Examining the Peaks and Valleys of 2014 Topps Finest Football

After seeing some of the mysteries surrounding Topps Finest be revealed, and getting more acquainted with the set, I am starting to see some very big wins here, along with some bigger losses. I want to take a look and break down my thoughts on one of the bigger in season releases of the year.

Autograph Base Rookie Variations

These were some of my favorite cards in the previous versions of Finest since 2011, and I think that they took a major hit this year with the sticker autos. Hard signed autos on Chrome stock are a very easy way to cultivate value in any set, and using stickers this year took that away. We will have to see how Platinum turns out to see if Topps gets it right. Scary thing is, the Johnny Manziel Superfractor has already been pulled and listed, which is likely the biggest cards in the set. Either way this one doesnt sit well with me.

2014 Topps Finest Blake Bortles Pulsar Refractor Auto /5

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Auto Red Refractor 5/15

2014 Topps Finest Mike Evans Auto RC Refractor

Verdict: DOWNGRADE

Rookie Auto Patch 

I think this year’s design is nice, although the need to include a jumbo patch parallel adds a lot of negative space on the card that could have been shrunk down with the use of additional printing plates. Regardless, I think these look better than last year, and better than 2012 as well. Its a cool tech style look, and I have gotten more attached as I have seen more cards.

2014 Topps Finest David Carr Blue Refractor Auto Patch /99

2014 Topps Finest Kelvin Benjamin Red Refractor Auto Patch

Verdict: UPGRADE

Rookie Auto Jumbo Patch

These are my favorite cards of the entire set, and wish that they were more common. With the negative space from the previous design replaced with a bigger swatch, the card looks more complete. I am really liking that they didnt compromise the size of the player picture to include a larger swatch, which I think many releases struggle with. Compared to 2013, its night and day.

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2014 Topps Finest Jadeveon Clowney Pink Refractor Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Brandin Cooks Jumbo Patch Auto Pulsar

Verdict: UPGRADE

Fantasy’s Finest Autos

This year, finest moment cards were replaced with a set that commemorates the biggest fantasy performances in the last few years. I like the idea of celebrating big games, but I am not a fan of using fantasy as the way to do it. The design is nice, but again, its a lot of negative space for design elements to make up for the patches that are present on some of the cards. Being that I wasnt a fan of the finest moments to begin with, Im not to concerned with Topps going a different direction and not executing fully.

2014 Topps Finest AJ Green Fantasy’s Finest Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Julius Thomas Fantasy’s Finest Pulsar Auto

Verdict: PUSH

Jumbo Relic Autos

Since 2011, these have been my favorite part of the set, and for the first time, I think they fumbled this version. There is too much focus on the borders surrounding the different elements of the cards, and not enough on the general aesthetics of the final composition. By shrinking the corner designs, and the side borders, the card would be much more focused on the right things. I dont know, maybe it just looks weird to me.

2014 Topps Finest Eddie Lacy Gold Refractor Auto Jumbo Relic

2014 Topps Finest Sammy Watkins Camo Refractor Jumbo Patch Auto /10

Verdict: DOWNGRADE

Overall, Finest will still be around for its final year next year, and I welcome it back. This is still a fun set, and its rare that you can find a box under 100 bucks and get TWO relic autos. That just doesnt happen, and its why this product has rocked as much as it has. I will be sad to see it go come 2016 when the Panini exclusive kicks in.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Finest Football Falls Short of Past Years

Before 2011, I would have put the Finest brand on life support. Over the last few years, it has risen back to the top of the football market with high end cards early in the year. It has been a true resurgence, with really nice autograph content and some really killer design work. After seeing the first few cards from the sell sheet and initial eBay auctions, Im not sure this should be considered even close to what it was last year. Its unfortunate, because I think Topps had a real winner before.

Here are some of the initial cards up:

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto X Fractor /15

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2014 Topps Finest Brandin Cooks Red Refractor Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Jordan Mathews Auto Patch Refractor

2014 Topps Finest Alshon Jeffrey Gold Refractor Jumbo Relic Auto

The biggest drawback to the 2014 edition is the change from a lot of on card rookie content to none. Topps obviously had a choice, and I dont think they made the right decision. The first option was to go with college pictures retouched to be NFL, much like Inception and now 2014 Topps Football as well. This would allow enough lead time to get on card autos this early in the season. The second option, which they went with, was to do stickers with RPS shots from the Premiere. It doesnt make Finest as nice, but it avoids ANOTHER set with the same pics from Inception.

Anytime you take stickers and use them in place of a hard signed autograph from previous years, you are going to face some backlash. Look at how Certified and Absolute have done since they swtiched to stickers. The buzz was and has been a complete disaster.

Secondly, I dont like the jumbo relic autograph cards as much this year, as I think the card is way too heavy handed with the complementary design elements in the background of the card. Hell, the border around the swatch window is so unnecessarily thick that it touches the nameplate at the bottom. Terrible decision again.

Although the checklist is nice, and the other cards are relatively on par with previous Finest sets, I cant help but think this stuff will be significantly less successful due to the bad decision making that was made on the main cards for the set.

On the Radar: 2014 Panini Playbook Football

I have been a fan of playbook since it was released back at the beginning of 2011, and has evolved into a set that really has the potential to deliver some great looking cards. I want to say that last year was easily the best year of the run, with a focus on adding some really nice looking non-rookie autograph content. Now that I see the preview for 2014 im not sure I like this version.

Here are some of the really cool cards from previous years:

2012 Playbook Andrew Luck Auto Patch Booklet

2012 Playbook Russell Wilson Auto Patch Booklet

2013 Playbook Peyton Manning Nike Logo Patch Booklet 1/1

2011 Playbook Aaron Rodgers Auto SSP

Immediately the darker borders added to the Playbook cards take away from the nice presentation from previous years and the white borders. Secondly, Panini returns to their ungodly obsession with the goofy and lame studio shots that are inset behind the action photo on the front. Not only does this add an unneeded element of horribly odd photography, but it takes away something that was much better last year. Overall a complete downgrade. Even though the studio shots have been present before, they were seemingly hidden more by lighter design work. The move to different borders highlights them more.

This down grade is completely overshadowed by the absolutely horrendous design work on the Richard Sherman auto relic, which might be the ugliest card we have seen from Panini all year. The base autos were already a complete and utter eye sore last year, but this is worse. I dont understand who thinks its a good idea to obscure half the layout with this box for the autograph, even if it may turn out to be acetate. It looks awful. In the past, Playbook has a knack for great looking cards combined with terrible ones. This year is no different.

In terms of the good elements of this preview, the Down and Dirty relics return. Much like they did in their debut last year, look awesome. Coupled with the full scale style lunging Endzone card, these two should be more of a focus for the set. Instead they will be a tiny element to the product. The RGIII card is truly impressive, all joking about recent injuries aside.

When it comes down to it, Panini consistently makes poor choices when it comes to the look of their cards, and its looking like an easier and easier choice to just avoid their products completely in the future. I understand that some people do end up liking their stuff, but I cant help but feel like maybe those people just like the focus Panini puts on their marketing strategy and not the actual cards themselves.

New Adrian Peterson Indictment Hits Home With Collectors

As I am sitting down here to write one of the most difficult posts I have ever written, its absolutely crazy how much things can change in an instant. Adrian Peterson has been my favorite player and collecting target since 2007, when he was drafted by the Vikings in the first round. After meeting him three times and seeing his public persona, I never thought I would EVER be in the situation I am in right now. As really the last running back in the hobby to have value, this indictment and arrest could be the end of an era.

Peterson’s cards have already taken a rock bottom tumble over the last few days:

2013 Topps Five Star Adrian Peterson Auto Relic Booklet

2007 Contenders Adrian Peterson Auto Ticket RC

2007 SP Authentic Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Patch

2007 Exquisite Adrian Peterson / Marshawn Lynch Dual Relic Auto

Peterson has always been a class act, consistently going above and beyond to be an integral part of the Vikings team and Minneapolis community. His enormous success and MVP season in 2012 earned him a ton of collectability in the hobby, including a legion of fans. Despite an arrest last year on charges eventually dismissed, he has had zero problems during the course of his seven year career with the Vikings. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he is charged with one of the worst possible things anyone can be charged with – hurting his son in an act of discipline.

As a father myself, I cannot fathom how anyone could put their child through this kind of torture, and I use that word purposefully. This was an act that no child should ever have to endure, despite how common it may happen across the nation. Peterson cites that it was the way he was raised, which is not unsurprising, but not an excuse. I do completely understand how difficult it can be to break from the way you were raised, but this is a bit different.

Peterson will no doubt have his course changed in the NFL and with the Vikings, and it may mean his time in Purple has come to an end. As a player collector, whose office is filled with memorabilia from his run as the team’s greatest player, I am literally between a rock and a hard place. Thousands of dollars could potentially be down the drain, and I am not even kidding.

Although there have been other players in the league to do similarly awful things, including some that have come back to have a successful finish to their career, none of them were the elite player that Peterson is and was. He may not be the face of the NFL like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but he is the best running back there is, period. Its rare that someone of his talent level goes through a situation like this, unless you look at the way Alex Rodriguez has been changed in the eyes of baseball collectors. Rodriguez only hurt himself, which is his choice, but Peterson hurt a four year old – much more deplorable.

Scary thing is, players like Aaron Hernandez and Michael Vick still have value in the hobby despite their horrific transgressions, and Peterson does have a lot to his credit regardless of this situation. Funny how this works:

2012 Topps Five Star Aaron Hernandez Auto Patch

2012 Topps Five Star Michael Vick / Robert Griffin III Dual Auto

1970 Topps OJ Simpson RC

I have already come to the decision to not buy new Adrian Peterson cards and memorabilia from this point forward. Depending on how this all plays out, I might need to liquidate my collection. If I werent so much into already, this would already be happening. Its just too much money right now. There are people still bidding, but not many. The fact that so many people dont see this as a huge deal may also preserve some of his value.

As mentioned above, there is a redemption story that could come of this, and it is likely not going to happen with the Vikings. It may happen with Dallas or another team that will give Peterson a chance despite the situation, and that might be a time where I can recoup some of my enormous investment.

The lesson to be learned is that we should love the game, and not the players. Its too much of a risk to do what I have done over the last few years, and its likely the last time I dive in head first. I thought I was safe with Peterson almost guaranteed a place in the HOF, but you just cant see what goes on behind closed doors. Right now, Im about as shocked as I have ever been in this hobby.

No idea where to go from here, hopefully there will be some silver lining that has yet to be determined. At this point, it looks like its going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

How Impressive Is 2013-2014 Immaculate Basketball?

I think its pretty easy to say that we can all appreciate certain things about the hobby, regardless of which sport it comes from. Nice cards are just nice cards. When it comes to Panini’s use of their NBA license, I feel as though they have been just as incompetent as they are in football. They completely misjudge the make up of the market, and have made poor decision after poor decision. Amidst the dumbassery, there has been one bright spot in my opinion – Immaculate Basketball.

Its easily their best looking product in any sport, regardless of one of the worst set titles in history:

2014 Immaculate Kyrie Irving Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Immaculate Allen Iverson Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Immaculate Shaquille O’neal Acetate Auto Patch

The thing I have never understood about Immaculate is the way the chase element persists over a set like Flawless, which costs more than double the price. When you hit it big in flawless, its nothing that really isnt available in other sets. When you hit it big in Immaculate, you HIT IT BIIGGGGG. The quality of the chase cards are impressive, to say the least. On the flip side, when you lose in Immaculate, its a blood bath, where flawless you dont really lose that often.

I think that the best product of the year, should have the best chase component, rather than just improved content. Basketball collectors function so much on the 1/1 big pull that it almost renders every product that doesnt have that element as irrelevant. Flawless only has contrived scarcity, which doesnt accomplish the same thing.

Now, its going to be different in football because the standards for each product are significantly different, as are the price tags. I think that Flawless could end up being a pretty tough sell if its done the way it has been in Basketball, only because the chase isnt as important in football.

In fact there are other sport autograph cards in this product, which is a bit confusing:

2014 Immaculate Peyton Manning Auto Patch

2014 Immaculate Greg Maddux Auto Patch

Immaculate Basketball is basically a carbon copy of Exquisite, a product that set the standard for high end, and still dominates the market today. Even though no licensed Exquisite product has been out in a long time, the cards still make Panini’s feeble attempts look silly. Immaculate is trying to force its way back into the consciousness of these collectors hung up on UD, and I think its an unreachable goal. Its not a bad start though.