Topps Sterling is unbelievable

January 10, 2009 at 1:32 am | Posted in Topps | 12 Comments

Yes, 2008 Topps Sterling is an unbelievable product – but not in a good way.  Many other blogs have discussed the insanity of the price tag of over $200 for a product that yields only one “hit” in most boxes.  Then there’s the ugly foil sticker autographs and the fact that Topps repeated almost exactly the same design that they used for Triple Threads.  I seriously cannot fathom why anyone would buy a hobby box of Sterling, unless a Topps representative held a gun to their head or tied them to a chair in front of a TV that was tuned to the “Fox Reality Channel” all day long.

That said, I have been wondering about the Don Mattingly cards in Topps Sterling.  I’ve been checking eBay to see if I could get a nice Mattingly card from Topps Sterling for a reasonable price.  Sure enough, you can find autographed quadruple relic cards of Don Mattingly in the $40 – $50 range, which isn’t bad.  When I took a closer look at some of these cards, however, I began to notice some serious flaws.  Let me show you what I’m talking about…

Note: all of the images below are of cards being auctioned on eBay; they are not in my collection (nor will they be any time soon).


OK, so the most obvious defect with this card is the autograph.  For some reason, Don signed too low on this particular sticker, and the bottom part of his autograph is cut off.  Maybe he was signing the sticker when this happened.  But whatever the case may be, Topps should have discarded this sticker.  There is no way that this should have been placed on a card in their most expensive, high-end product.  But besides the autograph, take a look at the “relics” – three plain swatches, and the tiny little pinstripe piece that’s in the apostrophe.  Come on, Topps.  Everybody knows that the Yankees home jersey has pinstripes on it, and it can’t be that hard to cut the jersey pieces to include a pinstripe, especially for a product like Sterling!  Finally, is the 1985 “Silver Slugger” Award really a big enough accomplishment to merit recognition on a card like this?  Well, compared to what you’ll see on these other cards, maybe it is…


Unbelievable.  Out of all of Don Mattingly’s career accomplishments, this card celebrates the fact that he played three games at third base in 1986.  If I was trying to make up a story about something completely asinine to put on a baseball card, I really don’t think that I could even come up with something like this.  Yet here it is.  What Don Mattingly fan would possibly want something like this?  And again, we get plain colored swatches with no pinstripes.


This is at least a step in the right direction.  This time, we get an actual pinstripe.  But look at the “accomplishment” that is featured on this card.  96 career sacrifice flies.  Because when we look back at Don Mattingly’s career, we might forget about the 1984 A.L. batting title, the 1985 MVP award, the 8 consecutive games with a home run in 1987, the record breaking 6 grand slams in 1987, and the 9 Gold Glove awards.  But we’ll never ever forget how special those 96 sacrifice flies were!


I’ll wrap things up with this card.  On the positive side, it features a larger photo of Mattingly, which occupies more than just a small corner of the card.  Why can’t all Sterling cards have a photo like this?  On the negative side, we have another relatively trivial statistic, Mattingly’s 53 doubles in 1986, and we have more boring swatches.  It sure would be nice if that pinstripe was a little bit centered.  But Topps can’t be bothered to make a real effort even when this was probably the only “hit” from a box that some poor collector spent more than $200 on.

To be fair, there are some Topps Sterling Don Mattingly cards that look pretty nice, and at some point, I might try to add one to my collection.  And I do like that little swizzle that Mattingly is adding when he crosses the T’s in his autographs now.  But in a product like Topps Sterling, Topps should know better than to produce cards like the ones shown above.

One final suggestion for the card companies: I would love to see some Don Mattingly cards featuring him in a Dodgers uniform in 2009!  I own 1,077 different cards of Mattingly in a Yankees uniform and I could use a little variety.  Thanks in advance…


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  1. This is perfect. 3 games at third base? That is better than the 1834 games caught as a yankee card from yogi.

    Sterling is total crap.

  2. Don Mattingly cards in Dodger uniform is about the most world-stopping image in my head. Okay, I’m exaggerating. I think Barry Bonds in Dodger uniform would be more like it.

    If he is in fact Joe Torre’s understudy, I can imagine you’ll get Mattingly Dodger cards soon enough.

    I’ll never buy a pack of Sterling, but still interesting to see what’s going on with it. Interesting read!

  3. I completely agree. I saw the 3B card you posted and had no idea WTF it was until you pointed out the fine print. What the hell are these people smoking? And I’ve been stalking these cards as well and they’ve been going for over $50 every time (Beckett will probably book them for something in the $120 – 180 range). The hell if I’m payin’ that. Sure every auto card is a #/10, but WTF is the difference if there are freaking 30 variations. They change the cutout at the bottom, move the relics around, and sometimes (oh boy!) sometimes they even give you a different picture THAT THEY’VE ALREADY USED IN EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT EVER! WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL WERE THEY THINKING! I’ve seen so many of these Mattingly cards on eBay that I think he’s the common in the set. People are flat out unloading this stuff AND PEOPLE BUY IT! I’m not saying I wouldn’t be interested but the hell if I’m payin’ $60 for a singular stat carved out in paper with 4 pieces of relic. You know what I want? I want the Topps Sterling book card that has “BASEBALL GOD” in relics across the card with an auto and a lock of his hair. Now THAT is something I’d pay top dollar for!

  4. Good stuff Dave.

  5. Don Mattingly’s mother thinks these cards are stupid!

  6. Not for nothing, Topps and Upper Deck LOVE to make jersey cards from plain swatches of jersey. You really would think that for $200+ per pack you would at least get a stripe, God forbid, a patch. Someone at the card company might keel over and die if they ever included a piece of the number or interlocking NY for a Yankees card.

    I love to spend money, but it will never all go to one pack that’s for sure.

  7. The sacrifice flies stat is exceptionally bizarre.

  8. Some of these cards are what you’d expect from a parody from the Onion, not from a $200 pack!

    PS, Harner, don’t give Topps ideas, or they may make a card about Mattingly’s mother in next year’s Sterling set.

  9. topps issued a 55 card team set in 2008 which featured cards of all the coaches, so mattingly would have had a dodgers topps card, had he not delayed his stint as the hitting coach due to whatever personal issues he was dealing with.

  10. gcrl – the “personal issues” are actually very interesting. Check this out!

  11. yeah, sac fly!

    so if you are trying to “unload” for 40, 50, 60, even 120 dollars youre still losing tons of money, as you get 3 crappy base with it.. and usually another base of some other guy in the “mystery pack”.. which some others times can be a huge piece of jersey thats a 1/1, but only white. 😦

    worst product ever. this is exactly why im ordering boxes of 1992 upper deck instead. sure, I may not get anything, but it comes out to be 30 cents a pack and theres a ted williams auto worth 500 in there.

    you need to get a gehrig box or a ruth box to make a marginal profit with this monkey crap..
    which makes me wonder, what do they say on a ruth card.. heres some of my ideas–

    07h5.. (averaged 7 high fives a month for his career.)
    lcbl .. (likes corn bread lots)
    60hr .. you see one that finally makes sense, until you read the fine print

    (60 hot dogs with relish before every road game)

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