Friday, June 25, 2021

Classic reminders of the baseball card bubble

How do you get a license to produce baseball cards without getting a licence to produce baseball cards? Get a licence to produce a tabletop game... that's composed of baseball cards. That's what Game Time did with their Classic Baseball game during the explosion of interest in baseball cards during the late 80s.

The first Classic cards were produced in 1987. 100 cards were shipped with the game and the company then sold expansion packs containing more cards. Tony had a card in the original set, which I blogged about here.

Classic released two more expansion sets in 1988, and the cards were sequentially numbered on from the original game. 

Card Number 698: Classic Baseball (blue expansion set), 1988; #220

This photo is at a slightly odd angle but features what looks like a batting cage and a prominent advert in the background for Jack in the Box resturants.

The back isn't particularly inspiring. There is a bit of player data, but the majority of the space is saved for the questions that would be used as part of the game. There is also a space for an autograph.

Trying to reverse engineer what the game looked like, I'm guessing it was a bit like Trivial Pursuit and questions were in different categories. That's an interesting factoid about Hall of Fame pitcher Warren Spahn.

Game Time carried on producing expansion sets each year for a few years into the early 90s. Having a limited checklist meant that only a few players from each team featured. However, Tony had a card in the 1990 set as well.

Card Number 699: Classic Baseball, 1990; #17

The three expansion packs released by Game Time in 1990 were different sizes - 150 cards, 99 cards, and 50 cards respectively. This card is from the first set released. Tony's brother, Chris Gwynn, was also in this set of cards.

With it's hot pink scribbles, I don't think the designers could make this card could look more like it was from 1990 if they tried. It's a great bunt photo of Tony, which makes it a bit special. I'm blogging this in quick succession to another bunt photo on an oddball card.

The trivia questions on the back includes a reminder of a time when Montreal had a baseball team. 

The Lou Brock Award is still given out every year. I have to admit, I hadn't heard of it. Vince Coleman won it six times in a row in the 1980s. No wonder he was labelled "the thief" on a baseball card. 

Given the restrictive monopoly on licenses for baseball cards at the moment, I'm surprised nobody has used a similar loophole to produce baseball cards that are ostensibly part of a game. That could be a way for another company to produce baseball cards that aren't really baseball cards.

In terms of this blog, I am tantalisingly close to blogging my 700th Tony Gwynn card. However, I am taking some much-needed time out next week. I'm also planning to watch some more games in the UEFA European Championships (which is another reason my blogging has been erratic of late!) 

I will be back blogging in early July to reveal card number 700 and also the few remaining cards in my yet-to-be-blogged folder. See you next month!

Total: 699 cards

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Store exclusives part 3 - Hill's

Unlike K-Mart and Woolworth's in the previous two posts, I have no memories attached to Hill's Discount Department Stores. They were a USA-only chain and had disappeared by the first time I went on holiday to the USA. Wikipedia tells me that Hill's started in the 1950s and lasted until 1999 when it was bought out by another company that then ceased trading not long after.

Card Number 697: Hill's Team MVPs, 1989; #16

This is a solid card front, although the picture initially looked like it had been airbrushed. You can just about make out the beginning of the word 'Padres' under Tony's elbow though. The disembodied hand with the catcher's glove in the lower right corner is a fun additional touch. The frame lay out is very nicely designed, particularly the ribbon with Tony's name on. 

The back is simple and effective. If you're going to show a stylised baseball field, then do it in green like this.

Tony had a difficult season in 1988 after winning the batting title in 1987 with a .370 average. He struggled with some injuries early on in 1988 and missed the All Star Game - it was the only All Star Game he was not selected for from 1984 to 1999. Even so, he ended up the Padre with the most hits, most RBI and stolen bases, although he stole less than half the number he had nicked in 1987.

Hills did another set the following year of 'Hill's Hit Men' but Tony wasn't included in that set. So, from my perspective this card means I have another complete run. 

I'm sure someone somewhere has done a project cataloguing all the small standalone sets that were sold during the baseball card boom of the late 1980s. Fleer usually produced a few sets each year, and Topps were producing sets like this for several different retailers. These sets offer something a bit different for collectors and they also act as a reminder of shopping before the Internet when there were these things called shops.

Total: 697 cards

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Store exclusives part 2 - Woolworths

After posting my first post in the series on store exclusives yesterday, I discovered Fuji had blogged about store exclusives last week! But he's going to get a surprise in this post...

Woolworth's was a very popular store when I was kid. Known as "Woolies" in the UK, they were famous for having a large pick'n'mix confectionary display. In a lot of places, Woolies was one of the bigger shops and the only place to buy records and CDs, kid's clothing and toys, as well as a range of hardware items. 

Many stores also had cafes and when I was very little my Mum used to take me to the big Woolies in the centre of Birmingham, where we lived. That's one of my earliest memories. I must have been about three years old. I can remember the cafe with its yellow formica tables, and eating sausage, chips and beans, which was a typical offering on a kids' menu at the very end of the 1970s. 

Because it was a ubiquitous high street name in the UK, I remember being surprised to find that it started in America. The British company was independent from 1982, and outlasted its American parent company by about a decade. It was quite a big story when the company closed down all its UK stores around time of the recession of 2008, as it left a big hole in many town centres, particularly in smaller towns across the UK.

Like some other stores, Woolworth - the American one - sold exclusive card sets. I have acquired two cards from them. One has the Woolworth branding on it, but the other is just branded as Topps.

Card Number 695: Topps (Woolworth) Baseball Highlights, 1987; #16

No reference to Woolworth on the front - but this is listed as a Woolworth set on Trading Card Database

I think this photo is of Tony sat in a dug out, which would explain the nondescript wall behind him. On the back is a highlight, in a very bright yellow and purple colour combination.

That's a genuiniely interesting stat on the back. Tony had the most hits and tied for the most runs in the 1986 season, but didn't win the batting title. The comparison of his batting average to on-base percentage shows he didn't take many walks. Tony liked to swing - often on the first pitch - so popped up and ground out fairly regularly. 

As an aside, the packaging for this card set says it was printed in Ireland, as were quite a few other Topps products at the time. This means this card was printed in Europe, shipped to the USA, and now it has travelled all the way back across the Atlantic Ocean to Wales!

Card Number 696: Woolworth Baseball Highlights, 1988; #12
Woolworth had their branding front and centre on this card.

Tony is swinging in the photo. The back has Tony's second batting title as a highlight.

56 stolen bases in a season is an incredible feat. I've said this before, but Tony's ability to get on base and steal an extra 90 yards would have made him the perfect Moneyball player when Moneyball came along.

Topps and Woolworth partnered on exclusive sets for three more years after these ones, but Tony did not feature in those sets. So, that make these two Woolworth cards a "complete run" of Tony's cards. 

The series on store exclusives continues tomorrow!

Total: 696 cards

Monday, June 21, 2021

Store exclusives part 1 - K-Mart

I have a funny story about K-Mart. On our first road trip to America, Cathy and I filled up a trolley with cool stuff in a K-mart and then had our credit card declined. So we had to go back to the hotel to get our traveller's cheques. When we got back to the store the cashier was very surprised to see us and said they were just about to start putting all the stuff back on the shelves! (We had a few problems with our credit card that holiday - I've learned to always let the credit card comapny know that we are going abroad!)

Anyway, K-Mart have had a longstanding relationship with Topps. These days that means exclusive parallels or special inserts in packs of Topps baseball cards sold in K-Mart. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it meant exclusive small sets sold only in K-Mart stores. I've blogged about a K-Mart card from 1990 previously

Card Number 693: K-Mart Memorable Moments, 1988; #12

This isn't the most exciting card front. The photo is of Tony toward the end of his swing. It's hard to make out, but it looks like he has got his eyes closed.

Consdering this set was about 'Memorable Moments of the Eighties', the moment related to Tony was a bit obscure - a player of the month award in 1987. Admittedly, those are impressive monthly stats. Was that one of the most memorable moments of the 80s though?

This does underline how Tony was the master of hitting singles. Only a quarter of his 44 successful contacts in June 1987 were extra-base hits.

Card Number 694: K-Mart Dream Team, 1989; #29
I really like the font they used for the set name. It reminds me of bubblegum.

This photo looks a bit odd. It offers a good view of one of Tony's Mims Bandz though.

Tony earned his place on the Dream Team as the National League's 'Rookie of the 80s'. That's surprising to me, given his trio of batting titles up to this point. 

What I like about this card is the complete minor league record on a separate line. That would have been a really good feature on regular Topps cards, but they didn't do it for some reason.

Total: 694 cards (300 above my original target!)

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Cereal freebies: Part 2

A sequel to yesterday's blog post about Post Cereal cards. Today we look at cards produced a few years earlier by a rival company - Quaker Oats. (I realise I have done these in the wrong chronological order. Oh well.)

I was surprised to learn that the Quaker Oats Company was not founded by Quakers. The founders just adopted the name because the Quaker sect had a good reputation for honesty and purity. The Quaker in their logo isn't based on a particular Quaker in the current design, but originally he was sort of based on William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. 

Like Post, Quaker gave baseball cards away in their cereal. Unlike, Post, they got Topps to print the cards.

Card Number 691: Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, 1986; #7

Wait, is a granola bar a breakfast cereal... ah, close enough.

Tony looks a bit downbeat in this photo. At least the Quaker mascot looks cheerful. Because this card was produced by Topps it was fully licensed, so the SD logo on Tony's had didn't need to be airbrushed off. 

On the back these were proclaimed as the 1st Annual Collectors' Edition. It was actually a one and done because a second series was not released.

You can almost tell this card is produced by Topps just by looking at the factoids. This card was in packs of chewy granola bars in 1986, but the factoids only run up to 1984 and the first two are from 1981! (And why lead with those when Tony had played in a World Series in 1984! Topps's approach to factoids in the 1980s was downright bizarre.)

Card Number 692: Cap'n Crunch, 1989; #5
Yes, the Quaker company also make Cap'n Crunch.

Cap'n Crunch's Wikipedia entry has a very entertaining section about the product's marketing, including the complex naval world of the Cap'n and his crew, which I think is mainly one dog. We never had this cereal in the UK, so it's not something that's part of my cultural landscape seascape. 

I'm disappointed that the Cap'n didn't appear on the front of this card with Tony. Or anywhere on this card. I'm also disappointed that the prominent #19 on the front is not actually the card number. (Booo, Capn'n Crunch! Booooooo!)

The factoids on the back are more up-to-date than the Granola Bars card, but that list looks like a cut, paste and change the numbers job. (Were people able to do cut'n'paste in 1989?)

A batting average of .313 is quite low to win a batting title (1988) and is 25 points lower than Tony's career average. He certainly scored a lot higher in other seasons and didn't win the title. 

I've put these cards in the same binder page as my five cards issued by the Post company as a mini set of cereal cards. There are also some more 'food issue' cards to share with you in future posts. But for now, I hope you had a good breakfast and have a great day.

Total: 692 cards

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Cereal freebies: Part 1

These"oddball" cards by Post arrived in the post from Gawain last week. 

Post is a massive cereal company - currently the third largest in the world. C.W. Post who founded the company spent time at the sanatorium run by John Harvey Kellogg and was inspired to develop his own breakfast cereal. The first cereal sold by Post was Grape Nuts, one of the few America brands readily available in the UK. I always think it's the most misleading brekfast cereal, as it contains neither grapes nor nuts, and is more like eating shards of concrete rather than food. Still, to each their own. 

For several years in the early 90s, the Post company included baseball cards as giveaways in their cereal. (They'd actually first done this in the early 1960s as well.) I've previously blogged cards of Tony that Post produced in 1990(#413) and in 1991(#46).

Card Number 688: Post Cereal, 1992; #26

These cards were licensed by the Major League Baseball Player's Association (MLBPA) rather than Major League Baseball, so the logos and team names have been rather skillfully erased from the photos of Tony. These cards were printed by Michael Schechter Associates (MSA) who arranged print runs of promotional baseball cards for a lot of companies back in the 1980s and 90s.

The back is a fairly solid design, with a photo of Tony and a decent stats box.

Major League Baseball was less protective of franchise names in the early 90s so even though the Padres name and logo have been removed from the photos, the word 'Padres' appears on the front and back of the card. 

Card Number 689: Post Cereal, 1993; #8
Wonky scan! Sorry.

A bunt photo! 

Tony was quite happy to bunt when necessary. He devotes a section in his book Tony Gwynn's Total Baseball Player to "The Art of Bunting". Tony felt it gave opponents something else to worry about, causing the infield to shift and opening up holes a batter could punch a ball through. Tony went on to list the five type of bunt - can you name all five? Answers at the bottom of the post!

This is a nice looking card, with a black border similar to the Pinnacle cards issued in the same year. The back has dispensed with the big stats box and has added a little write-up, which mentions his option to play in the NBA with the Clippers.

Somehow in this joblot of oddball cards I managed a complete run of the three Post Cereal cards that I didn't have already.

Card Number 690: Post Cereals, 1994; #13
Another slightly wonky scan. My bad!

This design looks like the love-child of a DonRuss card and a Fleer Ultra card. It is very green. The designer has also gone for a fancier logo for the set - this is part of the "Post 94 Collection".

The back really emphasises the write up at the expense of the stats. There's some slightly confusing syntax in the first sentence, though. The Padres were playing the Rockies when Tony recorded his 2000th career hit, but it wasn't his 2000th career hit against the Rockies. (Who were in their debut season in the Major Leagues!)

For two years in a row the cardback write-up predicted Tony's eventual election to the Hall of Fame. 

Come back tomorrow for Cereal freebies: Part 2!

Total:690 cards

Answer: According to Tony, the five types of bunt were: The Sacrifice; The Drag; The Push; The Slug; and The Swinging Bunt. - Tony Gwynn's Total Baseball Player pp 49-53.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Much travelled minis

Back in November (I think), my friend Gawain bought a job lot of cards for me on eBay and sent them to his US shipping address. It was one of those lots that cost pennies in the USA but shipping it over would have cost a fortune in fees. And so they sat in Gawain's mailbox until he had enough stuff there to ship it all to the UK and they arrived last week.

I had actually forgotten all about it until Gawain started sending me photos of the cards.

The cards are mainly oddballs, promo cards and "food issues" - cards that are easy to obtain in America but harder to find over here. Well over half the bundle were new cards to the collection - in fact there were 19 new cards, which feels wonderfully symbolic. That also takes me over another century mark.

I thought I'd start with a couple of odd-sized cards, for fun.

Card Number 686: Topps Major League Leaders, 1987; #35

I am nostalgically fond of the 1987 Topps design with the wooden border, and I'm glad Topps used it on this set of smaller sized cards. The front is very different to Tony's base card in the Topps flagship set because you can actually see his face!

The back looks similar to other Major League Leaders cards. In 1986 Tony had the most hits and tied for the most runs but was only third in batting average.

One other thing I noticed is that the two line stats box has his stats for the previous season and for "life" not "career". I wonder when Topps stopped using "life" in this way.

Card Number 687: Topps Mini, 1989; #36

Another "mini" card - this is listed on Trading Card Database as "Topps UK Mini", but when I blogged about the card from the previous year's set I just called it "Topps Mini".

When I blogged previously about a mini card issued in the UK, I mentioned buying a packet of similar sized NFL cards in a shop while on a school trip in 1986. I didn't realise until much later that Topps had tried to sell baseball cards here in the 1980s as well.

There was a boom in interest in American sports in the 80s - in school we all knew who The Refrigerator was and that he played for the Chicago Bears. I doubt anyone actually watched any NFL. Maybe the Superbowl was on TV back then. If so, it was niche viewing, not the hyped event it is nowadays.

The UK minis rarely appear for sale in the UK Facebook groups. In fact, I have only ever found them for sale 'in the wild' once - at a collector's fair with lots of cigarette card sellers and stamp dealers. If this was sourced in the UK originally, then it has crossed the Atlantic twice!

On the back of this much-travelled card, there is a panel explaining baseball terms - I think these would have been quite helpful for UK consumers back in the 80s.

There is also a cartoon, of a teacher at a blackboard to illustrate the 'school' that Tony part-owned. I think Fuji, who is an educator, might like this!

Total: 687 cards

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Tony's insights on Dante

When Marc was offering me various insert cards recently, he mentioned he had one of the inserts on my secret hitlist of cards I wanted. It leaves me in a slight quandary because it's a card featuring another player, but with a cameo from Tony. What elevates this above cameos which I don't count in the collection is that the insert set is called Profiles by Tony Gwynn

If your name is in the insert set then it counts as one of your cards, right?

Card Number 685: Topps Profiles by Tony Gwynn, 1996; #NL-11

Tony profiled 20 players in the National League in the Topps 1996 set. Meanwhile Kirby Puckett profiled 20 players in the American League. National League player number 11 was Dante Bichette.

I had my overhead scanner out, so this card really pops in all its shiny glory. (I'm not even going to show you the flatbed scan. It was terrible.)

Dante led the National League in home runs and RBI the season before this card came out, so was a very suitable choice for Tony to profile in this insert series. Tony's insight on the back skirts around the issue that when he was playing for the Rockies, Dante played half his games in Denver and benefited from hitting in the rarefied air. 

Tony manages to tactfully avoid casting shade on him for that, and actually makes the point that the benefit of playing in Denver is outweighed by putting a player into a 'can't win' situation with regards to their batting. 

I didn't know before researching this post, but Dante was one of the first players to turn out for the Rockies in their inaugural season, and he hit the first home run in their franchise history. He still holds a number of batting records for them. I also learned that his first name is actually Alphonse. Nowadays, of course, he's also famous for being the father of Bo Bichette who is currently playing for the Toronto Blue Jays. There's a nice similarity there with Tony, who also had a son who played Major League Baseball

Now I have one of these cards, I want to get the other 19, to see if Tony is as diplomatic about all the other players he profiles. I'm sure he was!

Total: 685 cards

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Gold medal photography

Card Number 684: Topps Update Golden Greats insert, 2012; GG-95

The first 75 cards in the Golden Greats insert series were inserted into Topps flagship Series 1 and 2. Cards 76-100 appeared in Topps Update in 2012.

This card might look familiar. Topps used that photo at least three times between 2009 and 2012 when this card came out. Here it is on the Legends of the Game insert from 2009.

And here it is again on the Legendary Lineage insert card from 2010.

I will have to find out if this image was used on a Topps card in 2011. I kind of hope it was. If not, three times in four years is pretty heavy use anyway. At least in 2012 the card had a 'golden' theme rather than a 'legendary' theme.

After the familiar photo on the front, the back is unique. It's a vignette from Tony's career about a 3-RBI walk-off double against the Dodgers. That happened on June 11, 1993 - so almost 28 years ago to the day!

Thanks again to Marc, for sending me this card.

Total: 684 cards

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The evolution will be digitized

Today's card is the first of 3 Tony Gwynn cards that arrived at the weekend from Marc, who was having a clear out of his inserts, parallels and so on, and sent me a big box of Padres cards.

Card Number 683: Upper Deck Evolution, 2001; #78

Upper Deck Evolution was a fairly unremarkable set of 120 base cards. Tony was one of only two Padres to feature in the set. I'll let you have a bit of fun trying to guess the other player. (Answer at the bottom of the post!)

The set had bat and shirt relic cards in and what I think might be the first "E-cards", where you revealed the code by scratching off a panel and then could "digitize" your card on Upper Deck's website. There were 15 players featured on the E-cards, which also had reprints of older Upper Deck cards along with the scratch off and digitizing details. Tony didn't feature in any of the insert sets.

The cardback notes that Tony's approach to hitting was "Legendary" and that he was the active leader in batting average. It also foreshadows Tony's election to the Hall of Fame by six years. 

So, despite being a fairly nondescript card, the Evolution set itself was interesting in terms of the historical development of cards. In terms of evolution, these cards seemed to be what biologists would call a 'dead end' or a cul-de-sac, as they didn't last long. Card companies keep trying with electronic cards, though. Topps are even giving it another go with their NFTs at the moment. 

Total: 683 cards

(Answer: Did you guess the other Padre in the set was Phil Nevin? Because that's who it was.)

Sunday, June 6, 2021

One card only - cut signature conundrum

Last June Gawain sorted me out a huge stack of Tony Gwynn cards that blasted me past my target of 394 cards within about a month of starting the blog. A year later and he has ticked off another one of my collecting targets by surprising me with my first Tony Gwynn autographed card.

It's an offbeat card and as I started researching about it for this post, I discovered several layers of weirdness attached to it. Gawain wryly commented that meant extra content for the blog and I agreed, saying it truly was a gift that kept on giving.

Card Number 682: Leaf Best of Baseball Cut Signatures, 2011; unnumbered

This is an "authentic cut signature", except the signature hasn't been cut from a piece of card or anything. It's on a small plastic tile, about the thickness of a Scrabble piece, with rounded edges at the top. It's also in a sealed Beckett grading solid plastic box. This was the first conundrum - the card was sealed in and had been authenticated by Beckett, but it's condition was not graded. As Gawain said, why would you bother getting it authenticated and not get it graded?

Well it turns out this is how the card was shipped from the off. On Trading Card Database all the cards in the range are listed as "BGS Encapsulated". Packs of Leaf Best of Baseball consisted of just two cards in these heavy-duty plastic boxes. Each pack contained one each of a range of 'cut signatures' and a graded 'buyback card' of top players du jour rookie cards and vintage cards. The advertising poster for the set claimed there was a 1952 Mickey Mantle card in the set - one of the most sought after cards in the hobby.

Most of the cut signatures were on these plastic tiles. The cardback was devoid of explanations as well.

I went back to the wonderful crowdsourcing resource that is Trading Card Database and asked about these cards on the forums. Two members of the community replied and explained where they came from,

"Leaf purchased the tiles from some company that went out of business. The tiles were originally intended to be attached to the base of a small statue of the player that was in production." - BrewerAndy

"They were supposed to go on the base of a Hartland-type statue but the company went out of business before they could attach them." - trauty

So, that explains the autographed bits of plastic. 

Two more things I learned while researching this odd card. Firstly, I learned that the Leaf company producing trading cards today has no real links to the Leaf company of yore. Up until researching this post, I assumed Leaf had been absorbed by Panini along with DonRuss, Pinnacle and other brands. But apparently the Playoff Company, who were the previous owners of the DonRuss stable of brands before Panini, sold the Leaf name off separately. A company called Razor bought the name in 2010 and switched to trading as Leaf.

The second thing I learned was this was one of the first sets produced as Leaf by the company-formally-known-as-Razor, and it got them into trouble. Because the product included a lot of buybacks, Leaf used images of those cards on their advertising sheet. Many of those cards were Topps cards and as a result Topps sued them for copyright infringement. This was at the beginning of the Topps monopoly and they had already hounded Upper Deck out of the baseball card hobby after Upper Deck produced an unlicensed set the year before Leaf brought this set out. 

All this doesn't detract from the gratitude I feel to Gawain for helping me achieve a collecting goal. If anything, the odd origin of the auto and the corporate shenanigans around the set make the card even more interesting to me. The note from Gawain that came with the card just said "Enjoy!" and I have really enjoyed finding out the back story of this card.

And, ultimately, however odd, it is the first Tony Gwynn autograph in my collection!

Total: 682 cards

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Butterflies and apologies

Last week I blogged about how it took an exact calendar month for my Project70 cards to travel from Scotland to Wales (read the saga here). Jason, who sold me the cards, was very apologetic about the delay and, unprompted, sent me another card by way of apology. This time it took less than a week to arrive!

Card Number 681: Topps Project70, 2021; #92

The card is designed by grafitti artist RISK (real name, Kelly Graval) and is based on Tony's Topps card from 1991.

RISK has basically changed the background of the card while keeping the photo of Tony pretty much the same. I didn't realise until I fished this image out to compare with the Project70 card, that in the picture Tony is wearing Mimsbandz, as discussed last week in the blog post about the Project70 card designed by Mimsbandz!

RISK has added lots of colour in the background and also some big, colourful butterflies. There aren't many butterflies featured on baseball cards. Butterflies feature in a lot of RISK's artwork, acting almost as a signature motif in several paintings - as seen on his website. (I particularly like the ones called PGFY and Valley - that probably says a lot about me.)

If there was one thing I would have changed about this design, I would have altered the 40 year anniversary logo to say 70 year, and bring it up to date. But that's being picky.

The back of this card is similar to the other Project70 cards. One touch I really like is the use of the chronologically correct 1991-era Padres logo! I appreciate that sort of attention to detail.

The print run on this card was 2,214 (according to Trading Card Database), which is lower than the Mimsbandz card of Tony and a lot lower than the card Keith Shore designed with Tony looking down from Heaven at Fernando Tatis Jr. Looking at the print run numbers after this card, they seem to be on an overall downward trajectory, with the majority of cards after this one in the range not getting past 2,000. (A card depicting Alex Rodriguez as a Mariner was the first card where the print run dipped below 1,000 and a few more have done so since.)

Since Project70 started Topps has added Mickey Mantle to the list of possible subjects, and those cards have been popular, but otherwise it seems to be a handful of artists with a large fanbase recording higher print runs, regardless of the subject of the card. 

I have a few thoughts why Project70 seems to be stalling. For one thing it is a lot like Project 2020 last year, but unlike Project 2020, which had defined parameters from the outset (20 artists producing 20 cards each), Project70 is bigger and has fuzzier edges. 

Secondly, Topps have increased the release rate, with more cards available each day now. So it's samey and there is more of it, which just means more of the same. 241 cards are already listed in the range and there are still four months of the season to go!

Thirdly, Topps seems to be changing the scope of Project70, and it feels like that is being done to try and artifically boost interest. For example, they announced a card of Jarred Kalenic shortly after his Major League debut. The card was designed with the rookie symbol, making it the hot young talent's first major league rookie card. This comes across as opportunistic and mercenary.

And, then, finally, some of the cards just aren't that interesting. Either the subject choice is too niche, or presented in a way that puts people off (like the aforemenetioned A-Rod as a Mariner), or the execution isn't very exciting. 

But, having said all that, I like this card by RISK, butterflies included, and I want to thank Jason for sending it to me. 

Total: 681 cards