Topps Archives Snapshots

So I took a punt on Topps Archives Snapshots. As someone who’s into photography I was extremely intrigued by a product which was literally just about the photos. Where Topps Archives and Topps Heritage both feel very much about the designs, Archives Snapshots is a super-basic set which looks like the team-issued postcards and 8×10s from before the days when everything got a corporate sponsor.

I can’t review the set itself since, as a small-run, small-checklist photo-centric thing each card sort deserves its own writeup. So I’ll do that with the cards I got.

TAS_Lindor

My favorite photo of the bunch. I love the wide angle portrait and how this is a variation of a standard baseball pose yet the photographer has managed to make it distinct. It feels comfortable but also different and distinct and that’s a rare combination for a medium like baseball cards.

TAS_Swanson

Pretty standard pose but the sunset light in the background takes this from basic to very nice. Sometimes professional competence is really all you need. Everything is exposed perfectly here both in terms of the right amount of light and the right temperature.

TAS_Judge TAS_Rizzo

These both look more like paintings than photographs. Something about the flatness of the light and the lack of contrast anywhere suggests that these were originally part of photo shoots which were intended for a retro product (the Judge actually appears to be from the same shoot as the photo used on the 2017 Archives Bazooka card).

That these photos are in the archives this way suggests that the processing isn’t being done in post and that instead Topps is setting up a lot of its Heritage photoshoots to look like this. For me it’s more of a look which fits with the 1950s cards which often colorized black and white photos than the late-60s designs in current Heritage.

TAS_Betts TAS_Machado

Comparing these to the previous two photos shows lighting which just feels more natural. Baseball is hard to photograph because the caps cast shadows in faces. Finding a way to properly expose the faces without making the rest of the composition look weird isn’t the easiest thing to do. These cards both do it well.

TAS_Glasnow

Actually a very good black and white conversion. The thing with the black and white parallels is that converting a color image to black and white isn’t that straightforward. It’s very easy to blow the contrast and color mix. It’s nice to see that Topps got this right.

It’s even nicer to see that Topps printed this as a duotone.* It wouldn’t have surprised me at all to see this printed as either black-only or a four-color process mix which ends up looking neutral.** Both of those options are much easier on the printer and would’ve looks just fine to the majority of collectors. Going with the special, second medium grey ink to get better tonal range in the image is a nice commitment to quality.

*Most cards are printed in process (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black) inks. Sometimes you’ll have a special spot ink in addition to those. With black and white photos though they’re frequently printed in just black ink. Duotones use a second ink on top of the black to provide a greater range of tones. If the second ink isn’t neutral it will also make the photo have a color tint.

**The black and white 2017 Stadium Club cards are printed this way.

TAS_Langston

My “hit.” I’ve never been a huge fan of the faded out effect Topps uses for autographed cards but I’m pleased that this one is subtle. The photograph itself though could be better. It’s never a good look to have a player squinting into the sun.

TAS_Baerga TAS_Galarraga

Two classic baseball poses which would’ve been at home on 1985 or 1986 Topps for sure. The Galarraga card is my second favorite of the pack. It looks like what a baseball photograph is supposed to look like but has the added benefit of those Expos uniforms and a young Big Cat.

TAS_Mulder

Yeesh. The worst photo of the bunch. By far. If there’s not enough contrast on Judge and Rizzo there’s too much here. The sunlight blows out the details on his leg and we’ve got chromatic aberration all over his cap. If this were properly focused it’d be salvageable but the entire image is blurry too.

TAS_Cey

Photo is fine. Boring but fine. It’d fit right in on any late-1970s Topps design. The scan however is horrid. Just awful. I’ve never seen Newton’s Rings on a baseball card before; I hope I never see them again. Plus the rest of the image is way over-sharpened. There’s weird edge enhancement and haloing around his helmet and on his shoulder.

For all the good that Topps did in the Glasnow black and white photo, this Cey is the polar opposite. I can’t believe someone signed off on this for printing. I really hope this isn’t how Topps is digitizing its archives because it’d be an absolute disgrace to treat all their photos like this.

TAS_Judge_B TAS_Langston_B

And the backs. While this set isn’t about the backs, I appreciate that they’re not an afterthought. These don’t feel like full-stats kind of cards but I’m glad they have lifetime Major League (or Minor League in the case of the rookies) stats along with the short bio. That’s a detail I’d’ve liked to have seen on Topps Bunt.

I’m less keen on the card numbering. Topps is doing this a lot with inserts and hits and it’s increasing weird to me each time I see it. I understand that these aren’t intended to be collected as a set. I also see how having some kind of identifying code makes sense. But treating that stuff as a card number? Silliness.

Author: njwv

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area.

5 thoughts on “Topps Archives Snapshots”

  1. Those current player poses appear to be leftovers from Heritage.

    If I’m guessing (and I am), I’d suggest that Topps is using these photos in another product so as to get more bang for their buck in paying for a photographer in early spring training for the Heritage set.

    Like

    1. I’m totally cool with them using a different take from the same shoot. Heck that approach certainly mirrors what Topps often did in the 60s and 70s anyway and certainly fits the “archives” theme better than the “lets reuse a bunch of old card designs” does for me. And seeing alternate shots allows us to see how much of Heritage (for example) is post-processed just for Heritage and how much is part of the shoot itself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I don’t have a problem with it at all. If Topps would use more photos like this in the flagship set instead of the grunting pitcher/eyes-popping-out hitter shots that are everywhere, it would be a far better set.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. If by “numbering” you mean the AS-AJ and AS-ML (and not the serial number 191/346 for the Langston autograph), I think the reason is to provide flexibility in the checklist. If you number them, then you have to mess around with the numbers if someone is pulled from the set or added to the set prior to printing. If initials are used, then in the printing process there is no concern about having to renumber the cards if one is added or removed from the checklist. At least that is the rationale I have always believed. It would seem to be particularly useful for autographed insert cards, in case someone does not sign the cards, where some other card cannot simply be swapped in as #14 if those cards weren’t returned.

    I also find that practice quite annoying, particularly as someone who collects insert sets. The set name (the AS here) is less problematic for me, but I would prefer a number rather than AJ or ML. Still, AS-AJ is better than the insert sets with no numbers.

    Did not realize Baerga was part of the deal that brought Joe Carter to San Diego (I don’t ever recall seeing Baerga in a Padres uniform before). Not sure I ever really thought about that trade as the Carter trade the following year always seemed the bigger deal.

    Liked by 1 person

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