Since 2017 I’ve been predicting what the following year’s Archives set might look like. At the beginning I had some ideas on the guidelines Topps was using to select a design and I did pretty well predicting what 2018 Topps Archives would look like. I did the same with predictions for 2019 Topps Archives, with far less impressive results and my predictions for 2020 Archives turned out to be so completely wrong that I didn’t even bother to do a follow-up post when the previews were released.
To be honest, most of my theories on which designs get used have gone out the window over the past two years, but I’ve got some new ideas so I’ll give it the ol’ college try.
First, let me run through the “rules” that I’ve used in the past and which got blown away with 2019 and 2020 Topps Archives.
Broken Rule #1: A design has to be over 25 years old.
This rule held pretty well for a while, but then when Topps used an 18-year-old design this year (2002 Topps), that put a dent in this guideline.
Broken Rule #2: There’s a “No-Fly Zone” surrounding each year’s Heritage set.
For a while Topps was giving a lot of space around that year’s Heritage set… My thinking was that they wouldn’t want to do a set that had been done in Heritage over the prior 7 years, and they also wouldn’t want to do a design that will be used for Heritage in the next 7 years. Last year this rule got broken by using the 1975 Topps design (five years before it would be used in Heritage) and this year they broke it even more by using the 1974 Topps design (which will be 2023 Heritage).
Broken Rule #3A & 3B: No sets that weren’t on “real cardboard” (i.e. 1993 and later) and no sets with foil (1995 and later).
The first rule got shot down last year when they used the 1993 design and the second got shot down this year when they used the 2002 design.
Since I had this table from past years, here’s an overview of the different designs used in Archives since 2012, along with the “No Fly Zone” of +/- 7 years, which, as I’ve mentioned is already toast:
So let’s run down the designs that I’ll be ruling out as candidates for 2021 Archives…
2021 Heritage will use the 1972 design and 2022 Heritage will use the 1973 design. I’m going to rule those two out.
I’m going to stick with the “No-Fly Zone” on the back end (don’t use the prior 7 Heritage sets), so I’ll rule out any designs from 1965 to 1971.
Another rule I’m sticking with is that Topps wouldn’t reuse a design which had been used in the prior four Archives sets (2017 – 2020) or any “flagship” insert sets over the same period. For the Archives part of it, that rules out 1955, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1992, 1993 and 2002. The inserts used recently have been 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986.
One new rule I’m using specifically for 2021 is that Topps will not use any designs which feature two separate photos. With a shorter 2020 season and with photographers “socially distanced” from the field, I’m thinking that the number of usable photos will be fewer than usual… So that rules out the two-photo designs from 1954, 1956, 1963 and 2003, plus a couple of other sets we’ve already eliminated.
With all of this factored in, let’s go through all of the designs which are eligible:
1952 Topps has never been used in Archives, but I think that that Topps regards this as too “sacred” for use in a second-tier product like Archives.
1953 Topps is technically eligible (it was last used in 2016 Archives), but while “Living Set” is an ongoing product and using this design, I don’t think they would use it for anything else.
1957 Topps was last used in 2015.
1961 Topps has never been used in Archives. It doesn’t get much love, but it’s grown on me as I’ve gotten more exposure to it. If Topps wants to lean into the 70th Anniversary aspect of their 2021 products, then they might go with this design which will be celebrating its 60th Anniversary next year.
1962 Topps also has not been used in Archives. It would also be very easy to produce, because the design is exactly the same for every card, no messing with colors or logos.
1964 Topps has never been used in Archives, and I think it’s a pretty strong candidate.
(This is where we skip through the tattered remains of my “No-Fly Zone” and into the first 1970s set which is eligible…)
1976 Topps was last used for Archives in 2015, but if they’re going to continue with using 1970’s designs not long before it gets used for Heritage, this seems like a possibility.
1978 Topps has never been done in Archives. I’ve routinely dismissed it as a Archives candidate, but I’ve come around on this. Here’s why…
That red script “White Sox” is not a font. Each one was created by a Topps artist without the aid of a computer. Because it’s not a font that can be downloaded and installed, it’s going to be challenging to create the script for the 7 current teams which hadn’t existed in 1978.
Topps recently used the 1974 and 1975 designs in Archives several years before it was slated for use in Heritage. What if it was done intentionally so that they could make an attempt and have all of us do the “quality assurance” on it before Topps uses the same template and techniques and so forth on a higher-profile product like Heritage?
Maybe I’ve been reading too many conspiracy theories on Twitter.
1979 Topps was used in 2016 Archives, so it’s unlikely… But unlike 1978, 1979 is easy peasy to replicate. Ask anyone who has made custom cards.
1980 Topps was used in 2012 and came back again in 2014. Enough time has passed since the last time, but I don’t see a need to use it a third time when there are designs which have never been used.
The 1988 Topps design has never been used in Archives, and that just doesn’t seem right to me.
1989 Topps was used in 2014 and was also done as die-cut minis in the same year’s flagship. I’d like to think we’ve seen enough 1989 for a while (but I’m biased because I don’t like the 1989 design)
1990 Topps was used in 2013, but there aren’t a lot of people clamoring for its return.
1991 Topps was used in 2016 Archives, but like with 1961 Topps, it’s a set celebrating an anniversary (They’d have to change the logo to read “70 Years of Baseball”)
1994 Topps has never been used for Archives. The script font used for the player’s name could be problematic… or not. I don’t know. I thought Topps would be going head-first into the 1990’s around now, but then they started into 2002.
1995 Topps Now that we know they’re willing to use foil on Archives sets, this one is a possibility
1996 Topps That weird photo thing in the nameplate seems like more work than Topps generally puts into Archives, so I’m not thinking this one is likely.
1997 Topps – I bet the Archives team would screw up the “Red borders for AL teams, green borders for NL teams” convention of the original.
1998 Topps I’ve got little to say about this set. It’s nice.
1999 Topps – I wonder if there’s too little going on with this design to make it an appealing option for Archives.
2000 Topps is another nice looking set
2001 Topps – Next year will be the 20th anniversary of this set, so…
2004 Topps Probably a little too recent, and I don’t think they’d want to duplicate that little player artwork in the lower left.
2005 Topps – I’m going to set this as the most recent set to be a candidate, but I wouldn’t expect it to be a huge favorite to get the nod.
OK, prediction time! I think that with Topps celebrating a 70th anniversary in 2021, they will lean into that with Archives and feature the three sets which will also be celebrating anniversaries… it’s not something they’ve done before, but they’re clearly pushing envelopes with Archives.
I predict that they’ll use the three ‘eligible’ sets which have anniversaries: 1961, 1991 and 2001
In the past I’ve picked the designs I’d like to see, but I feel like a broken record on that subject, so I’m going to say I’d like to see Topps do what some people on blogs and social media have suggested – use designs from vintage football, hockey and basketball Topps sets. This might get elaborated on in a post to follow. It also might not.
And now it’s reader feedback time, and I am truly interested in your input…
Which designs do you think Topps will use in 2021?
Which would you pick if you were the “product manager” for 2021 Topps Archives?