With my favorite product of the year coming out on Wednesday, I wanted to write a bit about some of the more recent examples of chrome, and showcase a lot about what makes this product both good and bad. Ill walk through my retrospective, highlighting some of the more iconic examples over the last few years, as well as some of the sets that have been a bit more disappointing.
Best Topps Chrome Design of the Last 10 years – 2012 Topps Chrome
Over the previous incarnations of Topps flagship and chrome, the base design was a direct copy of the flagship design of baseball. In 2012, the process changed, leaving Topps Football to be 100% different from baseball. As a result, the design was much more geared towards creating a football focused look to the set, which worked out very well. The swooping lines above the nameplate provided great area for autographs, and also gave much more room for the photography that football is known for. I bought box after box looking for a big hit, and had a blast doing it.
Worst Topps Chrome Design of the Last 10 years – 2008 Topps Chrome
2008 was not a good year for the Topps design team all around, with many of their products falling very flat in both look and content. The infamous “NYC Subway Sign” design was a disaster to me, as it not only looked childish in appearance, but featured a concept that didn’t really work for both baseball and football. Combine this with photos of the players that seemed to be miles away, and the whole set was a disaster. Autos were the worst of the bunch with big white boxes behind the stickers, when in reality those boxes weren’t likely needed. 2008 was still in the years where there were no real Superfractor 1/1 autos, and box price was still much more expensive than it is today.
Iconic Chrome – 2012 Robert Griffin III
When Chrome was released, the rookie class was on fire. Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck and RGIII were all playing very well, and it was clear that this set would be one for the ages. Robert Griffin’s picture for the set was quite dynamic, and really presented the mobile QB as a high flying, high octane game changer. I think the card was probably one of the best I have seen, but it isn’t the only one from this set that everyone should have in their collection.
Chrome Supremacy – 2010 Sam Bradford Auto Superfractor Sells for 12K
2010 was the first year where the Superfractor autos were 1/1s (prior, all were /10), and it led to some enormous prices along the way. During that time, Sam Bradford was leading the St. Louis Rams to a much improved record on the back of some quite impressive play from a rookie QB. This led to a ton of speculation and prospecting for Bradford, and when his Superfractor was listed, many expected an enormous price. No one expected it to sell for what it did, a price that was bested only by the sale of Andrew Luck in both 2012 and again in 2013. This sale seemed to solidify the Topps Chrome Superfractor Auto 1/1s as the top chase card of the year, only further testament to Chrome’s legacy.
These still sell for a lot:
Chrome Controversy – 2012 Blue Wave Packs
We were all excited when Topps offered a special giveaway for the collectors that ended up with redemptions out of the 2012 set. Knowing that there was already a lot of controversy surrounding Topps horrible customer service, this was a great example of coming up with a plan to help ease the pain. Unfortunately, printing errors on the Morris autos and other problems slowed down the production of the packs, leading to a 6-9 month turnaround time on a program that should have taken half that time. For a such a great idea, Topps ended up with more egg on their face than ever before, leading to a lot of unhappy Chrome loyalists. At least the cards looked awesome when they finally showed up.
Iconic Chrome – 2011 Colin Kaepernick
During the entire 2011 season, the Niners were on a path to dominance. However, the QB at the helm was Alex Smith, leading to many collectors adding Kaepernick to their pile of commons not worth mentioning. When 2012 rolled around, and Kaepernick took over mid-season, everything changed. After his first playoff win, the Chrome autos that were sitting in common boxes became hundred dollar cards, only rising further as San Fran marched to the Super Bowl. Although Kaepernick cards have cooled, its still a very valuable card.
Chrome Goes On Card – 2011 Topps Chrome
By 2011, Topps was making a serious push to add on card content to all their rookie dominated products. The problem with sets like Chrome was that the printing time was extended, leaving a very small window to get the autographs signed. When the previews hit for 2011 Chrome, showcasing the first on card autographs of this era, we were all ridiculously excited. Coming off 2010, where Chrome really made a name for itself, I was excited to see that 2011 was going to be a banner year. It turned out amazing, and led to a new era of Chrome’s place among the product elite.
Iconic Chrome – 2007 Adrian Peterson
Everyone knows that Running Backs are a dying breed. The NFL has become a passing league, which has created only further evidence that players like Peterson are quickly becoming extinct. Peterson was the first Chrome card in years to go truly nuts, becoming the most valuable card in the set after a record setting 296 yard performance against the Chargers in the middle of the 2007 season. In one of the better Topps design of the 2000s, Peterson’s card remains one of the best ever.
Chrome is King – Luck Superfractor Brings in Record Price
The modern card ceiling sits at $10,000 for a reason. It really takes something incredible to get past the 10K mark, and it rarely EVER happens in football. Even though sets like National Treasures and Exquisite make their presence felt in a high end market, its very unlikely to get a card that will go past the ceiling. In 2012 and 2013, Andrew Luck’s superfractor auto broke that ceiling with two separate sales, including a ridiculous price when both the auto and non-auto super were sold together. Even the more common autos still sell close to 1000 bucks for Luck, a feat that has never truly been seen before. I would be shocked if any modern football card ever breaks that record without some serious help, but I guess anything can happen, right?
Iconic Chrome – 1998 Peyton Manning
If you can believe it, the QB of our generation really struggled in his first season. His 1998 Chrome card still remains one of the most iconic of the entire run thanks to his play in the years after that first season. Although there were no autos in the 1998 Chrome set, the rarer refractors still fetch a pretty penny. They were reprinted with autos a few times over the last decade, but the original remains one of the best.