Well, it just arrived. Cases of 2008 Topps Allen & Ginter are hitting baseball card shops all over the country, and its shockwaves are being felt by collectors and newcomers to the hobby everywhere.

This is easily the top product of 2008 for me, and it's filled with even more stuff this year than the previous two releases. This is the product for those of you who maybe haven't purchased cards in a while and want to resurrect that feeling of collecting again.

What makes this card brand special? Plenty. And I'll go through them, because this is my favorite box of cards to collect, and I want to get everyone on board.

To start, I better give a quick summary of the cards. Back in the day, Allen & Ginter was a real brand of cards. I'm talking early 1900s. Not only did the cards feature pictures of famous baseball players, but they went further and picked out champions in other walks of life and plastered their faces on cards. Flip ahead 100 years and the brand is being re-established by Topps with pictures of baseball players as well as tons of other famous people.

For example, I noticed one of the cards inside the packs is of hot dog-eating champion Joey Chestnut. There's another one of fisherman Kevin Van Dam and one of Harriet Tubman. Even the Gateway Arch in St. Louis has a card this year.

The coolest part, of course, is that I'm in the set. No. 307 to be exact. I'm very thrilled, because this is my favorite set. I would honestly be content for the rest of my life if I never appeared in another set. This is the set I have wanted to appear in for the last two years! It's the brand that got me back into cards a couple years back and renewed my love for collecting.

I don't want to scare anyone but these cards sell out quickly. If you're lucky enough to have a baseball card shop in your area they will more than likely have these -- unless they're sold out. For those that don't have a local card shop, you can run over to Target or Wal-Mart and check out the baseball card section. In Target, the card section is usually at one end of the checkout lines on one side of the store entrance. Sometimes it can be kind of hard to find, but, if you ask, someone should help you find it. Wal-Mart is kind of the same way. They usually have a card section near the tobacco counter.

I'm telling everyone this because, after about a month, the only place you can find these cards will be on eBay and it will cost far more than the retail price. Now, I'm not sure when these are going to arrive in your local stores. Last year, it showed up in Minnesota about a week after release and I was only able to find them in one store up here -- which reminds me, if you purchase yours in the Brooklyn Park, Minn., area be sure to leave a box for me!

OK -- for all of you collectors who are familiar with the product, there have been a couple changes this year. Those annoying Dick Perez cards have been replaced by something called the US set. It's a set of all 50 states represented by a player who was either born or lived in that state. (I thought it would be cool if they had a guy born in each state for all 50 cards, and initially that's what I thought the concept was, but I noticed the Nick Markakis card for Georgia card and it said he was actually born in NY.) Anyway, I made the Wisconsin card, so I'll be signing and inscribing that bad boy for whoever sends it to me to sign.

Some minor changes: there are "silk" cards, numbered to 10. Also the snake cards have been replaced by sharks; Roman emperors with world icons and countries with world leaders.

There is also a game called "Crack the Code" that we'll have some fun with. I'm sure it will take tons of hours to solve the code, but what the heck! It's worth a shot. So under my site's message board, we'll be sharing cards and trying to figure out the code. I guess whoever cracks the code will get their own A&G card in next year's set. I can see it now: a 2009 A&G card for our entire message board. How cool would that be?

There's other great stuff that will stay the same: rip cards, short prints, mini cards, wood cards, an Abraham Lincoln hair card and the relics. It's a fun set. Allow me to share with you my first A&G box breakdown:

• 143 base cards. I'm not sure about short prints right now, because there isn't a list;
• Four game-used cards -- Vlad Guerrero, Travis Hafner, Ryan Howard and Garrett Anderson. I'm not sure how this happened, because I think you are only supposed to get two per box;
• One Crack the Code card;
• A David Wright box topper;
• 20 state born/lived in cards;
• One shark card (Mako);
• One World Icon (Cleopatra);
• Two World Leaders;
• 12 regular base mini's;
• Four "Ginter Back" mini's; and
• Four black-bordered mini's

Final Word

I've opened a lot of Ginter boxes over the past two years, and I think this is going to be the best Ginter release yet. The product is overflowing with different sets to go after and lots of nice looking cards fit for an autograph. As you can see from above, I didn't have any major hits. But for the money, it doesn't get any better than this. If you're a set collector this set will have you working for days. This will be the one set (and maybe the only set) I will be working hard on for the rest of the summer. Again, if you want to dabble in cards for the first time in years this is the set for you!