2021 Heritage: A Bunch Of Observations… And OK, Yeah, One More Criticism

It turns out I’ve had a lot to say about this year’s Heritage… and I still do, but most of this post is visual and along the lines of “Check this out!  No, I don’t know why they did that”

Lots to cover, so let’s get rolling.


I first noticed this with 2018 Heritage (1969 Topps design)… There are wider white (or grey or black) borders on Heritage cards than on the originals, and they do this by shrinking the design slightly.  I can guess as to why, but I won’t today because it’s all just guesses.

1972 on the top, 2021 on the bottom;  You can see the lettering and yellow border is smaller (and the colors are a bit darker as well, but that’s another story)

Same on the bottom of the card – this time it’s 2021 on the top and 1972 on the bottom – plus the little ‘nameplate’ is smaller.

1972 on the left, 2021 on the right


Two odd little inclusions of team names show up on 2021 Heritage cards… First off, the “IN ACTION” cards all have a subtle team name on the front, something which wasn’t on the originals.  It barely even shows up in my scan that it says “MINNESOTA TWINS” under “JUAN BERRIOS”

My initial guess was that there is probably some sort of clause in the licensing agreement that the team’s name or logo show up on the front of any base cards… but if that were the case then the “Boyhood Photos” subset should also have it, and it doesn’t… so your guess is as good as mine.

Update:  Friend O’ The Blog Brett Alan has figured out the likely reason why the In Action cards have the team name on the front.  To quote his comment on this post, “Boyhood Photos has the team name on the *back*…. But the 1972 In Action cards have completely unrelated backs—puzzle pieces, ads for the next series, rules quizzes… Topps must be required to have the team name somewhere on the card, and the In Action cards can’t put them on the back, so they had to put them somewhere on the front.”

The backs of the base cards also have the team name on the bottom, which is also kind of odd, but whatever.


This was apparent in the past when base cards showed team updates that weren’t in the base set.  Here’s my favorite example of this, in 2014 Heritage the base card reflects the Mets signing free agent Curtis Granderson on 12/9/2013, but the black-bordered variation shows the Grandy Man still with the Yankees.

I dont think anyone in 2021 Heritage was photoshopped, which is a bit unusual for Heritage… but check this out (and credit where credit is due, my wife Mrs. Shlabotnik is the one who noticed this).  The cropping of the photo on Jacob deGrom’s base card (left) is tighter than it is on his “Missing Stars” variation (right)…  The easiest way to tell is to look at how close his head is to the border .

I did some poking around on TCDB and it looks like all of the variations match the cropping of the Missing Stars variation, which makes me think that it was done by a different team or at a different time.

Grumpy Old Man Moment:  “Missing Stars” is a dumbass variation… but I’ll admit that I don’t generally care about parallels or variations anyway, so feel free to dismiss my grump.


I’ll just say that I find this kind of odd… On the Postseason and World Series cards, they changed the year from black to purple.  I don’t have a problem with it, but I don’t know why they did it.

The 2021 heritage cards don’t appear that washed out in real life like they do in my scans…  I would guess that it has something to do with the way the intense light of the scanner reflects off of the card stock or the inks.

These next cards are not because of my scanner, though… The blue on the Heritage AL Leader cards is much darker than the blue on the 1972 AL Leader cards.  I would compare the NL cards but I haven’t pulled any of those from a 2021 Heritage pack.


In 1972 Topps, many (but not all) of the multi-player rookie cards were team-specific and contained three players not worthy of having their own solo cards.  In 2021 Heritage, the rookie cards are all two-player and only a few are specific to one team.

Another thing I find interesting – and I don’t have any examples of this to scan – involves players showing up on both “Rookie Stars” cards and on “In Action” cards.  This type of thing never happened in 1972 because the players on “Rookie Stars” cards were there because they weren’t important enough to get their own cards, but in today’s rookie-driven sets, things are different.  For example, card #11 is a “Rookie Stars” card of the Phillies’ Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard.  Card #12 is an “In Action” card of Bohm and #106 is Spencer Howard.  This largely futzes around the original set’s convention of “Base card followed immediately on the checklist by the same player’s In Action card”.

Oh, I should also mention that Bohm has some base card variations, but the only Heritage cards that Howard gets is the “Rookie Stars”, the “In Action” and a “Boyhood Photos”.


I noticed when entering cards into my database that I pulled two Jose Altuve In Action cards that the card stock appeared to be different;  one was lighter than the other.

From all indications, however, this isn’t an intentional Variation with a capital V, it appears to be an unintentional variation with a small v.  Kind of odd, but the cards might have come from different subcontractors or something like that.


My apologies to Skittles for appropriating their tag line, but one thing that bothers me about 2021 Heritage is that they took one of the most colorful sets in a colorful decade and they made it less colorful.

In the 1972 set there were 12 color combinations used for the 24 teams, with each color combination unique within each league… or in other words, each of the 12 color combinations is shared by one NL and one AL team.  (Please pardon the graininess of the photo, I don’t have the best setup for taking photos of many cards at once)

As you can see, you’ve got two magenta, four red, four orange, four yellow, four green and six blue.

There are, of course, 30 Major League teams now.  Assuming they don’t create a new color combination – hey, violet is missing from our little spectrum! – then they’d need to give existing combinations to the six additional teams.

As mentioned in a previous post, Topps ditched Magenta from the set and converted the Cubs and Indians to have red as their primary color…

…and because they didn’t change the colors on the “3-D effect”, that gives us six teams with red as the primary color, and four teams with the same color combo (Cubs, Indians, Braves & Royals).

For whatever reason Topps has never used Expos colors for Heritage Nationals cards, and you’d have to think at this point that it’s intentional… either the league or the team doesn’t want them to do it.

The Expos had green borders in 1972…

…And for 2021 the green borders were given to the Diamondbacks and the Nats need a new color combo.  No problems there.

The Rockies were made to be yellow, probably because they based the team name on “YANKEES”, the only other MLB team with “K” in it.  Now we’ve got five yellow teams and five left to assign.

Here’s where I start to take issue with their choices.

The Jays and Rays were given Red borders which mirrored those of the Braves and Royals…

So not only do we now have eight teams with red as the primary color – on top of “In Action” and “Boyhood Stars” which also use red – but we have six teams with the same color combinations.  Bah!

THEN they took the three remaining teams – the Marlins, Nats and Mariners – and assigned them the same combination that the Orioles and Cardinals originally used.

The end result being that we have 9 blue teams, 8 red teams, 5 yellow teams, 4 orange teams, 4 green teams and no magenta teams.  BORRRRRRING!!!!!

Since we started out with six primary colors and we’re adding six new teams, what I might have done is…

  • Leave the Rockies (yellow), Nats (blue) and Blue Jays (red) as Topps set them up
  • Have the Cubs and Indians as magenta teams and add a third, maybe the Rays
  • Add a fifth orange team… let’s say the Marlins
  • On top of subbing the D-Backs for the Expos, I’d add an additional green team.  The Mariners?

Under my plan we’d have 3 magenta, 5 red teams, 5 orange teams, 5 yellow teams, 5 green teams and 7 blue teams.  To me this is much more true to the original set which got its fame from being colorful.  I grew up in the 1970s, dammit, I expect a 1970s homage to use the whole freakin’ spectrum.

And this concludes my overanalysis of this year’s 2021 Heritage. I hope you found it interesting, even if you don’t agree with my ramblings.

15 thoughts on “2021 Heritage: A Bunch Of Observations… And OK, Yeah, One More Criticism

  1. In team names with 4 letters the Mets, Reds, Rays & Cubs the team name is stretched out over the arch or tombstone more. In Topps 67, 67 heritage, 69 & 69 heritage the same team names are stretched out on bottom those cards. With 30 teams there can be as many colors combinations as well or 15 color combos 1 for each AL & NL team. in the NL leader cards the green is a shade or two darker in heritage than it was in 72.

    • Agreed on the green being darker in Heritage than the original. More notably, the header (“2020 NL RBI Leaders” or whatever) is in white like the AL cards; on the original Topps and OPC cards it was yellow.

  2. I know I said the same thing last post that covered this topic, but this time even more so…I’m just STUNNED with the level of attention to detail you have with respect to Heritage vs. the original. There is no way I would have noticed even half of this

    • In my defense… :-D …I could not have written all of these all at one time. The more I wrote about one thing, or scanned images and messed with them, that would just lead to me noticing other things in the process.

      Other things, like the team names on the In Action, have been discussed elsewhere.

  3. I waited for years for the 72 design for Heritage. However it does not have the same effective as the originals. This feels more like a Topps Archive set and not a Heritage set. There is something lacking and as your articles point out – there is. I think last years, the 1971 design, was probably best heritage representation to the original and it probably had to do with its black borders (I think that was the reason Upper DECK USED the 1971 design for its second Vintage set – which really stands out). I did not topps changed the heritage card stock from at least 2018/1969 – this card stock is more bendy.

    I do disagree with you on the use of the Blues. The blues were the best design on the 1972 set.

    I thought the Orioles was number 1 and the Powder Blue Pirates was number 2. (The 2 Worlds Series Teams) For some reason the Cardinals did not work as well with Blues but the Twins Powder Blues did. The picture in this blog just shows you how intricate the 1972 design is. It was incredibly thought out and the 1975 set does not come close to matching it. This is probably Topps greatest design.

    Here is how I would rank the pairings

    Orioles/Cardinals – The Oriole cards in this set are unbelievable
    A’S/Mets – This is a drop of after these teams
    Red Sox /EXPOS
    White Sox /Reds
    Brewers/Padres – it has to do with the Orange/Brown in the lettering

  4. The purple year thing has been keeping me up nights since Heritage came out. There seems to be no rational, legal or quirky reason for it. Therefore it must be a mistake, but what a mistake because that color looks SO out of place.

    The tiny names inserted in the In Action cards is definitely and MLB legal requirement.

    • I’ll admit, I’d be more upset if, like you, my team had been featured on those postseason cards. Since I’m not chasing the set and won’t keep any of those cards, I’m allowing myself to not get irritated about it.


    Why the In Action cards have the tiny team name on the front, and Boyhood Photos don’t.

    Boyhood Photos has the team name on the *back*. As do most cards. (This occurred to as I was looking at my haul from last weekend’s card show and got to some A&Gs, which don’t have the team name on the front, either.) But the 1972 In Action cards have completely unrelated backs—puzzle pieces, ads for the next series, rules quizzes. No place for the team name!

    That must be it. Topps must be required to have the team name somewhere on the card, and the In Action cards can’t put them on the back, so they had to put them somewhere on the front.

    Now we can all sleep nights again. B^}

  6. Pingback: 2021 Heritage: A Reader’s Epiphany About The “In Action” Cards | The Shlabotnik Report

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