Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Early Bird Gets the Queen

In my neck of the woods, it's exceptionally rare that a product ever hits the shelves on time, let alone a day or two early.  I'm always jealous when I see a blogger touting their finds of the latest baseball cards on or before the official release date.  Meanwhile, as with Heritage earlier this month, I'm often left to search the local big boxers for several weeks afterwards.  In fact, the first time I saw Heritage in my Target was today, when I popped in to pick up some snack foods for my wife's sweet tooth.

So, imagine my surprise when, next to the rack packs of Heritage that finally appeared on the metal pegs, I saw a nice sampling of the latest, retro-themed product put out by the Topps Company.

There it was, Gypsy Queen in the flesh (or cardboard, rather), a full day earlier than it's official release date.  My mouth was actually agape.  You darn well better believe that I took advantage of this unusually punctuality and grabbed myself a value pack, which promised three packs, three exclusive green parallels and a coupon for a free pack of Opening Day.

Now, usually I couldn't care less about Gypsy Queen.  In a market that's over-saturated with throwback sets, Queen has long been the ugliest. in my humble opinion.  Lots of tans, browns and blacks in the color scheme, with over-filtered photographs made it the ugly, red-headed stepsister of Allen & Ginter.  However, the 2017 edition of the product features the very first card of new closer, Wade Davis, in his Chicago Cubs uniform.  Therefore, regardless of how I feel about the usual look, I definitely have a card to chase for my CATRC in this year's GQ.

So, without any further ado, let's crack into this value pack and see what 2017 Gypsy Queen is all about:

First of all, the packs themselves.  Kris Bryant makes his second appearance of the year as the cover boy for a major release, as does Kyle Schwarber.  "Sparkles," of course, is plastered on the foily front of Topps Series One, while "Schwarbs" received the same honor for Panini's Donruss brand.  However, this time they have to share real estate; I'm sure they'll make excellent roommates.

I have to say, it's pretty damn cool to see so much Cubbie love across the baseball card world.  Although, I'm sure you non-Cubs fans are probably already plenty tired of it.

Anyway, enough yackin' about the wrappin' - let's see what these cards look like (and if I was lucky enough to pull my Davis):

Here's my Cubs content from the three, six-card packs... and no Wade Davis *womp, womp*.  Oh well, can't be too disappointed with who I pulled, however!

As for the design for this years base cards, I must admit, I think I like these... I think I like them a lot!  While in year past the design has been brown and boring, this year see's a nice injection of subtle color in the bottom border and text, with an almost chrome illusion tint to it.  In hand, these cards looks quite nice and, dare I say elegant.  They manage to keep the mystique of an old-timey tobacco card with the ornate framing while giving it just enough of a modern kick to keep from ruining the illusion.  Of course, they're not perfect though; the photographs are still filtered to the point of looking unnatural.  If you're going to do that, why not make them appear to be drawn, painted or sketched?  Wouldn't that fit the antiquated motif?

The backs are devoid of stats, like usual and like the source material; so, that's neither a surprise nor a problem.  Furthermore, Topps follows the KISS method here; that's not to say that they feature an aging rock band, but rather that they Keep It Simple, Stupid.  We see a continuation of the framing and piping from the front, which blends into the copyright information.  Additionally, the ribbon nameplate is also a nice addition, especially when combined it the parchment-like, aged paper background upon which it's set.  All in all, the 2017 edition of Gypsy Queen is definitely appealing to the eye and deserves the crown that it's royal and roguish title implies.

Shall we take a look at the non-Cubs stuff?  First, the best of the rest:

Nothing too exciting here, at least in my team-collecting eyes.  We have a Night Owl forced favorite in Tom Murphy, potentially my new forced favorite in Joe Musgrove and some other stars and semi-stars from around the league.  If you see anything you like, please feel free to speak up - otherwise, these will be distributed in my next round of trade packages.

Next up, the inserts:

Okay, *ahem,* insert... as in singular.  The only insert that I pulled from this value pack was this Hand Drawn Art or Portrait Art Reproductions card, featuring a rival Redbird... drat.  These inserts feature the reproduced artwork of a few different artists; this one, in particular, shows off the original artwork of one Brian Kong, a freelance artist who focuses on sports.  I believe these are seeded at 1:8 packs, or something close to that... I forgot to write that down before I tossed the wrappers.  Silly blogger.

Well, since that takes care of ALL of my inserts (not that I expected more), let's take a look at my parallel pulls:

First up, we have something of a small mystery... and that is not a comment on the stature of the star middle infielder of the Houston Astros... okay, maybe a "wee" bit.... dammit, I can't help myself.

Anywho, as you can see, this card has a faded, washed-out look to it - clearly different from a standard base card.  However, I cannot find any information about a "faded" or similarly termed parallel from any of my normal sources.  It's not numbered either.  Anybody have any idea what I have here?  Is this an actual parallel, some sort of variation that I'm unaware of, or is this a legitimate printing error?

Secondly, we have something a tad more cut and dry - a pink parallel of current closer and almost assuredly soon to be a former White Sox, David Robertson.  This one does have a serial number stamped into the back, numbered 187/250.  Admittedly, while I feel colored parallels are gimmicky and oftentimes annoying, on the whole, it seems that this particular design works well with the multi-colored frames.  For me, the hints of color in the elaborate piping invite more.  Thus, the bright borders don't feel as absurdly out of place, as they have in years past.  Again, there's little about this template that I don't like.

That covers it for the three, regular retail packs that came in my plastic pouch.  Let's wrap this pack busting experience up with my three, exclusive (to Target, I believe) green parallels, which came enclosed in their own, separate cello wrapping:

Robbie Ray hot pack!  If you're an eagle-eyed reader, you might have noticed that I pulled in base in the "best of the rest" scan.  Accompanying the young Diamondbacks starter, we have Houston closer, Ken Giles and Braves outfielder, Nick Markakis.  Nothing that really moves the needle for me; but, again, I kind of enjoy the look of the colored parallels in this product.  I might have to chase some multi-colored Cubbies.

With that, we've exhausted all of the cards to come out of this Gypsy Queen value pack.

However, don't walk away just yet - there's still more to be blogged abot.  I also mentioned that these GQ value packs came with a peel off coupon for a FREE pack of Opening Day on the front.  You darn well better believe that I cashed that puppy in with my early purchase:

Now, I don't think that much has to be said about OD, at this point.  Like usual, it's a dull, uninspired parallel to Flagship that only holds any appeal due to the cheap pricing and fun inserts.  I'll spare you and my scanner the contents of most of the pack, seeing as I landed no Cubs or any notable base cards.  That said, I did land one of those aforementioned fun inserts, so I might as well show that card off while it's fresh:

The mascot cards have been an Opening Day staple for several years now and the Angels' famed Rally Monkey was included in this season's offering.  He's no Clark, but how could this cute, mischievous Capuchin monkey not bring a smile to my face?  I suppose a smile is all I can truly ask or expect from a free pack of cards.

Maybe next year we can get a relic with a piece of his sign?

Also hitting the shelves today are Panini's Diamond Kings and the inaugural release of the fantasy baseball card game, Honus Bonus.  However, while Target was quick to set out the Gypsy Queen, they were seemingly not as enthused about those other two sets.  I look forward to hopefully catching some rips on the blogosphere, hopefully from collectors who were lucky enough to find those bad boys early, or, at least, on time.

With that, we can put a period on my first experience with the 2017 edition of Topps' Gypsy Queen.  Despite the fact that I normally find Gypsy to be bland, uninspired, derivative and, oftentimes, downright ugly, all in all, I give the product a solid A- minus on design.  My only disappointment comes from the fact that I didn't land my Wade Davis Cubs debut.  Not that it was reasonable to ask for a specific, single card from a 230-piece checklist, out of a 21-card tasting.  If anyone picks that up in the next few days, I'd love to talk trade with you!

Gypsy Queen has won me over this year and I never though that I'd see the day.


  1. Pretty cool! I think I like the looks of the set, overall. Nice to deviate away from "Gypsy Queen" written across the top.

  2. This GQ set is really good looking. Wow. Congrats on the Cubs pulls.

  3. Great write-up Tony, I enjoyed your take. Thanks for posting!

  4. I'm definitely in the minority when I say that I strongly prefer GQ over A&G. This year's GQ looks really nice I must say. Last year's design was kinda bland. Thanks for sharing your finds. I might have to grab some packs of these down the line.

  5. The Altuve is a "missing blackplate" parallel, as in it was not printed with the black printing plate. Notice how you cannot see the player position compared with the other cards.

  6. I will permanently house your GQ unwanted cards if you feel so desired to get rid of them.

  7. Sweet – a Posey and life-size Altuve! Love him! I’m breaking a box tonight. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find both. I like the look of GQ this year, and the past two actually. Not a fan prior to 2015. Thanks for sharing the goods!

  8. GQ looks better than it usually does, but still not a fan. I was kind of hoping the green parallels would be the color of the green on the wrapper, that might convince me to pick up a pack. Instead it's sickly green.

  9. I agree with you 100% about Gypsy Queen. I like the Arrieta photo (shows his intensity) but to be picky I don't care for the Bryant.