Card Collecting as Archeology, Part 1

Featured Card: 2010 Topps Attax Champions (no #), Ryan Howard

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that one of the things that I find fascinating about collecting baseball cards is the archeological element to the hobby. Over 135 years after the first ones were produced, we still don’t know everything about all the cards that have ever been printed, and we’re discovering things about baseball cards all the time. When I first wrote that, I was discussing the 1940 Play Ball set. However, what makes that statement all the more amazing is that this happens with relatively new product as well.

Case in point: the Ryan Howard Attax card you see here. I acquired it this past weekend on a visit to The Fantastic Store, which just recently had its grand opening in nearby Chantilly, VA. (More about the trip in a future post.) While there, I saw this card on a free giveaway tables (leftovers from the grand opening), and the first thing I immediately noticed was the “Champions” along the right side of the card. I have all the Ryan Howard 201o Attax cards across Topps’s various brands, and none of them had that marking. Furthermore, when I got the card home, I compared it to all the others and found that the picture and the Attax battle numbers were also unique to this foil card. Yet, I cannot find it in the Beckett online database and the only mention I can find of it anywhere online is on CheckOutMyCards.com, which doesn’t give any useful information about the card at all. (The site currently shows Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth cards from the set as well.)

Now, I did ask the manager of The Fantastic Store where the card come from, and he told me that he received a bunch of them at a national-level baseball card convention during the summer of 2010. I didn’t inquire further, but I assume that this was some sort of promo that Topps was distributing at that particular show. However, even knowing this did not help me find any pertinent information about it online. I suppose I could quiz him again about it on my next visit to the store, but how is it that a card that’s less than two years old isn’t better documented? I have no doubt that it’s a legitimate, authorized release — yet, if I didn’t have it in my own hands I would doubt its existence. The truly frightening thing is that this is a Topps issue, and given its current status as the only licensed manufacturer of baseball cards, there’s no reason for the paucity of information about this card.

Given that such a thing can happen with a Topps issue, it’s not too surprising what starts turning up when you looking for regional and team-issued cards. I have another one of these for a post tomorrow.

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