Gypsy Queen is a bit of an enigma to me. Last year, I got my first taste of the throw-back inspired set with a couple of blasters. With the exception of an outstanding insert set or two, I was fairly critical of the sophomore set. Then, earlier this year, I was all too excited to tear into Topps’ third try–only to go from preparing myself for a 13GQ case break to settling for an early Walmart blaster. What is it about this set that at first excites me then finally leaves me feeling flat?
Of course, this review is based off of the sole purchase of just one blaster, but I think it was enough to give me some good ammo to use.
ALL YOUR BASE
First, the positives. Topps is smart for deciding not to mess with a good thing. Throwback sets are meant to mimic the very sets from which they are inspired. Instead of dressing up modern players in early 1900s uniforms, photoshopping silly mustaches, photographing their subjects on a set and in black and white and printing on yellowed paper to really give it that authentic look, Topps continues to use the velvet oil painting look that has worked so well. Making great use of already fantastic photography, the effect adds much more depth and contrast giving each card a very artistic look.
You’ll notice that Topps has continued the same look of the player name plates that were used in the originals in 1887 as well as Topps’ versions since they started producing the set two years ago–last name first, in all caps. What the originals did not do, what Topps has now done in all three of their GQ sets, is include a first name initial followed by team name in italics. Topps is obviously making sure that this design choice is a signature of the set.
It also appears that Topps has made sure that the rastering problem in the border framing in last year’s set did not pop up again this year. While not everyone noticed or cared about it, it was a glaring issue to me.
The backs continue the nice, simple and concise theme from last year. The design is quite similar yet not so similar that you would confuse the two. There is plenty of space around the text, everything is crisp and readable, and there are just enough artistic flourishes to keep things aesthetically interesting.
…and then there’s the yellow. That is, perhaps, one of the worst design choices I’ve ever seen implemented by Topps. It’s ugly, it’s distracting and it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the set. It soils what is otherwise a very clean looking design. It pisses on the sanctity of the original N175s–which, by the way, were yellowed naturally. The backs didn’t need to be white, but if they were going to choose a color, perhaps something that better matched the look and feel of the rest of the base design would have made more sense.
INSERT TAB A INTO SLOT B
The fantastic Sliding Stars inserts from last year returns for another go, however it may have been supplanted by a new phenom of inserts highlighting one of the rarer and more exciting aspects of baseball–the home plate collision. However, what made Sliding Stars so impressive last year might be what has given Collisions its allure–last year’s Sliding Stars and this year’s Collisions uses very similar outstanding designs. This year’s Sliding Stars set has undergone a facelift which, unfortunately, left it looking more like Jocelyn Wildenstein than Angelina Jolie-Pitt.
What’s holding Collisions back is a bit of a nitpick. It’s a bit of a design and/or printing error that I found on the back of the one Collisions card that I pulled. Let’s see if you can find it!
Glove Stories comes close to being another great insert with its faux leather stitching, but it maybe that very artistic design that cheapens it. Dealing Aces is nice, but I wonder if it would have looked more professional without the white feathering–perhaps even masking the photo background from the player altogether? No-Hitters is a nice idea, but looks far too similar to Dealing Aces. In fact, when I pulled it, I momentarily confused it for a Dealing Aces card.
When designing the base set, Topps obviously had to make decisions in photography based on the popular mini inserts. If the wrong photo for a particular player is chosen, its mini counterpart could be negatively compromised. To me, the minis are the real stars of this set. In fact, I believe that if Gypsy Queen is going to last as a successful product competing against the much more popular Allen & Ginter, Topps may want to consider producing GQ as a mini-only set. With Allen & Ginter cornering the market in throwback designs, it seems that Gypsy Queen is becoming a pointless product–save for the minis (for which A&G is also well-known).
HIT ME WITH YOUR BEST SHOT
I had unbelievable luck last year. In the two blasters of Gypsy Queen that I purchased in 2012, I pulled an on-card Adrian Gonzalez autograph and a Prince Fielder framed mini jersey. This year, not so lucky. This year’s set seems to have plenty of absolutely fantastic hits ranging from button cards to 1/1 art card patches and relic books to bat barrels. Realistically, any set that Topps produces could contain these types of hits. The fact that Topps has decided to include 4 hits per hobby box, though, greatly improves my interest. It would have been fun to use this set in a case break just for the chance to pull some of those bigger hits.
There is a lot of good with this set this year, but none of what’s good are improvements. While not fixing what isn’t broken is always preferred, Gyspy Queen is already beginning to seem stale and boring. If not for the incredible hits, the fun minis and some interesting inserts, I’d be hard pressed to see the point of this set at all–except for the fact that Topps still profits from it. I haven’t completely given up on Gypsy Queen, but I’m far from in love with it. With one out and two on and the game on the line, you’ve grounded into a game-ending double play. You had the potential to win but came up short.