Thursday, December 6, 2012

1985 Meets 2012 Via WWE and Topps

I love these cards.  I'm not even waiting until the final paragraph or two to give my opinion and verdict.  In fact, I'm imploring you right now to go out and buy as many packs, boxes, etc. of this set as you can.  Not only will you get a great set of cards, but high sales always help the possibility of future similar products.

I've made it no secret that I have wanted a new Topps WWE Heritage set for awhile now.  Although a few regular WWE series have had Heritage subsets of solely legends, I wanted a complete set full of both current and past stars utilizing designs commemorating the trading cards of yore.  This past summer we learned that not only would this happen, but it would actually pay homage to a classic wrestling trading card set design, that being the 1985 Topps WWF series.

From 2005 to 2008, Topps produced four Heritage sets featuring both then-current and past WWE Superstars.  Based on past Topps sports card designs, the sets were beloved by collectors for their retro look.  Autograph collectors coveted the cards for their non-glossy finish thus making them easier to sign.  The second WWE Heritage series, released in 2006, ended up being my personal favorite.  The cards featured a large studio shot and a smaller action shot with great color and that classic cardboard feel.  Well, it was my personal favorite set...until now.

Four years since their last similar offering, Topps has finally given us another full WWE Heritage set.  Although the cards are advertised as being based off of the Topps 1985 WWF design, the "Legends" portion of the set is actually based upon the 1986 O-Pee-Chee produced Series 2.  This set, which was exclusive to Canada, featured names like Siva Afi, Jimmy Hart and Leilani Kai as well as shots from WrestleMania 2.  The difference is that the 1985 set featured red lettering on a yellow starburst while the second series flipped that color design.

The box and packs, in lieu of TNA-contracted Hulk Hogan, star the one and only Andre the Giant.  Andre even gets his own ten-card subset which highlights his career once he became exclusive to the WWF.  Previously unpublished shots from WrestleMania III and the 1987 Survivor Series shine in this subset, which is also based on designs from action cards in the '85 and '86 sets.

As is usually the case in modern card sets, subsets abound here and provide an extra, yet often frustrating, incentive for collectors.  In the 2012 Heritage line we have subsets based on the '85 and '86 looks with "Superstars Speak," famous families and tag teams, finishing moves, and those great stickers.  The backs of the stickers create two different "puzzle photos," just as was famously included in many sport and non-sport card collections of the 1980's.  A new subset has cards featuring sketches by Jerry "The King" Lawler (very few lucky fans will pull an actual hand-sketched card) as well as a new "Allen & Ginter" set made up of smaller cards designed to resemble tobacco cards of a century ago.

The base set itself is the real gold here.  The 110 cards feature a nice balance of current stars and legends as well as a small group of more recent "legends" such as Steve Austin, Trish Stratus, and Batista who are lumped in at the end of the current lineup.  Different colored border cards are once again included as parallels with black seemingly the most common and gold being the hardest to obtain.  Parallels are one of two current card trends (the other will be mentioned ahead) that don't necessarily appeal to me, although certain cards do look nicer with alternate borders.

Curiously, such regularly featured acts like Vickie Guerrero, Heath Slater, and Michael Cole are not included in the base set while Aksana, Cameron, and Naomi are out in full force.  More curiously is how legends who are obviously not contracted for cards are handled when popping up in photos used.  While Slick shows up in an Andre the Giant subset card, Mr. Fuji is blurred from a Yokozuna "Superstars Speak" card in which Fuji's "quote" is used on the back.  Neither man is signed to be used for the cards.  There is also an error card in the finishing moves subset.  Ted DiBiase's "Dream Street" card is mistakenly labeled 86 instead of 37.  Don't fall for unscrupulous dealers trying to get more for this particular card.

Autographs and relics you ask?  A wide variety of autographs are out there and differ between packs obtained through hobby shops and those available at nationwide retailers.  Purchasing a full hobby box, collectors are once again promised one relic and one autograph OR WrestleMania relic card.  Relics generally do not appeal to me, and these WrestleMania relic cards (featuring 2010's WrestleMania XVII) are a slap in the face to collectors purchasing boxes.  For as much money as is spent on the product, an autograph should be guaranteed one per box.  Relics are becoming just what the name says--a relic.  They're overdone, especially the "mat" relic cards.

This is the set that I have been waiting years for and the wait was worth the while.  I would love to see a Heritage set done once per year, although the question is where they could go as far as design.  Topps did not have the WWF/WWE license for nearly twenty years.  There are certainly more non-wrestling classic designs to be explored, although I would settle for looks similar to non-Topps wrestling card product if it could be pulled off.  A new crop of legends would be nice too, although that is an issue out of the hands of Topps.

Blaster boxes (including a relic card) and jumbo packs have been showing up at national chain retailers.  Single packs are just slowly starting to follow at retail.  There's no doubt in my mind that Topps will want this product in the stores soon in time for stocking stuffer ideas.  Dusty Rhodes, Eve Torres, and Howard Finkel in your stocking this year?  Could happen...if you will.


Loneman1 said...

Hey man, been following your blog for a few months now, good stuff!! I had no idea Topps was doing a retro set until I read your entry, which prompted me to grab a box......looking forward to receiving it any day now. Thanks for the heads up!

J\/\/ said...

Glad you're enjoying the blog and I know you'll enjoy the set. One of my favorites of all-time!

Loneman1 said...

Yup, got the box this, they went retro even down to the texture of the card, very awesome. Managed to pull a Jake the Snake autograph too.....good times!