Guide to the 2010 Topps 661 Stephen Strasburg Cards
In an effort to satisfy the perceived demand for his Topps rookie card, and to cash-in on the hype surrounding his Major League Debut, Topps extended the 2010 Topps flagship set by an additional card for Stephen Strasburg. However, Topps produced six different versions of card #661. This guide is to assist collectors in identifying each of the several Strasburg "661" cards.
Versions A & B: The "MCG" cards
Although Topps included Strasburg in the 2010 Bowman set as part of the Prospects insert, as part of their agreement with the MLBPA, they could not include him in a MLBPA-licensed base set until after he had played in a Major League game. Rather than waiting for 2010 Topps Update, Topps announced that his "rookie" card would be made available the exact moment he stepped onto the field on their Million Card Giveaway website. (It was later revealed, that the card was not activated until after Strasburg had been removed from the game for a relief pitcher.)
Randomly inserted into packs of 2010 Topps Series 1, Series 2, and later Update were cards containing a code that, when entered into a special website, would unlock a previously released Topps baseball card. Beginning on June 8th, 2010, at the exact he was removed for a relief pitcher, Topps activated the first Stephen Strasburg "661" card, which for purposes of this checklist, we will consider version "A." It is unknown exactly how many Stephen Strasburg "A" cards were available through the Million Card Giveaway website, how many were redeemed, and how many were eventually delivered to collectors.
The photograph used on card A was taken at the exact moment Strasburg threw his first pitch in that game. Although this card is numbered as part of the 2010 Topps base set, and bears the standardized "RC" icon, due to the unusual nature of its distribution it is not considered a "true" rookie card.
Two weeks after his Major League debut, Topps offered to those collectors fortunate enough to have unlocked an "A" card the opportunity to, for a fee of $350, have Strasburg autograph their card. A maximum of 299 "A" cards would be signed and each card would be serial-numbered.
For purposes of this checklist, the autographed version of the Million Card Giveaway card will be checklisted as the "B" version. Again, just like with the "A" card, the "B" card is not considered a "true" rookie card.
Versions C & D: Factory set and Update
Shortly after Strasburg's Major League debut, Topps announced that all remaining 2010 Topps baseball card products would include Strasburg -- staring with the 2010 Topps Factory Set, numbered 661 in the set. However this card would feature a different photo than the Million Card Giveaway "A" and "B" cards.
In July, Topps said that packs of 2010 Topps Update would also include another Stephen Strasburg "661" rookie card, and that the card inserted into Update packs would be the exact same card inserted into factory sets.
Unfortunately, for reasons that have never been fully explained by Topps, the Update "661" had a different photo than the Factory Set 661 -- thereby, making them two completely different cards.
For purposes of this checklist the Factory Set card has been checklisted as card "C" and the Update card as "D."
Beckett does not recognize either the C or D as "true" rookies. It does not recognize C because of its Factory Set exclusive distribution. It does not recognize D because it was inserted into Update packs, but sequentially-numbered as part of the Topps flagship. Of course there is precedent for Beckett giving the coveted "RC" tag to cards inserted into other card products; (i.e. Albert Pujols' 2001 SPx card is considered an "RC," despite being inserted into packs of 2001 Upper Deck Rookie Update.) however, Beckett considers card D as an insert.
Even if Beckett does not recognize it as a "true" rookie, we consider version "D" to be Stephen Strasburg's one, and only, Topps rookie card.
Versions E & F: The Gimmicks
As has become their standard operating procedure in recent years, Topps randomly inserted into packs of 2010 Topps Update two short-printed variations of card #661. And, as usual, Topps failed to acknowledge the existence of these cards until after the product was released.
The first card features Strasburg dressed in his away uniform. For purposes of this checklist, we are classifying this card as "E." The other shows Strasburg wearing a silver "Elvis" styled wig with whipped cream all over his face. We are classifying the "Pie-in-the-Face" card as "F." Neither are true rookies, despite bearing the "RC" icon.
Other Topps Strasburg Cards
Both card C and D are available in the respective parallels. Card C is available in a Factory Set exclusive "Red" parallel, serial-numbered to 299 copies. The Red parallels were only available in the nationally-distributed Hobby factory sets, and not in any of the retail factory sets, or the three team-specific sets (Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies), or the "All-Star Game" set. Each nationally-distributed factory set yielded five of a possible 661 Red parallels.
Card D is available in the following parallels, and randomly inserted in 2010 Topps Update packs:
- Throwback (exclusive to Blaster boxes sold at Target)
- All-Black (exclusive to Blaster boxes sold at Wal-Mart)
- Gold (serial-numbered to 2010 copies)
- Black (serial-numbered to 59 copies, Hobby and HTA packs only)
- Framed Silk (serial-numbered to 50 copies)
- Platinum (one-of-one)
- Press Plates (four-for-each, HTA packs only)
Retail Factory Set Rookie Bonus
Released primarily to mass-market retail outlets in November, the retail version of the 2010 Topps Factory Set contained 10 exclusive "Rookie Variation" cards. Stephen Strasburg is card #RC7 in this set. Although the card bears the standardized "RC" icon, it is not considered a "true" rookie card.
Red Hot Rookie
Randomly inserted into packs of 2010 Topps Series Two, were exchange cards that were good for one of ten "Red Hot Rookies." Collectors fortunate to have pulled card #8 would get a Strasburg. The design of the Red Hot Rookies were identical to that of the flagship, only the cards were printed on Finest-style refractive chromium stock, and had red-orange borders. Although the card bears the standardized "RC" icon, it is not considered a "true" rookie card.
Collectors who attended the 2010 MLB All-Star Game's FanFest in Anaheim, CA, could receive one of six cards of a special set produced by Topps especially for the occasion. Collectors who opened 10 packs of any 2010 Topps baseball product at Topps' corporate booth, would be entitled to one card from the set. Strasburg is card #WR6 and was a late addition to the set. Only 300 copies of each of the six cards would be given away during the five-day long FanFest.