Saturday, October 7, 2023

Run The Series - BBM Classic

It's been about two years now since Topps announced that they had a license to do NPB baseball cards and pretty much ever since then I've been saying that Topps needs do an Archives or Heritage style set using their classic card designs for NPB players.  There is precedent for doing such a set in Japan - the Classic set released by BBM annually between 2013 and 2016.

The four BBM Classic sets pretty much followed the same pattern with one minor exception.  Each set except the first had a 108 card base set consisting of 72 cards of active players and 36 cards of OB players (except the 2013 set).  For some reason, the 2013 set had 109 total cards as they had one extra OB player.  The cards for the active players reused an earlier BBM "flagship" set design.  The 2013 set used the design of BBM's initial set from 1991, 2014 used the 1992 design, 2015 used the 1993 design and you've probably already guessed that 2016 used the 1994 design.  In addition each set had several insert sets associated with it that reused designs from various BBM sets in the past.  The OB cards were a little less consistent as two of the sets reused the 2002 All Time Heroes design and the other two sets used a new design.

The active player cards were pretty true to the original design.  BBM updated the year in their logos but otherwise they looked like the logos used each year.  The rookie cards used the same box or icon that the original sets had used.  The big difference between the original 1991-94 cards and the Classic versions is that while the original cards had been a smaller than standard size of 2 3/8" x 3 5/16", the Classic cards were all the standard 2 1/2" x 3 1.2".

I figured I'd go through each set quickly and show a couple of the active player cards and one of the OB cards.  I'd also mention the inserts and show any that I have.  I'd also link to the posts I did for each set when they originally came out (or at least when I got them which might have been a few months later).

The 2013 set came out at the end of June that year.  This was one of the sets that used the 2002 All Time Heroes set for the OB cards.  It had three insert sets - "Rivals" based on the 1997 flagship insert set of the same name, "00's Best 9" based on the "90's Best 9" insert set from the 2000 flagship set and "Above Average" based on the insert set with the same name from the 1999 Diamond Heroes set.  The Rivals set had 24 cards - two per team that were paired up with each other - while the other two had 12 cards each (1 per team despite the "Best 9" name).  The two 12 card insert sets were much more scarce than the "Rivals" set.  I think all the insert sets had active players but I don't know about the "00's Best 9" set for sure.

2013 BBM Classic #055

2013 BBM Classic #001

2013 BBM Classic #087

2013 BBM Classic "Rivals" #R07 & #R08

The 2014 set didn't come out until mid-November, late enough that I started to doubt that BBM was doing a second installment of the set.  The OB cards used a completely new design - at least I think it was a new design although it may have been used for a non-baseball set that I'm not aware of.  The non-premium insert set was a 12 card "Best 9" set based on the 1997 Best 9 card format (and again not really a "Best 9" but featuring one player per team).  There were three other 12 card insert sets that apparently were more limited - "Run Producers" (based on the Diamond Heroes insert set - BBM's website said it was from 1998 but I don't know that there WAS a "Run Producers" insert set with the 1998 Diamond Heroes set), "Above Average" and "Pitcher Perfect" (both based on insert sets from the 1999 Diamond Heroes set).  

2014 BBM Classic #063

2014 BBM Classic #009

2014 BBM Classic #086

The 2015 set came out in June that year which seemed more "normal".  The set had several similarities to the 2014 set - the OB cards used a similar format to the 2014 cards and the two premium insert sets - "Above Average" and "Pitcher Perfect" - were a repeat from the 2014 set (as in using the same design - I don't know that they had the same 12 players in each).  The non-premium insert set was the 24 "All Stars" set that uses the same design as the 2002 Touch The Game set's insert set of the same name - one again the set name was a misnomer as it featured two players from each team who weren't necessarily All Stars.

2015 BBM Classic #056

2015 BBM Classic #007

2015 BBM Classic #084

2015 BBM Classic "All Star" #AS15

For the 2016 set (which was released in July), BBM returned to using the "All Time Heroes" design for the OB cards.  The non-premium insert set was the 24 card "All Around Players" set that reprised an insert set from the 1995 BBM set.  The premium insert set was a 12 card "3D Magic" lenticular set that resembled the "Magic Motion" insert cards from the 1996 "flagship" set.  There were also 12 reprints of BBM rookie cards of active players - I don't know if they were premium or not.

2016 BBM Classic #040

2016 BBM Classic #036

2016 BBM Classic #078

2016 BBM Classic "All Around Players" #AA20

I don't know why but BBM discontinued this set after 2016.  I've wondered sometimes if BBM decided that since the cards in the 1995 set (and all their sets afterwards) were standard size, there was no need to make more cards at the standard size.  This strikes me as a silly reason though.

I really did like these sets but I wish they had been better.  I'd have preferred not having the OB cards and it would have been nice to have had subsets that called back to the subsets in the original sets (especially the subset showing all the stadiums in use from the 1992 set) like Topps' Heritage sets have.  I'd really be happy if BBM brought these sets back.

I should mention here that there was actually one other "Classic" set from BBM but it didn't follow the same format.  In March of 2014, BBM issued a box set called "Rookie Edition Classic".  The base set contained 24 cards - two per team of course.  All the cards used the design from the 2003 BBM Rookie Edition set - the inaugural edition of BBM's annual draft pick set.  Now what you would have expected is that BBM would have had cards of the 2013 draft picks in this set, right?  After all, the regular Classic set (of which there had only been one at this point) showed active players in the old card design so it would make sense that "Rookie Edition Classic" would show the current draft picks using the old card design, wouldn't it?  But that's not what happened.  Instead, BBM chose an active player from each team and used a photo of the player from his rookie season, even if the player wasn't on his current team then (for example Kazuo Matsui was representing the Eagles but his photo was from the Lions).  That accounted for half the cards in the set.  The other half were OB players from each team - again showing them in their rookie season.  The photos used also mess up how the set follows the original as only one or two of them were taken when the player attended the press conference when the team formally introduces the draft class which is where all the Rookie Edition photos for the draft picks come from.  It doesn't appear that this was a popular set and BBM never did another edition of it.  Here's a card of a (then) active player and an OB player:

2014 BBM Rookie Edition Classic #05

2014 BBM Rookie Edition Classic #20


Brady DiCarlo said...

I have a few cards from the 2013 set. I might have to pick up more because I love the designs of the first 3 BBM sets.

Sean said...

I kind of wonder if the reason they discontinued it is that they don't have a lot of "iconic" set designs like Topps to draw upon.

Most BBM set designs feel like they are just tinkering with a few elements on the card front and they don't really have a lot of distinctiveness to them. Outside of the first decade or so I can't keep track of which set is from which year just by the appearance of the cards. I think this is a side effect of most of them having full bleed photos without any borders (or at most a border on just one side). With all the classic Topps sets its mainly those borders that make the set stand out in collector's minds, but except for the early 90s BBM cards don't have that.

That said, at least BBM makes an effort to change their design from year to year. I'd like to see Calbee try a throwback "2010 Calbee Archives set" or something like that.....

NPB Card Guy said...

@Sean - you may be on to something there. I have a lot of difficulty telling the difference between the 1995 and 1996 design as well as the 2011 and 2012 ones. The designs of the last few years kind of run together also.