Pack Animal: 2021 Topps Archives

Last week I bought a blaster of 2021 Topps Archives mainly because it was there on the shelf in front of me and it had been nearly 3 months since I’d spent even as much as $20 on cards.  Archives isn’t a huge favorite of mine but I missed ripping open packs, so into the cart went the blaster.

This year’s Archives is rather an odd beast, as Topps decided that they would celebrate 70 years of baseball cards by having Archives feature eight different designs, one of which was most definitely not out of the archives…  But I’ll get to that in a bit.

I will say that when you open one of these packs it’s kind of like thumbing through a repack because you’ll have no more than 2 cards within a pack that look the same.  It’s different, but I’m not sure it’s a good thing.

Here’s the wrapper for the packs within the blaster.  Archives wrappers are often based on some bit of vintage Topps wrappers or packaging, but this one escapes me.  It seems kind of generic to me, so I suppose it could be some cobbled-together vaguely vintage design.

I have a few comments to make about the eight different designs used, plus the inserts, so I’ll just go through things chronologically, starting with…


For whatever reason Topps seems to focus on headshots with this design, which is not unheard of in the original set, but 1957 Topps shines when the text is in front of grass or something other than the player’s jersey.

One thing I wonder about is how they determined which color text to use with which photo. I wonder a bit whether they determined up front which colors would go with which player, without taking the photo used into account. These two cards would look better if the colors were different… but it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.


This design is pretty well done, I don’t have a lot to say about it other than the first card I pulled was this one, which was welcomed by this Mets fan.

I particularly liked this card because the background is pretty old-timey.  I don’t know what ballpark this is, I’m guessing it’s a spring training park.

1973 is an odd choice to include in 2021 Archives because in a few months it’ll also be showing up in packs of 2022 Heritage… But Topps did a good job on this.  One thing I noticed is that they didn’t shy away from multiple positions like the originals did.  Had this Mauer card been in 1973 Topps, it would’ve listed him as “CATCHER”, end of story.

I’m also pleased that they properly have right-handed pitchers with the red RHP icon and left-handed pitchers with the blue LHP icon.

I’m also going to take credit for Topps listening to me… and don’t tell me that a post about 2022 Heritage that I wrote in August would’ve been far too late to affect what happened in Archives a couple of months later, because I’m not going to listen to you.

In that post, which was about “2022 Heritage: Fears, Wishes, Guesses And Speculation”, I said that if Topps didn’t bring back managers when doing the 1973 design, that they might replace the “Manager” icon (and its yellow background) with a “Designated Hitter” icon… and that’s exactly what they did.  Unfortunatey my blaster didn’t have a “1973” card of Shohei Ohtani, Nelson Cruz or Yermin Mercedes, as those are all listed as “Designated Hitters”.  But you can take my word that they copied it from me… really, they did.


1983 Topps feels like it’s been in every other Archives set, but I know it’s not quite as bad as that.  Still, it’s one of the best designs of the 1980s so I’m only going to complain so much…

But complain I will. Topps has officially irritated me because they’ve made the same mistake every time that they re-do the 1983 Topps design and they have never learned a damned thing in the process.

Here’s a 2021 Archives Honus Wagner done in the 1983 design, and an actual 1983 Topps card of Dave Parker.

The Archives card looks better in this scan than it does in real life, but that pure yellow text against a white background is completely illegible (Of course, flagship 2021 Topps has shown us that Topps does not give a shit about practical things like legibility).

It’s not even the same yellow as was used on the original cards… They used a yellowish-orange, not pure yellow.  On top of that, the original cards used different shades of yellowish-orange for the border and for the lettering.  To illustrate I did a high-resolution scan and copy & pasted the name next to the border…

The lettering is a bit darker because – hey, guys! Guess what! There needs to be CONTRAST between the letters and the white background! Howzaboutthat?

OK, I’m done now.


Well done, I can’t think of much to say about it… other than why is it “40 Years” rather than “70 Years”? Surely they could’ve faked up something.

For some reason, there are half as many 1991’s in this set than most of the other designs.  (Insert shrug here)

2001 was the 50th anniversary set and while I liked it just fine in 2001, now it’s a little more “Meh” than it used to be… But they seem to have done a good job of replicating it.  Again, I would’ve changed “50 years” to “70 years”, but it’s Archives and not worth a huge effort to Topps.


2011 Topps is very well done, but I suspect that’s because they don’t have to replicate it, they’ve already got the design on their computers… They’re just making more.  It’s interesting how they use gold foil now instead of silver foil on the originals, but that’s neither here nor there.

“2091 Topps” (21 cards)

“2091 Topps” looks a bit silly in retrospect given that it’s unclear if we’ll even see 2031 Topps, but on top of that it’s A) Not a great design and B) doesn’t really fit with the whole “Archives” thing.  Yes, I get that they want to pay tribute to 70 years of Topps baseball cards by projecting 70 years into the future, but that’s something they should’ve done in another set, not in something called “Archives”.

Topps continues to drive business to your friendly neighborhood optometrist, as the player names are hard to read.

OK, let’s get to the inserts…

The 1989 Topps “Big” cards are pretty nice-looking… In fact, they’re nice enough that I wish that (unpopular opinion alert) I wish they were on regular cardstock and in the original size.

I spent four years of college proofreading articles for the school’s newspaper, so that means you have to bear with me going on a rant about the text about this insert which is featured on the blaster box.

The outside of the blaster promises the following:

Now this caused me a fair amount of confusion when I first read this.  See I parsed that phrase as follows:

“1989 Topps”, meaning it was this design:

“BIG FOIL CARDS”, meaning that they were larger than standard size and also printed on foilboard.

I opened the blaster expecting to find a separate pack of oversized foil versions of 1989 Topps, and did not find it.  I started to research this online, thinking I got shortchanged somehow, and then remembered the whole thing in the set previews about the ridiculously named “Big Minis”.

So, for those of you who don’t already know where this is going, the inserts (which came in three different wax packs) is a standard-sized foilboard version of 1989 Topps “BIG”… This set:

These cards, produced in 1989, were of the same size as Topps cards from 1952 to 1956 and were called “Topps Big Baseball”… but these new insert cards are standard-sized… but their smaller than the originals… which means that they were “Big Minis”, a description that makes me SMH.

Moving on to the Movie Posters inserts…  These aren’t bad, but do they really belong in an Archives set?  Talk amongst yourselves.


I really like these 1991 Bazooka inserts, although I can’t really say why.  I’ll point out that THIS design got updated to “70 Years”.

I got one of the inserts based on the 1963 “Peel-off” inserts… They’re kinda goofy, so at least I got someone who would’ve been on my wantlist.

One last comment…  I think Topps worked a little hard on shoehorning this cartoon into this set.  What does the cartoon have to do with the caption?

On the whole 2021 Archives is pretty well done, but in my particular case I think I’m good with just the one blaster and filling out my wantlists by chasing individual cards.

8 thoughts on “Pack Animal: 2021 Topps Archives

  1. I prefer the cards where the player is in action or at the very least holding a bat or something. Those headshots give me a very odd feeling of, “I’m buying pictures of other men.”

  2. The Archives package wrapper is, to my eyes, a bit reminiscent of the 1963 Topps League Leaders cards, specifically the American League Leader Cards, with the bright yellow backdrop and the bold horizontal color block of color. The 1963 Leader cards used the bold block (in red or green) across the TOP of the card, not the bottom. But visually, the Archives package said “1963 Topps” to my sensibilities.

  3. In the late 1980s I would have said the 1987 Topps design was the best in years – then came 1991…

    Now 1983 and 1991 outpace 1987 as my favorite Topps designs in the last 40 years

  4. 7 different designs is a lot for Topps archives, they should of stuck to 3. The 62 design is overdone. I don’t know what there fascination is about 62 Topps, it’s the worst set they ever did. The other designs are ok, except for the 2091 which is lousy. Archives used to mix in other designs in there prior sets for the last 25 cards. Hopefully 2022 archives will be back to 3 designs.

    • I’m not a fan of 1962 either, but they did a good job of replicating it. At this point I have no clue what Topps will do with Archives going forward, there’s no rhyme or reason left beyond “Do a bunch of past designs”

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