2018 Topps Allen & Ginter
If you are reading this article, chances are that you are a collector of trading cards, a previous collector or at least interested in starting. OR; you just really enjoy reading! Either way, I’m going to give you a brief history of the baseball card and lead in to a review of a newly released product that annually pays homage to one of the original card types. Hopefully there will be something in here you didn’t already know because there certainly were a couple of surprises when I started doing my research.
To get to the origination of the trading card, you have to go all the way back to 1888 or so. While the leagues we know today weren’t created until the early 1900’s with the first World Series being held in 1903, professional baseball itself actually dates back to June of 1846, when the first professional baseball game was played in Hoboken, New Jersey; between the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Nine. The Knickerbockers took the loss 23-1 in that opener. I guess that is why they are now a basketball team. I kid! Baseball itself dates all the way back to the 1700’s! America’s Pastime truly has a deep and rich history.
Moving back to the trading card, Allen & Ginter was a tobacco company in the United States that was one of the first companies to begin creating 1.75 in. x 2.75 in. cards that featured artists, athletes, actors, and other cultural images of the time. One of the features on the cards was the baseball player and these were a bit smaller than the cards we have today. So baseball cards began as a novelty to entice people to buy smokes. That is where the term “tobacco card” comes from. Most of the time, the adult smokers would give the cards to their kids to play with and collect. So this hobby that we all love and enjoy actually began some 130 years ago! Arguably the most famous (and most valuable from a sales perspective) baseball card in history is the 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner. One sold in 2016 for $3.12 Million in 2016!
In 1932, the Goudey Gum Company began using cards as a marketing tool aimed directly at children with the sale of gum. The hobby really began to grow at that time and that is when some collectors consider the baseball cards we collect today began to form. These were a little larger than the tobacco cards and these were designed with the kid collector in mind. The photos were colorful and there was information on the back that would give the kids some background and insight into the player on the front. You may have seen that Upper Deck still produces some variation of the Goudey in the Goodwin Champions sets. I believe that some of the “Legends of Wrestling” cards were loosely based on these as well.
In 1948, about 60 years after the first baseball card was created, Bowman began manufacturing baseball cards and marketing them on their own with a piece of gum as the enticement. Cards had grown to the point where the market wanted them as collectible pieces and not just novelty add on’s to the gum and candy they were buying. Bowman covered the market until 1952, when Topps entered the fray and created arguably the other most famous baseball card in history; the 1952 Mickey Mantle Rookie. Former Denver Bronco Evan Mathis sold his copy of the card, graded PSA 9, for $2.88 Million earlier this year. This is the holy grail of baseball cards for collectors my age, collectors who are 70 and collectors who are 25.
Topps would later purchase Bowman and be the sole manufacturer of baseball cards from 1956 through 1981. Topps signed exclusive licenses with players and Bowman eventually conceded the business to them and began to focus on other sports like Football. But in 1981, Fleer challenged Topps and won an antitrust lawsuit and the 80’s would see a whole new brand of baseball card for collectors to enjoy. Donruss joined Fleer and Topps in 1981, and the three companies began the battle of the trading cards that we still see today. A lot of new collectors don’t realize that the license exclusivity and “monopolizing” within the industry is not a new fad. This was going on back in the 1950’s! The argument against one company having the licensing over the sport is that collectors want options beyond one company. We were spoiled in the 80’s and 90’s when there were multiple companies to choose from.
BASEBALL Sports Board with 9 Die-cut Windows 22 x 28″ outside frame dimension. Mat is die-cut with Nine Fielder Windows. Cards are not included.
Of course, the argument for the license exclusivity lies within that same timeframe as the 80’s ushered in what is affectionately known as the “junk wax era”. Cards really exploded by the mid 80’s and production numbers were through the roof. I believe that 1988 Donruss has to be one of the most overproduced sets of the 80’s but it doesn’t compare to what was about to happen in the 90’s. By 1989, Upper Deck and Score joined the manufacturer list. In 1990, Leaf was on board. In 1991, we got our first glimpse of Topps Stadium Club. The years after brought Studio, Ultra, Triple Play, Metal Universe, you name it! The industry literally busted at the seams by the mid 90’s and many collectors became overwhelmed. The MLB strike of 1994 and the explosion of production began fracturing the foundation of the hobby and many collectors moved on to other interests.
It is really a cornucopia of a set but that is what it is meant to be in order to pay the ultimate tribute to the granddaddy of trading cards.
Some of us stuck around for the duration but I think we all have our “dark period” where cards just weren’t as important as girls, trucks, sports or other late teen/young adult phases. But for one reason or another, a lot of us came back and the hobby is as strong as it has ever been here in 2018. Companies are trying to use lessons learned from the past and keep production down and, in some ways, exclusivity helps. But exclusivity is a complex monster and does harm to the hobby as well, in my opinion. But we have discussed that before so there isn’t any real reason to drag it back into the discussion today. The fact is that it is a big part of the hobby history and remains as big a piece of it today as ever.
MUSEUM GRADE Trading Card Storage Box. Holds 800 cards. 3-3/4 x 2-3/4 x 14″(inside). Made from Black Conservation Grade board that is acid-free, lignin-free and approved by the Library of Congress for Indefinite storage.
There is no question the hobby is flourishing right now, even with that strange cloud of exclusivity always hovering above us. We are seeing a brand of player that has excited collectors in ways we haven’t seen since Ken Griffey Jr. Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna and others have really energized the baseball card industry and the other innovations since the junk wax era. Autographs, relics, superfractors, printing plates and low numbered parallels are highly sought after today and have made the common base card almost obsolete. Many of us still collect them and try to put base sets together but the cards themselves don’t hold a ton of value.
Now that we are in 2018, and I have given you one of the broadest overviews of a 130 year hobby in history, let’s talk about a new release that pays homage to the tobacco cards from the 1880’s. Topps began manufacturing Allen & Ginter cards back in 2006 and it has been one of their more popular sets on an annual basis since then. The set incorporates vintage imagery to give them a retro feel and also has included tobacco size cards as box loaders and pack inclusions in the past. As another throwback to the original A&G cards, the set also includes actors, landmarks and other non-athletes in the sports industry. It is really a cornucopia of a set but that is what it is meant to be in order to pay the ultimate tribute to the granddaddy of trading cards.
The set this year includes 350 base cards and each hobby box promises 3 hits that could include autographs, relics, original A&G cards, and the ever popular Rip Card. A Rip Card is a normal sized card with a tobacco sized card on the inside of it. Collectors constantly wrestle with the decision to Rip the card to unveil what’s inside or keep it in tact, much like we do unopened packs from time to time. Almost anything could be inside a Rip Card! I have never pulled one so I have had plenty of time to think about it and I still don’t know what I’d do.
There are parallels, just like any other set on the market today. There are A&G Logo Backs (1:5 packs), Black Borders (1:10 packs), No Numbers (50 copies of each card), Brooklyn Backs (25 copies of each card), Framed Cloth (numbered to 10), Metal (numbered to 3), Printing Plates, Glossy and Cyan (all numbered 1/1). There is even a chance at a hot box which contains Silver Glossy cards. Finally, there are inserts that include; Baseball Equipment of the Ages, Fantasy Goldmine, Magnificent Moons, Mini Baseball Superstitions, Mini Exotic Sports, Mini Flags of Lost Nations, Mini Folio of Fears, Mini Indigenous Heroes, Mini Postage, Mini World’s Hottest Peppers, and Box loaders. As you can see, there could be a literal treasure chest of cards within each box.
Let’s go through a box and take a look at some of the highlights!
The base cards feature the player with the rest of the background removed. In many cases, you will just get the focus on a players face and jersey. Aaron Judge is a great example of the standard Allen & Ginter base card.
There is a nice selection of Hall of Famers littered throughout the checklist.
The rookies have the standard Topps RC in the bottom corner of the card. Of course, everybody knows Mr. Ohtani is a RC!
Lindsay Vonn is an example of other athletes that can be found in the base set.
How about Jeopardy Champion, Austin Rogers?
Comedian, Tom Segura
There is even a “Weather Phenomenon” – The Bomb Cyclone
One of my favorite non-player cards from the base set was this “Bullpen Car”.
There is one Tobacco Style Mini in each pack – Here are three of them with a standard base card for reference.
There are also inserts in the mini checklist.
This is the “Baseball Equipment” insert.
Here is the “Fantasy Goldmine” insert.
“Magnificent Moons” features trading cards with moons on them. I know I don’t have to explain that but these aren’t your everyday trading cards.
One of the more visually appealing insert sets this year is “World’s Greatest Beaches”. Panama City Beach better be in this set!
The final insert set is “World Talent” which features a player and the country they are from.
Though this isn’t a standard Allen & Ginter card, I did pull a “Home Run Challenge” contest card. If I can somehow figure out which game Eric Thames will hit a home run in, I will win a prize!
The oversized Box Loader was Honus Wagner and I sure wish it was a T206! But this is a solid pull!
My first hit was a relic of Max Scherzer.
My second hit was this Garrett Cooper mini Autograph. While Cooper isn’t a huge name, autographs have been historically tough pulls for me in A&G.
My final hit is a big one! This is an ORIGINAL Allen & Ginter Tobacco Card from the late 1800’s-early 1900’s as far as I can tell. This is numbered 1/1 and is of a Dipper, a “Bird of America”. It is pretty cool to own a card from 100 years ago and this one is well protected in the A&G encapsulated card. I am very happy with this pull!
As I mentioned above, you really never know what you will pull when you break a box of Allen & Ginter. It isn’t a set that I try to build because I am more into the baseball cards themselves. But I think it is a great set for certain collectors. I also really like the hits that come in A&G for the most part. The relics aren’t anything to write home about but the autographs and other off the wall finds is always very well done. I may pick up another blaster or two but I usually buy only one hobby box per season because it isn’t one of the sets I build out. The design really hasn’t changed much from year to year but when you take the product in perspective for what it was designed for, you really can’t imagine a better card. What do you think of 2018 Allen & Ginter?
Holds 500 cards 9-3/4 x 3-3/4 x 2-3/4″ (I.D.) Cards store sideways. Made from 200# test corrugated cardboard. Just fold together; needs no tape or glue.