Collectors and fans of Bowman were given an exciting surprise this week, as it was revealed that Topps snuck a few redemption cards for Shohei Ohtani autographs into the Target-exclusive 2018 Bowman Mega Boxes. While this certainly added some extra excitement to an already red-hot product, it’s hardly a new tactic for Topps to have an unannounced addition to their product lines. Not counting “errors,” such as the 2007 Topps Derek Jeter Card featuring George W. Bush and Mickey Mantle, or the 2006 Topps Alex Gordon variations, there have been a number of collector surprises in recent years. The list below is far from comprehensive, but rather includes some of my personal favorites.
2007 Topps Red Backs
In 2007, I went to my local card shop to get two jumbo boxes of Topps, as I always did on release day. News of the Derek Jeter “error” had not hit yet, but as I was putting my set together I noticed that some cards had the player names on the back in red, while most of the player names were in white. There was no “red back” listed on the pack odds or the set checklist, so I thought perhaps it was just a design choice. But when I discovered I had the same card with both a red and white back, I knew something was up. Eventually, Topps confirmed Hobby-only red back parallels, much to the delight of obsessive set collectors.
2009 Topps All-Black/Throwback blasters
For several years, Topps produced Target- and Walmart-exclusive parallels for their flagship product. In 2009, the company released blasters in which all cards were either Throwback cards (Target) or All-Black cards (Walmart). These boxes were unannounced, and collectors who expected a box full of base cards were surprised to receive dozens of parallels instead. Topps later released information on how to spot the special blaster boxes before buying them, so that customers could avoid them if desired.
2013 Allen & Ginter Glossy 1/1s
In perhaps its most shocking unannounced addition ever, Topps hid individually wrapped glossy 1/1 parallels inside the panel of the box. It’s likely a large amount of these ended up at the local recycling center, as the inclusion was only accidentally discovered when a case breaker cut a box open and discovered a card hiding within the panel. As word got out, other collectors found similar cards, all 1/1s, hidden in their boxes as well.
2014 Allen & Ginter Athletic Endeavors/Urban Fauna minis; 2015 Allen & Ginter Healthy Body/Healthy Mind minis
Allen & Ginter fanatics love the set for all of its quirky inclusions, but in 2014 and 2015, two inclusions each year were unannounced until release day. Despite not appearing on any promotional materials, each set showed up on the stated odds on the pack wrappers, each with astronomical odds — 1:288 packs, or about one per case. All 4 of the sets had 10 cards, giving master set collectors an extra chase to complete their quest.
2015 Topps Allen & Ginter X
In the beginning of September 2015, Topps made an announcement of a new product, called Allen & Ginter X. The set would resemble the regular Allen & Ginter release, but would have black accents rather than white ones. And the biggest twist was that it would be released online only, just one week later. No checklist was announced in advance either, so collectors were left to wait until the products were opened to learn if their favorite player had cards in the product.
2018 Bowman Mega Box Shohei Ohtani redemption
Many collectors were surprised to see that the mega box checklist included inserts, but not autographs, of Shohei Ohtani. A few days after release day, a redemption for an autographed Ohtani card surfaced on Ebay. On several message boards, collectors doubted its authenticity, as the checklist did not state the inclusion of the autograph, which would surely have been a huge selling point for Topps. After a collector tweeted at Topps with a link to the Ebay auction, the company confirmed the random insertion of redemptions for Ohtani autographs.