I picked up my first pack of National Chicle back in May of 2009.
It was August 30, 2019 that I treated myself to the final card needed to complete the 330 card base set.
This set took just over 10 years to complete – approximately 3,650 days.
I had decided to try and complete this set back in 2009 when I saw an advertisement for it in a Beckett magazine. I have always loved the pre-war era “art” cards and was excited that Topps was going to release a modern throwback release with the same theme.
National Chicle was first distributed in 1934 under the names Diamond Stars and Batter Up. This little known vintage set featured a wealth of eclectic, great looking cards and was produced until 1937.
For 2010, Topps commissioned a team of 12 sports artists to replicate the original 1930’s Chicle look.
275 of the cards on the preliminary checklist are broken up into:
205 active players
40 legendary players
25 rookie players
The remaining 55 short-print cards are broken up into three subsets:
25 retired stars revisted (featured in present day uniforms)
10 vintage veterans (featured in throwback uniforms)
20 rookie renditions (2010 rookies on throwback card designs)
At the time of release, reception to the tail end of the set was luke warm at best as there was little to no explanation as to why the themes were chosen. I liked them as they are certainly thought provoking and quirky.
Most collectors prefer at least a heads up before the card companies go too far outside of the box.
For instance, why is White Sox rookie Tyler Flowers featured on the 1990 Topps Frank Thomas rookie card? I’ve seen a variation of this Flowers card with the “no name on front” error which is pretty cool.
The most likely reason is that Topps told the artists to have fun with the project.
Athletic’s rookie Matt Carson looks strikingly similar to a young Ricky Henderson on his 1979 Topps rookie card.
Artist Jeff Zachowski had Frank Robinson’s 1957 rookie in mind when he painted Red’s rookie Drew Stubbs.
The Babe posing in an Atlanta Braves jersey? Or is that Chipper Jones? Artist Paul Lempa points out that Babe Ruth did end his career with the Boston Braves. Now it makes more sense.
Giants rookie Buster Posey does his best 1952 Willie Mays impersonation thanks to artist Brian Kong.
I have always loved the Jimmie Foxx card in this set. I think I first saw it posted over at Nick’s “Dime Boxes” blog. (check it out if you haven’t already!) Pittsburg artist Chris Henderson painted him against a bold background and the action shot is just awesome. Although it didn’t win Boston a championship, Carlton Fisk’s iconic home run to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series remains one of the great moments in Major League Baseball history and is depicted here on his 2010 Chicle card. We also see a nice throwback to Johnny Bench’s 1969 Topps card by artist Monty Sheldon. The only thing missing is the 1968 Rookie Cup.
Artist Monty Sheldon produced the John Maine and Curtis Granderson cards. I love the horizontal design and backdrops depicted. Kershaw shines in front of a strikingly red background and Evan Longoria looks right at home on artist Jeff Zachowski’s tropical depiction.
Easily one of my favorite cards in the set, artist Chris Felix puts a modern day “Scooter” against the shadows of Yankee Stadium as he plays “pepper” with a teammate. We also have a pretty good idea of what A-Rod would look like had he been a Bronx bomber in the early 1900’s.
Two more fine examples of Chicle honoring baseball legends in both their original uniforms and present day uniforms. Chicle “plays two” with Cub’s legend Ernie Banks by featuring him on two cards. Artist Mike Kupka presents “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks as a Cub in either 1970 or 1971. You can narrow down the jersey as there is no centennial patch on the sleeve. Jason Davies flips Banks into today’s modern uniform on his short-print version.
Honoring the team that drafted him, we see a fine depiction from Monty Sheldon of Ryne Sandberg in his Philadelphia Phillies uniform. In what is widely considered one of the worst trades in baseball history, in 1982 he would be traded to the Chicago Cubs along with the aging Larry Bowa for Ivan DeJesus. The rest is history as he would go on to play his way into the Hall of Fame. After retiring as a Cub in 1997, Sandberg would end up managing the Phillies to the worst record in baseball in 2015. He would resign on his own after his promise to return to “fundamental baseball” never materialized on the field.
Here we have four more dazzling horizontal cards of Hall of Famers Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, Warren Spahn, and Roy Campanella. Artist Monty Sheldon produced the Musial, Spahn, and Campanella while former Marvel comic artist Brian Kong took care of replicating the mighty Jackie Robinson taking a cut against the bold red background.
Lots of collectors wondered about the spider featured on Cy Young’s card. He played for the Cleveland Spiders in 1891. Fielding their first team in 1887, the Spiders never enjoyed a winning season. Young is largely credited with turning the club around with his signing in 1891. The Spiders had their first taste of success in 1892 when they finished 93–56 overall; winning the second half by three games over Boston with a 53–23 record. National Chicle also features Young in a modern day Indians’ uniform. The Mick is also featured on two cards. One in his traditional Yankee pinstripes and the other in his “retired stars revisited” version.
I’ll close this post out with three of my favorite players. Ken Griffey Jr. is featured on only one card in this set. The same goes for Jeter and my local-favorite David Wright.
This set was certainly a challenge. The short-prints were tough to find and regardless of the player on the card; often carried a premium price. Ten years is a long time to chase a set and I found myself abandoning all hope of completing it more than a few times. However, writing this post made me realize just how much I like this set.
The last card to finish the set? As a Met’s fan, it pains me to say that this guy was the one. There were about 4 years where this ONE card was missing. I finally bit the bullet and bought a copy. Chipper, you killed the Mets for all of those years. Makes complete sense that YOU would be the one that was needed to complete a 10 year quest to complete this set.
Congrats on the Hall of Fame induction. It is well deserved. If I had to choose a player to be the final card in a set; I would be more than happy to choose you.