Topps now has on cards. For most of my life, there have been three or more different companies producing baseball cards, and each brought their own aesthetic to the table. That’s gone now, and while MLB and Topps insist they have the best interests of the hobby at heart, I’m not convinced that giving a monopoly to Topps is vital to the effort to produce less product and find a way to bring kids back to the hobby. Gypsy Queen is the fifth set produced by Topps this year, and its plagued with unnecessary levels of parallels, hard-to-find inserts and lack of appeal to kids. While I love the base design, I really do wish that Topps would work as hard on getting kids back into the hobby as it does trying to milk every dollar it can out of its rapidly aging fan base.
So, here’s to the 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Chase Utley card: the perfect representative for the state of card collecting today, as well as the 2011 Phillies, and officially the 14,000th card in my Phillies collection.