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2002 Topps Gallery Baseball Review

Last week, while holding my first-ever complimentary group break for the readers of this blog, I had opened up boxes of three different 2002 products, all of which guaranteed “hits” that were enjoyed by many. Shortly thereafter, I busted an additional box for myself, unbeknownst to all of you, until now. This box also came from the year 2002 and was recently busted by Ben of Cardboard Icons. Of course, I am talking about Topps Gallery. The box claims that this product is a “Setbuilder’s Masterpiece.” Was it right? Let’s see…

Box Details: 24 packs per box, 6 cards per pack,  ~$30 “street value”

Base set: With the exception of 2004 (when there was no set), Gallery was a Topps mainstay from 1996-2005. During its first five years of existence, the product’s base sets relied on actual photographs combined with some sort of unique border design. In 2001, those photographs were ditched in favor of an all-painted base set featuring the work of various artists. It would remain this way for the rest of Gallery’s hobby run.

The base set for 2002 Topps Gallery is comprised of 200 cards and breaks down like this:

Cards 1-150: Veterans
Cards 151-170: Prospects
Cards 171-190: First Year Players (True RC’s! Each of these features a red stripe across the card’s bottom)
Cards 191-200: Retired/HOF Players

Despite the fact that twenty-five percent of the set is comprised of prospects, rookies, and retired players, cards 151-200 are not shortprinted. This box yielded 138 of 200 basic cards (69%) with just three duplicates. Seeing how I usually fall victim to horrible collation, this was a pleasant surprise.

Veteran Variations 1 (1:24 packs): Ten veteran subjects in this set have two separate card variations (in addition to their regular base card), one of which is rare and one of which is extremely rare. The rare cards are known simply as Level 1 variations. The checklist, along with each SP-defining characteristic is as follows:

1. Jason Giambi (Solid Blue Background)
2. Alex Rodriguez (Gray Jersey)
3. Mike Piazza (Black Jersey)
4. Todd Helton (Solid Blue Background)
5. Albert Pujols (Red Hat)
6. Derek Jeter (Solid Blue Background)
7. Sammy Sosa (Black Bat)
8. Ivan Rodriguez (Blue Jersey)
9. Pedro Martinez (Red Shirt)
10. Ichiro (Empty Dugout)

Needless to say, these cards can be a real pain to spot unless you pull a card with a background variation. Click the link next to Mr. Jeter’s name for an example. I pulled a Jason Giambi in my box. However, at this time, I seem to have misremembered (oh wait, wrong Yankee) the whereabouts of this and the other inserts from this box so I scanned a regular Giambi above. Just picture that card with the background from the Jeter card.

Veteran Variations 2: While I did NOT pull any of these, here’s the second list of shortprinted variations which are much, much harder to find. These variations were seeded 1 in every 4065 packs (!) on average. If memory serves me correctly, the print run on these was only 25 or so.

Heritage (1:12 packs): Prior to 2002, the Heritage inserts were painted cards based off the designs from the Topps sets of 1953, 1954, and 1965. In 2002, Topps took a different direction with this set. Rather than revert to one old Topps design, they did so with twenty of them! Each player in this set is featured on a painted version of their first Topps card. The first Heritage card I pulled was a Greg Maddux (1987 Topps Traded).

The second Heritage card was a Carl Yastzemski (1960 Topps). I had to resort to using Beckett stock images for both the Maddux and Yaz.

The design of these inserts range from 1954-2001 (and that’s not even for Ichiro!). In addition, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, and Bret Boone autographed 25 copies each.

Autogamers: Autographed cards and game-used cards fall at a combined rate of 1:44 packs. Unfortunately, I did not receive either in this box. Nine cards from the Heritage set come with a game-used variation. Greg Maddux is one of those nine players and he’s depicted as an Atlanta Brave (as opposed to a Cub) on his game-used card. The photos of the other eight players were unedited.

The other game-used set in ’02 Gallery is a 15-card set known as Gallery Originals, an all bat card set featuring players such as Albert Pujols, Tony Gwynn, Mike Piazza, and everyone’s favorite ballplayers: “A-Fraud” and Canseco. These cards feature a piece of bat exposed by a window made to look like part of an artist’s paint board, with an orgy of colors surrounding that.

Finally, there are autographs to be found in this product as well. There are nine autographs in total, seeded 1 in every 240 packs on average. These autographs are all hard signed and look terrific! Some of the players in this set include Bret Boone (example), Lance Berkman, Magglio Ordonez, J.D. Drew, and Jorge Posada (this one has been on my wantlist for a while).

Final Thoughts: I really miss Topps Gallery, at least in this format. The following year, the set was structured in a similar fashion in relation to set size and variations, but one-per-pack holofoil Artist’s Proof parallels were included. If that wasn’t bad enough, the number of cards per pack was reduced from six to five. Let’s get this straight. You have a beautiful 200-card painted base set and you drop the number of cards per pack PLUS one of those cards will now be (instead of a base card) a stupid parallel?? Are you kidding? I happen to like some shiny cards and/or parallels but NOT WHEN THEY ACCOUNT FOR TWENTY PERCENT OF THE DAMN PACK! And they did this to Gallery of all products? I won’t even discuss 2005’s abomination in which they tried to pass of Gallery as an artsy variation of Finest. No joke. The box was divided into three mini-boxes with a guaranteed hit in each! For whatever reason, I opened one such mini box a few years ago and pulled a relic of Angel Berroa. This was what replaced my base cards and drove up the price of one of my all-time favorite products? What the hell was that?

Anyway, getting back to the task at hand. The 2002 edition of Gallery was the last one I personally enjoyed, for the reasons mentioned above. Despite some very corny variations and a couple of awkward-looking base cards, this product is still a winner. An extra base card or two per pack (non-parallels of course!) would’ve been nice, but I’m not complaining. For just about $30, you’ll end up with a good chunk of the base set, a couple of inserts, and possibly an autogamer. I’ll probably end up purchasing another box to try and hand collate this set. Maybe I’ll pull that Jorge!

As always, thanks for reading and good luck with your own breaks!