Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Do You Think About Topps Base Parallel SPs?

As best as I can tell, Topps started a new practice back in 2009 of paralleling some of the base cards with short print alternatives.  I don't recall this being done before other than the Jeter/Mantle/Bush card from 2007, maybe the collector craze of that card gave them the idea two days later.  The subject of the SPs has ranged from long retired superstars to gatorade baths to sunglasses to different stat backs.

I did some research and found the following counts and types by year.  These are the base card parallels contained in the 2 Topps Flagship releases and the Update set.

2009 - 61 Total
59 SPs of retired legends, 1 SP of Barak Obama, 1 SP of current player (CC Sabathia) in alternate jersey

2010 - 75 Total
55 SPs of retired legends, 1 SP of current player (Curtis Granderson), 7 SPs of teams of the past, 5 SPs with rookie cup logo variations, 4 SPs with Abe Lincoln in the background, and 3 SPs with Pies in the Face

2011 - 76 Total
74 SPs of retired legends, 2 SPs of new Red Sox in new uniforms (Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez)

2012 - 81 Total
12 SPs with teammates, 9 SPs in suit/dress shirts, 9 SPs with players in dugouts, 8 SPs with new teams, 6 SPs of retired legends, 4 SPs of players with mascots, 3 SPs each with Gatorade, with Pies in the Face and with throwback/alt jerseys; 2 SPs each of players celebrating, featuring squirrels, rookie cup variations and with fans; and 1 SP each Bryce Harper 661 Rookie, flag in background, with a trophy, wearing glasses, with gumballs, back of jersey, beastmode shirt, with glove, at press conference, with no hitter ball, on trolley, throwing left-handed, with All-Star game jersey, with George Brett, with sign and bowing.

2013 - 100 Total
25 SPs with great catches, 17 SPs with Sunglasses, 15 SPs of retired legends, 10 SPs in different colored jerseys, 9 SPs signing autos, 7 SPs with group photos, 2 SPs of teammates, 2 SPs with players from other teams, and 1 SP each of with award, blue cap, giving speech, pitcher batting, giving a high 5, a horizontal card, in the dugout, running, coming out of the pen, arms up, big glove, sliding and Prince George of Cambridge

2014 - 327 Total
151 Sparkle SPs, 110 SPs with SABRmetrics on back, 23 SPs with Future Stars, 13 SPs with different jerseys, 12 SPs celebrating, 4 SPs in the dugout, 3 SPs with players fielding, 2 SPs each of players looking up, with glove and goggles, 1 SP each of Gatorade, Snoopy, hands on hips, in front of fans, press conference, post season sweatshirt, making a fist, throwing, with teammates with a bat, tossing a bat, with water, throwing underhand and on deck

I am a big fan of the Retired Legend SPs. Back in 2009 I did contemplate whether or not they should be part of my Topps set run and quickly decided against it.  I am glad because what started as 61-76 SP parallels of mostly retired stars for the first three years has ballooned to 327 different SP parallels.  (I believe there were the sparkle parallels before 2014  but couldn't track down a checklist, if you can direct me to one I would happily update the numbers.)  Seems like Topps took a solid idea and blew it up under control.

 I have several of the Retired Legends in my player and Giants collections and love hunting those down.  I have been picking up the other types of Giants when I can find them at a reasonable price.  Here are 3 recent pick ups:

This is a Jake Peavy SABRmetrics stat back card. The front is identical to his regular base card but the back features advanced stats.  These types of parallels drive me crazy.  I typically review a few card backs to get a feel for the cards then only look at the back for the card number to put my set together.   These cards have required me to look through all my card backs carefully to not miss a short print.

 This Tim Lincecum is the sunglasses version.  I am in the middle on cards like this.  There were 17 sunglasses in the 2013 set with two Giants amongst the 17 (Pablo Sandoval is the other). Themes like this and the great catches and the Gatorade celebration are okay but quickly become a little monotonous to me.

This SP base parallel is one of my favorite cards in my collection, I am so happy I was able to pick it up.  This is Buster Posey celebrating a World Series victory riding a cable car during the victory parade.  I grew up about 2 hours away from San Francisco and spent a lot of weekends attending games and visiting the city - it is my favorite city to visit. This card brings back great memories of my visits to The City and also the excitement of winning a World Series.  It is hard for me to mock the inclusion of these SPs when they can be executed this well.

As I was putting this post together, I realized why I like the 2014 Stadium Club release so much, it is a 200 card base set of cards that would fit into one of these SP releases.

So, what are your thoughts on these Topps base parallel SPs?


  1. One trick to determining whether or not a card is an SP is to look at the code that's on the bottom of the back of the card. Right at the bottom where all the legal information is, you'll find a code number in the form of CODE#CMP..... if the numbers are different from the codes on the base cards, they're most likely SP's. And this is also how you tell apart photo variations in Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome.

    I sort of like SPs but so far none have particularly caught my interest. I guess I like the saber metric backs since I'm a bit of a stat head and retired legends SPs (when done right) offer some really cool cards (2011 especially). The pie in the face ones from 2010 drive me nuts because a lot of the Yankees SPs go for way too much.

  2. I like some of the themed image variations, like the sunglasses ones or the press conference variations in the 2013 Opening Day set (still looking for the R.A. Dickey card from that one). I could do without the sparkle variations or the sabermetric stat backs. I really like the squirrel card, especially because Skip Schumaker didn't like it at all.

  3. I like the photo variation SPs, even if I don't have a prayer of owning most of them. The legends SPs from past years were cool as well. It's the sparkle/sabermetric/all the other pointless ones that aggravate me a bit.

  4. The Legends SPs were always my favorites. The Sabermetric ones bother me because the fronts are identical. Guarantee you I have at least one of those that I'm not aware of.

  5. I like things like the Legends short prints and celebration or theme short prints but I personally feel that any more than 50 or so is just too many. When you are looking at 300+ SP/SSP/SSSSSP than it is just going overboard. It doesn't help that there are also 5-10 rainbow parallels of each card too.

  6. As an old-school collector I don't have the patience or the time to keep track of all the SPs Topps is throwing at us. If I stumble upon one or someone sends me one, it's cool and a feather in my collecting cap, but I'll be damned if I devote effort trying to track these down. It's difficult enough to collect a base set or a team set. If you like this SP sort of thing, go nuts, but it's not why I'm collecting and, good gosh, how do you find the time?

  7. It all depends on the quality of the photo. Most of the legend variations are pretty great, and I like photo variations if the variation is different and interesting enough (the big problem with Topps football variations). I like the Sabr variations better in theory than in practice, and sparkles are stupid and can go jump in a lake.

  8. I like some of the variations, but when I do pull one they almost never stay in my collection because they're worth more to other people than they are to me. I always try to look at the code on the back to make sure I'm not missing something... and there's always last year where I skipped packs, bought the factory set and didn't have to worry about parallels.

    I honestly don't get the appeal of the Sparkle variations.... it's like if Topps photoshopped the color of the shoelaces on certain players, why one Earth should we care?

  9. I'm with the majority on liking the photo variations even if sometimes I don't notice them right away.

  10. If there weren't so many parallels to each card in the base set, I'd be okay with photo variations. Like everything reasonably inventive that attracts collector interest, however, the number of variations is overdone. Anything more than about 50 to 75 is too many in my book, and even that may be too many.

  11. This post should be brought up when MLB and Topps try to claim the exclusive licenses somehow simplified the hobby for collectors.

  12. I don't collect the SPs unless the images are different. I could care less about sparkle or sabremetrics, but if Cutch is wearing cool sunglasses well then....sign me up. As for the legends I have a few that I've picked up cheap but don't go seeking them.

  13. Some of them are nice to run across, like that famous Rally Squirrel card. I just wish they were easier to identify. Different Topps logo, a colored card number, something.

  14. The theme ones are nice, because they are somewhat original ideas. The legends are OK, but redundant, since most of those players show up in half the inserts too. The stat backs are for stat people, which is fine, but I'm not one. The twinks are too subtle and should be discontinued.
    With each year, I might pull one of the variations, but have never thought it would be plausible to try to get more than a couple, due to the scarcity and expense. Luckily there haven't been many that hit my player collections.
    They're interesting, but I'm not motivated to go after them. I just stick 'em with my set and move on to the next year.