If you are like me, baseball cards were a big part of your fan experience as a kid. Collecting baseball, football, hockey and basketball cards was a fun hobby. Being able to collect cards of your favorite players and feel, in some way, a connection to your heroes through a piece of cardboard has been a staple of the fan experience for decades.
On Saturday, Aug. 8, fans will be able to celebrate this year's edition of National Baseball Card Day.
Over the past few years, National Baseball Card Day has been a holiday for collectors - an extra excuse to go to your local card shop and enjoy collecting like you did as a kid. Or, in my case and for many others, enjoying your kids now getting into the hobby and enjoying it the way you did years ago.
This year has been different for collectors, though. Like every other aspect of our daily lives, the collecting industry has been dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I recently spoke with Emily Kless, Communications Manager at Topps, about what fans can expect as we get ready to experience a National Baseball Card Day unlike any other.
Topps staple products have evolved over the years. The brand offers their staple Series I and II base cards, inserts, autographs, limited print cards and others. Earlier this week Topps Chrome hit shelves at retailers and local card shops, creating even more buzz in the industry. Buying baseball cards has been hot.
Something unexpected has happened while the world has been shut down and working from home over the past few months, though. Kless noted the sports card and memorabilia industry has exploded, enjoying a renaissance beyond even the craziest of expectatations.
Topps, the exclusive licensed baseball card product, has been an innovator in the baseball card space for years.
Their innovative Topps Now product is a quick-print offering that showcases highlights from games daily; if a player makes his major league debut or hits a big home run or sets a record, Topps produces a card of that moment that's available for only 24 hours. Topps Now made national news when Dr. Fauci threw out the first pitch before the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals home opener. The card set a record, selling more than 51,000 copies.
Chicago fans have kept an eye on Topps Now this year because of the debut and emergence of Luis Robert as one of the most exciting players in baseball. Javier Baez has also been featured on a number of occasions.
As baseball returned to the field, Topps Now has been able to capture the incredible moments on the field and also embraced the pre-season "summer camps" with some of the top prospects in the game getting on the field in uniform with the big leaguers.
Another incredible offering from Topps this year has been a new item that took the industry by storm.
Project 2020 celebrates a partnership between Topps and 20 artists as they reimagine iconic rookie cards. Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Nolan Ryan, Derek Jeter and Mike Trout are among the legends whose first Topps card have been redesigned by these incredinbly talented and unique artists; each card is completely different and puts a remarkable spin on the player, the card and history.
Some of the artists involved in Project 2020, including Ben Baller (who designed the Trout card above), will be working on some exciting projects in the future with Topps, according to Kless.
The buzz for Topps before National Baseball Card Day has been as rich as it's ever been. With young stars like Trout, Baez, Yoan Moncada, Francisco Lindor and others headlining the personal collections for so many, new names and faces like Robert, Juan Soto, Ronald Acuna Jr, Bo Bichette, Yordan Alvarez, Pete Alonso, Vladimir Guerrero Jr and, most recently, Jo Adell have made chasing rookie cards an exciting pasttime.
However, there will have to be some changes to National Baseball Card Day because of the realities we're all dealing with because of the pandemic.
This year there will not be exclusive Topps packs handed out at games across MLB because there are no fans attending games. According to Kless, Topps has been more intentional with their branding to make sure folks are aware of where they can go to take advantage of some unique offerings that will only be available this weekend - and the following weekend.
Any collectors who visit a local card shop on Saturday will receive a special National Baseball Card Day pack. And, if collectors spend $10 at a card shop, they'll receive an exclusive Alonso card.
In addition to this weekend, collectors who return to their local card shops can pick up an exclusive Alvarez card on Saturday, Aug. 15th as well.
Accoring to Kless, players including Braves outfielder Acuna and Yankess star Aaron Judge will be posting their National Baseball Card Day cards on their own social media channels this weekend.
There will also be card packs exclusively available at Target and Walmart beginning this weekend where fans can get limited-run cards of their favorite players.
Kless also said Topps will be sharing fan photos. Fans are encouraged to share pictures of their favorite cards using the hashtag #ToppsNBCD this weekend.
For information about National Baseball Card Day and a complete list of local card shops taking part, fans can visit topps.com/nationalbaseballcardday.