I actually wasn't a big fan of the 2004 set when it came out. Most notably, I didn't like the missing Bonds cards. It's funny now that A-Rod has an AL MVP card, but Bonds doesn't have a NL MVP card. Topps should go back and "retro-distribute" that if they haven't already. After all the colored border sets of the past few years leading up to 2004, the white border set seemed plain to me back then. What made it worst was that the 2005 set looked very similar to me. Little did I know that Topps would continue the white border theme to this day with only a couple of exceptions.
This set has actually really grown on me as of late. It would really be difficult for me to rank the sets of the first half of the '00s decade from 2000-2004, since they all rank nearly equal to me now. I like how the bottom-left corner of upright cards have a foil replication of the player's pose with their number beside it. The photography looks interesting. The border outlines on the front and back match the team colors. This is a really nice set actually.
When I try to separate Topps sets into distinct eras, I typically get stuck between 1992-1994. I can easily create a group from 1991 back, as well as for 1995 forward. I guess I'd have to put 1992-1993 with the earlier grouping, and 1994 with the later grouping, although I consider these three sets a transitionary period between the eras. The 2004 Topps set might actually be the start of even a newer era with white borders (exception in '07) and excessive foil. The distinction might look like 1981-1993 (13 sets), 1994-2003 (10 sets), 2004-2014 (11 sets).
So, included in the photographs here are a few Traded cards (and other non-base cards) that I found to be significant while flipping through my 2004 Topps binders. What's a 2004 Red Sox team without T.Francona and C.Schilling? A-Rod's first Yankees card. A.Pettitte's first non-Yankees card. A 2004 set is not complete without Bonds. F.Hernandez is a must-have rookie, although after this year's performance, I don't feel so bad about him missing out on the Cy Young last year. The Mantle card is actually part of an insert set from 2006 Topps.
In summary, the 2004 Topps & Topps Traded sets are a proud part of my collection--even after an 11-year wait.