2013 Topps Heritage: A Phillies Collector’s Review

Featured Cards: 2013 Topps Heritage #16, Cliff Lee; 2013 Topps Heritage #72, Chase Utley; 1964 Topps Heritage #258, Michael Young; 1964 Topps #243, Dick Allen & John Herrnstein; 2013 Topps Heritage #243, Darin Ruf & Tyler Cloyd; 2013 Heritage Then & Now #TN-BV, Jim Bunning

2013 Topps Heritage Lee FrontI love the Heritage series, as well as most other series and inserts that replicate vintage designs. I’m sure it’s just an aspect of my particular brand of Asperger’s coming out, but the reason for this is that I really like to see players from different years and eras in cards sharing the same design. In that vein, always wished the Phillies would authorize/produce a set similar to the 1991 Crown/Coke Orioles or the 1990 Target Dodgers sets. I don’t think that will ever actually happen, so the closest experience I have to this is the 1989-1994 run of Tastykake/Medford Phillies Team Issue sets — although, the ’52 Rookies sets from a few years back and both last year’s and the upcoming Archives sets also fill this role nicely too.

For this reason, I look forward to each year’s Heritage release. And, like a demented Alzheimer’s patient, I eagerly anticipate the set, only to find myself disappointed by some aspect of the newest Heritage offering once I have my team set and various inserts and parallels in hand. Here are my key observations about this year’s set.

1. What Topps Got Right

2013 Heritage Utley FrontBefore getting into what I don’t like about the release. I want to give Topps kudos what for what they did do right. First and foremost, some of the posed shots (in particular, Cliff Lee’s, Chase Utley’s, Roy Halladay’s and Carlos Ruiz’s) look like they belong in the original 1964 set — even though they don’t actually mimic any of the pictures found in the Phillies cards that year. Topps doesn’t have to meticulously attempt to completely reproduce every aspect of the original set — they just have to show proper deference and reproduce the feel of it. Along those lines, Topps finally figured out that the registered trademark symbol, which didn’t appear on the 1964 release, doesn’t have to be obtrusively obvious and just needs to be large enough to be seen. This was a definite improvement over the way it was prominently displayed in last year’s Topps Archives 1977 Cloth Stickers inserts.

Then there’s the trivia questions on the back. I had to wait until I had a duplicate in hand before I would actually rub a nickle over the white box to get the answer (the very act of doing so feels like you are purposefully damaging the card, and I couldn’t bring myself to do that 2013 Heritage Young Backto a card that I was keeping in my collection), but Topps completely followed through with historical authenticity and made the process work. I also discovered that looking at the back under bright light and at the correct angle makes the answer temporarily legible as well. Failing that, you could also just track down the Venezuelan black back parallels — an incredibly awesome and justifiable parallel — which have the answer already revealed for you.

2. What Topps Got Wrong

Let’s start with the Darin Ruf/Tyler Cloyd Rookie Stars Phillies card. Thankfully, Topps’s long-standing effort to as best as possible maintain continuity regarding card number and team assignment across the Heritage offerings meant that we can line it up with a Rookie Stars Phillies bearing the same card number from the ’64 set:

2013 Heritage Ruf-Cloyd Front2013 Heritage Ruf-Cloyd Back1964 Topps Allen Herrnstein Front1964 Topps Allen-Herrnstein Back

This manages to somehow surpass Topps’s own long-established record of laziness. The wrong font sizes, incorrect color choice and refusal to get the title on the back of the card correct make their 2001 Archives reprint of the 1967 Dick Groat card look positively competent. Sadly, the Ruf/Cloyd card isn’t the only screw-up on Topps part. Given the lack of Phillies in this year’s various Heritage inserts, it was nice to see Bunning appear on a Then & Now insert. However,2013 Heritage Then & Now Bunning Topps clearly still hasn’t learned from the mistake it made with its 2003 All-Time Favorites card of Bunning — it replicated the error of using a photo from the wrong period. Really, Topps, is it really that hard to find a color picture of Bunning dating from the 1964-1967 timeframe?

Then there’s the full-color border variations and color swap cards. I understand that Topps feels as though they need to make special variations exclusive to certain retailers, but could they please just find a way to make the variations look like they might have actually occurred back in 1964? The red and blue borders make sense on the flagship Topps product — they make no sense whatsoever in the Heritage line. The color swap variations — which 2013 Heritage Red Halladay Frontkind of made sense in the 2012 Heritage, with its wide array of color combinations that varied even amongst players from the same team — are marginally less atrocious. Thankfully, Ryan Howard is the only Phillie with such a variation, and I will not be tracking that one down.

Finally, there’s the issue of the Real One Autographs. I suppose I should be thankful that there’s at least one Phillie this year (in a few different years, there have been none), but as I’ve previously stated, there were a plethora of Phillies from the 1964 squad who still haven’t appeared on an officially-issued autograph card. I’m just afraid that we’ll never see such a card for many of those players. Thankfully, the Topps’s Archives offering provides more opportunities for these players, but I’m really concerned that some of them will never actually appear on one.

9 responses to “2013 Topps Heritage: A Phillies Collector’s Review

  1. I enjoyed your analysis. A few comments:

    1) I picked up a 20-card “rack pack” (not really a rack pack, but it was hanging on a rack) at Wal-Mart yesterday. I have to admit that I looked through the white material on the front to pick the best front card of the 5 or so packs that were there, so it wasn’t entirely random that I got Derek Jeter as none of the packs had Phillies showing through. But I was pleased that I also got Charlie Manuel, Dom Brown, a short print (Adam Jones), AFraud, and a blue border parallel. Well, actually I hate those parallels, but maybe I can move it on eBay. I haven’t decided whether I will try to collect the whole set this year as I have tried to do for about 1/3 of the sets, or maybe just buy cards 1-425 when that gets cheap. Either way, I will pick up a full Phillies team set. But +1 for my first pack being a solid one.

    2) Bummer on the issues you point out with the rookie card and the Then and Now photo. But I did appreciate the photography and whatever sort of photo enhancement they did to give the cards the feel of 1964 originals. I really liked how the Manuel photo both caught him in a joyful moment and also reminded me a bit of the original Gene Mauch card.

    3) I didn’t rub a nickel over any of my 20 cards yet, but it’s cool that Topps did that too. I suspect 99 out of 100 Heritage cards sold will never have their backs rubbed off like you did–not at $3 a pack!

    4) I haven’t looked into it yet, but are there any Phillies chase cards/subsets, like the stickers they had last year?

    • Unfortunately, outside of what this post already mentioned, there are very few chase/insert Phillies cards in this year’s Heritage set. There are incredibly limited box-topper game-used jersey cards for Halladay and Howard (in the style of the 1964 Topps Giants, and limited to just 25 each), the usual Chrome partial parallels, a mini partial parallel, and the aforementioned color variations and Paul Brown Real Ones Autograph. That’s it. Topps clearly has pulled back on the Phillies product this year.

  2. Dennis Orlandini

    That simple, direct 1964 style still looks good almost a half-century later.

    • The 1964 is one of my all-time favorites as well. Nearly 30 years ago, the Bunning card was the first Phillies card from the set that I added to my collection, and while I cannot be 100% certain, I believe it’s very likely that the ’64 team set was the first Phillies team set predating my year of birth that I completed.

  3. Also, how do you equate the 1991 Crown/Coke Orioles and the 1990 Target Dodgers sets to the 1989-1994 run of Tastykake/Medford Phillies Team Issue sets–in the sense that they were SGAs? I know the Dodgers set (which I have) attempts to show every Dodger in history. I wasn’t aware of the Orioles set, but I see that it contains 500 cards, which 37 years into their existence probably sought to do the same for the Os (although I suspect someone got trimmed, or else it was mighty coincidental that it ended up at exactly 500). But those Phillies cards are just those current years’ players, no? Or maybe I’m missing something.

    In 2006 and 2007, I pestered Scott Palmer of the Phillies by email for the team to do a set like the Dodgers one for their 125th anniversary in 2008 (or their 125th season in 2007) to no no avail. I even suggested trying to bring the resources of the Philly SABR chapter on board (without checking with my fellow SABRen,,,,) to track down photos. Maybe I’ll try again in 2032 for their 150th season. It would be a tremendous giveaway, IMO–every Phillie ever (coaches too, if I had my way), all in one set.

    • It was a rough and very poor approximation. As you point out, each year’s set featured only current players (with the exception of 1990, when the Phillies threw in Schmidt, Roberts, Ashburn and Carlton). However, and this is why I drew the comparison, those six years the Phillies used the same design resulted in over 260 cards depicting approximately 120 different Phillies players and coaches (not counting multiplayer, broadcaster, Veterans Stadium or Phanatic cards). From that perspective, the 1989-1994 Phillies Team Issue design is the closest (admittedly, not very close at all) there is to something like the Crown Orioles or Target Dodgers sets.

      • steveinphilly

        Ah, I get it. I had forgotten that they were all of the same design those years. Thanks.

  4. I had the same problem with the Real Ones Autographs last year, so these things vary from year to year and team to team. Topps was trying to highlight players who had their last Topps card in 1964, so that may have reduced the options (the Mets of that era had no shortage of players who would never be seen in baseball again…).
    They got so much right with this year’s design that it’s disappointing to see such careless mistakes. The photo selection/modification in particular was spot on. I worry a bit about how terrible the photography will get by the time they get to the 1986 design… I don’t mind the colored border parallels and other variants that much because the checklists are limited and somewhat varied, but they don’t really add much to the product. The 2001 product had a chrome parallel and red/black back variants, now we have chrome/refractor/purple refractor/black refractor/gold refractor parallels and Venezuelan/red border/blue border/color swap/action image/mini variants on top of the usual box toppers and inserts. Heritage is turning into every other Topps product, but I guess that’s what it takes to sell cards these days.

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