Topps Baseball Set Reviews

2010 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 661/330

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Prince Fielder

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (20) Awards (6) Franchise History (30) All-Stars (60) Home Run Derby (8) Rookie Debuts (10)  

The Best Cards: #471 Drew Butera, #363 Joba Chamberlain, #320 Brian McCann, #1 Prince Fielder

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #36 Tobi Stoner (blue front instead of orange) #45 David Hernandez (blue front and back instead of orange) #68 Brandon Inge (listed as P on front) #131 Dustin Richardson (blue front instead of red) #137 Athletics Leaders (Foxx SLG missing period) #193 Shairon Martis (2009 and career stats omitted) #196 Ian Desmond (blue front instead of red) #327 Albert Pujols MVP (listed as OF on back) 

My Thoughts On The Set: 2010 Topps was a solid set overall; good selection, pretty good graphics—which was really just one graphic, a colored, curved "wipe" along the sides of commons—and no redundant cards in the Update set (formerly known as the Updates & Highlights set).

For 2010 Topps, All-Star Rookie trophies were totally redesigned. For whatever reason, the shorter, silver trophy only lasted for this set before reverting to the previous edition.

After a two-year absence, team cards returned to Topps in 2010 (except for the Rays; they got none while the Rangers got two somehow.) Also, each team received a "Franchise History" card with a retro photo on the front and team records/leaders on the back. 

Card #661 was a very late addition to the set, the rookie card of Washington's Stephen Strasburg, who debuted in June 2010 (by striking out 14 Pirates).

There was a noticeable difference in the photography from previous sets. Shots were tighter, almost none were posed, and more players were depicted in celebration or making spectacular plays. I called it the "Quick Pitch Effect"—referencing the highlight show of the then-new MLB Network—at the time.

Case in point regarding the shift in photography: card #1, Prince Fielder, was depicted at home plate "knocking down" all his teammates like bowling pins following a walk-off home run against my Giants, which I watched live. While the Giants fan in me reacted to the card angrily, the collector in me appreciated the use of such a photo in a Topps set.

Topps did not produce a card of late Angels P Nick Adenhart, who was killed early in the 2009 season. I guess timing determines if deceased players make their way into the next year's Topps set.

 
2011 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 660/330

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Ryan Braun

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (15) Awards (6) All-Stars (60) Home Run Derby (8) Rookie Debuts (10) 

The Best Cards: #405 Ian Kinsler, #658 Mitch Maier, #181 Magglio Ordonez, #546 Pat Burrell, #US74 Henry Blanco, #US211 Dustin Moseley

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #403 Checklist (#535 listed as Luis Castillo, not Rich Harden) #603 David Murphy (called "Davis" in blurb) #US279 Trevor Plouffe (Drew Butera pictured) 

My Thoughts On The Set: 2011 Topps is one of my three favorite sets of the decade; the company did its best work in odd years and 2011 was no exception. 

The front graphics were quiet, simple and non-distracting, yet still quality to look at (though I was disappointed with the lack of a "60 Years Of Topps" stamp). I really liked the side boxes on the common reverses, noting corresponding card numbers of previous sets. Whenever I read one, I just want to dive into a pile of classic baseball cards. This set at least partially inspired me to build the 1987-89 Topps sets.

Just as in 2007 Topps, some players with not-visible faces in their front images received a different face shot on the reverse (such as Henry Blanco) while some did not (such as Josh Hamilton).

This year, for the first time, most of the All-Star rookies received two commons. They were completely different from one another, and only one of them carried the trophy stamp. It was almost like the ASR's were converted into a subset.

The new arrangement continued in 2012 Topps before mercifully reverting back to one common per ASR. A waste of 10-12 cards each year, in my opinion—there were several deserving dudes who could have occupied that space, but were instead excluded from the set.

Topps whittled the Update checklists from 10 down to five. Rookie Debuts returned for a second straight year, and probably isn't going anywhere. Most importantly, the Update set didn't have any redundant cards (cards of players with the same team as in the base set).

 
2012 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 661/330

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Ryan Braun

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (15) Postseason Highlights (10) Active Leaders (10) All-Stars (60) Home Run Derby (8) Rookie Debuts (10) 

The Best Cards: #564 Jose Valverde, #215 Freddie Freeman, #136 Casey McGehee, #173 Ryan Roberts, #323 Jason Isringhausen, #US270 Luis Ayala

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #US157 Kole Calhoun (listed as 2B instead of OF)

My Thoughts On The Set: One of my favorites. Player inclusion and team representation was deep and balanced; I was the most excited human around to find Jamey Wright in the Update set after a long absence (even if he WAS a Dodger.)

The front design "swirl" evokes thoughts of action, at least in me. And action is the theme of this set; if there's any posed front images, I can't think of them offhand.

Mickey Mantle, whose cards have occupied card #7 since the 2006 set, appears in a modern release for the 7th and final time. (Seven appearances...fitting.) Card #7 went back into retirement beginning with 2013 Topps. It was unretired in the 2017 set, but only issued to current star Yankees.

Team cards went back on hiatus beginning with this set, adding 30 cards to the player inclusion pool. However, 10 of those cards became the "Active Leaders" subset. Pointless to me, since those type of cards are almost immediately out of date. But better than Combo cards, I suppose.

For some reason, I absolutely DUG having Jason Isringhausen back in the set as a New York Met.

 

Card #173 captures Arizona's Ryan Roberts mimicking his manager Kirk Gibson's famous fist pumps in celebration of a Gibson-esque walk-off home run.

Neither Ivan Rodriguez nor Vladimir Guerrero received sunset cards. However, Manny Ramirez's Series 2 inclusion as a new Oakland Athletic unintentionally served as his sunset card, since Ramirez never made it back to the bigs with Oakland or anyone else.

 
2013 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 661/330 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: Matt Adams, Rafael Betancourt, Chris Carter, Daniel Nava, Dayan Viciedo

Card #1: Bryce Harper

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (15) Awards (8) All-Stars (60) Home Run Derby (8) Rookie Debuts (10) 

The Best Cards: #334 Daniel Norris, #617 Fernando Rodney, #218 Ben Zobrist, #330 Ryan Raburn, #12 A.J. Pierzynski, #568 Steve Lombardozzi

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #4 Yadier Molina (incorrect Career Chase stats) #5 Carlos Gonzalez (incorrect Career Chase stats) 

My Thoughts On The Set: What hurt 2013 Topps/Topps Update the most, in my unusual mind, were all the redundant cards in the Update set that could have been used on other deserving dudes. As you see above, FIVE players were included in Update with the same team from the base set.

I don't know why Topps does this; I don't know if it's intentional or otherwise, but it's annoying for collectors like me who want to see as many guys as possible featured in the sets.

The theme of 2013 Topps was record-chasing. In fact, every common explained how close said player was to breaking a particular record (hits, home runs, strikeouts, etc.) It mattered not if it was Albert Pujols, a guy with a legitimate chance of breaking records, or Chris Getz, a guy with a legitimate chance of being cut at any given moment.
The "Career Chase", as it was officially named, had a lot of potential but using it on every last common was a mistake, in my opinion. (Also, when referencing the hits record, Topps would not mention Pete Rose's name all of a sudden; it had done so as recently as 2011 Topps.)

In 2013 Topps, there seemed to be more players shown in throwback garb than in quite some time, perhaps ever. Especially from the Angels and White Sox. Not a bad thing, just an observation.

Also, more than a few cards depicted multiple players without it being obvious who the subject was. Topps did steer away from this trend rather quickly, however.

For some reason, there was no Ichiro Suzuki in 2013 Topps. No explanation was ever given for the absence.

Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel and Carlos Lee all finished up in 2012, but none received a sunset card in 2013 Topps. Unlike that group, Andruw Jones was not known or even suspected to be done in MLB after 2012. But he never came back to the majors, so his plain ol' 2013 Topps common ended up being his sunset card.

Overall, despite these omissions, player inclusion was solid and balanced for all teams, which has not always been the case in newer (2018-19) Topps sets.

 
2014 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 661/330 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: Jackie Bradley Jr., Santiago Casilla, Matt Shoemaker, Ryan Wheeler

Card #1: Mike Trout

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (15) Awards (6) Postseason Highlights (4) All-Stars (60) Home Run Derby (8) Rookie Debuts (10) 

The Best Cards: #273 Mark DeRosa, #184 Yunel Escobar, #651 Denard Span, #580 Todd Frazier, #US60 David Ross

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #152 Jonathan Herrera (spelled "Herrara" in blurb) #421 R.A. Dickey (Rookie Fact says 2002, not 2003) #US21 Bryan Holaday (numbered #US117) #US47 Steve Tolleson (Rookie Fact says 2011, not 2010) #US237 Jorge Polanco (stats screwed up) #US311 Josh Tomlin (numbered #US164)

My Thoughts On The Set: This is not one of my favorite sets; in fact, it barely even registers in my personal database. My main issue with 2014 Topps is its close resemblance to 2013 Topps. The company put out a relatively uninspired product this year, although overall it's not an awful product.

There was one very significant change in 2014 Topps: the addition of the stat WAR on the reverses. Adding WAR meant removing strikeouts for batters and complete games for pitchers (though if a stat had to be removed it should have been SHO since they're rarer than CG).

OK, make that two changes: after a long absence, Future Stars returned in 2014 Topps. The designation was handed out more liberally than ever before (28 players), but most recipients went on to good careers, although Will Middlebrooks and Jarred Cosart did not.

Angels star Mike Trout led off the base set, quite the honor in modern-day Topps especially for a player with only two full seasons under his belt.

Card #661 was not a late addition to the set, as Masahiro Tanaka had signed with the Yankees in January 2014—months before Series 2 was released. With Mickey Mantle's card #7 re-retired in the 2013 set, the company just seemed to want an even 660 cards on the checklist.

Last year's theme was the Record Chase; this year the theme was rookie trivia as each common featured a noteworthy stat/achievement from each player's rookie season. Most of these were informative and interesting, but a few seemed forced and didn't mean much. Overall, I give Rookie Facts a thumbs-up.

2013 Topps introduced Defensive Player Of The Year cards, but they were not carried over to 2014 Topps.

Yankee great Mariano Rivera was issued a sunset card, fittingly #42.

 
2015 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 701/400 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: R.J. Alvarez, Eric Sogard, Vance Worley

Card #1: Derek Jeter

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (15) Award Winners (6) Postseason Highlights (4) All-Stars (71) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (10) Rookie Debuts (13) Rookie Combos (14)

The Best Cards: #52 Fernando Rodney, #461 Mike Moustakas, #177 Paul Konerko, #1 Derek Jeter

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #158 Kevin Kiermaier (2013 stat columns empty; officer misspelled "offer") #449 Checklist (card #616 should be Kris Bryant, not Curt Casali) #475 Juan Perez (listed as P on reverse, with pitching stat header) #US243 Austin Adams (stat columns all screwed up)

My Thoughts On The Set: Seemingly out of nowhere, Topps decided to increase its base set size by 40 cards and its Update set size by 70 cards! Even though some deserving players still didn't get cards in either Topps set, the tally of such players was far fewer than in recent years.

After two straight ho-hum (and too similar) card designs, the company came up with a great new look for 2015. It's simple and radically different all at once, and it needed to be, because another year of white backgrounds/borders would not have gone over well.

Most notably, after a mysterious two-year absence from Topps, Ichiro Suzuki returned in 2015 Update.

Not only did the great Derek Jeter receive a sunset card, but it was card #1 of the set. He was depicted celebrating after his walk-off hit in his Yankee Stadium finale.

After a three-year hiatus, Topps brought back Team cards in 2015 Topps. 

Topps Update had featured an even 60 All-Stars for five straight years until 2015 Update raised the count to 71. And Home Run Derby cards returned to the Update set after being omitted in 2014 Update. Unfortunately, Combo cards also returned to the Update set. At least there were only 10 of them.

2015 Topps Update also introduced Rookie Combos, which are just that...combo cards of rookie players. I approve of these combo cards since they're not redundant.

 
2016 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 701/300 (minus card #7 retired for Mickey Mantle)

Players With Dual Cards: Pedro Alvarez, Keon Broxton, Chris Coghlan, Sam Dyson, Tyler Flowers, Daniel Hudson, Jon Niese, Steve Pearce

Card #1: Mike Trout

Subsets: League Leaders (12) Checklists (15) Postseason Highlights (4) All-Stars (69) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (4) Rookie Debuts (20) Rookie Combos (7)

The Best Cards: #360 Eduardo Escobar, #400 David Ortiz, #US199 Brandon Moss, #US196 Mark Trumbo

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #326 Kevin Plawecki (did not play 451 games in 2013) #463 Red Sox Team Card (says Xavier instead of Xander) #US163 Matt Wieters AS (Brad Brach pictured) #US204 Michael Fulmer RD (says Ken instead of Kyle)

My Thoughts On The Set: This set had potential. With a distinctive design and cool "faded" element to the photos, 2016 Topps/Topps Update should have been a winner. Problem is, there were SO many redundant cards in the Update set that blocked players such as Taylor Featherston, Steve Geltz, Brayan Pena, etc. from inclusion.

 

Steve Pearce wound up with THREE commons as an Oriole—his regular base set common, and not one, but TWO Update cards as a returned Oriole in 2016. I could have lived with the Pearce gaffe were it the only one, but as you can see above, it was far from the only one.

2016 Topps maintained the 700-card checklist introduced in 2015 Topps, but dropped the Update set size from 400 to 300 cards.

The lone positive I have regarding the Update set: only four Combo cards rather than the usual 10. But I'd have rather had the six extra Combo cards than all the redundancy...

Some base set adjustments: Checklist fronts now featured what amounted to cleverly-titled Combos, rather than season highlights. Also, 2016 Topps spent two cards on AL and NL WHIP leaders; that has proven to be a one-set venture.

Torii Hunter and Aramis Ramirez both sat down after the 2015 season; neither received a 2016 sunset card. But because injuries and personal crap derailed his career, Josh Hamilton did end up with one.

 
2017 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 700/300

Players With Dual Cards: None

Card #1: Kris Bryant

Subsets: League Leaders (30) Checklists (15) Postseason Highlights (4) All-Stars (66) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (10) Rookie Debuts (23) Rookie Combos (8)

The Best Cards: #520 Andrelton Simmons, #140 Jesse Hahn, #581 Brock Holt

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #US242 Mike Hauschild (Texas/Houston switched around in blurb)

My Thoughts On The Set: That 3D design had people talking leading up to the set's release. I was indifferent at first but have since grown to like it.

Design aside, what stands out in 2017 Topps is the addition of social media handles for many players, and the subtraction of career stats for all players. Commons now show 3-5 lines of statistics, regardless of experience or stature of the player.

WAY too many League Leader cards in this set (30). Topps didn't need to produce three cards per category. The reverse information became redundant and it led to players like Patrick Corbin and Kyle Gibson being omitted from the set.

Future Stars took a one-year absence from the base set, but some are available as an insert set.

Beginning with this set, card #7 returned to circulation (after being retired for Mickey Mantle), but was reserved for a star Yankee.

This marked the first time since 2010 Topps that no redundant Update cards were produced. By redundant, I mean players shown with the same team they were with in the base set.

David Ortiz received a sunset card with the Red Sox.

2017 Topps included a number of veterans who'd been absent from recent Topps sets. No one in the US besides me was excited to find Mike Dunn in the Update set.

 
2018 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 700/300

Players With Dual Cards: Jose Pirela, Jason Vargas

Card #1: Aaron Judge

Subsets: League Leaders (30) Checklists (15) Postseason Highlights (4) All-Stars (64) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (10) Rookie Debuts (10) Rookie Combos (10)

The Best Cards: #183 Matt Kemp, #681 Ehire Adrianza, #231 Joe Mauer, #254 Adrian Beltre, #86 Eric Hosmer

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: #361 (checklist; cards #364-365 switched up) #440 Troy Scribner (International League should be Pacific Coast League) #504 Scott Schebler (Dave Parker is called "Dace" Parker) #610 Scott Kazmir (misspelled "Did Not Player") #671 Tyler Clippard (Pizarro is misspelled Pizzaro)

My Thoughts On The Set: A bit of a disappointment following the solid 2017 set. Some teams were poorly represented compared to others. And the front design didn't do much for me, although I think I'd have liked it better had the set been deeper. Topps went without borders for the third straight year.

All but about 2-3 guys received action shots, which of course watered down the action. In a vacuum, however, many of the shots were pretty awesome.

Social media handles returned to the reverses, though slightly less prominently than in 2017 Topps. Also, statistics continued to be limited to 4-5 rows. Some of the blurbed "firsts" were way too isolated and specific. ("So-and-so became the first Nicaraguan catcher to ever come off the bench and hit an 8th-inning triple that erased a three-run deficit for an original American League franchise.") We're definitely out of the 1980's in this regard.

It was all about Shohei Ohtani's rookie card #700 this year. His batting card closed out the base set, while his pitching card opened the Update set. (Though he was depicted pitching on both cards, which made little sense to me.) Juan Soto, Gleyber Torres and Ronald Acuna were also hot rookies in 2018 Topps.

Jason Vargas (Mets) and Jose Pirela (Padres) received base and Update cards with the same clubs. Topps avoided such redundancy in 2017 but couldn't keep the streak alive.

Madison Bumgarner disappeared from Topps beginning with this set. Not sure exactly why. But Ichiro disappeared and returned so MadBum could, too.

Carlos Beltran retired after the '17 season but did not receive a sunset card.

Topps produced 30 League Leader cards (rather than the usual 10-12) for the second straight year. I was motivated to write the company about this.

 
2019 Topps/Topps Update

Set Size: 700/300

Players With Dual Cards: Jeurys Familia, Zack Greinke, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Ian Kinsler, Lance Lynn

Card #1: Ronald Acuna Jr.

Subsets: League Leaders (10) Checklists (25) Postseason Highlights (4) All-Stars (66) Home Run Derby (8) Combos (10) Rookie Debuts (15) Rookie Combos (5)

The Best Cards: #258 Eddie Rosario, #277 Mitch Garver, #269 Francisco Lindor, #351 Jarrod Dyson, #US300 Renato Nunez

Notable Uncorrected Error Cards: many with incorrect career WHIP/ERA totals. #30 Josh Hader (2018 WHIP wasn't 0.00) #159 Minute Maid Park (incorrect Gurriel XBH) #178 Jose Altuve (incorrect 2018/career stats)

#223 Jose Ramirez (incorrect 2018/career stats) #252 Jakob Junis (incorrect 2018 stats) #300 Christian Yelich (missing League Leader In Italics line) #360 Mark Melancon (hitting stat headers)

My Thoughts On The Set: I liked most everything about this set except the last names positioned above the first names. For unfamiliar players like Lane Thomas who have two first names, it could get a little confusing.

In terms of team representation, this set felt a lot more balanced than 2018 Topps.

Topps tweaked the traditional Team cards this year. Now the cards depict each team's home ballpark on the front, with related data on the reverse. Instead of a summary of the past season, we now get lineup/rotation previews and team statistical leaders.

Several rookie cards, rather than the usual one line of minor league stats, received major league stats. LONG overdue in my opinion.

A number of marginal players appeared in 2019 Topps, such as Wilmer Font and Jon Edwards. Which wouldn't be an issue had so many non-marginal players been omitted. Jed Lowrie, a 2018 All-Star, did not turn up in base or Update. And Adrian Beltre didn't get a sunset card.

Somehow, Zack Greinke wound up with two Diamondbacks commons in the base set.

In recent years, Topps base set Checklists listed about 66 players each; this year that number dropped to 33, meaning—you guessed it—double the checklists in 2019 Topps. 2019 Update still featured its familiar five.

Following two sets with Twitter/Instagram handles for many players, 2019 Topps replaced those with their own social media handle. Following two sets with only a few seasons of stats shown, 2019 Topps commons show stats dating back to 2003—basically, career stats for everyone except CC Sabathia and Albert Pujols.