After seeing some social media reports of 2019 Topps Big League being on store shelves ahead of Wednesday’s official release date, I figured I’d take a flyer on my way home from work and stop at a Target store I drive past.
Now I should point out that 2019 has been a mildly disappointing card year for me so far. I was really looking forward to Heritage (featuring the 1970 design), but while I expected to be squealing like an excited toddler as I opened each pack, they didn’t end up being the case. I like them, but there’s not the overwhelming drive I expected. This year’s flagship falls into the “It’s OK, but…” category, and I had been thinking that the Big League design looked promising, it was a decent-sized 400 card set and it was pitched as a low-end set. Nothing had completely grabbed me in 2019, so I was hoping Big League would snatch me out of my pack-busting doldrums.
With my expectations made clear, let’s get back to me standing in the card aisle at Target.
At first I was looking for a box with a wood-grain background, and got fooled by a box of Gypsy Queen.
Just as I was about to give up, I noticed one box that was turned with the the back facing out… And I think that my brain picked up on the fact that most blaster don’t have a “back”; they’ve got two different fronts, one in a portrait orientation and one in a landscape orientation. Sure enough, I was looking at a Shohei Ohtani box card from a Big League blaster (and just to be clear, this is a scan of the loosely-cut back of the box, which is why there’s white space in the top right):
I dug through the shelves a bit to see if there was anybody on a box card who would interest me more, but the only other player I found was the Nationals’ Juan Soto. As it turns out, the checklist only consists of four players; these two plus Kris Bryant and Mike Trout. Box cards are fun, but more than four players would’ve been MORE FUN.
Here’s the Ohtani back; unlike the base cards, the backs are natural cardboard and black ink (but I kinda dig that).
I grabbed a blaster (which retails for $9.99) and headed for the self-serve checkout. On the way, I noticed the blaster contained 54 cards. Last week I bought a $9.99 hanger box of Topps Series 1, and that contained 67 cards. Before I even bought the blaster I had my first disappointment – these “low end” cards are a bit more expensive than flagship. (I’ll have more on this later).
So I paid for the blaster, headed out to my car and ripped the first couple of packs before I started my car. Now the design seems to be somewhat polarizing, but I kinda like it… which is funny to me. Normally I like my card designs to be simple and colorful; when I design my custom cards I go with a “less is more” mantra.
Last year’s design would seem to check off all of my usual wants: colorful, simple, a little bit fun… but somehow last year’s set left me cold.
…Cold enough that I just found out that the only card I blogged about was a parallel Cal Ripken I got in a trade package.
So normally I would deride any cards which have a “Too many design elements are never enough” thing going, and there’s certainly plenty going on with 2019 Big League:
You’ve got the wood grain with “two photo borders” which are really borders on the same photo, you’ve got the pennant with a logo on it, you’ve got the diagonal “ticket-y” bar with the player’s name on it – and the player name is in a regular and bold font – and an odd “SEC / ROW / SEAT” tab on the end, you’ve got shadows from the pennant and the bar… And yet somehow it works for me. (shrug)
Here’s the back of Wheeler’s card; it appears that the cards all have the same color scheme on the back. I can’t remember if that was the case last year.
It’s a nice-enough back. The card numbers are legible, which goes a long way with me.
I can’t find anything in the past that looks close to this design, but my gut feel is that it has a kind of 1950’s Bowman Football thing about it. I dunno, maybe I’m just grasping at straws.
Mild disappointment #2 struck me right off the bat, but unfortunately it doesn’t come across in scans – the photos on many of these cards are somewhat dark and murky… I think “oversaturated” is probably a more exact term.
But I do like the relatively large checklist, so you get players like Wheeler and Soler above, as well as Mike Minor.
I haven’t broken down the checklist yet, but once you remove the subsets, there should be roughly 10-12 or so card per team.
Speaking of subsets there are 30 or so “Stat Kings” cards, plus a “Award Winners” and “Highlights” cards.
The checklist I got from a card collecting website – because Topps.com didn’t have one out there as I’m writing this (Shame! SHAME!) – didn’t list all of the highlights and Award Winners cards, so I don’t know how many there are.
There are some horizontal cards in the set, and to be honest it almost seems like they designed the horizontal cards first and then made vertical versions.
I’d also like to point out that the red/black Braves script and Tomahawk does not work against the blue pennant. It’s even less visible in person than it is in this scan.
For those who like their parallels – I generally can take or leave ’em myself – the blaster came with a cello-wrapped mini pack of four blue parallels, plus one yellow parallel per pack.
The yellow parallels won’t be entering my collection and are kind of annoying at one per pack (bringing my effective card count down), but the blue parallels are pretty nice looking with teams that have blue in their uniforms… I might – *MIGHT* – go after a Mets team set in the blue parallels. Maybe.
Before I get off the base cards, I’ll share the best and worst-looking cards I pulled from this blaster.
This Mookie Betts was used on the sell sheets, so it’s not surprising that it’s the best-looking base card I got.
Among the worst was this Robinson Cano, which shows up really dark in person, plus his helmet’s C-flap blocks his face.
OK, moving on to the inserts… or at least the ones I pulled.
The Star Caricatures cards aren’t bad and are a bit of fun…
The Wall Climbers concept has some potential… And I love the powder blues that Yelich is rocking in this photo:
I also got a Players Weekend “Nicknames” insert, and I’m sorry, but this is going to lead into an “Old Man Yells At Cloud” moment.
Is “Carp” really a nickname? I mean, technically it is because it’s not his legal name of Matthew Martin Carpenter… but if “Carp” is a nickname because it’s shortening his last name, then wouldn’t “Matt” be a nickname as well? Ain’t nobody putting “Matt” down on a card as a nickname.
Now that I’m done yelling at clouds, I have to say that the dashed “cut here” line is an odd choice for a border, but I like it.
Other inserts include “Ballpark Oddities” and “Blast Off” – Aw crap, I pulled one of those and didn’t scan it. OK, I’m going above and beyond here, because I should be getting ready for work and instead I’m going to go scan that card I missed.
Hang on a minute…
OK, here we go… Bryce Harper “Blast Off!” insert. Never let it be said that I don’t go the extra nine yards for all y’all.
OH! There are also three short-printed rookie variations for Pete Alonso, Fernando Tatis Jr and Eloy Jimenez. Supposedly these are short-printed but not impossible-odds short printed. We shall see… As a Mets fan I certainly want the Alonso.
There are also autographs in the set, but I don’t think much about them because I rarely pull them.
OK, about that price point… I did some quick comparisons based on 2019 product I’ve bought, and while I’m comparing apples and oranges (and hangers and blasters), I figured it was worth sharing. From low to high…
Opening Day blaster – approx. 13 cents / card
Series 1 hanger – 14.9 cents / card
Donruss jumbo – 17.5 cents / card
Big League blaster – 18.5 cents / card
Heritage blaster – 27.8 cents /card
Bowman jumbo – 31.5 cents / card
So while Big League is technically low-end, I was expecting something more like Opening Day… certainly not something more expensive than flagship. Maybe I’d have different expectations if I hadn’t ignored last year’s Big League.
And so, in conclusion…
I still like these and will buy more… BUT… I had given thought to chasing the set and at this point I’m not sure I see that happening. So far in 2019 my collecting goal has been to accumulate cards and try to get as many different players on 2019 cardboard as I can (without going crazy), and this release hasn’t changed that goal much.
I haven’t heard a lot about this set from other collectors, not just yet, so I’d love to see your comments!