By 1998, I had just experienced the greatest year in collecting (’97) and burned out. I was now 18-years old and the last thing on my mind was cardboard. Still, that didn’t kill my curiosity for my old hobby of trading cards. Every once in a while I would stop by my local card shop and even attend shows (remember those?) to see what was new and exciting in the world of collecting.
During one of those trips, the card shop owner where I would spend every penny to my name for years introduced me to 1998 Topps Tek and even gave me a free pack of its inaugural release. I was thrilled, not just because it had been a year since my last pack of cards but also because the price point of $8 per pack meant there was some kind of high-end goodness inside. After all, how could it be anything less than great at that price point? You must remember that in 1998, $8 per pack was still considered pretty high. There was more expensive products but not many.
I must admit, while opening the pack of ’98 Tek I was completely letdown. First of all, there was just four cards in the pack and although it used all sorts of gimmicks (I didn’t pull a Diffractor), it had very little appeal. As for all the different patterns, I didn’t even notice them. Frankly, despite all the high-end flavor, the set seemed extremely bland. Perhaps this was one of the reasons the brand only lived on for three years before being put out to pasture in cardboard heaven.
As I made my way home with a copy of Beckett Baseball I was shocked to learn that Topps had produced over 90 different backgrounds of each player in 1998 Tek, along with parallels of each background. All in all, an 8,100 card set. I was shocked because quite honestly there were much nicer-looking cards in 1997 and even 1998, from the little I had seen. 1998 Upper Deck SPx comes to mind. That will be another day …
Imagine my surprise when I returned to collecting and writing about our hobby this month and saw none other than Topps Tek back in action. I was excited but reserved. Surely by now it’s a much nicer product, right? Well, aside from the usual complaints about the price, all I have seen and read about 2014 Topps Tek is positive. It’s a damn shame I missed out on this issue’s release because I would have had a box to review from Topps but overall I must say this is one of the best baseball releases I have seen in a long time.
This is how you do retro right. It is filled with short-numbered parallels, lots of 90’s style flash, players from all generations (including Mr. 40-40 himself), and best of all … on-card autographs. Hell, even the Diffractors, a poor man’s Refractor if I ever saw one, got a complete makeover. Let’s just hope Tek returns in 2015 and with even bigger checklist and other improvements, without losing it’s high-end appeal.