Predicting The Designs Used For 2019 Topps Archives

Back in 2017 I put some theories of mine to the test and made predictions about what 2018 Archives would look like. When the set was announced earlier this year, I surprised many – myself included – by getting two out of three correct.

(I confess that there’s a small part of me which would like to think that someone at Topps had read my blog and said “He’s right, we should use the 1959 and 1981 designs in 2018 Archives!”)

Now that the dust has settled on 2018 Archives, I figure it’s time to make my predictions for next year’s Archives set.

From analyzing Topps’ choices for Archives from 2012 to 2018, I have a few observations which I will use as guidelines to figuring out which designs they’ll use next year.

Observation #1: Challenging designs are not welcome
Topps doesn’t seem to want to take on challenges when adapting Topps designs for Archives.  By “challenges”, I mean that in terms of 1) re-creating the design, with all the proper artwork, borders, fonts, etc., and 2) in terms of implmenting that design for 100 different base cards. Topps seems to lean towards designs where they can effectively slap a border down over a picture, change the player name, team name and colors, and be done. It’s a bit more work when there are card designs where the player’s image overlaps with the team name or other part of the design…

…or where the player is shown in front of a colored background (requiring that the original background be removed).

Observation #2: Topps stops where the “real cardboard” stopped.
Archives has yet to feature a design from any later than 1992, the last year Topps used “real cardboard” for the cardstock.

Observation #3: There’s a 15-year “No-Fly Zone” surrounding each year’s Heritage set
I’m confident about this one, and the data backs me up. Topps doesn’t want Archives to step on the toes of the much more valuable property that is Heritage, so they will not use designs which had been used for Heritage in the prior 7 years, nor ones which will be used for Heritage in the next 7 years.

Here’s a table (updated from last year) which shows that the “No-Fly Zone Theory” holds up:

Year Heritage Archives 1 ArchiVes 2 Archives 3 Archives 4 “No-Fly” (+/- 7)
2012 1963 1954 1971 1980 1984 1956-1970
2013 1964 1972 1982 1985 1990 1957-1971
2014 1965 1973 1980 1986 1989 1958-1972
2015 1966 1957 1976 1983 n/a 1959-1973
2016 1967 1953 1979 1991 n/a 1960-1974
2017 1968 1960 1982 1992 n/a 1961-1975
2018 1969 1959 1977 1981 n/a 1962-1976

2019 Heritage will feature the design from 1970 Topps, so that means the “No-Fly Zone” will cover the years from 1963 (7 years before) to 1977 (7 years after).

OK, with those ground rules in place, let’s place a few more restrictions in place…

I would hope that Topps wouldn’t reuse a design which had been used in – at the *very* least – the prior four Archives sets. That eliminates 1953, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1991 and 1992.

I’m also going to assume that Topps will avoid designs recently used as inserts in Topps Series 1 & 2.  The 2017 set had a 1987 insert, this year we have a 1983 insert, and next year we’ll have a 1984 insert.

With all of this factored in, that leaves us 14 candidates for 3 Archives designs.  I’m going to touch on these in chronological order.

1952 Topps has never been used in Archives, but it seems like Topps regards this as almost too “sacred” for use in Archives.

The next three designs would, to my thinking, require slightly more effort and cost than Topps might want to take on.  In all three they’d have to use two images per card (so 200 images rather than 100), and also remove the background from those 200 different photos.

…And honestly, every year we complain about how Topps didn’t center this text right or didn’t correctly sweat some detail.  Do you think they want to sweat more details than they have to?

1954 Topps has not been used since 2012.

1955 Topps has never been used in Archives.

1956 Topps also has never been used in Archives, but it’s even more challenging than the others because the background photo needs enough extra real estate for the player portrait to sit in front of.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Topps just dances around this design and never quite gets around to doing it for Archives.

1958 Topps has never been used in Archives and is a classic design.  Yes, it also has the issue of requiring more time to remove the background from the player photo, but sooner or later Topps is going to have to get back to these.

1961 Topps also has never been used in Archives.

1962 Topps also has not been used in Archives and also has the upside of just having emerged from the bottom end of the “No Fly Zone”.  Ignore the solid background on this Casey Stengel card, that’s the exception rather than the rule.

It would also be very easy to produce, because the design is exactly the same for every card, no messing with colors or logos. The downside is that it is being used in this year’s Archive “Sandlot” insert, so I think that’s going to “ding” it just enough to remove it from this year’s consideration. I see this is as a strong possibility for 2020 Archives.

We jump ahead 16 years, across the No-Fly Zone, to 1978 Topps.

This has never been done in Archives and will enter the No-Fly Zone after 2019.  Because the team name is not a font and isn’t easily replicated for the 7 current teams which hadn’t existed in 1978, I think the next time we’ll see this design used is for 2027 Topps Heritage.

1980 Topps was used in 2012 and came back again in 2014.  The reaction to using two designs so close together was bad enough that I have to think they’d be hesitant to use this design a third time in the near (or not-so-near) future.

1985 Topps was used in 2013 Archives.

1986 Topps was used in 2014 Archives.

The 1988 Topps design has never been used, and I don’t know why… other than having the player’s head/bat/arm overlap with the team name might make this somewhat unpopular design more trouble than it’s worth.

Me, I love this design. On the other hand, they did make a Major League Soccer insert based on this set, so maybe the “heavy lifting” is already done.

1989 Topps was used in 2014 and was also done as die-cut minis in the same year’s flagship.

1990 Topps was used in 2013

One last observation…

Archives generally favors designs which fall after the No-Fly Zone, but that’s getting more difficult each year that the Zone moves forward. In 2019 there’ll be 7 candidates from before and 8 after, but that number will flip in 2020. I expect that we’ll continue to have one design from before the Zone and two designs after the Zone, but that could change before too long.

OK, prediction time!  As with the last time, I’m going to run down what I predict will be used, and what I would like to be used (if they did it well, of course).

For a 1950’s/early 1960’s design, I’m going to go with 1961.

It’s never been used in Archives before, plus duplicating a design doesn’t get much easier than this… to prove my point, I whipped up the above custom completely from scratch in about 20 minutes.

1970’s/1980’s Design #1: I’ll go with 1985.

It’s pretty popular, easy to re-create (I think this one took about a half hour from the ground up) and hasn’t been used in number of years.

1970’s/1980’s Design #2: No matter what I do with this, I feel like I’m going out on a limb to some degree. 1986 might be a candidate except I wouldn’t think that they’d use consecutive years. Last year I felt that 1988 was more work than Topps wanted to expend, but with that MLS insert using this design I’m going to assume that they’ve got everything they need in their magic bag of tricks.

I’m going with 1988 as the third design.

…and now…


If it were me in charge of deciding which designs to use, I’d go with 8’s across the board: 1958, 1978, 1988.

And now it’s reader feedback time, and I am truly interested in your input…

Which designs do you think Topps will use in 2019?

Which would you pick if you were the “product manager” for 2019 Topps Archives?

12 thoughts on “Predicting The Designs Used For 2019 Topps Archives

  1. I’m guessing that with the no-fly zone getting later, they’ll be willing to go past the end of cardboard. I’m predicting we will get 1994 as one of the three.

    If it were up to me, I’d change things up and use one of the early Stadium Club designs. How fun would it be to see each player’s rookie card on the back? I know the weird stats would be an issue, so I don’t think it will happen, but it would be fun.

    Also, they should start doing a Drake’s Big Hitters insert set every year. Plenty of years to go through. If Drake’s won’t pay them a little something, offer it to Hostess, Tastykake, Little Debbie, whomever!

    • 1). I can see them going as far as 1994, but no further… not with foil getting involved.

      2). I would be fine with Stadium Club being used. I’d also be fine with Bazooka, football, hockey and basketball designs.

      3). If Topps redid the Drakes design, they’d probably have a “Topps Cakes” logo. (I wish I were saying this as a joke)

  2. I will definitely mark this date today on my calendar to see if you are correct again. I wonder if Topps is aware of theses post. Your theory is great. I wonder if Topps will would make 85 and 89 together. I think one of those will be knocked out and I kind of agree above I think 93 and 94 will get a calling.

  3. If Topps uses a post 1985 card style, they should make sure league leading stats are bolded or red-inked. This has never happened in any of the Topps Archives releases. Case in point, the 2017 Archives set’s 1992 style cards were all missing any league leading notations. This is a huge miss for Topps. It would make those reprint cards like Roberto Clemente really stand out to show what he did during each of year of his career when he won those batting titles.

    Topps is able to print up classic players in modern styles with the red-inked league leading stats, like the short print cards of Willie Mays, Stan Musial, and others in 2012’s Topps Series 2, so this not an impossibility.

    I’d like to see the 1999 set style be used which also included MVP and Cy Young award stars on the years those awards were won.

  4. Great article – I have really just gotten back into bb card collecting primarily due to the Archives sets. Personally I have been hoping for a couple of years for the 1978 set, especially since it has not been used to this point. I thought this an original design. Really most of the 1970’s designs were pretty interesting and different, but for me it hurts those being out of the “no fly zone”. It seems at some point they will have to move forward, maybe 1994 will come back, due to the 25th anniversary.

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