Everyone loves money, right? Topps is hoping that feeling carries over to a set of basketball cards focused on the green stuff with its all-new Topps Treasury Basketball. Along with its money theme, Treasury boasts generous amounts of autographs and rip cards - which can be torn open to find exclusive mini cards embedded inside.
Hobby boxes of 2008-09 Topps Treasury Basketball hold 18 five-card packs. On average, each box should contain one autographed card and one rip card, and each case should yield one dual autograph pairing Magic Johnson or Larry Bird with a 2008-09 rookie.
Base Cards and Parallels
It's not hard to tell what kind of look the Topps designers were going for with the Treasury base cards. The oval picture window, the banner with the set name and even the font used for the player's last name look like they came right off of one of the bills in your wallet.
The theming carries over to the card backs, where "Money Skills" and "Money Splits" spice up the usual write-ups and stats. One other noticeable trait is that the Treasury cards feel very thin, which comes as a little surprise in an era when card stock is getting thicker and more substantial.
An even hundred current NBA players and retired stars lead off the base set, followed by 20 2008-09 rookie cards. There are four levels of Refractor parallelsfor all base cards, with numbering starting at 999 for veterans/retired players and 2008 for rookies.
Fifteen of the rookies also have parallels numbered to 25 that incorporate real 14K gold into a commemorative rookie medallion. It's a process that Topps is using in other products, but it seems especially appropriate here.
A random hobby box opened for this review gave me 68 of the 100 veteran/retired cards and 11 of the 20 rookies, including Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Jerryd Bayless and Beasley were the highlights of the seven total Refractors.
The autograph content in Treasury begins with Autographed Rookie Variations of all 20 rookie cards. These cards use signed stickers, but they are placed over cut-outs in the center of the cards that look like some of the decorative elements on U.S. currency, which is a nice touch.
Other very desirable autographs come in the form of Bird & Magic All-Rookie Team Autographs. Seeded one per case, these are dual autographs featuring a signature from either Larry Bird or Magic Johnson plus one 2008-09 rookie personally picked by those two legends. All of the cards are numbered to 50 or less, plus there are triple autograph versions (with Bird, Magic and a rookie) numbered to 10 or less.
The About.com sample box held the expected lone autograph, a D.J. Augustin rookie variation.
Popularized in other Topps brands like Allen & Ginter Baseball, Rip Cards make their way to Treasury with a few new wrinkles. If you haven't seen them before, these are cards with a small tap on the back that allows you to literally rip them open to reveal mini cards that are embedded inside.
For Treasury, the Rip Cards could hold regular or autographed mini cards - the signed versions are inserted two per case. There are also "They're Money" Rip Cards which promise actual money (or a redemption card for real money) inside. Denominations range from $10 to $1000.
The Rip Cards are numbered themselves, so the choice comes down to whether or not to destroy the big card in the hopes that there is something better awaiting. My box contained a David West Rip Card numbered to 299. For review purposes, I decided to rip it, and in this case the gamble paid off with a Bronze parallel of LeBron James numbered to 99.
The Last Word
Treasury Basketball has some interesting and creative ideas, but they don't necessarily come together into something that's more than the sum of its parts. While the currency theme and Rip Cards are great, the base cards are a little underwhelming and the unnumbered rookie cards don't seem like anything special.
On the plus side, boxes of Treasury should be on sale for $75 or less, making them very reasonable buys to take a shot at one of the top rookie autographs or the Bird and Magic dual autos. This isn't a bad debut and with continued tweaks, this brand could easily become - if you'll excuse the pun - money for Topps in future seasons.