On the Radar: 2015 Panini Prestige

Over the last few years, Prestige has been one of the worst looking sets that Panini has put out all year. With the advent of Score as their top pre-rookie premiere product, the team has left Prestige to rot on the vine. And rot it has. Prestige has housed some of the ugliest cards I have ever seen, and it seems to get worse with age.

Check out the dumpster fire that Prestige has become:

2014 Panini Prestige Johnny Manziel Auto

2013 Panini Prestige Leveon Bell Auto

2014 Panini Prestige Odell Beckham Jr. Auto

2013 Panini Prestige Cordarrelle Patterson Auto

Now that Panini has secured a CLC exclusive to use NCAA logos and uniforms in their trading cards, their pre-premiere products have gotten a shot in the arm. Up until this point, Upper Deck has had the exclusive since 2010. After seeing the previews for Prestige, the question becomes whether or not that shot in the arm was healthy or hurtful. So far, we have seen that Score will feature NFL logos on cards with college jersey pictures. That's the way it was done historically as well. I am completely fine with that, especially over using airbrushed shots like years past. Nothing looks worse than a helmet off, airbrushed sideline shot with a sticker auto.

Prestige, however, looks to be a bit different, unless they decide to change things up from the mockups provided. Instead of going the direction they took with Score (the right direction), they look to have decided to go full NCAA with many of the cards for Prestige. I think this is a terrible decision, especially if they decide to use stickers for the autographs. This product will come out around or after the rookie premiere, some months after players declared for the NFL draft. Considering that they are already going to release NFL logo cards for Score, I sincerely hope they dont go this direction for the majority of Prestige’s checklist. Its the wrong move.

Prior to 2010, there were elements of college licensing in many early sets, but the focus was always NFL. Panini seems to have a raging boner for using their newly acquired license, even at the detriment and dilution of their NFL branded sets. Listen, I know I want to wear my new shirt the day after I buy it too, but you cant wear that same shirt all week just because its new. You have to go back to your regularly scheduled wardrobe, or people would be looking at you like “AGAIN?!?” Same thing here.

If Panini invades their previously NFL brands with college logos everywhere, this is going to be an even longer year than I expected it to be. If they decide to take this path, it becomes more clear to me that their team does not understand the way the card collector market works. NFL is the top billing, and always will be. There is a reason why CLC never really made the kind of money for UD that they expected it to. NCAA cards are still a niche market, and there is zero reason to cater to it in a sport like football.

I remember back to 2009, when Upper Deck released UD black with College jerseys for the rookies. Because the cards were hard signed, they didnt have the turnaround time to get the pics on the card with pro gear. People came close to boycotting the set as a result. The NFL is why we are here, although we will forgive the use of college PICTURES in lieu of something else. Logos are different, as it adds a schism to the set’s branding.

That being said, I do like the look of the base rookie, with a border-less presentation that looks very appealing. Everything else pretty much has the theme of 2012 Playbook with college jerseys. Not very good at all. The autographs look especially horrible.

Again, we will have to hold back judgment to see if they shift from their mockup design to pro-uniforms, but until then, I question their hobby intelligence and business plan.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps High Tek Football

Topps has had a lot of success as of late with products being brought over from Baseball. One of the biggest surprise successes of last year was High Tek baseball, which brought some very interesting concepts to the calendar in a reboot of a set from a long time ago. High Tek combined lots of parallels, on card autos, and acetate together, and the collectors went nuts over the cheap packs and cool looking cards.

Check out the baseball version:

2014 High Tek Mike Trout Auto BGS 9.5

2014 High Tek Miguel Cabrera Auto BGS 10

2014 High Tek Ken Griffey Jr Red Auto /10

2014 High Tek Randy Johnson Buyback Auto

Topps previously announced at the Summit that this product was making the jump, and we got the first preview yesterday. From what I am seeing, this might be the first product with a majority of on card non-rookie autos that costs less than $100 in a long time. Too long. To get on card non-rookie autos in Panini, you have to spend a ton. For this, it looks like the baseball price point will hold true.

If you remember back to 2009, in Upper Deck’s last year, they also put out a low price point on card product in Philadelphia. Another set I think deserves a ton more credit than it gets. Great looking sets with on card autos rarely come cheap. Both Philadelphia and this look to be of that type.

I love the look of the cards in the mockup, but you cannot account for what Acetate stock will do for these cards. They are going to look incredible, especially if there is a checklist that is as good as it was for other on card sets that Topps has done recently.

My favorite cards in the preview are easily the bright horizons cards, which feature the skyline of the player’s home city. They look sharp as hell, and with on card autos there too, this could be a surprise hit that surpasses what was done in Baseball.

I remain so bitter about the fact that this is Topps’ last year in the business as it is beyond clear to me that they deserve the license so much more than Panini ever did. Alas, this is a world that money will always mean more, and Panini continues to be the only stable entity with that characteristic in their back pocket. Kind of like the guy whose parents buy their way into an Ivy league School instead of displaying the merit that would grant access without the money. Same situation here.

Eventually we will see the final products Topps will make after 60 years in football, and its good to see that they arent taking this lying down.

SCU Go Live Report: 2015 Bowman Baseball

As mentioned previously, this is easily one of the biggest baseball releases of the year. Its always a fun mix of the first big prospect cards and autographs, and a bunch of other rookie themed cards, and it drives people to rip packs like no other. Bowman continues to be one of the more polarizing themed brands in the hobby, only because of how people feel about prospects and their place in sets. That doesnt stop people from diving very deep on this product every single year.

Check out some of the bigger hits so far:

2015 Bowman Chrome Yasmany Tomas Auto RC

2015 Bowman Chrome Rusney Castillo Green Refractor Auto

2015 Bowman Chrome Nick Gordon Purple Refractor Auto /250

2015 Bowman Chrome Joc Pederson Refractor Auto /499

2015 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Purple Refractor

2015 Bowman Chrome Alex Jackson / DJ Peterson Dual Auto /99

Although many find it tough to invest in a player who has yet to take a swing or throw a pitch in the bigs, it is always responsible for the biggest chase cards of the year. In fact, its not even close. The aura of the rare refractor has even permeated to other brands, other sports, even other companies. People love them some Bowman, and the Chrome makes it king.

This year's draft class has its share of bigger names, but there isnt a rookie that has national attention like we have had in the past. Sure, guys like Bryant, Pederson and others still have a huge draw, but this isnt their first rodeo. For Bryant, its his third, making these cards desirable, but not as desirable as last year. Others like Yasmany Tomas and company are looking to pick up the slack.

As for the look of the product, there is a very 2014 Finest vibe to the cards, with more of a retro looking border than the typical white frame. Although I wasnt a fan of Finest’s look, this toned down version is much better. Adding in cards like retro rookie flashback cards with hard signed autos are easily some of the cooler cards I have seen in a prospect product in a while. No joke there.

Bowman has a rep, and that rep is one that really speaks to its place among the kings of cardboard. You cannot argue that the set has one of the largest followings in Sports Cards, and its longevity is a testament to that fact. This year, Topps is going a bit outside their normal confines, and Im okay with that. It works, and works well. Im not a breaker, so I cant speak to box value, but the cards are definitely worth taking at least one shot.

2015 Bowman Release: Prospecting’s Biggest Day of the Year

Coming Wednesday, one of the bigger releases of the year will hit shelves, maybe only below Topps Series one and a handful of other products. For prospectors, the day has arrived to start their 2015 stash, including some big names and a few under the radar guys who could turn into impact players in the bigs.

People love Bowman because its the first crack at the top rookies, many of whom are still years away from their big league debut. Its also a big chase for the top hits, as many of the most valuable baseball cards of the last 10 years have come from this or similar products over the year:

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Auto BGS 9.5

2010 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper USA Buyback Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Bowman Chrome Jose Abreu Superfractor Auto 1/1

2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Orange Refractor Auto /25

2001 Bowman Chrome Albert Pujols Auto RC

Prospecting doesnt come without its baggage, though, as there is a large group of collectors that dont like that a player will have cards in circulation so early in their career. For those of us that grew up collecting through the 1990s, the rookie cards from Topps were always ones to chase once the players hit the show. By the time they hit the bigs now, they have already had TONS of cards, making the regular rookies less important.

Personally, im not invested one way or the other, but I love the buzz that usually comes with each Bowman’s release. Its just a fun time of year, even though I have never considered myself a prospector. When each big name comes to Bowman, it can create some major attention, including national storylines, especially for the giant sales of the rare hits in the product.

In terms of the design this year, I really like the full bleed type of approach that is being used for the autographs and the main design. There is a large area for the player and other elements to take center stage, something that has always been a big benefit to the product. Of course, it could be pieces of colored paper instead of colored refractors and the set would still sell. That’s the iconic stature this set has in the Hobby.

Love it or hate it, you have to respect its place among the top sets, even if you are just planning to sit back and watch what happens. More to come as the week progresses.

2014 NFL Draft: Best and Worst Case Hobby Scenarios

With the draft less than a week a way, the next year of cards can come down to what happens over the next 7 days. For each of the big rookies, there is a best and worst case scenario, and I want to take some time breaking them down. Lets just hope for everyone’s sake that there are a number of top guys like there were last year. This year's class has some exciting talent, and thursday night is going to be packed with fireworks as a result.

Jameis Winston

Best Case Scenario: #1 Pick
Worst Case Scenario: Not #1 Pick

I think by now, it would take an extreme situation for Winston to not be picked number 1. If he isnt picked number one, I dont even really think there will be too much impact to his value, which is already higher than any other player for the class. The Bucs dont have a huge hobby following, but being the top pick with some fame off the field will make up for it and then some. He plays QB and he should be good. No issues there.

Cards to pick up:

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Jameis Winston Auto RC

2015 Leaf Ultimate Draft Jameis Winston Auto /40

2014 Upper Deck Exquisite Jameis Winston XRC

Marcus Mariota

Best Case Scenario: #2 Pick to Philly or Other Good Team
Worst Case Scenario: Aaron Rodgers Type Plummet or drafted by Cleveland

Even though I think what Chip Kelly is doing is borderline certifiable in Philadelphia, Mariota to the Eagles would be a great hobby situation. Not only are the Eagles highly collected, they are a great team in a nationally followed division. However, its unlikely that he ends up there, even with all the smoke screens currently being put out.

Cards to Pick Up:

2015 Leaf Metal Draft Marcus Mariota Auto Red Refractor /5

2015 Upper Deck SP Authentics Marcus Mariota Auto

2015 Upper Deck Marcus Mariota RC Auto Variation

Todd Gurley

Best Case Scenario: Dallas trades up to top 10 to get him
Worst Case Scenario: Second Round Pick

Although he has had some issues with his knee, Gurley is one of the top talents in the draft at any position. If he can go to big D, his hobby value will automatically increase substantially. Being that the RB position is all but nothing in the NFL, he could fall hard, but its unlikely that he makes it past 32. I would like to see him picked by some widely collected team, as his cards would sell for a lot.

Cards to pick up:

2015 Leaf Metal Draft Todd Gurley Auto Superfractor 1/1

2015 Leaf Ultimate Draft Todd Gurley Auto /40

Amari Cooper

Best Case Scenario: Chicago at #7
Worst Case Scenario: Jets at #6

This is one of the most unusual best cases and worst cases I could put together, as him going higher SHOULD mean a lot more value. However, the Jets are notorious for WRECKING every pick they have with very few exceptions, and I would HATE for Cooper to end up as a bust. I think going to Chicago would put him on a highly collected team, which would mean good things for his hobby value.

Cards to Pick Up:

2015 Upper Deck Amari Cooper Letter Auto RC /15

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Amari Cooper Auto RC

The draft is one of my favorite times of the year, and I cannot wait to see what happens. I have a distinct feeling its going to be insane, and that makes for must see TV. I hope we get some intrigue and fun along the way, as long as the dud teams stay away from top offensive talent. Last year, Jacksonville drafted Bortles, and effectively killed his value. Lets hope that doesnt happen again.