Featured Cards: 2013 Hometown Heroes #207, Larry Bowa 2013 Hometown Heroes City Hall Signatures #CHJK, John Kruk; 2013 Hometown Heroes Hometown Signatures #HSJS, Juan Samuel
By and large, most of the offerings from Topps and Panini in 2013 didn’t leave me with any lasting overwhelmingly favorable impression. Yes, I liked certain sets, but I didn’t absolutely love any of them the way I did Gypsy Queen in 2011 or Museum Collection in 2012. However, there was one set that pleasantly surprised me in 2013, and that set was Panini’s Hometown Heroes.
I can understand some negative reaction to the set, best epitomized by mttlg over at Collect the Mets, who called it “a bland design filled with autographs that have been done better by Topps over the last two years.” What he saw as a bland design, however, I saw as something that nicely drew upon of some of the designs from the 1930s (in particular, the cards that made use of a solid-colored background). Furthermore, I viewed the very basic design as a way of Panini working around the fact that they have airbrush away logos and team names — those edits are far less noticeable in a much more plain design. Given how busy so many modern sets, even some of the retro-themed ones, I personally appreciated the much more stripped-down look of Hometown Heroes. (Though, I feel it necessary to add that I am still waiting for one retro-themed set to match some of the best of what 1993 had to offer.)
But that wasn’t the only reason I loved the set. Although it uses a sticker for the autograph, Panini gave me my favorite John Kruk insert autograph card of the year. I don’t know if print run information on the card (if they did, Beckett doesn’t give it in its listing of the card), but based solely on the purely anecdotal and total unreliable count of copies that showed up on eBay (that would be two), it’s one of his hardest Phillies cards to find. Like the base set, the design is spartan, and I can appreciate why some will find it ugly. However, for me, that’s part of its charm. Although, I do feel it’s probably necessary to admit that I may love the card so much because it’s a Kruk autograph card that finally uses a new photo. Yes, Topps lowered my expectations so thoroughly that I could mistaking the ugliest Kruk autograph card ever for beauty.
Yet, I do agree with mttgl on the fact that the autographs were otherwise disappointing. The on-card autographs for Larry Bowa and Juan Samuel in Topps Archives just blew away the ones that Panini put together. However, it should be noted that I probably would’ve liked both the cards quite a bit more had Topps not just issued autographs for them. Nonetheless, given that neither of them thus far have appeared on very many autograph issues, for me it’s an easy deficiency to overlook. Nonetheless, getting someone new for a Phillies autograph card shouldn’t be that hard. There are still plenty of good candidates out there for Panini to pounce upon, and I will keep my fingers crossed in the hopes that a few of those candidates (of which Samuel was one until just this year) finally appear on one soon.