Monday, January 20, 2014

Topps Total All Week Long

Topps Total and Starting Lineup are two brands that I was looking to add to my collection.  While Starting Lineup is going to be a marathon, Total was a sprint.  I was able to get the four years worth of Cubs from just two Ebay sellers and the cards recently arrived at the WW World Headquarters.

Today I'll have a general overview of Topps Total and on the following four days I'll look at each of the four year's cards.

Topps Total first arrived in 2002 and lasted through 2005.  These years were part of my hobby blackout, so I knew nothing at all about the set.

The concept was that the set was going to be would have cards of all of the players....Total...get it?  This was something that the flagship's 660 card set couldn't do.

The sets were big.  They started in 2002 with 990 cards and repeated another 990 the next year.  Then the slow decline, 2004 having 880 and the final set in 2005 was down to 770 cards (though over 200 cards in the set featured two players, not one).

Total was also going to be low-frills.  The inserts were minimal, the autographs were scarce, and there were no relics.   Pack price was going to be low, too.  The first year of release saw a pack price of $1  for ten cards.

The cards themselves were going to be fairly plain, too.  No foil or any fancy printing.  And while the first year saw the cards printed on glossy stock, the final three releases were on plain old cardboard.

Total would be a set collector's dream:  A huge set, cheap packs, and no short-prints.  It was like the old days of buying packs and building a set.  If I was collecting in the early 2000's. I would have probably gravitated towards this brand.

And I probably wouldn't have had much company.  Topps doesn't kill a popular brand.  If Total only lasted four years, it probably wasn't selling.

Total wasn't cute or retro.  It wasn't loaded with high end chase cards.  It was just baseball cards of almost all the players.  And in today's hobby, there isn't enough of a market for it.


Here's a look at each of the four year's designs...

As I said before, nothing fancy....its ballplayers on cardboard.

Total did try a couple things on the back of the cards to make themselves unique.

First, the cards had two numbers.  One was the set number, the other was a team set number.  The idea was that you could collect the full set or just all of your team's players .    I've got the numbers circled in yellow.

The only problem was that the card didn't tell you how many cards for your team were in the set.  Kerry Wood in the 2002 set is # 300 and CHC28.  The packs told you there were 990 cards in the full set, but how many Cubs were there?  Team checklists were available as an insert, but if you had the team checklist, why number the cards for the team?  All Topps had to do was make the Wood card CHC28/36 (there are 36 Cubs cards in the set) and it would have been perfect.

The other cool back idea was found on the 2004 and 2005 cards....a baseball game.

Each card has a column of ten color-coded outcomes.  There is also a random number in a gray box above the column.  The game is this simple:

**Line up a pitcher and catcher card side by side.

**Flip over another card and find it's random number.

**Go to the pitcher and hitter columns and find the outcome that matches the number.  The colors determine if you use the pitcher or hitters beats beats red....yellow beats green...ties go to the pitcher.

Here's Sammy Sosa batting against Kerry Wood.  The random number I used came from Carlos Zambrano's card....1.  I look at line one and see green and yellow.  Yellow beats Sammy strikes out.  How realistic!!

1 comment:

  1. I don't know whether it was lack of popularity or too small of a profit margin that sealed Topps Total's fate. Topps' lasting "cheap" set - Opening Day - is a small rehash of the cards from the base set. No new designs or photos needed, and fewer cards overall.

    Granted, there were too many cards that would leave casual fans/collectors wondering "just who is this guy?" in a pack of Topps Total, so popularity (or lack of it) undoubtedly did play a role... but I don't think it was the only one.