Monday, June 3, 2024

uggghhh, Short Prints


We all know how a Heritage checklist works. 20% of the list will be the "Short Prints" that one has to laboriously track down, often one at a time to 'complete the set.' I despise this concept. I just want a set of Baseball Cards, not a set of yet more middle-man profit-maker objects.

Alas, I am not in charge of Baseball Cards. So if I want to complete a set of Heritage, I have to deal with the Short Prints. Little did I know, as I began opening some boxes of the 2024 Heritage Minis, how the Short Prints would come to define the product for me.

Before I conclude my tale of this product, I must detour to one other product component, seen right above there - which is a Short Print card # in the checklist, but is not actually a Short Print. That's a "Throwback" — and a nice enough one, in my opinion. The photo is a nice look at the old timey Devil Rays uniform though of course the facsimile signature obscures it significantly. No escape from that on the 1975 Topps design, particularly when the software drops the signature imagery in precisely the same spot on each and every Baseball Card, quite unlike how humans did it manually back in the 1974 off-season. 

I pulled that card from the 2nd box of Heritage Minis I opened the day they went on-sale at my ever friendly LCS. A hot case? Two Throwbacks in two boxes? Unreal - it seemed.

I opened a 3rd box that morning, and pulled a "Color Swap." At that point it was clear that these cards would have a much, much higher print run than they do in full size Heritage. In each little box of Minis, turns out there is one Throwback, Image Variation, or Color Swap. Baseballcardpedia estimates 265 copies of each card though the checklist of cards runs 15/20/25 of the 3 types of these .... inserts? Short Prints? Hits? Gimmicks?

That compares to 35/1475/500 of the Throwbacks/Image/Swaps in full size Heritage.

I like this, hmmm, "opening up" of the concept here in the Minis. I know I would never see a copy of that Arozarena Throwback in real life, in real Heritage. And now I own one. I have a hunch on what that simple structure change might do with this product, which I will return to later.

It was a confusing morning, and day, really. I'm not completely sure when the box contents became definitive information for me: 3 serial #'d color parallels, 1 white border parallel, 2 inserts, 1 gimmick, and uggghhh, just 2 Short Prints — with the same 100 card checklist as found in full size Heritage.

And therein lay the ultimate dilemma with this product. 100 cards, but just 320 copies of each one.

Now that Wednesday morning, I had purchased my LCS's entire inventory of 9 boxes. I passed on ordering additional boxes that afternoon. This meant I could start out with 18 Short Prints, if I opened all of my boxes.

That night I did not open any more of my balance of 6 boxes, while I thought over what to do with all these Baseball Cards. Did I want to dive into the pool and finally complete a set of Heritage? 

It is something I have never attempted. Although my love of Topps designs begins to increase dramatically with the 1971 design, my view of the Heritage product fizzled each year with the steady decline of any attempt at much craftsmanship in the product. 2020 Heritage did have some nice "re-creations" of the famous 1971 cards. 2021 faithfully executed the 1972 "In Action" cards, which I quite liked, but the rest of the imagery in each set was yet more of each player standing in the same place each team had stood in for years upon years. 2022 had many great moments but also had some of the fake backdrop cards that just angered me to the point that I would not want to flip through a set of binder pages and continually see a possibly fully fake future for Baseball Cards. 2023 really brought up the use of 1974-esque action imagery but still had a few of the fake cards and a few other demerits that also led me to decline declaring it "binder worthy."

Now here at long last I was looking at my favorite historical Topps design. On the historical Minis. What should I do?

That Thursday night I ripped another box. Aside from the Short Prints, I wanted to see the color choices for the 1975 parallels. The next night I opened another box, my 5th, and found my lowest #/d parallel yet, an Orange. It also pushed me over 500 cards of the yes, base set, of 400 cards, so that would surely be in easy completion range.

The next day was Saturday and I headed off to work, like I did on 29 of the days in May. Boxes of this product ordered online had begun arriving that Friday, I knew. I can take breaks whenever I wish while working. So I started to look at the Short Print cards newly listed on ebay.

The concept looked bleak indeed - pick-your-card listings were selling out already, at $10 / card. If I opened all my boxes, I would still need 82 cards of the ugghhh, Short Prints. $820 to complete just a simple set of 500 Baseball Cards - after already "investing" $550 into this product. Uggghhh. 1975 looked closer than ever before, and still farther away than ever before.

Late that morning, I threw in the towel. Too rich for my blood, as the expression goes. I knew this wouldn't be a product where people, including me, could just casually purchase some more in the weeks ahead, look for trading partners, maybe someday find some discounted packages, etc., like most sets of Baseball Cards. The whole print run, had essentially already been sold, as in, Out.

I began to mentally search for collecting concepts to use. I probably had a near-complete, yes, base set. But does anyone truly want a set of Heritage Baseball Cards that is just 80% complete? I know plenty of people own such sets. And I can easily collect just 9 cards from any set and call it - Good. But, I really really like the 1975 Topps design. Not finishing a set of it - Bad.

What would I do with these Minis, then? What 9 cards should I pick? 9 parallels? What else?

Maybe, I thought, I could do a Tigers Team Set to go with my sweet Riley Greene Throwback and my Reese Olson /15 RC. That would be a nice, yes, mini collection.

The Tigres best player right then was budding young slugger Kerry Carpenter. I was vaguely aware from my so-far (uggghhh, work) limited interaction with regular 2024 Heritage that he was, uggghhh, on the Short Print Checklist.

So I picked up the "phone," again, and looked up "2024 Topps Heritage Mini Kerry Carpenter" on the oh-so-easy eBay "app" to see if a $10 memento of this set was available, or, would it cost even more? And there it was:

I couldn't believe it. Did that really say "Mini" in the keywords? It did. Two Bucks? I "mashed the button" = Buy It, Now. 

Well, that was easy. eBay likes it that way, trust me. I decided to look into this concept a bit more.

Saturday is a great day to find brand new Baseball Card listings online, since selling Baseball Cards is a simple enough "side gig" for plenty of folks. And that particular Saturday, eBay was steadily filling up with 2024 Heritage Minis, For Sale.

At amazing prices. Yes, some Short Print cards were still selling at $10 each. But many, oh so many, were not.

After so many years of passing on expensive Baseball Cards I desired to own, but did not desire to pay for, I knew what to do. I have learned a lot from my 2013 All-Parallel set project, particularly when it came to purchasing a necessary card of a Superstar. That project didn't even start until 2014 — far too late to do it, cheaply. The longer you wait to pull a trigger, the more it is probably going to cost.

For many years I have read online commentary from people selling Baseball Cards, as well as people buying Baseball Cards. Intelligent sellers will explain how to intelligently sell the cards, in ways that make the side gig profitable. They will frequently do so by explaining How Not To Do It.

Their advice came in quite handy, that Saturday afternoon. I have never wanted to sell Baseball Cards, or become a Dealer. It sounds like a nice gig, if you love Baseball Cards. But for me, I love them too much — I would be terrible at selling them — I would just want to keep all the cool cards and would thus be a not-very-successful Dealer. 

I am always extremely grateful Dealers exist though. If no one sold Baseball Cards, no one could collect Baseball Cards. It's that simple.

I knew from reading Dealer stories there are always, and I mean always, people selling Baseball Cards in ways that limit their potential returns. Generally by straight "rip-it-&-list-it" activity, as it's called. There are lots of ways to sell things to human beings. Some people opening boxes of cards are just straight gambling on finding things like an on-card autograph from a Hall-of-Famer, on a reproduction of his one (& only one, imagine that) official Rookie Card from 50 years ago. Everyone knew George Brett autographs were in this product.

Other online sellers aren't gambling so much as just operating a business. Boxes to cases of sports cards arrive, are sold off as singles, all in a steady thrum of activity because another product is arriving quite soon anyway. Volume of sales can be as profitable as price maximized sales.

All kinds of Baseball Card sales were happening that Saturday. I quickly found a bunch more Minis Short Prints, without an uggghhh attached, as they were all priced at just $2 or $3. The seller name clinched my decision. The eBay store bragged on being essentially the online Wal•Mart for: Hockey Cards. It was becoming more clear by the minute that a lot of sellers didn't know what they were looking at in this product.

I dived into the pool.

Let's review: 100 cards. 320 copies each. 1975 Topps, man. The Minis.

Anyone who knows much Baseball Card history could see where this would go, in my opinion. A lot of collectors would want a copy of this particular set. Only 320 exist, even though 4,000-&-some copies of the 400 card set exist.

I don't particularly care for that reality. Topps could have easily made this a much simpler set that several hundred more happy collectors could happily assemble, by simply printing 640 copies of each Short Print and then inserting 4 of them per box, placing it in the same ratio of Base:SP as in full-sized Heritage. Or they could have also just printed a bit more of this product.

How much would "a lot of" collectors pay to own one of these? Knowing that plenty of initial listings of the Short Prints had already sold for $10 / card, I already knew that buying one for $3 was a very easy decision.

And the easy decisions kept right on appearing, whenever I picked up the phone and clicked "Newly Listed" in the search options.

I couldn't believe the collecting territory I was entering. I could actually own a Complete Set of Heritage 1975 Topps, man. The Minis.

Now the Short Print checklist in Heritage has had a helpful trade-off when it moved up from 75 cards to 100 cards a few years ago - less Superstars are Short Prints, lately. But there are still some "tough" cards included in the uggghhh, Short Prints. Including a player named "Mike Trout" — & another one known as "Shohei Ohtani." Uggghhh.

Knowing those cards wouldn't be cheap, I opened my 6th box of this. Nothing particularly memorable, nor valuable, appeared, though I now owned 12 Short Prints I wouldn't have to purchase, singly. But, none of the likely-to-be-expensive ones.

Meanwhile, box prices from online Dealers (just individuals, not the usual big Distributors) were rising quickly; in fact they had already doubled. My remaining 3 boxes were already worth $300. I could make this set even cheaper.

After that initial weekend of online sales activity, more purchasers started receiving their product over the course of the next week. Then, another handy concept for a collecting project like this one began to appear: "Lots."

I lucked into a very helpful listing. 22 Short Prints, $50. No uggghhh, there. It included this one -
This is a great Baseball Card.

Thank you, Kind Reader, for making it this far with only 3 pictures of Baseball Picture Cards. Although I find 2024 Topps Heritage to be a less-than-perfect product, with the abysmal printing of the backs and plenty of dubious checklist decisions, there are a whole lot of Baseball pictures I do quite like.

I haven't quite absorbed the whole set yet; the arrival of these Minis did completely upset my apple cart plan to delightfully open packs of these cards all through the Summer and absorb it a few dozen cards at a time. The craptastic backs had already diminished the allure of that simple goal somewhat, but with these Minis and the realities of how I could assemble a Complete Set, most pretense of not seeing the whole set, all at once, has just about disappeared. I did largely sort the 400 cards in the regular-print set upside down, so there will still be an occasional surprise amongst them, I hope.

Amongst the Short Prints, I now have the checklist memorized, by necessity, as we shall see. But first, let's see some Baseball Cards already!

A great thing in 2024 Heritage is the use of "candids" - not posed/portraits, and not-quite action images either:
That is how a lot of Topps Baseball Cards, in the long, yes, heritage of the brand, have worked. No stiffness. Just, a Baseball player. That's the whole point: a Baseball Picture Card.

Another thing I have noticed this year, not just in the Heritage brand, is an increasing fondness there on 1 Whitehall St. for including sunglasses on the cards, as on that Gunnar Henderson card, up on his cap, or being actively worn -
Rowdy Tellez is a quick Fan Favorite wherever he goes, but go he does as he is just a bit outside of being a serviceable, truly everyday MLB Slugger. Fans like him, particularly at first, obviously because of the name but probably also in part because it seems he would absolutely destroy the opposition in a Beer League game, and that would be a hella good time. Andrew Chafin was quite initially popular in Milwaukee last summer too. A pity it appears there won't be any Baseball Cards of them in the best "City Connect" uniforms to date:
The shoulder patch on these is the Greatest. It was captured well on cardboard at least once in 2023, we'll see that here soon as insanely Busy Season has just ended for me, and now, it's Baseball Card season.

Two First Baseman cards for Milwaukee? Nothing much changes there; neither of these veteran sluggers are manning the position for the Crew this year as Santana continues his tour of the Central divisions, now in Minnesota, while Rowdy is picking up new fans at Santana's previous stop in Pittsburgh. 

But such is the way she goes, boys, in the Heritage checklist any more. I'll be wandering around on that again soon, and finally soon wrapping up the tale of 1975 Topps, man. The Minis. It has a delightful ending.

To Be Continued...

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