Saturday, September 9, 2023

Sunday Edition - 2023 Topps Factory Set.


2023 Topps Factory Set

For the 4th year in a row I opted to buy a factory set rather than build the Topps set by hand through packs (and trades/sportlots).  This is also the 7th time in 8 years I've bought a set rather than attempting a hand build, with 2018 being the lone exception.  This cost me $59 at Target, less the 5% "red card" discount.  I would have spent 4 to 5 times that amount trying to build it by hand, and that's if I was even able to find packs, which I usually can't.

I bought two packs of Series 1 this year when they first showed up in my Target, which was about a month after the set was officially released and all the Twitter dudes were posting pictures of pulls that are apparently incredibly rare, super special, and quite exciting to some.  The packs weren't even regular packs, they were essentially cello packs, but they came in a large cardboard box.  I guess that takes up less space than the traditional rack pack, but more than just a box of cello packs would.  I don't know the purpose, but that's the way it is now.  Perhaps to protect the cards, which if true, is a ridiculous and unnecessary waste given that they’re you know, just baseball cards.

 I actually really liked what I saw upon first opening cards from this set.  The photography across the board is great, and I like the design with the 2nd photo on the front.  Besides the obvious throwback to '83/'84 Topps, it reminds me of the '54, '55, and '56 sets that I've been focusing on the last few years.  In a perfect world I would have built this by hand.  But I just can't justify the expense.

The two "cello" packs I bought set me back way too much.  On top of that, they were loaded with inserts.  I don't care for inserts.  A stick of gum and contest card for a trip to the All-Star game is fine.  Even the old Fleer "Pro-Vision" and "All-Star" sets, or the old Donruss MVP's or Topps Glossy All-Stars were fine.  Fun little additions to compliment the set, and easily obtainable.  But anything that requires odds on a wrapper is ridiculous.  I know where to buy scratch off lottery tickets if that's the thrill I'm looking for.  But I digress.  Even if there was a steady supply of packs to buy in my local stores, I can't bring myself to throw $20 at the effort every time I go to target when that money can be thrown at vintage set builds instead.  I've yet to regret going the factory set route, and felt further validated this year by the fact that Series 2 has yet to show up in my area.  

I complain, because I do miss buying packs of cards.  A few packs at a time over the summer and slowly building the set.  It was fun, it was relaxing, it made me a more knowledgeable baseball fan because I ended up reading and studying the backs of the cards a lot more.  But I doubt those days are coming back any time soon.  The "breakers," the speculators, the youtubers, and their ilk currently drive the trends.  And to them, base cards are just the packaging to protect the latest "rare" gem to be pulled and cased away in a $100 top loader with 90's computer font heading inside a red rectangle that you can't open. (Is a 1/1 really “1/1” if a player gets dozens of them every year for over a decade?) Which is a shame, especially in years like this one when Topps really did put out a great looking set.  So I'm going to stop complaining for the rest of the post (or mostly stop) and bring some attention to some things I really like about this years set.

"Cardboard Curtain Call"

This is the first page in the binder, and as a set builder, one I really appreciate.  I'm flat out not a Yadier Molina fan, I don't care for his act, and see him as a poor man's Jorge Posada.  But there's no denying that he's had a great career and my personal dislike aside, I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.  Pujols speaks for himself.  It's nice to see Topps put these two stars together on the front page with a literal curtain call.  Well done Topps.


Topps really hit the ground running when it came to numbering.  While I prefer the old system of "glamour" cards with every card ending in a zero being a star, or semi star, Topps still did some nice things with the numbers this year.  Look at page 3 below, cards #19-27:

Seven of the nine players on this page, with exception of Trent Grisham and Max Scherzer, have a jersey number that matches the card number.  I question why Topps didn't run with this a little more than they did, but given the state of the base set, I'm counting this as a win. Little things like this keep me coming back.  Card #62 in the set made me much happier than it probably should have, but again, I'm easily pleased when I'm not whining about inserts and grading.

Just awesome, well done Topps.  It's nice to know someone working there may in fact still be an actual fan of baseball and it's history.  Which I guess should be clear from the fact that they still put full career stats on cards.  It'll never stop being impressive to me, to flip over the card of a long time veteran and see the small font of a decade or more of excellence.  Which brings me to;

Full Career Stats on the Back


"Fun Cards"

At the end of the day, it's just fun to go through these cards.  Sure, it's more fun to pull them from packs, but this giant pack of 660 cards with no duplicates still captures that feeling to a degree.  Here's a look at some of the cards that caught my eye.

Once again Topps issued two Ohtani cards, one in each series, one with pitching stats, one with batting.  I don't have a problem with this.  I'm not part of the "Ohtani is the greatest thing to ever happen to baseball" crowd, but I have eyes and can read a box score.  He's incredible, and more than worthy of two cards.  If I were in charge, I'd probably put the pitching stats on the batting photo card, and batting stats on the pitching photo card, just to emphasize the point.  I also would have used a different head shot in the corner, but this is just nitpicking a well executed idea by Topps.  And may be a moot point now, but in my dream scenario, Rob Manfred and John Fisher both go to jail, the A’s stay in Oakland, and the new commissioner bans the DH in both leagues, at which point Topps starts doing batting cards for pitchers who hit well.  Maybe not every year, but cycle through a couple every season, maybe in the Traded set at the end of the year.  Who wouldn’t have like to see Kershaw or Grienke batting stats every few seasons, or Gooden and Fernando back in their day?

I'll never stop loving an obvious air brushing.  Hopefully technology doesn't get to the point where we're denied this long time tradition and staple of the Topps baseball card sets.

Old familiar guys in strange new uniforms is another staple of the Topps set that never stops being a slight jolt to the brain when I see one for the first time.  I find this Jose Abreu particularly tough to process.

Voit is destined to be an all-timer when it comes to dropping irrelevant baseball trivia over beers, and Topps cards with their italicized career stats have long been a great source of those sorts of trivia tidbits.  The list of New York Yankees to lead the American League in home runs includes the likes of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and of course,...Luke Voit.  That'll forever be a funny fact.

Due to my age I mostly associate these multi-player star cards with the Fleer sets of the 1980's, but Topps has been doing it too going back to 1957.  It's nice to see it continue.

Great players deserve great looking baseball cards, as evidenced by this year's Mookie Betts.  Who wants a boring card of their favorite player?  Well done here Topps.

Like every other baseball fan with a pulse, I love the way this kid plays the game, and this card does about as well as a 2.5 x 3.5 piece of glossy cardboard can at capturing that energy.


I like seeing rookies get nice looking rookie cards.  Granted, these three above aren't likely to be "one-hit wonders" as far as appearing in Topps sets, a lot of guys end up only having one card.  While players today have no doubt seen there face on cardboard a half dozen times or more before they show up in a Topps set, I still believe this is a big deal.  It's the first card that resonates with non-collector's.  At risk of annoying some of you, I don't think any one cares about a "First Bowman," or whatever that set is called, I know I don't.  These are three rookie cards the families' of these kids can be proud to pass out to friends and co-workers.

I'm not sure if it's mandated by the MLBPA, if not it should be, but no set is complete without a couple "Gerald Young cards" these days.   

A handful of random cards that caught my eye as nice ones.  I'd be remiss not to mention that this years "Future Stars" banner leaves a little to be desired, but I'd rather Topps use one I don't like than not use one at all.

A final point about this set, and the Topps set in general, it's just a good excuse to talk baseball.  So I have a little rant I want to get out now since it's my blog and no one can tell me I can't.  Until he was released last week, Harrison Bader held the title of "My Favorite Yankee."  Which through no fault of Bader speaks poorly of Brian Cashman.  A fact that seems to be somehow lost to time is the fact that the Yankee rosters that won four World Series from 1996-2000, were built by Harding Peterson and Bob Watson.  Cashman took over the GM job in 1998, but seems to get all the credit for the teams that actually built that dynasty.  In the last 20 years he's won the same number of World Series as the White Sox and Royals despite more or less having an unlimited budget for most of that time.  He needs to go.

PSA on Ultra Pro Pages

I accidently bought 9 pocket pages that have a "flap" that folds over the top of each row in the page.  This was an enormous blunder, but I was too excited to start sleeving these cards to go out and get the proper pages.  These flap pages don't look as nice as the regular ones, and are difficult to get the cards into.  It took me twice as long to get this set into pages as it usually does, and that was with just tucking the flap behind the card.  I'd still be at it if I was actually trying to pull the flap over.

Not a knock on Ultra Pro pages, they're the only one's I'll use.  I'd just recommend skipping the flap pages.


  1. Max Scherzer wore #21 with the Mets, so it's actually 8 out of 9 on that page. Weird having two Mets in a row.

  2. Great Post - never thought about how this set is a homage to the mid 1950s designs (and now I see a little bit of Topps Big (1989) here also.

  3. I'm not a fan of the "stunt-numbering". They did this a bunch in, I believe 2013 Topps. I also don't like them bunching the stars together, it reminds me of when Donruss did this in the '80s. I guess I"m still used to the orderly numbering that Topps did from the 1960 thru mid 1990s that made sense to me.

    I'll be going through my complete set at Christmas time, it will be a gift -- which means I paid nada.