Last week, I wrote (more or less) approvingly about the new Gypsy Queen release. And while I stand by my initial reaction, upon further review I realize that while I like the set, Topps blew an opportunity to do something really awesome: make a set that was a true throwback to the original 1887 design.
It’s something that Topps actually knows how to do. While that aforementioned post included a disdainful remark about the Topps’s use of headshots and capless photos in its heritage designs, those type of photos are actually necessary in recreating the look and feel of Topps sets from the early ’60s through the mid ’70s. While I like the look and feel of the stylized action shots, they have nothing to do with the look and feel of the original set, a sample of which you see to the right (courtesy of the interwebs), that Topps is paying homage to. If Topps wanted to do a real Gypsy Queen set, they would have taken posed photos with the players dressed in replicas of 1887 uniforms (or some other period in time, preferably pre-World War II), printed the photos in sepia, and issued 3-4 photo variations for each player.
That would have been awesome… not to mention totally doable. In fact, while it was only an insert set of 12 cards, this is very similar to what Donruss did in the early ’90s with its Studio Heritage inserts. Okay, the multiple variations didn’t happen, mostly because Donruss wasn’t that “forward” thinking. Otherwise, the photos in the set look exactly the way they should’ve looked in the recent Topps Gypsy Queen — as shown by the Kruk card from Donruss’s 1993 issue, in which Donruss posed him in a uniform from the mid 1910s. If I had the proper QuarkXpress skills, I would’ve cropped the Kruk photo from this card and dropped it into the Topps Gypsy Queen frame to show how just how well it would have worked.
It’s not too late for Topps to rectify their error. Given their unwavering ability to beat a vintage design to death — the T206, Cracker Jack, Allen Ginter and their multiple iterations of the 1952 set immediately come to mind — Topps can just as easily take another stab at this next year and get it right. Will they? I doubt it, but I hope that they ultimately surprise me.