Sign Language: Looking at Autograph Quality in the 2015 NFL Rookie Class

Football is a bit unique, especially in what drives each of the different products that are released over the course of the year. Rookie cards dictate things almost as much as anything, especially the autographs that they sign for every single product that hits store shelves. The issue isnt that their autographs arent readily available, its that the quality of those signatures seem to be dropping with every new class. Gone are the days where signatures are a source of pride, becoming a more necessary evil of being a celebrity.

Although there have been some great examples of really nice autographs over the last few years, the overall quality of autographs seems to be on the decline. There are some definite cause and effects of having so many autographs that are needed to complete the products. Over the last 10 years, autograph content volume in each set has doubled or even tripled, only more representative of the changing desires of the collecting base.

2015 Nicer Autographs:

Marcus Mariota – Titans #2 Pick

Melvin Gordon – Chargers #15 Pick

Bryce Petty – Jets 103rd Pick

2015 Terrible Autographs:

Todd Gurley – Rams #10 pick

Leonard Williams – Jets #6 Pick

Vernand Morency Memorial Give Up Autograph of the Year:

Nelson Agholor – Eagles #20 pick

Because each of the rookies has to sign so many cards – 10,000 and up over the course of the year per company in some cases – its clear that the drop in quality might be a result of necessity more than anything. Now, I am not advocating that autograph content be sidelined, as that would likely do more harm than good. At the same time, its probably as harmful to see players continually decide that their autographs arent going to be a focus. I mean, that shouldnt be a surprise.

To be honest, there might not be much that the card companies can do, as the players hold almost every bit of leverage in the situation. The card companies need the players much more than many of the players need the card companies. With the celebrity of the NFL increasing in an exponential trajectory, the money that a rookie will make is in the millions as long as they are even reasonably good. Making a few extra thousand dollars over the course of a signing isnt exactly what it used to be. Even though the rookie wage scale has dropped the amount of guaranteed money each draft class has available, the money is no chump change, and hasnt been for a long time. That presents a very unique situation, at least as long as the NFLPA remains involved.

Every rookie IS required to attend the Rookie Premiere if invited, and all are required to sign according to their contracts. How much that actually influences a player to sign is dependent on the personality of the player. Of course, with only a SMALL handful of rookies not finishing their cards required, one could say the relationship with the card companies is contingent on the PA being involved. Every so often, you have someone like Julio Jones or Chris Johnson who refuse to sign. There are already rumors of Odell Beckham joining that group, as his redemptions for Panini look to be primed for a long wait.

This is likely going to be a situation that gets worse before it gets better, which is something that doesnt bode well. Hopefully someone turns it around.

Breaking Down the 2015 Bowman Twitter Packs

If you havent been on Twitter, this post might be something that gets you signed up. Although it goes without saying that social media mediums like Twitter have become a new hub of hobby activity, Topps has taken that hub to a new level in recent weeks. For the first time ever, packs of cards have been given away on Twitter that are not available any other place. Even though they are contest prizes and not available for sale, things have to start somewhere.

Here are the cards up so far:

2015 Bowman Carlos Rodon Twitter Auto 1/3

2015 Bowman Tyler Kolek Twitter Auto 2/3

2015 Bowman Austin Meadows Twitter Refractor /10

2015 Bowman Archie Bradley Twitter Refractor /10

For a product like Bowman, where parallels drive the product, creating a new one for this giveaway is a great way to leverage the power of the people who populate the Twitter landscape. The cards are light blue to commemorate Twitter's trademark color, and there are even autographs in the packs as well. Some of the cards are going for quite a bit of money, as there are only 150 packs of these cards.

Autographs are out of only 3, which shows how limited these packs really are. It also makes them the second rarest parallel available, just ahead of the red refractors at /5. In a very clever twist, some of the players have even signed their Twitter handles. I am curious to see how many players are on the checklist, as it could be limited to only a select few. We do see that Rodon, Kolek and a few others are already live, and surely more will surface as the packs are sent out.

I would love for stuff like this to be more of a focus in the future, offering more special content through the different outlets that exist. If they could offer other small runs of stuff for sale instead of just giveaways, I think that would work well too for the collectors, although cost to the manufacturer might be prohibitive. They have offered online exclusives before in all the sports Topps has run, and they only work under very specific circumstances. Chrome is a perfect situation because of the prominence of the parallels, and similar to the Blue Wave cards in 2012 Football, it could work with some controlled factors.

Overall, this hobby has a long road to getting back to anywhere close to where things were in the 1990s, and though promotions like this are minor, at least Topps is trying something new.

To get access to the promotion, follow @BowmanCards on Twitter, and look for posts mentioning the packs.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Contenders Draft Picks Football

There isnt many more adjectives that serve as a synonym for horrible that I can apply for this product. Being that this is the first set that is offered under their new exclusive license, you would think they would like to make more of a splash. Instead they have used an old design, sticker autos, and risked their biggest product's identity in the process. Its the equivalent of opening a restaurant and using a menu from the restaurant that was there prior to you buying it. I would even go so far as saying its probably the equivalent of using some of the old food itself as well.

Here are the bigger hits up so far:

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Marcus Mariota Cracked Ice Auto /23

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Amari Cooper Cracked Ice Auto /23

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Jameis Winston Auto Ticket

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Drew Brees Alumni Ink Auto

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Melvin Gordon Auto

Now, some of the big breakers want to equivocate the new draft picks set asking prices with the values from NFL contenders released a few months ago. They would love it if you can ask 1100 dollars for a Mariota Cracked Ice and get close to that price. At first, they might, because there is a sucker born every minute. However, every single aspect of this set, save checklist size, is inferior to their competition.

I have heard from people, “WELL, WELL, WELL, MY COLLEGE HAS MORE CARDS IN THIS SET!” This would be great if that meant those cards achieved a higher price just for existing. If the presence of more players meant a larger market would be interested in those cards, creating a demand for them above the 2 dollars they are getting, it might be a bit different. Instead, the checklist may be bigger, but all that means is that the bigger hits are further diluted more than they would be in other boxes.

Similarly, the fact that this is all sticker autographs compared to on card should indicate another reason why the checklist shouldnt give this product a pass. If Panini’s license prevented on card autographs from being made, who’s bright idea was it to release a product with the Contenders name attached? Why would you risk that? Makes no sense. Why not risk a brand that has no bearing in football like Elite Extra Edition or create something new like Rated Rookies?

It definitely hurts that the 2014 Contenders design is about as horrible as it has been over the last few years. The ticket design has off center logos, giant text and a weird bunch of numbers on the side that are supposed to make this a “ticket” but really just look out of place. This was all chosen instead of the Rookie Ink design, which believe it or not, ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE A FUCKING TICKET. I cant make this shit up, because they the did it all over again for 2015 draft picks.

Considering that this product inexplicably costs 130 dollars per box, makes me wonder why anyone would choose this box over a product like UD Inscriptions, which features a much more tightly organized checklist, on card autos and inscriptions! Hell, I would even bust Prizm next week at less than 70 instead of shelling out double for this crap.

I get it, my complaining does nothing, because the sheep will line up for bad products every time. Hell, look how many people busted Black Gold, which might have been one of the worst looking products of the year.

At least they wont be taking over the exclusive license for the NFL….oh crap. Kill me now.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Topps Tier One Baseball

When Tier One first came out, Five Star still hadnt brought a set that featured high end content with on card autos. It was one of the first products to try to get autographs to the forefront of the theme of the set, and it actually didnt do all that much for me. The set was repetitive and had a lot of junk autos. Since that time, the set has evolved, more known now for the Bat Knob cards more than anything. Its a pretty nice set these days, one that I look forward to.

Here are some of the hits up so far:

2015 Topps Tier One Mike Trout Auto SP /30

2015 Topps Tier One Clayton Kershaw Silver Signatures Auto /10

2015 Topps Tier One Kris Bryant Auto SSP

2015 Topps Tier One Bryce Harper New Guard Auto

2015 Topps Tier One Joe Dimaggio Relic

This year’s look is a good improvement over previous years, tweaking some of the main autographs to look a bit more cohesive in the design. They are also looking to add more content of the black background cards with different colored paint pens, which I think need to be worked on considerably. The card design is nice, but the quality of the autograph signed on the card can be terrible due to ink.

As for the Bat Knobs, they are back again for 2015, including some with autos on them too. What I dont get is why companies continually try to prove that you can make a good looking jumbo swatch auto in a vertical format. Stop trying to make it happen. Its not going to happen. The cards look cramped and the player pic is squished into a corner spot that shrinks by the year. Its really too bad, because last year, the cards were horizontal.

My favorite all time subset in Tier One are the rookie reprint and acetate autos that have been a part of the set for a few years. This year’s cards look cool as well, although I am so pissed that they ditched the rookie card look. Last year just didnt have that same appeal to me, and I am sad they went that direction again. The retro was so much more of a captivating idea, as retro cards with on card autographs are always some of my top chases.

Overall, Tier One is structured a lot like how Supreme should be structured, offering on card autographs and some really nice cards in a box that wont break the bank. Its definitely hit and miss, but when you hit, it can be quite the nice piece for your collection.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Chrome Football

I am sad. I am sad because this will be the last time I get to talk about a Topps Chrome football preview.

With Panini taking over the NFL license next year, Topps Chrome will likely unable to be made in the same capacity as it will be this year, thus forcing 2015 to be the brand’s farewell tour. Chrome has always been a product I go nuts over more than any other product, save Five Star maybe, and its frustrating that it will be gone next year. Exclusives fucking blow, and now my favorite set of the year will be a casualty of that new deal. Wonderful.

Knowing that this is such a cheap break, its insane what comes out of the boxes:

2014 Topps Chrome Odell Beckham Superfractor 1/1

2014 Topps Chrome Kelvin Benjamin Auto Superfractor 1/1

2014 Topps Chrome Peyton Manning Base Auto Variation SSP BGS 9.5

2014 Topps Chrome Teddy Bridgewater Black Refractor Auto BGS 10

2014 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck Base Auto Variation SSP BGS 9.5

I think that this version of Topps Chrome is going to have a lot of questions, mainly stemming from the wax breaking train wreck of 2014’s edition. Because of a massively inflated production run, Chrome’s box breaks suffered to the Nth degree. It was close to impossible to pull anything of worth, and even harder to pull one of the better cards in the product. Although Topps Chrome Mini was significantly better in almost every way, it wont curb the collectors from questioning their stance on the product. It could have a lasting effect, as no one will want to buy in until they see the checklist and the odds, and I can guarantee that it may impact how 2015 Chrome goes into play.

Now, Chrome is still the undisputed king of football cards, regardless of wax issues in 2014, but at the same time, the cards could be the coolest design ever and it wouldnt matter. Wax breaks are just as important to the people that break this product, almost above and beyond design. Last year's product looked amazing, but because of how bad it performed on the breaks, the whole thing came apart at the seems. This year, I would have to guess we will get a run somewhere in between where it was last year and where it was in years prior. I dont think Topps wants to sit on closeout product from their last year in the game.

This could also serve as an opportunity to produce a larger veteran and retired autograph checklist, as they will want to clean out the stickers in the warehouse. Vet autographs have been a valuable part of the set over the last two years, and I would be interested to see how they play it out. This can be both good and bad, as a sticker dump may not be the best situation for a product with a knack for low performance in the box format. It could also be a cool way to finish out the run with some top autographs.

Either way, I love the 2015 design, and I love the way it looks to transfer to Chrome. The autographs will look stunning, as they always do, and the inserts look great too. I love the 1976 throwback cards, and to see the added content is pretty damn cool. There is a lot of dreariness and downtrodden feelings floating around football right now, as I dont see many people happy that Panini is going to be the only game in town. Seeing cards like this really does provide a momentary relief from that impending doom, but its just that – momentary.

Panini is going to fuck up the football hobby like never before, thanks to a number different reasons, and to see Topps and sets like Chrome disappear is nothing but disappointing. You hate to lose that history, and you hate to lose what Chrome brings to the table. Its not every day that one of cheapest boxes of the year delivers the top chase card of the year, and Panini still hasnt figured out how to make a similar concept work. The Superfractors are the cards that all the big buyers want, and pay more than Treasures and Flawless, sometimes combined. All of it will be gone in 2016, and that should be a testimony that things arent going in the right direction.

Its going to be a bitter goodbye for Chrome, and yet I still cant wait for it to come out.