2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Set of the Year

Almost just in time for the first set of 2012, I finally reach the pinnacle of my 2011 Phillies Card Year in Review series. I know that all the cool kids like to start their annual reviews sometime at the end of October when 1/6 of the year still remains, but waiting as long served two purposes. One, I had the opportunity to look over literally everything that arrived in 2011. I absolutely love, for example, when critics name their best books of the year when there are two months of books left unreleased. Yes, I know all about advance review copies, but that’s ignoring my point. How can you be certain if something is the best of the year if there are two frakking months left it in it? The other purpose is that drawing this series out gave me something to write about as I killed the weeks between the last of the 2011 sets and today’s release of 2012 Topps.

Seeing as I already have my order in for a team set of the first series, I better get started on my choice for the set of the year. So without further preamble, the winner is:

2011 Topps Gypsy Queen

I don’t believe I’ve hid my love for this set. I talked approvingly about it back at the start of this blog, and my while positive first impression came with a few reservations, the set really grew on me — so much so that I included a large number of cards from the set in the other categories in my review of the 2011 cards. Although I stand by my belief that Topps should have issued a set closer to the look and feel of the original Gypsy Queen cards, the treatment they applied to the photos on the cards gave the set a truly unique feel compared to all their other sets to date. I saw more than a few baseball card blogs complain about Topps issuing yet another retro set, but here’s the thing: unlike Topps’s Heritage offerings and all the various insert where they’ve reused designs from their past, the overwhelming majority of collectors cannot afford even one of the original Gypsy Queen cards. For most of us, this is going to be as close as get to them.

My love for the set, however, extended far beyond the look and feel of the cards and their photos. One of the other things that made this set really unique was that all the inserts — whether they were plain, simple inserts or contained memorabilia and/or autographs — maintained the basic card design of the base set. Even if all the card didn’t have “Gypsy Queen” in the same arched word-art at the top of each card, you would have recognized immediately, without a moment of doubt or hesitation, whether or not an insert came from the Gypsy Queen set. To me, this made it both fun and compelling to chase down as many of the various inserts as possible. It was a rare set in which you could mix the inserts alongside the base cards in a binder and they wouldn’t have looked out of place.

In fact, you could theoretically do the same thing with the mini framed inserts, if you were of a mind to somehow excise them from the frame in which Topps encased them.

Admittedly, putting together a true master set of 2011 Gypsy Queen Phillies will be impossible — there were just too many autograph and/or memorabilia cards with ridiculously small print runs. However, I really feel like Topps at least attempted to strike a balance because there were actually a significant number of those cards that I could afford. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, Topps also created much easier to find auto and/or memorabilia cards for all the players whom they created an auto/memorabilia card printed on an extremely limited basis. In particular, I’m referring to the autographed memorabilia cards with print runs of just 25 they created for Utley, Victorino, Howard and Halladay. For each player, you could much more cheaply acquire some sort of Gypsy Queen autograph or memorabilia card. You really can’t say that for any of the other sets made issued in 2011.

With that, I’m finished with this series. I don’t expect everyone to agree with my reasons for choosing Topps Gypsy Queen as my set of the year, but I’m comfortable with the decision. Topps has already announced plans for a second Gypsy Queen set this year, and I sincerely hope that all the elements that made the 2011 set so wonderful return in the upcoming issue.

Cards Featured
Base Cards: #342, Placido Polanco; #47, Jimmy Rollins; #27, Roy Oswalt; #139, Raul Ibañez; #2, Roy Halladay
Mini Parallels: #346, Shane Victorino; #2[b], Roy Hallady (SP variation)
Certified Autograph: #GQA-SV, Shane Victorino; Framed Mini Relic (image was cropped): #FMRC-CU, Chase Utley

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