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2011 Topps USA Baseball Cards

2011 Topps USA Baseball Cards

Product Review

2011 Topps USA Product Review

Reviewed by Paul Lesko

Good: USA Baseball is always a fun, niche product, lots of autographs and memorabilia cards per box, a rare product where you can learn from the cards (like, “Who are these guys?").

Bad: Pretty much keeps 2010's boring design, an overkill on studio shots weighs the product down.

The Bottom Line: Simply put, 2011 Topps USA Baseball is a fun product to break, I just wish more effort went into the cards.

Staff Rating:
4.0 / 5.0

Card Design: 3.2/5.0

First, the good. All the autographs excepted for the signed relics are on-card. This should make these cards more desirable than the USA autograph inserts from the various 2011 Bowman products, which have been stickers.

Although you are unlikely to pull one, last year's one-of-one autograph cards were ridiculously ugly with thick, silver signatures. For 2011, Topps eliminated the ugly signatures on the now green one-of-one autograph cards. It's good to see Topps is listening to consumer input.

Also, while I enjoyed the look of player-hand numbered cards from 2010, the 2011 cards are machine-numbered (Red #/99, Gold #/25 and Green 1/1). While this may make the cards look less authentic, machine-numbering is a better deterrent for fraud.
Now, time for the bad. This product relies far too heavily on studio shots. These boring, repetitive images really hurt the product. Case in point, for the autographs, there are basically four flavors of cards: 1) player holding ball in left hand, 2) player holding ball in right hand, 3) player resting bat on left shoulder and 4) player resting bat on right shoulder. I mean, in a two-minute eBay search I compiled the following, non-exhaustive, list:

Conyers (ball left), Ciuffo (bat left), Poteet (ball right), Virant (ball left), DeJong (ball right), Vogel (Ball right), Clifton (ball right), Collins (bat left), Martinez (bat right), Fontana (bat left), Elander (bat right), Lyong (bat left), Reynolds (bat right), Karvis (ball right), Sands (ball left), Rodriguez (bat right), Gallo (bat left), Appel (ball right), Knebel (ball right), Lorenzen (bat right), Lyon (bat left), Marrero (bat right), Milner (ball left), Mitchell (ball right), Murphy (bat left), Nasquin (bat left), Rodgers (ball right), Baxendale (Ball right), Wacha (ball right), Almora (bat right), Gausman (ball right) and Marrero (bat right).

What makes these auto shots worse is they are not even good studio shots. They look more like class photos or a Little League team's picture day.

I hope next year Topps allows the players to be, well, players. Add some action shots to the autos. Or if they are going to be studio shots, add more variety. At least take the pictures outside on a baseball diamond. Let the kids swing a bat, or throw a ball, and take pictures of that. Anything other than 61 pictures of, “Now, smile for the birdie!"

The set also includes Cap Patches, which, look sharp, but upon reading the disclaimer (“You have just received a manufactured patch card which features a replica hat patch from Team USA Baseball caps") are disappointing. This goes more to a continuing complaint consumers have about the inability of manufacturers to give authenticated relic and patch cards. But when a product is so focused on a niche area like USA Baseball, it would be nice for relic and patch cards to actually say what they are, if not identify the actual games the uniforms were worn.

Checklist: 3.8/5.0

The market now is over-saturated with USA cards. They appeared in every 2011 Bowman product, and in other Topps products like Topps Chrome. For the last few years, big names like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper helped carry the USA cards, and Cole, Starling and Rendon did their job last year too (even though Rendon did not have an autograph). The problem with this year is that there are not as many recognizable names in the set. Given the proliferation of USA cards, I think it's time for some contraction.

The more desirable names from 2011 are Appel (ball right), Gausman (ball right), and Marrero (bat right). I also like Nelson Rodriguez (bat right) for his power. Other than that, most of the players are unknowns to the average collector. While this makes the product a learning tool to get to know future stars, it also means the checklist is weak.

Finally, the best cards from any USA set are from the players that will enter the draft that year. Because of this, the 16U cards are probably most collected by family members of the players. I think the product could be improved by eliminating the 16U players, and concentrating more on players closer to draft age.

Value: 4.5/5.0

In every box you receive five autographs, two autographed relics and three triple relic cards. That's value for your money, especially with the chance of pulling the first on-card auto from potential first round draft picks, if not the first draft pick. Oh yeah, and you also receive 51 base cards that will go into your closet, likely never to emerge again.

Obviously, time will relegate most of these cards to the back of the collection, but at least for the near future, there is value in these players' potential.

The Fun Factor: 3.5/5.0

This is a product I enjoy breaking into every year. It forces me to research the players I've pulled, and brings me back to watching college baseball. Because of this, even though I think the overall card design is disappointing this year, I still found a lot to enjoy with the product. And with multiple autographs and relic cards per box, each box has built-in excitement. Even when you pull a “dud," you cannot be entirely sure there's no hope for the card because the future of these kids is so far away, you never know what's going to happen with them.

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Product Details

User Rating:

Although they are seen be some collectors as more of an oddball release than a major set, national team sets frequently offer the first cardboard of many of baseball's future stars. In recent years, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper both debuted in the stars and stripes before both their major and minor league threads. 2011 Topps USA Baseball continues the trend, promising a set that includes every player on the collegiate, 18U and 16U teams and a ton of hits. Each box set has a 61-card base set, five on-card autographs, two autographed game-used triple relics and three unsigned triple relics. The hits also have several limited parallels. Traditionally, these sets offer a solid launching point for would-be prospectors.

Estimated Release Date: 12/14/11
Product Configuration: box set
Price Point: Mid-End Baseball Card
Target Audience: Prospectors, National Team Collectors, Baseball Collectors, Autograph Collectors, Memorabilia Card Collectors, Hit Seekers

2011 Topps USA Baseball Set Break

  • Five Autographs
  • Two Autographed Triple Relic Cards
  • Three Triple Relic Cards
  • 61-Card Base Set
  • 71 Total Cards

2011 Topps USA Baseball Product Highlights:

  • 2011 Topps USA Baseball combines every player from the national team's collegiate, 18U and 16U squads.
  • Base set consists of 61 cards.
  • Printing Plate base set parallels.
  • Autographs inserted five per set. All are signed on-card.
  • Autograph parallels are signed with colored pens: Red (/99), Gold (/25), Green (/1).
  • Three Triple Relics come with every set. Each has three game-used jersey swatches from the featured player. Parallels: Red Foil (/25), Gold Foil (/10), Green Foil (/1).
  • Autographed Triple Relics inserted three per set featuring three game-used jersey swatches. Parallels: Red Foil (/25), Gold Foil (/10), Green Foil (/1).

Card Gallery:

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Ryan is a former member of The Cardboard Connection Writing Staff.   His collecting origins began with winter bike rides to the corner store, tossing a couple of quarters onto the counter and peddling home with a couple packs of O-Pee-Chee hockey in his pocket. Today, he continues to build sets, go after inserts with cool technologies, chase Montreal Expos and finish off his John Jaha master collection.

User Reviews

Dave Karpinski
Dave Karpinski

Another set with promise but not he best design. When I started purchasing these sets I was paying around $47.50. Great price with seven auto’s per set and the last 4 sets I purchased had 8. So the value is their with a strong crop of autos. Appel, Gausman, Almora, Russell, Dahl, Martinez, Meadows best line up I’ve seen in a while. My one complaint is the checklist autograph numbers do not match up with card numbers. It starts at 50 and goes to 70 where the numbers are messed up and again it is difficult to find a checklist with the updated numbers on it. One plus I’m finding is it is getting harder to find singles at a lower price. It seems that most commons are selling for around 5 bucks. I predict within 5 months the cost of this set will double. So now instead of trying to complete the set the easy way I just keep buying boxes. When the players i mentioned above are 15 to 50 dollars not counting the Jersey’s why wouldn’t someone keep buying boxes. The only problem anyone want a USA Set cheap. Just kidding. I really enjoy these and a can not wait to see what Panini has up their sleeves.

Good: Lots of autographs and relics from collegiate and prep-school players, great for prospectors.

Bad: Sticker autographs plague the autographed relic cards.

Bottom Line: A great product loaded with hits for collectors who are patient and willing to gamble on prospects.

Card Design: 3.5/5.0

The card design is simple and clean, which allows for the on card autographs to really pop. This is especially true for the numbered red and green ink autographs. While the player photography is repetitious, the design focuses on the player and not gimmicks. However, action shots such as the ones featured on the autograph relic cards, would make the set much more appealing to the eye.

Checklist: 3.0/5.0

The checklist includes many prospects that are projected to go in the early rounds of the 2012 MLB Draft, including Mark Appel, Devin Marrero, Kevin Gausman, and Nelson Rodriguez. However, the majority of the checklist includes players from the 16-U and 18-U teams that are several years away from a MLB uniform. That is, if they are drafted at all. This makes the collegiate team hits more desirable.

Value: 4.0/5.0

With five on-card autographs, two autographed relics and three regular relic cards per box, collectors will be hard-pressed to find a more hit-laden product at the $80 price point. Boxes also come with a 61-card base set, which is convenient for set builders.

Fun Factor: 3.0/5.0

What collector doesn’t love opening a box of a product and seeing lots of ink and relics? However, the number of hits isn’t enough for those collectors that aren’t patient. Prospectors may find the most enjoyment years from now when they decide to comb through their collection and see if there is a hidden gem they initially overlooked.

Good: Box comes with a full set, guarantee of ten hits per box, great value given the cost, lots of autograph and memorabilia cards.

Bad: Because of the box set format, the excitement is lacking as you largely know what you’re getting with each box, no inserts or parallels outside of autographs and memorabilia cards, lots of boring studio shots.

The Bottom Line: 2011 Topps USA Baseball is a great product for those who like to collect prospects. At around $80 a box, you can’t go wrong with ten hits. However, if you’re someone who wants to know the players you’re pulling, this really isn’t the product for you as most of the subjects are extremely young and don’t have a lot of playing experience.

Card Design: 2.5/5.0
The card design is very bland. Similar to a typical Topps set, there isn’t much going on. The set is littered with lots of posed studio shots, which only further take away from an already lacking design. A few action shots would have gone a long way in adding some pop.

Checklist: 4.5/5.0
The 2011 Topps USA Baseball checklist is great. It has more than 60 players from the collegiate, 18U and 16U squads. The autograph and memorabilia checklists are also very nice, with every player appearing in both. Factor in a handful of rare parallels and you’ve got a solid chase for those wishing to go for a master set.

Value: 5.0/5.0
It’s tough to complain about getting a full set and ten hits for only around $80. 2011 Topps USA Baseball is definitely a great value. Each box gives you a 61-card base set along with ten hits. The hit breakdown works out to five regular autographs, two autographed triple relics and three triple relics. There are no other sets on the market offering so much in the way of hits at that price.

The Fun Factor: 3.5/5.0
The fun factor is somewhat lacking in 2011 Topps USA Baseball. A lot of people prefer to build sets on their own. With this product, that isn’t an option for the base cards. Also, with no inserts or parallels outside of the autographs and memorabilia cards, there’s little surprise or anticipation. It is fun when you get to the hits and see if you pulled any red ink, gold ink or low-numbered short prints.

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