As baseball card stores dry up across the country, big-box retailers have swooped in to fill the void of departed hobby hangouts. Whereas once baseball cards were on every candy store counter, now centralized Target and Walmart stores are the go-to spots for those needing a quick baseball card fix.
Topps returns to its Target partnership for the release of 2019 Topps Fire Baseball. Exclusive to Target stores, the incendiary-themed set features a wild design that will drive customers to their shelves for a much-needed deviation from Topps’ standard issues.
Given its $69.99 price tag, each 20-pack box has two guaranteed hits, presenting a hobby-box experience in a retail environment. One of the two special inserts is an autographed card, furthering collectors’ incentives to make a Target run. Although some collectors steer clear of sticker autographs, Topps compensates by adding Mike Trout, Pete Alonso and Ronald Acuña Jr. to the 48 players in the base autograph set.
Topps accentuates 2019 Topps Fire Baseball with a borderless layout that paints 200 of the top stars and rookies with a color palette designed to command attention. The flashy brushstrokes dominating the background push the design boundaries without progressing into gimmick territory. The colored spectrum of randomly inserted parallels supplies a robust visual experience, serving as a tremendous contrast the white base card background.
Staying true to its name, the sets’ inserts each have a fire-themed moniker. The Flame Throwers set features the fastest pitchers ready to deliver amid flames, while a mix of stars and retired legends dominate the En Fuego series. Topps selected 15 top current players for the Fired Up set, while they put a holographic touch on the horizontally designed Smoke and Mirrors inserts.
Advertising two hits in each box, hot-handed collectors could pick up a second autograph in the form of a dual (1:2005 packs) or triple (1:2732 packs) autographed card. There are also signed artist versions (#/10) of the Flame Thrower and Fired Up series as well.
More commonly assigned will be the base relics, each supplying a hot background for a piece of inserted player-worn memorabilia. Autographed patch versions are also included, as well as ultra-rare 1/1 Laundry Tags (1:7136 packs). The box used for this review yielded a Luke Voit magenta relic #/25.
Topps Fire is a disruptive force to hobby traditions because its design neither fits the Topps flagship motif nor one of its many retro-inspired themes. This model should attract both young fans and long-standing collectors in search of a rich diversion from hobby norms to Target for a look at what 2019 Topps Fire Baseball has to offer.