2023 Topps Heritage Baseball is a remarkable tribute to the past, meticulously recreating the look and feel of the 1974 Topps Baseball release. The design process is a labor of love that involves a deep dive into the chosen year’s set, examining its design elements, printing techniques, and even exploring cards from other sports like football and basketball. The goal is to capture the essence of that era, including any mistakes that were made, which are then recreated and intentionally made rare as short-printed cards.
Immersing themselves in the research process, the design team explored a plethora of references, such as advertisements, packaging, fonts, and even objects like oil cans and board game boxes from 1974.. The attention to detail is evident, with every aspect being meticulously studied. The team’s enthusiasm for research is palpable, as they dive into archival materials, study photography styles, and draw inspiration from the motion and composition of the original shots.
“The research part of it is what I love almost as much as the design itself,” said Art Director John Doldan. “I’ve been working on Heritage products since its inception in 2001 and everybody on the team loves researching the history and events of each particular year.”
A New Era
The original set honored Hank Aaron breaking the home run record, and the first six cards feature “Hammerin’ Hank.” The 2023 Topps Heritage set pays homage to the momentous accomplishment by making Aaron Judge, the new AL home run leader, the first six cards in the set.
Introducing new elements to this year’s Heritage set, the designers have included a puzzle feature reminiscent of the 1974 Topps puzzle insert. Collaborating with vendors and printers, they have created a completed puzzle that comes shrink-wrapped on a board, offering collectors a delightful surprise when opening the box. Additionally, the set showcases stamps, inspired by the stamps included in the 1974 release. These stamps have been recreated and incorporated into the set, adding another unique aspect to the collecting experience.
“We also have coins in here,” said Doldan. “It’s a new design. An insert where we embed quarters and half dollars that were minted in 1974, and we embed them into the card as if its relic”.
The dedication to authenticity extends to colors and texture as well. The team strives to replicate the exact colors and textures used in 1974, capturing the essence of that era. However, with the digital design process, there are inherent limitations compared to the original handcrafted designs. The original creators had the flexibility to make custom adjustments for each player, such as using condensed fonts for longer player names.
“They didn’t have computers back then,” Doldan quipped. “Everything was done by hand. There might be an error for the slightest of reasons, like traveling with unfinished products. We do our best to try and recreate the custom feel.”
Feeling at Home
For many on the design team, working on the Topps Heritage set is a personal journey down memory lane. The cards hold nostalgic value, with memories of having posters of players from the original set on their walls. This personal connection adds an extra layer of passion and enthusiasm to the design process, fueling their desire to create an engaging and authentic experience for collectors.
“I remember these cards growing up,” he said. “I had posters of a lot of guys from the original set on my wall. That adds another touch to it for me.”
Topps Heritage Baseball is not just about collecting cards; it’s about reliving history, connecting generations, and celebrating the timeless appeal of the game. The attention to detail, the dedication to research, and the genuine passion that goes into every aspect of the design process ensure that Topps Heritage sets continue to captivate collectors and provide an immersive journey into the rich tapestry of baseball’s past.