Topps Heritage Baseball continues its march through Topps designs from five decades ago with the 2008 set, which places current MLB players on the 1959 Topps design. Adding to the collecting challenge are 75 short prints seeded 1:3 packs, as well as 110 variations that mimic those found in the original set.
Hobby boxes of 2008 Topps Heritage Baseball contain 24 eight-card packs, complete with bubble gum. On average, each box should yield one autograph or relic (memorabilia) card plus a box topper pack holding an original 1959 Topps card.
Base Cards, Variations and Parallels
Basing this year's Heritage cards on 1959 Topps Baseball certainly results in a colorful base set. The player photos are circular, surrounded by a border which could be one of about seven different colors. Player names are done in all lower-case letters, adding to the unique look.
Among the 500 base cards are veterans, managers, first-year players with MLB Rookie Card logo and team cards. As in previous years, some of the base cards are short-printed - 75 this year, and they fall 1:3 packs. That makes them a little harder to find than in 2007, when they were 1:2 packs.
Just like the 1959 originals, 110 of the cards have variations that have a black box for the card number (located on the card back) instead of a green box. Topps has released full checklists of the short prints and variations to help collectors track them all down.
Chrome parallels are also in the mix, numbered to 1959, and they're joined by Refractors numbered to 559 and Black Refractors numbered to 59. Not all of the retro Topps designs look good on the Chrome stock, but the 1959 layout holds up well.
Opening one random hobby box for this review provided me with 155 base cards, including the expected eight short prints. I also pulled 23 of the black box variations, two Chrome parallels and one Refractor.
Heritage uses mostly returning insert sets for 2008, and they do a nice job providing more 1959 flavor. The one that's the most fun is News Flashbacks, which highlights ten of the top news stories from 1959. There's also a Baseball Flashbacks set that recaps ten top moments from that baseball season.
Then & Now pairs a current player with one from 1959 for the sake of statistical comparison. Finally, New Age Performers stars 15 players of today who have surpassed the feats of baseball legends from the 50's.
My review box produced seven insert cards in all: two each from New Age Performers, Baseball Flashbacks and News Flashbacks and one Then & Now.
Relics, Autographed Cards and Box Toppers
With just a single relic or autograph per box, these cards definitely aren't the focus of Heritage Baseball, but rather a small added extra. Clubhouse Collection is the largest relic insert, with a 40-player checklist that includes players from 2008 and 1959. There are also dual relic cards with swatches from both eras, numbered to 59.
Flashbacks relics have pieces from stadiums in use 50 years ago, like Dodger Stadium and the Polo Grounds. They also have dual versions limited to 59 copies.
Real One autographs capture signatures from current players and athletes who made their final Topps appearances in the 1959 set. They can also be found in red ink variants numbered to 59 and dual versions with two signatures from many of the same players.
For more low-numbered autographs, there are Flashbacks cards numbered to 25. Rarest of all are 1959 Cut Signatures, 1-of-1 cards with cut sigs from the likes of Mickey Mantle and Roberto Clemente.
The About.com sample box yielded one relic card: a Clubhouse Collection relic of Travis Hafner.
As an added bonus for collectors who buy full hobby boxes, Heritage includes two different box topper packs. The first is found in every box, and it contains a three-card strip that mimics the advertising strips used in sets of the past.
Finally, every other box should contain a pack with original 1959 cards that were repurchased by Topps and stamped with a special gold foil logo. Mine actually held three cards, and even though they are off-center and not in tip-top condition, they are still a cool addition.
The Last Word
The latest incarnation of Heritage Baseball doesn't stray too far from what's worked for the brand in the past, which isn't surprising considering it's usually very popular with collectors. The inserts seem a little more focused on the theme in 2008, which is always a positive.
Set builders should be fans of this edition as long as they enjoy the 1959 look. And with decades of designs still to pull from, Heritage Baseball should keep rolling along.