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Topps Fan Favorites are Back for Second Season

by Paul Angilly
June 8, 2004

One of my personal favorite sets from last year, Topps Fan Favorites baseball cards -- featuring classic Topps designs with never-before-seen photography from its photo archives -- returns for a second season with a set scheduled for release today.

Last year, card backs also mirrored the past designs, but carried season-by-season and career statistics only for the years the pictured player was a member of the team he is shown with on the front. For instance, Reggie Jackson was pictured as a member of the New York Yankees, in a design that mirrors 1980 Topps. The back includes statistics and career highlights only for the years 1977-1981, when he played for the Yankees.

The 150-card set includes many of the all-time greats of baseball, plus many other players who may not have had outstanding careers, but are still popular names among today’s collectors -- players such as Mookie Wilson and Ray Knight from the 1986 Mets.

The set also pays homage to off-the-field personalities who have helped shape the game, including: Yankee PA announcer Bob Sheppard, broadcaster Joe Buck and Topps executive Sy Berger, the man most responsible for the design of the 1952 Topps set, which set the stage for nearly every card issue since.

Of the 150 subjects appearing in the base set, 120 signed autographs (inserted at a rate of two per box), including: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt, Frank Robinson, Rod Carew, Robin Yount, Reggie Jackson, Paul Molitor, Don Mattingly and former MLB commissioners Fay Vincent and Peter Ueberroth. Like last year, some autographed cards will be short printed.

The set will also include Chrome Refractor parallels (numbered to 299) and each box will include one Relic box-loader: either "Best Seat in the House" (three players from the same team with a piece of seat from that team’s home stadium) or "Fan Favorites" (game-worn jersey or game-used bat pieces).

Six-card packs have a suggested retail price of $5.

Topps Total back for third year: Although somewhat smaller in size, 2004 Topps Total, out now, marks the third straight year for the brand that features one of the largest base sets available. This year’s set includes 880 cards (down from 990 in each of the past two years), with 95 non-short-printed rookie cards.

Upper Deck produced a 1,182-card "40-Man" set in 2002 and a 990-card version of that issue last year, but has not yet announced plans for a 2004 40-Man set.

This year, each Topps Total card also serves as a game piece, with card backs including color-coded game charts (based on the players’ actual statistics) and random numbers that can be used to play a fairly simple game that younger children might enjoy. Instructions are available in the packs.

The issue also includes a complete silver-border parallel (1 per pack), autographs and inserts such as "Total Topps," "Total Winners," "Total Production" and even unique 1-of-1 "Press Plates."

Cards are numbered both as part of the overall 880-card set and also by team set. Team logo stickers and team checklists are also designed to appeal to team set builders.

Ten-card packs are priced at $1.

The Red Sox and Yankees players included in the set are:

Boston Red Sox -- Johnny Damon, Byung-Hyun Kim, Manny Ramirez, Mike Timlin, Gabe Kapler, Curt Schilling, Ramiro Mendoza, Nomar Garciaparra, Kevin Millar, Tim Wakefield, Trot Nixon, David Ortiz, Scott Williamson, Alan Embree, Doug Mirabelli, Derek Lowe, Keith Foulke, Pokey Reese, Bill Mueller, Pedro Martinez, Brian Daubach, Ellis Burks, Mark Bellhorn, Charlie Zink, Jerome Gamble, Juan Cedeno, David Murphy, Harvey Garcia and Kenny Perez;

New York Yankees -- Joaquin Arias, Estee Harris, Rudy Guillen, Jose Valdez, Scott Proctor, Dioner Navarro, Sam Marsonek, Derek Jeter, Kenny Lofton, Bernie Williams, Jon Lieber, Mariano Rivera, Javier Vazquez, Felix Heredia, Paul Quantrill, Miguel Cairo, Aaron Boone, Steve Karsay, Flash Gordon, Erick Almonte, Enrique Wilson, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano, Jose Contreras, John Flaherty, Ruben Sierra, Tony Clark, Mike Mussina, Gary Sheffield, Estee Harris, Joaquin Arias, Rudy Guillen, Dioner Navarro and Jose Valdez.

Autographed Finch cards coming: The first-ever autographed cards of U.S. Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch will appear as random inserts in boxes of 2004 Topps Pristine Baseball, due for release the first week of October. She will sign 125 total cards for the "Personal Endorsements" set, including 25 cards for the gold parallel edition.

Finch, who gained her fame while playing at the University of Arizona, holds the NCAA softball record with 60 consecutive wins. She was twice named National Player of the Year and led Team USA to gold at the 2002 World Championships. This summer, she headlines Team USA as it travels to Athens to compete in the 2004 Olympic Summer Games.

Topps football card news: With a contract as the exclusive card of the NFL Draft, Topps acquired Eli Manning’s draft-day San Diego Chargers jersey. Manning, the first overall pick, was traded to the New York Giants shortly thereafter. The company will produce a relic card featuring both Manning’s Chargers and Giants jerseys to be included in 2004 Bowman Football’s "Draft Day Jersey Relics" insert set. 2004 Bowman Football ships late September.

The 2004 Topps Football set (due out July 28 with a $1.59 SRP for each 10-card pack) will include a new "Ring of Honor Coaches Cuts" insert set, with embedded cut signatures from the winning coaches of each of the 38 Super Bowl champion teams. The cards, including Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells among others, will be limited to just one copy of each.

Other highlights of the 2004 Topps set include: 385 base cards (including 75 rookies), the addition of a new Tom Brady card to the "Ring of Honor" set begun two years ago, "Rookie Premiere" photo shoot autographs, "Premiere Prospects" autographs, Hall of Fame autographs, exclusive Super Bowl XXXVIII relics (including ticket stubs, pylons, footballs and Tom Brady autographs) and exclusive Pro Bowl relics.

About the author
Paul Angilly is a sports reporter for The Bristol Press in Connecticut, and has been collecting sports cards and memorabilia for 30 years. He is not a dealer, nor does he make a profit from buying and selling cards. His weekly sports card and memorabilia collecting column appears each week in The Bristol Press and several other daily newspapers in Connecticut.

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