Thinking Too Much About 2018 Topps Heritage

I’m sure everybody’s already seen someone else’s post about 2018 Heritage, but I wanted to bring my own perspective to the newly-released set.  Some of this likely comes across as nit-pick-y, but I don’t mean it to be critical, it’s more along the lines of “Hey, I’m analytical and visually-oriented and I noticed this – isn’t it interesting?”

One of the first things I did was run upstairs, pull out my 1969 Topps cards and fetch a 1969 Topps Ed Charles card to put up against my 2018 Topps Heritage Wilmer Flores card:

One of the things I noticed off the bat was how much brighter the 1969 card is “in hand”.  The white border matches up nicely, but it seems to be more that the current photos are more saturated and “hi def”.

The second thing I noticed… well, “noticed” isn’t the right word because other people had pointed it out… but Topps made many of the position notations longer than on the originals.  Here it’s “Third Baseman” vs. “3rd Base”, but there’s also “Outfielder” vs. “Outfield” as well as “First Baseman” and “Second Baseman”.  Kind of an odd choice when you’re working with a relatively small amount of real estate on the card.

The third thing that jumped out at me was the colored circle which features the player’s name and position is noticeably smaller in 2018 Heritage:

That’s Heritage on the left, 1969 on the right.

As I found out, it’s less noticeable because the photo is also smaller… Something which I found to be curious.

Let’s start by comparing the photo size vertically:

Again, it’s Heritage on the left, 1969 on the right.  No question that the photo is larger on the vintage card.  What about horizontally?

Heritage on the top, 1969 on the bottom… again, slightly larger.  That got me thinking;  the 1969 card has a larger circle and larger photos… but is the relative size within the card any different?

So I loaded both images into my aged copy of Paint Shop Pro, superimposed one on the other, adjusted the size of the 1969 until the borders matched the Heritage, and this is what I got.

Heritage on the left, adjusted 1969 on the right… You can see that the thin black border line matches up, and now the colored circles are almost the same.

So what we’ve got are Heritage cards with slightly wider white borders than the original 1969 cards… which is pretty interesting.  I know that cards are expected to be centered these days, but I got the impression there are all kinds of technological advancements which allow greater precision… so why are we being ever-so-slightly shortchanged on our photo size?

Let’s compare the card backs… overall a nice job, although the originals were a little more brightly salmon-colored (my scanner makes it look like a greater difference than it is):

Let’s “zoom in” on the upper left corner…

In an ever-lasting peeve for me, the Heritage card numbers are smaller than the originals.  Grumpy Old Man does not approve.


One thing that Topps continues to do – something which isn’t really good or bad, it’s just a thing – is use different colors for a franchise that was in another place in 1969.  For example, there’s the 1969 Washington Senators, a team which is now the Texas Rangers:

That’s the Heritage Rangers and 1969 Senators, respectively.

New for 2018 we have the Nationals and Expos…

I’m not wild about the light green with yellow lettering for the Nats.  My scanner’s sometimes not the best at replicating colors, so I’ll point out that the Expos had black letters on a pink circle.

For what would seem to be a one-and-done, we’ve got the Brewers and Pilots:

The Pilots, a one-year team, would appear in 1970 Topps, but that set doesn’t assign specific colors to each team, so there won’t be the same thing next year.  1971 Topps/2020 Heritage will both have Brewers, 1972/2021 will both have Rangers and then we’ll just be left with the Expos/Nationals as the sole team which moved between sets.

Unfortunately within my blaster did not contain any base Astros cards, otherwise I’d point out that the 1969 versions used a light green circle and said “HOUSTON” on the bottom, due to lingering copyright issues.  2018 Heritage has “ASTROS” across the bottom, which you’d expect, but the colors have inexplicably changed…. Instead of light green, ti’s a dark purple-y blue with black and yellow lettering (and the black is hard to read against the dark purple-y blue).  I find this very odd.

Let’s go back to that last image again…

Notice how both cards feature players with short last names, but the font is different.  This is something that bugs me about Archives and Heritage… Back in the day, Topps would often use two or more related fonts, rather than one universal font, for things like player names.  You can clearly see that names like “AKER” and “BRAND” are in thicker, wider fonts than are used for “EPSTEIN” or “CHARLES”.  Yet in Heritage, they just use the same font across the board.  That’s just something that’s long bugged me.

Quick comparison of the All-Star cards:

Generally a good job of replicating, other than the white borders are again slightly larger, the “News” is famously “Topps” instead of “Sporting” (but at least not “Fake”), and Topps wants to cram too much text into the circle… instead of “Outfield” and “NATIONALS”, we have “Outfielder” and “WASHINGTON NATIONALS”.

There’s also something going on here that I find interesting.  The original All-Star cards had a close-up portrait on one side, the circle on the other, and the background was an action shot taken from a distance and shown in black and white.    The new cards “follow the letter of the law”, but have a smaller portrait and a larger action shot… it reminds me of a badly-remixed 1960’s album I have where the lead vocalist, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums and background vocals are all at the same apparent volume and it drives me nuts because you can no longer hear the vocals over the rhythm section.

…But I guess the real point is that the photographers from Getty Images, with their fancy digital cameras and zoom lenses… well, they don’t take action shots from quite a long way away… and you can’t just make the action image smaller because you don’t have the background to fill the rest of the space.

One last thing I noticed just before  hitting the “Publish” button:  The words “ALL-STAR” became italicized in the new version.

Quick minor complaint about the rookie cards:

Sure, the originals used the first initial if your first name was something long like Merv Rettenmund, Rich Robertson or Cesar Guttierez.  But you know what?  I think that “ZACK GRANITE” and “FELIX JORGE” will fit in there without a shoehorn getting involved.  Seems to be another instance of someone at Topps saying “You know what, I don’t feel like dealing with it… everybody gets handled *this* way”.

I was going to get more into showing examples of other base cards and inserts, but I’ve gone on so long already that I’ll just get into the two major surprises for me…

Surprise #1:  Target Exclusive “Transogram” inserts

When I saw one of these out on Twitter…

I said “Is that a ‘Transogram’ card?  Since when does Heritage include Transogram cards?”  For the record, these are on the checklist as “1969 Collectors Cards (Target Only)”.

A little background for those not familiar with Transogram…  Back in 1969 and 1970, a company called Transogram put out little baseball figures – think “Starting Lineup” – and the boxes had cut-out baseball cards on them.  I don’t have any Transogram cards or statues – they’re fairly rare and a bit pricey, plus I just haven’t bothered to track them down – so I borrowed this image from The Trading Card Database.

They did a nice job of replicating these, and did a nice job of confusing a lot of card collectors who said “This is pretty cool…  What the heck is it?”

Surprise #1:  Checklist Cards

Back two months ago I had a series of posts about what Topps should do if they really wanted Heritage to be true to 1969 Topps.  Much of what I pointed out, like blacked-out caps and five-year-old photos, were thankfully not replicated.  However, I’d also re-created a checklist and said “Oh, they’ll never do this”.

Now I need to point out that this Machado isn’t a real card (as if it weren’t apparent enough by Tom Servo, Ben Grimm and Barney Rubble being included on the checklist).  The reason I need to point it out is because Topps went ahead and created checklist cards with player photos:

Now why they suddenly decided to do this now when 2016 and 2017 Heritage could’ve included cards like this – and when 1969 was the last year Topps did this – I have no clue.

I thought I’d be excited about these, but it turns out I’m not.  When push comes to shove, they’re still checklist cards taking a slot away from some other player, and while it’s fun today to pick up a vintage checklist card featuring Mickey Mantle, Bob Gibson or Brooks Robinson, it’s far less exciting to pick up a checklist card featuring Cody Bellinger, Kris Bryant or Aaron Judge.  No offense intended, guys.

Actually, I think I just answered my own question:
Q:  “Why are they suddenly making checklist cards?”
A:  “Cody Bellinger, Kris Bryant and Aaron Judge… especially Aaron Judge”.

Keep an eye out for Shohei Ohtani checklists in Heritage High #’s!

Getting back to the cards themselves, the original cards were “1st Series”, “2nd Series” and so forth.  Of course, this batch of checklist cards are ALL “1st Series”, so it looks kind of… dumb.

My final verdict:  You want to do this?  Fine.  Make the checklist cards be shortprints, and free up a handful of the regular player cards from SP Hell.  Same goes for League Leader cards.

So that’s about all I have for now (as if it weren’t enough).

Thank you for reading through my long ramblings about Heritage.  Maybe I think too much for my own good… Some people say so.  Other people say “No, no… The fact is you don’t think as much as you could.”


10 thoughts on “Thinking Too Much About 2018 Topps Heritage

  1. I was thinking of doing another Heritage post that mentioned some of these things (I noticed the All-Star card differences right away).

    I like the checklists, it’s about freakin time. And I don’t feel deprived of other players being featured because Topps would probably just throw some rookie in there with 12 at-bats.

  2. So many questions that will remain unanswered. I wish Topps would put out a FAQ about their sets. I understand why certain things can’t be exactly the same as in the orginals but others are a mystery. BTW I think “Hearts and Bones”, while a bit on the melancholy side, is underappreciated.

  3. I don’t have any plans on buying any of this product, but I still enjoyed reading this post and the comparisons you made. I’ve mentioned it on other blogs, but I’ll say it again. Love the All-Star subset design.

  4. Count me as one long-time collector who enjoys your opinions and analysis of cards! .(Especially vintage and Heritage)

  5. “Surprise #1” for the (all 1st Series) checklists? Well played, sir.

    Pretty much in total agreement with you, save for one point: To me, staying faithful to the color schemes as used for the various teams within the “original” set is an integral part of the Heritage sets’ appeal to me as a reproduction of the sets from fifty years earlier. 2015 was very faithful to the original schemes of the parent 1966 set, to the point where the Rangers retained the green-and-yellow of the predecessor Senators. Although I was at first surprised that they did not use pink or brown for the 1969 expansion teams in that set, the choice to stick to the colors in use for 1966 made perfect sense. 2017 disappointed me a bit in this regard, as there was an inconsistency among the color schemes of the newer teams (and, most maddeningly, the Rangers) compared to two years earlier (the original sets, of course, held the same colors team-to-team for 1966, ’68 and ’69). And now this year’s set seems to have gone pretty much off the rails in that regard (Astros, Nats, Brewers, and the Marlins’ violet-on-pink). Putting this on top of everything cited in your post makes me glad that I decided to wait on getting the 2018 set. My original sight-unseen decision was based on economics more than anything else – the expansion of the short-print numbers last year and the corresponding rise in the cost of a complete set gave me pause when considering whether to buy in again this year. Looking at all of the factors in play here make it likely now that I will end up sitting this one out – and more is the pity, because the 1969 set was one of my favorites. When you add up all of the changes both subtle and obvious, though, this set is not as faithful to the original design as it could be, and my hobby money is better spent elsewhere this time around.

  6. Pingback: Thinking Too Much About 2019 Topps Heritage | The Shlabotnik Report

  7. Pingback: Thinking Too Much About 2020 Heritage | The Shlabotnik Report

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