2018 Topps Stadium Club Review by J-Dub
The world has changed a lot during my lifetime. Obviously, I was not around before 1977 but I am going to state matter-of-factly that the last 40 years has been more progressive with innovation than the 80 years before that. We have seen an explosion just since 1995 when the internet was introduced to the world. I might even say that the last 20 years has been more astounding than the 100 before that. We are living in an exciting but sometimes overwhelming time.
Let me break down what I am trying to say here. Let’s take a look at the automobile. There are certainly some exceptions to every example but I’m not comparing a Rolls Royce to a Windsor in this scenario. Here are three cars from the early 1900’s. The top car is from 1908, the bottom left is 1920 and the bottom right is 1929. That is a 21 year time period where the car doesn’t seem to have changed tremendously. I’m not a car guy so maybe I’m not seeing the innovation that is clear to others. So while there doesn’t appear to be major changes, I’m sure there were considerable upgrades for the time.
Now take a look at a 2000 Chevy Silverado vs the 2018 Chevy Silverado. Not only is the look pretty different and much more aerodynamic and sleek, there are countless changes over the last 18 years that are just tremendous. Now we have TV’s, DVD’s, WiFi, Back-Up Camera’s, buzzers and beeps to tell us when we are going over the speed limit or getting too close to the center line, heated seats, color monitors, digital gauges, and whatever else you can think of. My point is this; we are seeing much more rapid change and innovation from year to year now than we did in the past. Technology is exploding right before our very eyes.
It is sort of like a snowball rolling down a hill. The snowball takes a while to get going but once it starts picking up momentum and growing, it can become a full blown avalanche. So while a mere 100 years ago some people didn’t have running water; in 2018, there are people who won’t drink water unless it is triple filtered Norwegian spring water that is bottled in recyclable, biodegradable, organic, papier mache bottles. That’s not to say that we have become spoiled but yeah, we sometimes lose sight of just how good we are living. It is easy to take our existing world for granted because we have seen the changes gradual as opposed to looking in 20-30 years stages. But that’s what I’m here for today!
Remember when TV’s were black and white, 13 inches and we (as kids) were the remote controls? If you had a bigger TV, say in the 30 inch range, it likely weighed a metric ton and had channel knobs the size of small frying pans. Bigger wasn’t always better in the 80’s. How many channels did we have in 1985? Discovery was pay per view, satellite dishes were the size of spaceships and most of us had tinfoil antennae’s stuck to the back of the set. Now, TV’s are 50+ inches, weigh 50 lbs and can be hung anywhere from the wall to the ceiling to a mantle with all the wires hidden within the walls. That TV will broadcast 800 channels that range from music videos to sports to animals to movies. The remotes can be used from the front yard and they can pause, rewind and record the shows we are watching. Actually, watching TV can be exhausting today.
Technology has changed the way we cook, clean, play video games, play sports, study, communicate, shop, go to the DR, pay bills, receive our paychecks, and so many more daily tasks. A more specific hobby that has changed tremendously over the last 20 years is photography. And you guessed it; that will lead to a change in the way we collect sports cards too. But back to photography; think back to taking pictures as a kid in the 1980’s. Some people had Polaroid cameras that gave us instantaneous photos that had to be shaken to be fully developed. This may have been the beginning of the “instant gratification” culture, who knows! Then some people had fancy Minolta’s or Canon’s that gave a higher quality photo to the owner but had to be developed in a dark room. But even those photos didn’t turn out great, as evidenced above. The one on the top is a photo of me (the doofus in the middle) from when I was about 8-10 and the one below it is from about 10 years later with a better camera (supposedly). Both photos are horrible, admittedly with no help from the subject in the photo.
By the mid 2000’s, cameras had become unbelievable at providing clear and crisp images. We had digital cameras that could be loaded onto computers and the images could be edited and touched up to make them look even better. Camera phones had not reached the level of photography that handhelds had but in 2018, the camera phones have replaced many of the digital cameras that we owned before. Of course, a nice Canon is still going to give you better photos than a phone will but I’m really comparing how far we have come. The photo on the top is from 2008 and was taken with a high dollar digital camera while the two below were taken with my iPhone. Again, technology is an amazing thing.
So what does all of this have to do with baseball cards? Well, the obvious answer is that we get much higher quality photos in our sports sets today than we did back in the 80’s. I know you read these posts for groundbreaking statements like that but I promise this is going somewhere. Look at the 1985 Mark McGwire, a truly iconic card from the 80’s and compare the photo with the 2018 Topps Kris Bryant. This is the Topps flagship product and nothing from the 80’s and 90’s can really compare with the crystal clear image, with one glaring, UV coated exception.
How can the photography be so good in this set but many others have bland photos or even recycled photos that are repeated from other releases?
In 1991, Topps created a premium set that was solely dedicated to the very best photography they could get their hands on. Topps Stadium Club became the standard bearer that year as the best looking photos on cardboard we had ever seen. I’m throwing out design altogether because I would rather have the 1985 Topps Design than anything Topps has put out in the last 20 years but that’s a “me problem”. I’m really focusing on the photo quality and images caught on camera. Nothing could compare to these cards when they hit the market. This Ken Griffey Jr. was always one of my favorite cards from the set and from the 90’s, period.
When we get to the set from 2018, you will see that the photos are still second to none but the cards still have problems that come along with the way they are designed and printed.
Stadium Club ditched the border designs and went full bleed to give the card images full exposure and this was also a rather groundbreaking move in the hobby. In hindsight, that move has negatively impacted the grading of those early cards, because the edges and corners easily show damage. And the UV coating that was used to give them the high gloss shine eventually made the cards stick together if left in stacks and stick to binder pages if preserved there. But you take the good with the bad in sports card collecting and the photos still pop today, despite the damage and noxious odor left by that infamous UV coating. When we get to the set from 2018, you will see that the photos are still second to none but the cards still have problems that come along with the way they are designed and printed.
Card Set Case – Holds 35 cards. Hinged Case with Snap Closure. Inside base dimensions: 3-1/2 x 2-5/8 x 1/2″ deep; 1/8″ deep snap closed lid. Cards stack horizontally into cases. Square base corners.
Over the years, Stadium Club has always had a tremendous amount of support because of the photos they produce every year. They also produced NFL and NBA cards during the 90’s; providing Brett Favre and Shaq with their most popular RC’s. But if you look at Stadium Club, you will also see as much change from 1991 until now as you see in the above car photo. They haven’t had to change much because they hit on something in 1991 that collectors have jumped all over, and aren’t readily available in most sets; quality photos. There is a negative to one product showcasing such strong photography though. This was recently addressed by a fellow blogger, Mario Alejandro at @TheWaxHeaven on Twitter. How can the photography be so good in this set but many others have bland photos or even recycled photos that are repeated from other releases? The question was interesting and the responses and discussion was quite lively.
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.
Let’s move ahead with the set that was released just a couple of weeks ago, 2018 Topps Stadium Club. I am going to spend most of this review praising the photos and lamenting how much I love the veteran players that were used in the set. But the set as a whole is not without flaws and I will cover those as well. 2018 TSC is a 300 card set so it isn’t an overwhelming checklist but it is a little bigger than some others you’ll find. Hobby boxes are also very reasonable, typically priced around $85, and offer 2 autographs and other chances at SSP’s and inserts that we’ll cover shortly. The hobby box configuration is 16 packs per box with 8 cards per pack.
This year’s set brings “Beam Team” back for another year and they are found at about 1 per box. The Beam Team that was inserted in the early 90’s remains one of the strongest inserts of the Junk Wax Era and is a welcome sight in a 2018 product. There is also an average of one chrome parallel per box, which provides collectors with a shiny insert while still preserving the great photography. Other parallels that can be found are Black and White (1:48 packs), Red Foil, Rainbow Foil (#’d to 25), First Day Issue (#d to 10), Members Only (another nod to the Junk Wax Era found one per case), Photographer’s Proof (2 per case) and Gold Rainbows numbered 1/1.
There are photo variations found in this year’s product that are pretty difficult to pull. According to Ryan Cracknell with Beckett, these are being found at a rate of 1:109 hobby packs, or 2-3 per case. I actually pulled one and I couldn’t be happier with it but you’ll have to read to the end to see it. The photo variations are just what they say, different photos found of the same player. Fifty total players were given the SSP Photo Variation treatment and you can find more information about all of those here, again, thanks to Ryan Cracknell. (Link www.beckett.com/news/2018-topps-stadium-club-baseball-variation-short-prints-gallery-and-what-you-need-to-know/). In addition to these photo variations, Ronald Acuna and Gleyber Torres make a surprise appearance in the checklist as a variation to Hank Aaron and Didi Gregorius, respectively.
I have ripped 3 boxes of the product at this point and these are the real gems I want to share.
This Mike Trout gives you a good idea of the kind of photos you’ll find littered throughout the base set. This was a great way to start the box.
The flaws are pretty simple but they can kill the card if they are prevalent. Because the cards are high gloss, it is easy to see small nicks and scratches. The silver foil from the card behind it can sometimes rub off on the card as well. While I have seen some cards worse than others, I have found more than I would like that have some minor issue. The grading of this set will be tough but will make the “10’s” that much more valuable.
Sandy Koufax is one of the legends found in the set. This is the base version in black and white and is a classic photo of the Dodger lefty.
Here is a great shot of Astros pitcher, Dallas Keuchel.
Some of the shots have somewhat of a fisheye feel to them; like this Anthony Rendon.
Here is baseball and football legend Bo Jackson in a pose very similar to that of his 1987 Topps rookie. More on Bo later.
This Ted Williams is really cool! You can see the bat bending in the photo, which leads me to believe that it is one heavy swing.
An early contender for Rookie of the Year is Atlanta Braves Second Baseman Ozzie Albies. As a Braves fan, I am scooping up all the cards I can find of the hot RC.
Speaking of RC’s, the hottest of them all is in the set as well; Shohei Ohtani! I was lucky enough to pull the base and the Chrome insert!
This is a cool shot of Zack Godley taking a leap into the pool at Chase Field.
Here is a great Wade Boggs!
And you can’t have The Chicken Man without having Donnie Baseball in the set. He and Boggs went hand in hand with Junk Wax collectors like myself.
While we are in the Junk Wax Era, how about Darryl Strawberry?
Here is Dustin Pedroia with a nod to the old card that featured Mickey Hatcher and his oversized glove from 1986 Fleer.
This is a great action shot of Dansby Swanson!
This is the RED version of Aaron Judge.
Here is the BLACK version of Byron Buxton.
This Derek Jeter is from the “Never Compromise” insert set.
“Power Zone” is another insert set and this is Astros superstar Carlos Correa. I love cards with a space theme!
“Special Forces” is an insert that focuses on the scouting highlights of the player featured on the front. Buster Posey is always a welcome addition to my collection since he is a local kid.
Here is the old school insert “Beam Team”. These are great looking inserts and totally take me back to the early days of Stadium Club.
The autographs in the set are on card and are executed well. Paul DeJong has a great signature!
This is a RED version of the autograph with Justin Bour of the Miami Marlins.
This is a case hit “Members Only” of Trevor Bauer.
And finally, here is the pull of the set for me so far. You saw the Bo Jackson base card above. This is the elusive SSP version of Bo with him breaking the bat over his knee. Collectors my age will remember the first version of this card, 1991 Score Bo Breaker. This is the early favorite for 2018 card of the year for yours truly.
So that is 2018 Topps Stadium Club. What do you think? I absolutely love the photography, the player selection from current players to veterans, and the inserts. I also like the rarity of the Members Only and SSP’s, which make them true chase cards. I have been somewhat disappointed with the autograph checklist thus far and the potential for scratches make investing too much money a bit risky. Overall, I really like the set and it is probably my favorite baseball release so far. Archives is looming in August but this is #1 at the moment. For those of you who are familiar with the “Dub-O-Meter”, which scores sets from 1-5, with 5 being the best, I give this set a 4. The autograph selection is the only feature so far that keeps it from a 5. What say you?