Thursday, June 18, 2015

Getting scientific with card thickness (Is Archives REALLY so thin?)

A lot has been made recently of just how thin the card stock is for 2015 Archives. But is it really that crazy thin, or are people just overblowing it? I happen to have access to medical-grade diameter measuring equipment. I brought in a few cards from various sets, and today on my lunch break, I tested the thickness of each. Let's see how they measure up!

As for my methods, I got two readings from each card (one on the top half, one on the bottom half), averaged the two, and rounded to a hundredth of a millimeter.

No surprise the thickest cards I tested were 2001 Archives (0.65mm) and 2015 Heritage (0.63mm). If you like a hefty cardstock (and not those ridiculously thick high-end cards), Heritage is the brand for you. And the "old school" version of Archives is probably one of your favorites, too.

2014 Panini Donruss delivered a sturdy card as well, measuring 0.53mm. (Prizm is Panini's extra-thick brand, but I didn't test any of that.)

Moving down the thickness scale, both the vintage Topps (1976) and modern Topps (2005) were 0.42mm.

1982 Fleer and 2008 UD First Edition measured out comparably, both at 0.41mm.

Ok, now what you've been waiting for: the modern Topps Archives! Ready for this? The three I tested (2012, 2014, and 2015) were all measured at 0.41mm! So as far as my results are concerned, the cardstock has not gotten thinner.

Here's what I think is the reason for the perceived thinning. When 2012 Archives came out, the backs were just as glossy as the fronts. This makes for a sturdier-feeling card. Over the years, the backs for that product line have gotten less and less glossy. 2015 Archives has a downright matte finish on the back (and not much gloss on the front). Without a shellacking of gloss on the cards, they seem flimsier in hand.

Personally, I'm a bit sick of all the gloss on modern cards, so my fingers welcome the tactile touch of a matte finish on new cards from time to time. As such, I'm totally cool with the cardstock of Archives this year.

When I gave my little review of 2015 Archives, I mentioned holding the cards made me reminisce about 1990 Donruss. And 1990 Donruss happen to be the very first cards I ever ripped a pack of as a kid. So it's understandable that I'd get a little sentimental over cards with light gloss on the front and a matte back. It's been a long time since I opened a new pack of cards that felt like that! Really takes me back, sort of like how certain smells can trigger memories/feelings.

But back to the science! Two cards were significantly thinner than the rest. Yep, 1990 Donruss was near the bottom at 0.36mm. And the award for thinnest card I tested goes to the 1990 Baseball Cards Magazine card at 0.32mm. I admit this was a "ringer" I included knowing full well it'd be the thinnest. I mean, it's a free card cut out of a magazine, so what do you expect?!

So those are my findings.


Anywho... Time's running out to enter my big anniversary contest, so if you haven't commented on that post yet (or pimped it for a bonus entry), get on it!

Speaking of anniversaries, my wife and I celebrate our first year of marriage today. Still going strong, happy to say! We weren't able to come up with anything fancy to do (ideas of a weekend trip to the coast fell through), but we'll at least open a nice bottle of wine that's been waiting for a special occasion.

Oh, and it's also the centennial of my grandfather's birth (fancy way to say he would have turned 100 today). He was a great guy. Talked about him a bit more back on that post showing off my Howard Hughes autograph.

Enjoy the rest of your day, everybody!


  1. Nice post. I was curious to see how thin the cards were written in numbers.
    The perception (I think) inevitably comes down to how it downright feels thinner and wimpier than everything else Topps puts out. I mean after months of collecting flagship, heritage and gypsy queen, the card stock just seems thinner by comparison. Plus Heritage doesn't have that much gloss either and it's got quite a lot of card stock.

    And that thought that the cards are thinner leads to us consumers to think that the cheapskates at Topps really just wanted a quick buck. I mean thin cardstock is perfectly acceptable for cheaper cards like freebies in magazines or those Minor League team issued cards made on a very strict budget, but when a card set is released worldwide, you expect them do and spend more to make it a good product. Call it a double standard I guess, but one that a good 9.5/10 people will probably have anyway.

  2. Happy anniversary to you and your wife! And thanks for the scientific rundown. Perception is often different from reality.

  3. Congrats on your anniversary! We're celebrating our 11th this summer with a trip to the coast. Any suggestions on what do in the Bay area would be welcome.

    The gloss. Huh. I didn't think of it myself, but now that you bring it up it makes all the sense in the world.
    Nice job!

  4. Happy Anniversary! My wife and I just celebrated our 34th year. A good marriage will always take work but it's worth the effort.

  5. Thank you for doing this. Every year, I have to listen to people tell me the card stock is "thinner than ever". "No its not," I say. "Its exactly as thin as its been every year since they started doing them thin." So I feel vindicated, now. You ought to check '81 or '82 Donruss, though. I swear you can read a newspaper through those (look at me calling the kettle black; its probably the same as '90 Donruss).

  6. I've never said Archives is "thinner than ever" or "crazy thin". I've just said that it was "thin," and what I'm comparing it to is the original Archives sets and Fan Favorites sets -- nothing else -- in which case Archives IS thin. But enough of that, nothing about Archives matters to me now that they're SPing the hell out of base cards. Do something to prove they're not really doing that, because that'll hold off my pending heart attack a little longer.

  7. This is what I come to the Internet for! I am glad that you did this. The weird thing is (and I've not seen a 2015 Archives card in hand, so I'm mostly basing this on the past two years) that I have always felt that the 2012 Archives set was flimsy as hell and the more recent ones seemed sturdier. That goes to show what I know.

  8. Happy anniversary! Thanks for the scientific study!

  9. Cool post. You should measure one of those 2005 Bazooka Comics inserts... they're super thin (intentionally thin).

  10. Love it! Any post with card science in it is great in my book. :-)

  11. I say that perception=reality. It feels thin and cheap for a $100/box product, and so it IS thin and cheap no matter what your science says.

  12. Haha, thanks for this. I felt these cards were fine the whole time. Nice to see your little experiment.

  13. I have two mint 1952 Mantel. Traded for one and got the other in South Philly at a estate sale back in 1992. All identifying marks are consistent with the cards being original. I sent it to Leland and they said the cardstock and pixel are not consistent with their assessment as the card being original. How can I as a collector assessed those to ensure my cards are original and I’m not being taken for a ride to sale it for less!