Topps Digital Set to Brave New Territory in 2015

As we are slowly approaching the 2015 Major League Baseball season, I wanted to write a post about something that has become a favorite past time of mine. Digital Card collecting through the Topps Digital apps is a borderline obsession for me, as it satisfies both my love of card collecting and fantasy sports.

The Topps Bunt 2015 season is quickly approaching, and it is a great time to download the apps as the game ramps up for the new season. I have become so engrossed in the game, that I even started writing another blog that details news, tips and tricks as well.

Now, I get what the normal reaction is going to be – why would I want to collect digital cards that I cant purchase or get in physical form? Most collectors have trouble getting past that part of the game, as they are so used to being able to enjoy the physical aspects of the card. With digital cards, it becomes as much about gameplay as it does about collecting – so much so that the digital cards are bought and sold frequently at high prices on eBay:

2014 Topps Bunt Derek Jeter Signature Card

2014 Topps Bunt Madison Bumgarner World Series MVP Card

They even have legends and autograph cards, just like we see in the regular sets:

2014 Topps Bunt Babe Ruth Signature Card

2014 Topps Bunt Ken Griffey Jr Signature Card

Topps also has a Football app that functions in a very similar fashion, although the offseason is in full swing. Huddle is not NFL licensed yet, but Topps has some great digital producers that make up for it in other ways. You can still get all your favorite players and play along when the season starts back up later this year.

Its very clear that Topps is making a significant investment in their games, including the release of a new app coming soon. They see that fantasy sports and freemium models are lucrative at the moment, especially when you can bring the collecting aspect along with it. They recently hired a new VP, a transplant from sports video game giant EA Sports, who is tasked with taking their digital portfolio to the next level.

After reading some of the doom and gloom I have posted about the industry as of late (and there is a LOT of doom and gloom), this is one part of the industry that I am actually very optimistic about. I have posted previous interviews with Digital Editor in Chief, Chris Vaccaro, as well as the producers behind the apps as well, and its clear they have a plan to make the apps the new frontier of card collecting.

Here is some more reading material if you are interested:

Are Digital Cards the New Frontier of Collecting?

Interview With Topps Digital’s Chris Vaccaro

Interview with Topps Digital’s Mike Salerno

To be able to trade without worring about shipping delays, lost cards, or condition issues, and to have a card shop in your pocket 24/7 is a big deal for people like me. Sure, the cards arent able to be delivered in physical fashion, but the gaming element more than makes up for it. Unlike regular cards, they also reward collectors with fun cards, VIP programs, and there is no delay from big events.

For instance, when the Patriots won the Super Bowl, it wasnt even 24 hours before MVP Tom Brady had a commemorative card in Huddle. Same thing with the recent death of Minnie Minoso, who was immortalized in Bunt after his passing. These things make the game fun, and its only going to get better from here.

As Topps continues to find their way through the digital marketplace, they will be able to create more compelling content. They already use physical card sets as inspiration, and their digital design team is second to none.

I am writing this because I think there are a lot of people who are unfamiliar with how much fun the games can be, and I could always use some competition. There are rumors of friendly leagues being a new feature in 2015, and you can guarantee there will be an SCU league for all the readers to compete.

Check them out on Twitter and in the app stores for both Apple and Android. You will not be sorry.

2014 Topps Chrome Mini: What Regular Chrome Should Have Been

After writing this blog for what seems like a lifetime, there are a few things that are always a constant with me. One of those things is that a Chrome branded set will always been worth breaking a few boxes, a situation that was called into question this year. 2014 Topps Chrome was plagued by overproduction and terrible box breaks, and as a result collectors have become apathetic over any new Chrome style product, including the recent releases of Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome Mini. After a few days since the release, Im starting to think that if Chrome was structured the way the Mini set is structured, we would be singing a very different tune.

We also get to see how the biggest card in the product is going to perform against the biggest card in regular Chrome, as the Odell Beckham Superfractor Auto Mini 1/1 was listed recently:

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Odell Beckham Auto Superfractor 1/1

The superfractors are not the only cards that people are chasing in this product, as there are quite a few nice pulls that are generating prices reminiscent of the regular set:

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Odell Beckham Pulsar Refractor Auto /15

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Sammy Watkins Auto Red Refractor /5

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Blake Bortles Gold Refractor Auto /10

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Teddy Bridgewater Pulsar Refractor Auto /15

Personally, I am pretty excited that a product like this is performing the way it is on the secondary market. There were a lot of individuals who thought this product would tank, and they had every reason to believe that was going to be the case. However, we are seeing that there are quite a few examples that are showing a 60 dollar investment in a box is not only going to be a fun time, but maybe a pretty good likelihood of a solid return.

Chrome is one of the only products on the market, where the hit in the box isnt necessarily the end all and be all of what your experience is going to be. Rare parallels can bring enormous prices, and even pulling a low numbered refractor of a veteran can make up almost 50% of the box cost. That is something to be missed come 2016 when Chrome goes away with the pending Panini exclusive.

Bottom line, I remain in line with the statement that Chrome mini is what regular Chrome should have been. If that was the case, Topps might have saved some of the criticism of one of their biggest products of the year.

Is Andrew Luck Football Cards’ Brightest Star?

Coming out of college, Andrew Luck was one of the highest rated draft prospects of all time. Not only did he have the tools to be the top pick in the draft, but many people believed he had more of a trajectory towards a top QB in the NFL. Although the top QB title still belongs to league MVP Aaron Rodgers at the moment, Andrew Luck could be the hobby's brightest star.

Check out some of his biggest cards up for sale right now:

2014 National Treasures Andrew Luck Auto Patch RC /99

2012 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck Auto RC BGS 9.5

2012 Topps Five Star Andrew Luck Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2014 Panini Immaculate Andrew Luck Auto Patch

2014 Flawless Andrew Luck Auto /10

Right now, the Andrew Luck National Treasures Auto Patch /99 might be the most valuable rookie card since the turn of the century. Its a bit frustrating to me, only because I really hate the design due to the cramped player picture and the overwhelming misuse of white space on the front. That being said, the hobby does not agree with me, and the card is going nuts, even now during the offseason.

With the Colts likely to be big movers during the draft and offseason on both sides of the ball, Luck could even end up having a better chance of getting his first ring. Once that happens, look out. Indianapolis has also been linked as a possible landing spot for Adrian Peterson, and that might be one of the scariest combinations in football if it ends up being true.

Luck attained most of his value because of the hype surrounding his skills, and a combination of his ability to carry most of the Colts’ burden on his back with some gaudy passing numbers. If he actually gets some major weapons around him, things could get out of control in terms of his hobby value.

I would easily go as far as saying Luck is the most invested in player at the moment, as collectors seem to be lining up to buy into his cards, even though they remain some of the most expensive there are. Collectors seem to believe he is going to get better with age, and I am one to agree. The question is whether or not his value continues to have room between current prices and the eventual ceiling.

Also interesting is that his cards ARE expensive, but outside of National Treasures, Chrome and Contenders, they fall more in line with what one would expect from a QB rookie of his caliber. For whatever reason, Collectors are going gaga over those three sets, and the others are just staying at potential.

I understand the reasoning behind Chrome, as Luck's autographs were severely short printed and unavailable. Chrome is easily one of the most popular sets of the year, if not THE most popular, and to have demand without supply? Now it makes sense. As for Contenders, the design is reflective of 1998, which is one of the more iconic modern sets. Luck's card is awesome, and deserves the attention. As for Treasures? That one im clueless over, especially considering it looks the way it does.

Luck’s top card remains the 2012 Topps Chrome Superfractor which sold legitimately for 16k, outdoing cards from all other products. Yet, when it comes to the regular releases, Chrome falls in between Treasures and Contenders for the reasons mentioned above.

Im curious to see how things play out in Luck’s career over the next few years, and I am sure that I am one of thousands with eyes on how he ends up in the pantheon of football greats.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Chrome Mini Football

When Topps first announced 2014 Chrome Mini, I was skeptical but intrigued. For me, as long as we get more on card Chrome autographs, im on board. However after we saw box after box of 2014 Regular Chrome fall flat due to vast over production, things have gotten dicey with collectors. People were so turned off by what Chrome delivered on a box and case level, that it will surely impact how Mini sells. Being that it was already a relative niche product, im not sure what is going to happen.

Here are some of the bigger hits so far:

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Teddy Bridgewater Red Refractor Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Johnny Manziel Die Cut Auto /15

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Odell Beckham Red Refractor Auto /5

2014 Topps Chrome Mini Derek Carr Black Refractor Auto /25

I will say this. From the breaks I have watched, Chrome mini looks to be the set we were all hoping for in terms of regular Chrome. It has a reduced autograph checklist and lower print run, and is look to run 3-5 lower number color autos per case from what I have seen. That is what we needed to see before. The number of autographs from top tier rookies is still yet to be determined, but even that should be easier considering the run is shorter.

If you liked the main Chrome design, it transfers almost 100% to Mini. There may be fewer parallels available, which is expected due to lower production run, but you should get more of them per box. Additionally, for boxes that dont have color autographs, I saw those boxes are more likely to produce color from the base side. The base parallels have a much better numbering scheme too, a lot lower than normal Chrome.

Overall, Chrome Mini is not going to get much love because of what happened earlier in the year, but I think it deserves some credit. The cards look as good as ever, and the box break improvement should be a huge improvement overall. Because fewer boxes will be broken, the rare hits are really going to sell higher than I would guess people are going to expect. I have already seen some collectors trolling the boards trying to get a head start on rainbows and sets. That is a good thing on a short run product.

My complaint is that they didnt update the pics on the cards with new pictures, which is so fucking disappointing I cant even put it into words. If we could get game shots on these cards for the whole set, and release it later, I would break cases of this product. Because its the same pics we got in mid 2014 with base Topps, Im not as excited. This was a missed opportunity, even though this product was an afterthought. Chrome takes forever to print and sign, but the wait would be worth it to me. The combine pics in February are inexcusable, regardless of the original release date.

I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Triple Threads Baseball

For the majority of the time I have spent writing this site, I have waged a war on Triple Threads that knows no hotter fire. Although Football has improved in terms of design and concept over the years somewhat, Baseball has remained as horrifically bad as ever. Now that we see what 2015 is bringing, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the one Baseball set that needs a complete overhaul.

Here are some of the best of the worst from over the years, just for shits and giggles. These are so bad they are hilarious:

2008 Triple Threads Jorge Posada 36 Piece Relic Booklet – Deserves a 36 facepalm salute

2013 Triple Threads Casey Kelly Auto Relic – well who else would you be?

2014 Triple Threads Chris Archer Triple Relic – Horrible play on words

2014 Triple Threads Bryce Harper Auto Relic – ????

2014 Triple Threads Billy Butler Auto Relic – Something my dad would say

2013 Triple Threads Chase Headley Triple Relic – Really? I mean REALLY?

2012 Triple Threads Carlos Santana Triple Relic – Just a terrible play on his name. TERRIBLE.

Triple Threads has always been for the type of collector that values nothing but the name on the card, and the content of the relic that card contains. They dont care about the ugly design(s), they dont care about tired theme, and they are not people I would associate myself with. I have a generalized profile of these types of collectors in my mind, and though I know its bad, I cant help but despise what they reinforce with the manufacturers as acceptable card production methods.

Obviously, Triple Threads has always been as much about those god awful sayings they die cut into the cards, as it is about anything else. The sayings have been around for so long that they are literally scraping the bottom of the bottom of the barrel each passing year. Where Triple Threads was progressing towards more on card autographs, it seems to have stopped, once again going back to stickers to complement the awful looking design.

Although I do give Topps credit for using the silhouette style in their trifold relic booklets, instead of horrendous looking junk like this, everything else is pretty much exactly the same. It has been identical every year for the last 10 years, no joke. The only difference is in the players that are featured, and even then its not much different. They may have come up with these deca-threads books, which feature 10 relics, but I just dont see the appeal that it has. This is like the follow up to their 36 piece booklet, which was so terrible looking, they could be deemed the worst of the run.

Adding more single color swatches to a card SHOULD not help in this day and age, even if they might be patches. The card itself may look okay, but this is where the concept just doesnt work for me. I just dont care about a 10 player swatch booklet. I would much rather they focus their efforts somewhere else.

Topps Baseball has definitely created some interesting products over the years, but this is not one of them. I just hope that someday the production team will give more license to tweak baseball the way they have in football, and see what they can do. Until then, my fire breathing hatred will continue.