I haven't purchased a pack or any single cards from a Topps Heritage product in over two years (the last one I collected was Heritage '59, in 2008). I did this for a variety of reasons, most notably because I just didn't have the income to justify collecting another new set. I also stood (and continue to stand) firmly in the belief that the Heritage brand should've ended with the Heritage '59 (2008) set, and that Topps should've rechristened the subsequent sets as "Topps Classic." In any event, I've been thinking about this year's Heritage ('61), and I think I've hit upon a way to make the brand more appealing.
The Heritage checklister has done an admirable job "updating" checklists from the original sets and filling in each spot with its twenty-first century player equivalent. They haven't gotten everything right (as an homage to 1960's card #1, Cy Young-winner Early Wynn of the White Sox, 2009's card #1 was Mark Buerhle of the White Sox; it should have been one of the reigning Cy Young winners, Cliff Lee or Tim Lincecum), but 100% accuracy is not something any card company should be expected to achieve.
But a sly wink and an inside joke to an original checklist is no longer enough to buoy a set. The company has to continue to push the envelope or else they'll begin to lose the audience, or make them cynical about the checklisting tactics used ("Thom" Glavine, anyone? How about those annoying black backs versus green backs from the Heritage '59 set?).
The next logical step is the photo homage. Not just one or two photos sprinkled over the checklist, either. If they made every photograph on every card an homage to its checklist buddy from the original set, that would be something to write home about, something that would elevate the Heritage brand out of the retro-design doldrums.
Of course, to accomplish this, the Topps photographers would have to actually study the original set and pose their subjects down to the minutest detail. They'd also have to shoot their photos with an idea of recreating the photographic standards of the 1960s. Presumably, color-correcting of this caliber is something that Adobe Photoshop could assist in accomplishing.
I've never been a huge fan of the 1961 set. I think the design is one of Topps' weakest of the decade and the era, and the photos fairly unimaginative. Really, the only great part of the set are the subsets (the Brady Bunch-esque League Leaders, the MVPs, the All-Stars, the combo cards — "Lindy Shows Larry", anyone? — the World Series cards, and the Historical Highlights), an idea that exploded in 1961 and came to dominate the Topps Sixties.
It would be great to get "Josh Shows Daisuke" in my pack of Heritage '61 and not have it be two silhouetted shots of the individuals placed near each other. I'd appreciate the homage much more if Josh Beckett was smiling awkwardly while showing Daisuke Matsuzaka how to throw a curve.