I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Topps Gallery was one of my absolute favorite brands when it existed (excluding 2005). Year after year, Gallery provided a sharp-looking set and even sharper inserts, with awesome artistic tones. You may recall some of my previous Gallery breaks but if you need a reminder, here’s a look at the versions of 1998 and 2000. For now though, have a look at where it all began, 1996 Topps Gallery!
Box Details: 24 packs per box, 8 cards per pack, $35
From: Dave and Adam’s Card World
Base set: The base set is comprised of 180 cards. Each base card contains one of four different designs, depending on where they fall in the set. The first 108 cards are pure full-bleed photos with a holofoil nameplate, as evidenced by the Kevin Appier card. Cards 109-126 (The Modernists) feature a colorful block background and consist mainly of players who were in their third or fourth MLB year in ’96. Cards 127-144 are titled as The Futurists and as you would expect, consist solely of rookies. Lastly, cards 145-180 are entitled The Masters and feature the very best in the game, such as Greg Maddux. The semi-border and nameplate resemble that of a framed masterpiece and heavily influenced the design of the following year’s set. In this box, I pulled 115 out of 180 base cards (64%) with 63 dupes and 2 triples! There was a major collation flaw in this box that I will discuss later.
Players Private Issue (1:8 packs, /999): The first-ever Topps Gallery parallel was known as the Players Private Issue. This parallel mirrored the entire 180-card set and can be identified by a gold holofoil stamp on the front of each card. The print run on these cards is 999, but a couple things should be noted. First, the first 100 cards were sent to the players themselves, hence the name of the parallel. Second, it was announced after the 1996 season that Topps destroyed a whopping 400 sets, leaving 499 left in circulation. I pulled PPI cards of Geronimo Berroa (492), John Wetteland (450), Paul Wilson (638), and Jeff Suppan (306). These cards are numbered “xxx” rather than the standard “xxx/xxx” that we’ve all been accustomed to for years.
Expressionists (20 cards, 1:24 packs): The only insert in this product inserted at a rate not worse than one per box is known as Expressionists. These cards are smothered in several different types of foil and have somewhat of a raised texture to them. The photographs on these are superb. This card features a shot of Gary Sheffield popping up a can of corn. The checklist is certainly a diverse one. Mike Piazza, Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, Ray Lankford, Carlos Baerga, Dennis Martinez, and Edgar Martinez are in this set as well.
Photo Gallery (15 cards, 1:30 packs): Photo Gallery is a full-bleed insert that featured some of the game’s biggest stars and some of the greatest moments of the 1995 season, such as Eddie Murray’s 3000th hit or in my case, David Justice hitting the game-winning home run in Game 6 of the World Series. Special foil effects were also added to each photo. Check out this Randy Johnson, for example.
Mickey Mantle Masterpiece (1:48 packs): Like most other Topps products in 1996, Gallery also had a tribute insert to the late Mickey Mantle. Unlike some other inserts, this Masterpiece insert was done extremely well and actually served a purpose. The back of the card depicts a smiling Mickey, along with complete career stats. As annoying as some of his inserts in recent years have been (screw you HRH), this one’s a keeper.
Over half (56.5%) of the base cards I needed for the base set had a dupe or triple. In fact, the dupes accounted for more than one-third of the box’s contents! The issue that I mentioned earlier was the fact that in every pack, the second and third card were exactly the same. Yes, this happened in all 24 packs! You probably know that I like to try to collate sets when I bust a box so I don’t have to tell you how much this annoyed me. The rest of the box delivered well in my favor, though. I pulled one more PPI card than normal and also found a Mantle Masterpiece as an added bonus.
The condition of these cards was by far the best part of the box. I was very happy with how clean these super glossy cards came out. There were few blemishes to be found.
All the PPI cards were pure commons (though I love the Wetteland) and one of my inserts was of Gary Sheffield. Not good. If it weren’t for the Mantle, this box probably would’ve been a total bust, but at least the cards look sharp.
Compared to some of the other years of Gallery, 1996 has fewer actual inserts and more PPI parallels, which is something I’m not exactly fond of. The reason for this is probably that I don’t think much of a parallel which is nothing more than a stamp (one of the reasons you see no Pacific breaks here). They just don’t stand out, are pretty easy to miss, and give the illusion that 20+ packs out of a 24-pack box contain nothing but plain base cards. Boring.
Anyway, back to the inserts. If you haven’t already, go ahead and check out the earlier Gallery breaks I linked to at the beginning of the post. Based on the odds, it would be hard to pull more content out a box than I did here, but I still wasn’t as impressed as I was when I broke those other boxes. I suppose it’s just a quality over quantity issue. All three boxes can be had for roughly the same price but when it comes down to pulling parallels of likely commons with just two additional inserts vs. pulling several inserts of stars plus potential big hits such as printing plates or even autographs, I think I’d stick with the later years of Gallery, preferably before they switched to the all-painted sets.
Overall Grade: C