Category Archives: Placido Polanco

2010 Topps Peak Performance Autographs

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions:
2½” x 3½”
Additional Information: Distributed in packs of 2010 Topps and 2010 Topps Update Series. Topps issued a different version of the Ryan Howard autograph card in each of Topps series one, Topps series two and the Update Series. However, Topps neglected to edit the card number. Descriptions of the cards are included to help differentiate between them. Carpenter, Ruiz, Polanco and Victorino do not appear in any of the other Peak Performance insert sets.





Andrew Carpenter
Carlos Ruiz
Mike Schmidt
Placido Polanco
Raúl Ibañez
Ryan Howard (text on front reads “Howard’s Stratospheric Slam Sets Record”; pictured finishing his swing)
Ryan Howard (text on front reads “Fastest to Reach 100 and 200 HR Milestones in MLB History”; pictured running from batter’s box)
Ryan Howard (text on front reads “Two Bomb Howard Single Shy of Cycle”; pictured running from batter’s box)
Shane Victorino

2012 Topps In the Name Jumbo Letter Relics

Set Type: Insert
Card dimensions:
2½” x 3½”
Additional Information: Seeded in specially-marked packs of Series One 2012 Topps. Each card contains a jersey swatch bearing a letter from the player’s name plate attached to his All-Star Game workout jersey. The marketing material issued by Topps before the set’s release used a different numbering system than the one that they actually used on the cards — these are the numbers that Beckett uses in its online guide. The numbers below are the ones actually on the cards, with the exception of Lee; Lee’s card number below is the one listed in the marketing material. That information will be amended once it is obtained. Because each card is serially numbered “1/1”, each letter in the players’ last names is listed individually below. However, in the case of Halladay, for example, the three “A” cards are for all practical purposes identical.

Roy Halladay (“H” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“A” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“L” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“L” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“A” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“D” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“A” letter patch)
Roy Halladay (“Y” letter patch)
Cole Hamels (“H” letter patch)
Cole Hamels (“A” letter patch)
Cole Hamels (“M” letter patch)
Cole Hamels (“E” letter patch)
Cole Hamels (“L” letter patch)
Cole Hamels (“S” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“P” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“O” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“L” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“A” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“N” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“C” letter patch)
Placido Polanco (“O” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“V” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“I” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“C” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“T” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“O” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“R” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“I” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“N” letter patch)
Shane Victorino (“O” letter patch)
Cliff Lee (“L” letter patch)
Cliff Lee (“E” letter patch)
Cliff Lee (“E” letter patch)

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

2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Base Card of the Year

Okay, dealers are already posting 2012 Topps cards on eBay but the official street date is still tomorrow. So, my plan to wrap this up in time for the 2012 cards is still nearly on track, and I really hope to have the final installment online tomorrow. I’ll even act like I haven’t already purchased a “master” team set off of eBay that I’m already looking forward to receiving and that I haven’t spent time drooling over the idea of getting my hands on some of the 1987 Mini inserts. Without further ado, here are my picks for the best Phillies base cards of 2011. But first, a…

Dishonorable Mention: Topps #359, Roy Halladay Post-Season No-Hitter Checklist

I really wanted to like this card more than I did — a lot more. Unfortunately, Topps didn’t feel that the second post-season no-hitter in baseball history deserved anything more than serving as a checklist. Far more often than not, the backs of Season Highlight subset cards from past years past usually contained something about the game on the back of the card — even if it was just the box score. Yet, Topps just couldn’t bring themselves to do that. I know that I shouldn’t complain too much — after all, Topps did commemorate the event, and it does appear that the picture on the card is from Halladay’s gem against the Reds. However, this was really half-assed, and Halladay and Phillies collectors deserved far better.

Fifth Runner-Up: Bowman #172, Cole Hamels

I’m a sucker for cards picturing pitchers hitting, and this card is no exception. The card gets extra bonus points because Hamels is wearing the alternate home uniform and he appears to be admiring his shot — something that pitchers rarely get to do. Given he’s never hit a home run, it’s likely he needed to start hauling ass less than a second after the shutter on the camera slammed close. However, there are two things holding this card back: the black borders, while a nice design statement, are historically notorious for chipping and making wear look worse than it really is; and, under most conditions, text done in foil can be hard to read, but placing it on a back background makes it nearly illegible under most lighting.

Fourth Runner-Up: Topps Opening Day #90, Chase Utley

First, I just need to state for the record that it is a complete an utter coincidence that I chose to post this on the same day that The Phillies Room did a post highlighting the series of photos that were taken on the same day as the photo in this card. I planned out this post last night and had every intention of using this card before Jim made his post. Second, the reason for choosing the Topps Opening Day version over the regular Topps is that it has no foil. Seriously, someone needs to do an intervention with Topps. The fact that using foil is an option is not reason in of itself to do so. I think the Opening Day set wonderfully illustrates this. The card just looks cleaner without the foil. Finally, the reason I chose this card is the fact that you it’s not a type of photo you will see often. Over the past six seasons, the Phillies have played just four day games at Fenway, which gives Topps very little opportunity to get photos of Utley in front of the Green Monster. Although, as the post at The Phillies Room demonstrates, Topps did seem to want to make up for that this year by issuing six different cards using this shot or similar photos.

Third Runner-Up: Gypsy Queen #270, Brad Lidge

I picked this card for nearly the same reason I picked the Utley card before: the details in the photo make it clear that it’s not the type you would see often. In fact, thanks to the fact that Lidge is wearing road grays, the Red Sox third base coach is wearing home whites in the background and the Robin Roberts memorial patch on the right sleeve of Lidge’s jersey, we can determine that this photo was taken on the same day as the one on Utley’s card. I will admit that while Jim’s post at The Phillies Room didn’t influence my selections for this post, it did influence the order. Seeing those six Utley cards together made the card feel a little less special than Lidge’s, and as a result I did flip-flop their order in this post. I think that was more than fair.

Second Runner-Up: Phillies Team Issue II (no #, uniform no. on back), Hunter Pence

You would expect the Phillies to occasionally employ better photos than those used by Topps, and the photo on Hunter Pence’s very first Phillies card is a great example of this. Most in action shots involve players hitting, pitching/throwing or fielding. You just don’t get many photos of players running the bases, and even rarer still is the photo where the player is as dirty as Pence is in this shot. The only really flaw in the Phillies Team Issue sets is that they are so much larger than standard cards, thus making them harder to store. Otherwise, getting your hands on these sets is a requirement for any serious Phillies collector because, frequently, they are the only place where you will find cards of players like Brian Schneider, Dane Sardinha and Mike Zagurksi. Yes, the borders can be somewhat basic, but at least there’s no unnecessary foil on them.

First Runner-Up: Phillies Fan Appreciation Day Postcards (no #), Wilson Valdéz

What I said about the Phillies Team Issue sets applies to their Fan Appreciation Day Postcard sets: you would expect the Phillies to employ photos that Topps would have a hard time acquiring. This card is yet another example of that. To be fair to Topps, Valdéz’s pitching performance is not the type of thing to warrant a special highlight card, and even if it was, it was highly unlikely they would have had a photographer at Citizen’s Bank Park on the evening and at the time Valdéz took the mound. However, it should be noted that Topps did acknowledge the event on his Update Series card. However, as I said, the Phillies were in a far different situation, and commemorating the event in their Fan Appreciation Day Postcard set is exactly the type of thing I’ve come to expect from the club. They didn’t disappoint. In addition to the rarity of Valdéz’s accomplishment, we got to see someone on the mound with a dirty uniform — pitches’ uniforms rarely get that dirty.

Now, for our winner. The 2011 Phillies Card of the Year is…

Topps Opening Day #52, Placido Polanco

As I progressed through this Year in Review series, I actually had no idea what cards I’d be writing about for this category. As a result, I inadvertently used this card as an illustration for my post on the Parallel Series of the Year. If I had known or suspected that I would choose it as the Phillies Card of the Year, that never would have happened. Obviously, the card made quite an impression on me, and as I look at closely, I can see why: although the card is for Polanco, Joe Blanton is in the background stealing the show by holding his junk. Okay, he’s holding a towel in front of his junk, but at first glance it certainly looks like he’s doing more than just supporting the team with his presence in the dugout. In fact, now that I’ve made the connection, I literally cannot look at the card without thinking, “He’s holding his dick!” (An incredibly apropos reference to a segment in Lewis Black’s Luther Burbank Performing Arts Center Blues album.) It’s a shame Blanton is stealing the show, because like a couple of the other cards in this post, action shots like this one are rare.

However, there’s yet another reason for loving this card — one I didn’t appreciate until just before I started writing about it. Take a good look at the rest of the background. Based on the hats and clothes of the fans in the stands and the partial web address on the dugout, this photo was taken at Fenway as well. In fact, like the Utley and Lidge’s photos, it was also taken on June 13, 2010. When you examine the play-by-play of the game, it’s clear that the play shown happened in the bottom of the fifth, when J.D. led off the Boston half by hitting a foul pop-up to third.

With that, my 2011 Phillies Cards in Review is nearly done. Tomorrow, I will choose my Set of the Year.

2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Card Back Designs

Back when I came up with my original list of topics for this series, I thought it might be fun to take some time to focus upon the part of the card that so many baseball card blog neglect. This blog is no exception — far more often than not, when I post a baseball card’s image, I only provide the front of the card. In fact, a review of all my 2011 Phillies Cards in Review posts thus far shows that I’ve posted the back of the card only once over the course of the series. However, now that I’ve made it to this particular topic, I find that my enthusiasm for it has ebbed significantly. Although I won’t be declaring any set as bearing the best back design of the year, I feel that there is still merit in noting some of the highlights from the side of the card you rarely see on the net.

For starters, Topps’s decades-long adherence to its classic layout on its flagship brand deserves applause. They did a wonderful job of adapting the design on the front for use on the back, and their decision to note players who appeared on the same card number in previous years was a nice way to incorporate its long history into this year’s product. For all my complaining about Topps appearing lazy, their effort on the backs of this year’s Topps cards certainly was not. The only thing that could have made the back of the Domonic Brown card better was knowing a year (and which player) a Phillie previously appeared on card #421. (That would be Doug Bird in 1980 and Curt Schilling in 1993.)

Along those lines, I feel like that Topps did a decent job of creating a back for its Gypsy Queen release. Like the overwhelming majority of cards issued during the 19th century, the original Gypsy Queen cards were blank-backed. If Topps was going for a faithful reproduction of the originals, I would likely have preferred their version of the card did the same. However, Topps put a modern spin on the photos in the design which justifies catering to modern collectors expectations regarding some sort of design on the back. However, I did have a minor complaint: their insistence on maintaining the block of legalese they’ve recently crafted for their cards really does detract from the overall look on the back. I do not know why Topps insists upon it — but if the lawyers from either MLB or the MLBPA insisted upon it, then the legal profession really has run amok.

For the It Just Needs to Be Said As Often As Possible Department: the backs of the Lineage design clearly suggest that after spending so much time actually caring about the backs on Gypsy Queen and their flagship Topps brand, Topps decided to phone it in and take it easy for a while. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that their graphic designers were required to focus their creative energies instead on either a WWE set, a Garbage Pail Kids Flashback series, or some other monstrosity that really wasn’t worth the time or energy wasted upon it.

Finally, the last card back I’d like to comment upon is the one Topps created for its Heritage Clubhouse Collection Game-Used Memorabilia inserts. I don’t know for certain whether Topps adapted the illustration from a vintage issue (it’s too detailed to be an original cartoon from the back of a 1962 Topps card) or created it especially for this particular series, but it was a really nice touch that helped ensure the cards carried the flavor of the 1962 design. It would have been nice to see something specifically tailored for the player on the front of the card — or even to have anything more than just the player’s name, team, and position — but when you compare it to what was created for the Lineage brand, it almost have to be thankful that Topps at least made the effort.

At this point, I’m down to just the Best Card of the Year and Set of the Year — the two posts I’ve been the most looking forward to writing. Furthermore, it looks like I’ll even get them finished before the 2012 Topps cards start appearing in my local Target.

Featured Card Backs: 2011 Topps Marquee #39, Cole Hamels; 2011 Topps #421, Domonic Brown; 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Mini Parallels #47, Jimmy Rollins; 2011 Topps Lineage #53, Mike Schmidt; 2011 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection Relics #CCR-PP, Placido Polanco

2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Memorabilia Card of the Year

The major impediment to selecting my autograph card of the year reared its ugly head when I looked over my 2011 memorabilia cards: I just didn’t purchase that many this year. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that during 2011, Topps saved most of its Phillies game-used cards for its high-end products. At least, that’s where they seemed to focus their truly creative memorabilia card offerings. Unfortunately, like all their high-end product, these cards were printed in such small numbers that they were too cost prohibitive for me to really obtain any of them. Otherwise, I assure you that one of the Utley-Rollins-Howard or Halladay-Lee-Hamels joint memorabilia cards from Triple Threads would have made it into this post.

Beyond that, there was another issue at play: the game-used cards in Topps’s more mainstream sets (i.e., Topps, Heritage, Allen & Ginter’s, and Gypsy Queen) were rather pedestrian and relatively basic, thus providing little excitement. Topps didn’t even provide the courtesy of offering a double-swatch card in any of these sets, like they had in its 206 set the year before. To add insult to injury, Topps’s insistence on using an absolutely identical generic card design for multiple different types of memorabilia swatches comes across as monotonous and… well, here’s the word I’ve applied to Topps many times since the start of this blog… lazy.

Literally, the only difference between the two cards is the memorabilia swatch on the front. The backs are identical — right down to the card number on the back. As boring as that looks, just imagine what it looks like to place all three of Victorino’s Allen & Ginter’s Mini-Framed Relics cards next to each other (the three different types are bat, batting practice jersey, and road jersey).

The primary upshot of all this — at least, in regards to picking my favorite — is that there were very few contenders for the Phillies memorabilia card of the year. So few, in fact, that I was prepared to just hand the award to Jayson Werth’s Gypsy Queen jersey card. I thought it would be a nice gesture to a player who such an integral part of the team’s current run of consecutive postseason appearances. That, and I liked the fact that what was very likely his last appearance on a Phillies card — at least, last appearance that roughly coincided with his tenure with the club — was a memorabilia card. Unfortunately, as I pulled the cards accompanying this particular post, I noticed the following:

Discounting parallels, Topps only issued three cards in 2011 depicting Werth as a member of The Fightins. Their archives contain four years worth of photos showing him in a Phillies uniform, and yet they still decided to use the exact same photo for his last two cards depicting him as a Phillie. For that reason alone, I felt compelled to rescind my decision to make his Gypsy Queen jersey card the Phillies memorabilia card of the year. I absolutely refuse to award Topps for its utter laziness — yes, there’s that word again.

As a result, I am not actually bestowing any card with the honor of being selected as the Memorabilia Card of the Year. The sad fact is that it was an uninspired year for game-used cards. Nothing I added to my collection in 2010 stood out in a manner worth noting. I certainly hope for something better this coming year, but at the same time, I’m not really expecting improvement from Topps. As I said numerous times before, their MLB-sanctioned monopoly gives them no incentive to improve their product — so why should they? In fact, as their competition decreased over the past decade, so did the quality of their product. Unfortunately, there are no signs that MLB intends to end the status quo at any time.

It’s almost enough to make me wish I was collected football cards instead.

Featured Cards: 2011 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection #CCR-PP, Placido Polanco; 2010 Topps 206 Mini Framed Dual-Relics Piedmont #DR-SV, Shane Victorino; 2011 Topps 60 Relics #T60R-JR[a], Jimmy Rollins (bat); 2011 Topps 60 Relics #T60R-JR[b], Jimmy Rollins (jersey); 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Relics #GQR-JWE, Jayson Werth; 2011 Topps Heritage Clubhouse Collection #CCR-JW, Jayson Werth; 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Framed Mini Relics #FMRC-RH, Ryan Howard

2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Autograph Card of the Year

It’s come to my attention that 2012 Topps Series One hits store shelves in just one week, which means if I’m going to finish my 2011 Phillies Year in Review posts before they arrive, I better get about completing them. When I started this little endeavor, picking my favorite autograph card of the year seemed like an obvious category. However, it turns out that I did not actually collect very many 2011 autograph issues. The primary reason for this is the sheer expense of so many Phillies autograph cards — i.e., the small print runs and popularity of the players most likely to receive such treatment makes the cards somewhat expensive. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino seemed to dominate the Phillies autograph issues this year — with Victorino easily being the least expensive of the bunch. Furthermore, this past year, there just weren’t any cards like the 2010 Topps 206 Brian Schneider or the 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter’s Placido Polanco. In 2011 Domonic Brown was just about the only Phillie, other than Victorino, whom you could inexpensively acquire on an autograph.

Now, those aren’t the only reasons why I picked up so few 2011 autograph issues. The other is Topps’s unceasing fetish for issuing autograph cards of players who won’t, and this is if they’re lucky, step foot onto a Major League field for another 2-3 years — if ever. (The Justin De Fratus card may ultimately go down as Topps’s luckiest autographed Phillies rookie card ever.) Yes, I could easily and cheaply pick up autograph cards of Larry Greene, Domingo Santana, and Sebastian Valle, but thanks to the likes of Elio Serrano, Jorge Padilla, and Sean Gamble, I decided approximately a decade ago that I would never again purchase the autograph card of a prospect until it appeared, at an absolute minimum, that his debut appearance in an actual game in a Phillies uniform appears incredibly likely and/or imminent. Because of that, I didn’t pick up my first Joe Savery autograph card until three years after it was issued. This also led to my spending some time in December searching for a 2008 Bowman Draft Signs of the Future Freddy Galvis card before ultimately deciding to wait out and see if he will ever actually appear in a Phillies uniform in anything other than a Spring Training game.

For all those reasons, I find myself in a position where it turns out that in one form or another I’ve already discussed and/or posted my favorite autograph cards from last year. Rather than write all about them again, I’ll just link to my original post about each of the year’s nominees and just announce a winner. But before I do so, there is one card I want to write something about first: the 2011 Topps Lineage 1952 Autographs Victorino card. I know I’ve already written plenty about how much I feel that while Topps really screwed the pooch with the Lineage offering, the inserts helped save the set. However, what I have avoided addressing until now is the butchering of Victorino’s autograph insert. The reason for it was quite simple: Topps decided that they would just use an autograph sticker for this particular card, rather than have Victorino sign the actual cards. As a result, the white box containing his autograph is ridiculously oversized. It would be great if I could place it alongside all the other 1952-style autographs that Topps has issued over the past 10 years, but it looks comically grotesque next to them.

Thankfully, I have plenty of other Shane Victorino autograph cards in my collection, which makes it a lot easier to for me shrug off this travesty and accept it for what it is.

Now that I’ve gotten that therapeutic rant out of my system, here is my list of runner-ups for the 2011 Phillies Autograph card of the year (each linked to the post where I originally posted the card):

Cliff Lee, Topps 60 Certified Autograph, # T60A-CL(b)
Bob Miller, Topps Lineage Reprint Autographs, #RA-BMI
Justin De Fratus, Bowman Prospect Autographs, #BPA-JD

And our winner is…

Roy Halladay’s Topps Gypsy Queen Autograph

I really try to avoid reposting a card twice, but if there was ever a card that deserved it, it was this one. Given the cost of Roy Halladay autograph cards, chances are very good that this will be the only one in my collection, and as such it will always remain one of its centerpieces. There are a couple other Halladay Gypsy Queen autographs in different formats, and while I would love to have both of them, I don’t think either would have the same impact as this one did on me when I received it in the mail. In fact, there are very few cards at all (by that, I mean Phillies cards of all types) that would bring the same level of enjoyment that this one did when it officially became a part of my collection.

Featured Cards: 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Certified Autographs #GQA-DB, Domonic Brown; 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter’s Framed Mini Autographs #AGA-PP, Placido Polanco; 2003 Donruss Team Heroes Authentic Signatures #390, Elio Serrano; 2001 Topps Heritage Autographs #THA-RW, Randy Wolf; 2011 Topps Lineage 1952 Autographs #52A-SV, Shane Victorino; 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Certified Autographs #GQA-RH, Roy Halladay

2011 Phillies Cards in Review: Parallel Series of the Year

When I chose my 2011 Phillies Parallel Card of the Year, I stated that one of the criteria was that “whatever changes Topps made with the parallel actually made the parallel card more desirable than its base set counterpart.” That’s happens to be a good starting point for how I chose my Parallel Set of the Year. Given my oft-stated aversion to parallels, coming across a set of them that I enjoy more than the regular-issue cards is rather rare. So rare, in fact, that there are only three sets up for the honor. The other thing these three sets have in common is that I actually made it a goal to collect an the entire team set — even though in each case I already owned a complete base team set before acquiring the parallels.

But before I write about those three sets, a few quick words about the Topps Opening Day set. Because it’s marketed as a separate set with its own inserts and parallels, it doesn’t qualify for Parallel Series of the Year. However, I did want to at least mention it because it is an essence a parallel set — one which in my opinion is preferable to the actual Topps set from which it derives. The reason for this is the total lack of foil or any other printing gimmick. In my opinion, the Opening Day set is what Topps’s flagship set should look like, and that’s because the lack of foil on the lettering means that the front is actually far more legible than the front of a standard Topps card. The only complaint I have, and it’s a quibble more than a real complaint, is that the lettering is in grey rather than white, which would have made it even easier to read.

The first of the three parallel series I considered comes from the Topps’s other set that’s actually a derivative of its primary set: Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors. I have to admit that when I first heard about them, my initial reaction was, “Meh.” After all, Topps Chrome already possessed nearly a dozen other types of refractor parallels, did it really need another? Then I saw a Sepia Refractor and decided that while Chrome still shipped with too many parallels, none of them were better than the Sepia Refractors. I think the thing I liked the most about them was that the sepia gave them a distinctive look from the base cards and any of the parallels in Chrome. I know sepia parallels are actually nothing new for Topps, but it was the first time they appeared in a set that used that year’s primary card design, and I loved it. It just so happens that it was the Chrome parallel set I loved most. Unfortunately, the set did have a major strike against it — one that ensured I couldn’t pick it as my Parallel Series of the Year: it was serial numbered to just 99 cards, which made it an comparatively expensive team set to complete.

The next runner-up was Topps Diamond Anniversary. Although it was a type of parallel Topps hadn’t produced before, the look itself wasn’t actually different or special — in fact, it was nearly identical to the 1995 Score Platinum parallels. However, much like Topps Opening Day, the text on the front of the cards was actually easier to read than the text on the base cards. Additionally the Diamond Anniversary parallels possessed the bonus of being easier to scan than the base cards (a definite plus given my scanning project) as well as being relatively easy to acquire — unlike the Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors, which bore a serial-numbered print run of just 99. The only thing that detracted from the Diamond Anniversary parallels was Topps’s decision to issue the Cognac Diamond Anniversary parallels and the Hope Diamond Anniversary parallels in its Update Series offering. While they are separate parallel issues, the only real difference is the color tinting, and it was too much of good thing.

Given much of what I wrote in previous posts, the only thing that’s probably surprising about the appearance of the Topps Lineage 1975 Minis in this post is that they’re only a runner-up. A very close second place, mind you, but a runner-up nonetheless. The reason for this is that while I harbor an unabashed love of Topps recycling old designs for current players, I also prefer that those cards to replicate both sides of the design. So, while the Lineage 1975 Minis only followed standard industry practice by using the same back as the base cards, I was actually disappointed that Topps didn’t take the time to properly reuse the back of the 1975 design as well — especially given that I thought the design of the back of the base cards was especially uninspired.

So that brings us to my pick for the 2011 Parallel Series of the Year:

2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Minis

I understand one could very well argue that that this series is actually the least inspired of the ones mentioned in this post, and I am somewhat sympathetic to the argument. After all, at first glance there’s not much of a difference between this parallel series and the Topps Allen & Ginter’s Minis — parallels that I did not consider for the honor. However, there’s one small detail that actually made a huge difference between the Gypsy Queen Minis and the Allen & Ginter’s Minis: variations. The original 19th-century Gypsy Queen set, much like the Old Judge set, included many photo variations for many of the subjects in the set. While the Topps didn’t do this for the base Gypsy Queen set, they did do so for the Mini parallels. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels are received this honor. More so than any other series that came out in 2011, I made it a priority to get all the Gypsy Queen Mini parallels. The only thing that would have made these Mini even better is if they had been both in sepia like the Gypsy Queen cards upon which Topps modeled the set and standard sized. Unfortunately, Topps decided to do a separate Mini Sepia parallel that were serial numbered to just 99 — which you’ll recall is what I considered a major flaw with the Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors — and, far more importantly, did not contain variations. It’s a shame Topps made that decision. Gypsy Queen Sepias with variations and without a ridiculously small print run would have been my favorite set of the year (parallel issues aside).

Featured Cards: 2011 Topps Opening Day #52, Placido Polanco; 2011 Topps Chrome Sepia Refractors #40, Cliff Lee; 2011 Topps Diamond Anniversary #341, Kyle Kendrick; 2011 Topps Lineage 1975 Minis #56, Shane Victorino; 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Minis #47(a) & #47(b), Jimmy Rollins; 2011 Topps Gypsy Queen Minis #3(a) & #3(b), Cole Hamels