Over the weekend, I gave some more thought to what I wrote about the newest iteration of Topps’s Turkey Red brand. My opinion on the set remains the same, and I wouldn’t retract or change a single word. However, it did occur to me that if Topps was indeed attempting a modern take on the Turkey Red design — one of my suggestions for why the set looks the way it does — then they managed to completely overlook a direction suggested by their own designers approximately 15 years ago: the 1997 and 1998 Gallery sets.
When you look at those sets, it’s clear that they contain the same basic design elements employed by the original Turkey Red set. Both the ’97 and ’98 Gallery sets contain the picture frame and nameplate motifs, and both sets actually employ multiple variations of it in each year. Remove the foil and the gloss from
the cards, and you essentially have Turkey Red sets with frames embodying a much more modern appearance. Topps could have taken this direction, and even potentially created a “Gallery” parallel set that used foil, gloss, and the Gallery logo. While I typically avoid parallels and find most of them to be utterly banal and superfluous, I would’ve applauded Topps for updating a retro design and paying homage to a brand that they’ve let lay fallow for quite some time now (and I’m not just saying this because I came up with the idea.)
One other thought regarding the 2014 Turkey Red set: who the hell thought that new photo treatment looked attractive? I can accept that paying artists to do original artwork for baseball cards can become quite pricey and that it’s more cost effective to apply some kind of filter to an existing photo to make it appear like artwork — even though original artwork is what made the 2007 Turkey Red set arguably the best of the series. However, the new filter they used on this year’s set was just awful — even if they did manage to correct the error that caused coloration problems on the Phillie script on the jerseys and the “P” on the caps. Why the change from the one they used on all the other Turkey Red sets? If they felt such a change was essential, there were better filters available, such as the one they used on the 2007 Bowman Heritage sets.
Coming back to my primary complaint about the 2014 Turkey Red set, this boils back down to an overall lack of attention to detail at Topps. I know that once you take into account all its other sports and non-sports brands, Topps creates and distributes an ridiculous number of sets per year. That type of production schedule must be difficult to maintain, as evidenced by the fact that the release date on this year’s Heritage offering was pushed back to March 14 from March 5. Because Topps is a privately-held company and therefore isn’t required to publish annual earnings statements, there’s no way for me to know Topps’s profit margins for 2013. However, are their earnings so slim that they can’t hire one person — an expert on both the details of baseball card design throughout the product’s history and baseball history in general — whose job it is to ensure that such inattention to detail doesn’t occur? Or is this a case of a company that actually doesn’t care all that much about what its customers think, so long as they somehow maintain their current profit margins?
In the end, I just wish that Topps showed that they care as much about the minutiae of the final product as collectors such as myself do. The key here is that we want to unabashedly love these sets — that’s why we purchase them and write about them in the manner we do. Out criticism stems not from a desire to berate the product but from the understanding that it could be made significantly more enjoyable without much in the way of effort. Deep down, however, I know that Topps will show no inclination to address these flaws so long as I, and collectors such as myself, continue to purchase such product despite our complaints. However, I will continue to voice such objections in the hopes that one day Topps may actually start listening to them.
Featured cards: 2014 Topps Turkey Red #83, Roy Halladay; 1997 Gallery #23, Gregg Jefferies; 1997 Gallery #54, Curt Schilling; 1998 Topps Gallery #74, Scott Rolen; 1998 Topps Gallery #127, Curt Schilling; 2007 Topps Turkey Red #56, Chase Utley; 2007 Bowman Heritage #162, Tadahito Iguchi; 2009 Topps Turkey Red #TR129, Raúl Ibañez