The 2023 baseball card season officially kicked off last week as Topps Series 1 released on Wednesday. As I’ve done for the last two-plus decades, I opened two jumbo boxes on release day. Fortunately, jumbo box prices dropped a good amount from last year, once again making the flagship Topps product one of the best bangs for the buck there is in the hobby’s lineup of annual releases.
Right out of the gate, I was in love with this year’s design. The small inset photo on the front continues a run of doing so every 20 years — this year joins 1963, 1983, and 2003 in having the additional headshot. The design is much more simple and straightforward than some designs in the past, but visually interesting enough to merit examining closely. Font sizes were appropriate and while I’ve been an outspoken opponent of the typical white border, it works very well on this year’s release. I truly wouldn’t change a thing about the design.
The hallmark of any Series 1 release are the top rookies for the year. This year’s class of RCs might be one of the best ever. Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Michael Harris II, makes his debut in Series 1, as does Orioles phenom Adley Rutschman. Orlando area natives Riley Greene, a top prospect for the Tigers, and Vaughn Grissom, who may start at shortstop for the Braves this season, are also part of the class.
Another feature of Topps Series 1 is its large number of insert sets. While Topps sometimes repeats set themes from previous years, this year brought out some wonderfully fresh concepts. One-Two Punch features pairs of ace starting pitchers on teams throughout history. 2022’s Greatest Hits, a foil card, features some top moments from last season. This year’s 35th Anniversary cards feature the 1988 Topps design, which looks sharp. My personal favorite was the All Aces set, a rounded-corner foil offering featuring the top pitchers in the game on a playing card-like design.
Jumbo boxes come with 2 relics and 1 autograph. One relic is of the manufactured variety. This year’s manufactured relics feature logos from Nike’s popular City Connect jerseys and caps, a fun twist on past jersey and cap logo relics. Both of my autographs were rookies on the 1988 Topps design.
Parallels abound in Series 1 as well. Once upon a time, gold borders were plentiful, but they now fall roughly two per box. They have been replaced in abundance in recent years with rainbow foil and, for jumbo boxes only, gold rainbow foil. All kinds of other numbered parallels exist, but the only ones I got were orange and green rainbow foils. New this year, too, are the golden mirror image photo variation cards. These cards exist for all 330 cards in the set and are donated by large gold SSP letters on the back.
I always recommend collectors buy Series 1. There’s something for everyone in the flagship release. It’s not a product you buy for big hits, but instead, for the nostalgia of opening the season’s first product.