Black Friday: 2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Set

Back in 2002, Topps issued a 3-card promotional set of cards for the then-upcoming inaugural Topps Total set.

Thanks to Nick over at the “Dime Boxes” blog, I found out about these cards in time to include them in my COMC Black Friday frenzy.  I got all three for under $1.50.

All three promo cards feature different photos, and have some variations on the back as well.

First off, we’ve got Ichiro.  Mr. Suzuki was coming off his ROY/MVP season when this card was issued, so it’s no surprise he would be featured here.
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Ichiro

…and here’s the “regular” Topps Total card; they should’ve stuck with the pre-production photo:
2002 Topps Total Ichiro

Like Ichiro, Barry Bonds had also been the MVP the previous season. Here’s the pre-production card:
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Barry Bonds

…And the regular card; again, I prefer the pre-production card of the big jerk:
2002 Topps Total Barry Bonds

The final card of the trio is for Hank Blalock, who was a top prospect at the time… Baseball America ranked him at #3 in 2002, calling him “the best pure hitter in the minors”. I believe this photo is from the 2001 Futures Game.
2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Hank Blalock

You want to know who the two guys ranked above Blalock were, right? Josh Beckett and Mark Prior.

Here’s the regular Total card. This is the only one of the three where the pre-production card is the lesser of the two.
2002 Topps Total Hank Blalock

And because I can’t just let things slide without showing how the backs differ… The most obvious difference is the card number. The numbering of the “team set” in the lower right-hand corner differs as well in that they went from a two-letter to a three-letter abbreviation (“SM” to “SEA”).  Topps also couldn’t decide whether to put Ichiro’s name up top or down low.

2002 Topps Total Pre-Production Ichiro back

2002 Topps Total Ichiro back

Ichiro and Bonds have different write-ups on their backs.  Blalock’s back has the same text, but some minor differences in how the minor league stats are presented.

In terms of how much I enjoyed it at the time, 2002 Total is one of my top sets of the 21st century.  After being bombarded with shiny, foily, garish, “More is MORE!” sets since the early 1990’s, the idea of an understated, simply designed and relatively appealing 990-card set which included relief pitchers and bench players was very exciting to me.  I first saw packs of Total at a show;  I bought a couple of packs and immediately ripped them… I can still remember standing in a show aisle, thumbing through cards and maniacally giggling about my wishes coming true.

I won’t suggest that the set has held up well over the years, but it’s still a personal favorite and is the only Total set I’ve completed to date.

I miss Total, and while I know it’s never coming back, I do wish that the base Topps set would be more Total-y.