Surprise, surprise—I've been thinking about next year's Topps Heritage set. This morning I had some time and put together a "probables" list for the Real One autograph set. It's fascinating to me that we as collectors will pay a premium for autographed reprints, rather than paying 30% to 50% of the cost for an autographed original. Is it really all about the Topps seal of approval?
That said, here is a first-draft list of who I think will be included on the Real One autograph checklist for 2014 Topps Heritage. Odds of their inclusion are in parentheses.
Joe Morgan (2-1) - Hall of Fame second baseman's rookie seems like a no-brainer
Jim Bunning (3-1) - Hall of Famer and former U.S. Senator with time on his hands
Al McBean (10-1) - All-star in 1964
Jim Bouton (10-1) - Is Bouton still a baseball pariah?
Mike Shannon (5-1) - Popular St. Louis Cardinals personality
Juan Marichal (3-1) - Hall of Famer
Jim Kaat (5-1) - Member of the "Hall of Very Good"
Willie Mays (2-1) - If he's still under contract with Topps, I see Mays being a cornerstone in this set, as he earned the MVP award in 1965
Sandy Koufax (5-1) - What would it take to get Sandy Koufax in this set?
Frank Robinson (10-1) - I'm on the fence about this one. He's participated in a few of Heritage sets in the past.
Yogi Berra (3-1): 1965 was his last card as an active player. Seems like a no-brainer to include him here.
Bob Gibson (5-1): Heritage regular in the last few years.
Whitey Ford (5-1): Mainstay of Heritage autograph lineups.
Al Kaline (2-1): Heritage mainstay. More of a shock if he's not included.
Common players (1-2) - Topps autograph insert sets for Heritage are usually chock'o'block with common players. Heritage '65 should be no exception.
I recognize that Topps does an autograph insert set in Heritage as a way to celebrate and remember the individual players included in the original set for that year. Stockpiling stars is not really the point. So with that in mind, here are the 1950s and 1960s original stars and notables included in Heritage autographs checklists, starting in 2001.
The 2001 and 2002 checklists featured a mix of original and current players, with all original players being stars. There was a shift for the 2003 checklist, where only three current stars were included (Lance Berkman, Jose Cruz Jr., and Jimmy Rollins). The rest of the checklist was filled in with common players from the original set. From 2004 on, Topps used a balanced checklist of original and current players.
'52 Heritage (2001): Pafko, Thomson, Snider, Groat, Dom DiMaggio, Slaughter, McDougald, Bauer, Sauer, Wilhelm, Garagiola, Sain, Irvin, Minoso, Rizzuto, Roberts, Schoendienst, Mays, Spahn, Law, Roe, Vernon, Joe Mays, Simmons, Shantz — 25 out of 50
'53 Heritage (2002): Rosen, Schoendienst, Feller, Shantz, Dom DiMaggio, Slaughter, Kell, McDougald, Wilhelm, Podres, Irvin, Minoso, Rizzuto, Ford, Mays, Spahn, Berra, Roe, Carey, Dark, Black, Boone, Face — 23 out of 28
'54 Heritage (2003): Kaline, Pafko, Skowron, Shantz, Groat, Snider, Banks, Aaron, Bauer, Podres, Irvin, Rizzuto, Roe, Face, Lasorda, Law, Ford, Mays, Berra — 19 out of 45
'55 Heritage (2004): Kaline, Newcombe, Snider, Banks, Killebrew, Podres, Musial, Mays, Berra — 9 out of 34
'56 Heritage (2005): Feller, Snider, Banks, Aaron, Irvin, Berra — 6 out of 23
'57 Heritage (2006): Rhodes, Snider, Banks, F. Robinson, Parnell, Musial, Ford, Berra — 8 out of 29
'58 Heritage (2007): Kaline, B. Robinson, Zimmer, Snider, Kell, Bunning, Podres, Aparicio, Schoendienst — 9 out of 36
'59 Heritage (2008): Kaline, Skowron, Erskine, Rhodes, Snider, F. Robinson, Brosnan, Zernial, Aparicio, Kaat*, Minoso, Cepeda, Wills*, Mazeroski, Berra, Tommy Davis* — 16 out of 57
'60 Heritage (2009): McDougald, Dark — 2 out of 48
'61 Heritage (2010): Rosen, Gibson, F. Robinson, Aparicio, Schoendienst — 5 out of 36
'62 Heritage (2011): Kaline, Gibson, B. Robinson, Banks, Yost, F. Thomas, Aaron, Koufax, Musial, Pierce — 10 out of 37
'63 Heritage (2012): Gibson, Turley, Virdon, Maxwell, Brosnan, Cunningham, Logan, Marichal, Aparicio, Minoso, Cepeda, Schoendienst, Musial, Mays, McCormick, McCovey, F. Torre — 18 out of 49
'64 Heritage (2013): Mays, Musial, Cepeda, Wills*, Minoso, Tiant, Marichal, Gibson, Pierce, Richardson, Shantz, Maxwell, Groat, Banks, F. Robinson, Aaron — 16 out of 63
*Not included in the original set.
These figures only included the Real One autograph insert sets, not dual or triple or any other insert set of autographed cards included in a Heritage product. Even still, note how the number of autograph subjects fluctuates from year to year. 2009's '60 Heritage set is clearly the loser in terms of original stars: just two out of a checklist of 48 subjects (and some collectors may not even consider Alvin Dark or Gil McDougald stars). This year's set includes the most subjects at 63, and 2002's '53 Heritage checklist provided the highest likelihood of pulling an autographed card of a Hall of Famer: 11 of its 28 autograph subjects are members.
What will next year's '65 Heritage give us? Probably as large an auto checklist as '64 Heritage (at least 60 subjects, comprised of current and original players). And probably as many Heritage regulars, stars, and Hall of Fame players, with one or two surprises. Steve Carlton? Duke Snider in a Giants uni? Lou Brock? And what about signatures that include more than just a name? Or an exchange card for a personalized auto? Or an exchange for an autographed buy back? With so many options not yet explored, it will be interesting to see how Topps approaches autographs next year, something they're probably thinking about right now down on Whitehall Street.