SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Prizm Baseball

Over the last 3 years, Prizm and I havent really got along at all. I have always considered it to be a cheap knockoff of Chrome, so cheap that it almost isnt even worth talking about. In a lot of ways, I see Prizm as that “Spider-guy” action figure you can buy on the street in Hong Kong. For a brand identity, that is a pretty terrible space to occupythat is a pretty terrible space to occupy.

Trying to release a product like Prizm in a hobby where Bowman is one of the most iconic sets in the market? Not really a good idea unless you can do it up to that same standard of quality. What is even worse of an idea is trying to add prospects and rookies to the mix and expect it to measure up. Maybe Panini doesnt look at it that way, but they should. Prizm has an opportunity to function a bit differently than Bowman, using veteran and HOF players as the main fodder, but they chose to go the path that Topps had already carved out.

Here are some of the hits up so far, you will see what I mean:

2015 Prizm Kris Bryant Tie Dye Auto 17/50

2015 Prizm Joc Pederson Blue Refractor Auto /75

2015 Prizm Rusney Castillo Purple Refractor Auto /99

2015 Prizm Yasmany Tomas Blue Refractor Auto /75

2015 Prizm Paul Goldschmidt Die Cut Auto

Honestly, this is one of the better looking Prizm products that Panini has released. The design isnt all that bad, except in a few spots where the execution is well below poor, which I will get to in a second. I think that in terms of the base and the general look and feel, this pig has a few shades of lipstick on. That being said, its still a pig.

When it comes to the design of the most important cards in the product, the autograph design had a lot of potential. In typical Panini fashion, the execution was fucking horrendous. The prioritization of including huge text and larger product logos was obviously way too high, as many times, the player photos are squished up against the swooping border. They easily could have gone without the text, moving the player further towards the opposite edge, thus preventing the issue. In that same vein, it wouldnt be a Panini product without needlessly oversized text.

It also seems like Panini is going to run with this whole tie-dyed refractor situation for another few years, which makes me nauseous. I have affectionately deemed them “Hippie-fractors” and cannot understand the appeal of these gaudy inserts. For whatever reason, collectors will forgive the hideous appearance because the cards are shiny, but I cant help but wretch at the look. If I wanted a rainbow tie dye on my cards, I would collect something very different than sports.

Bottom line, Kris Bryant or no Kris Bryant, this product will drop like a rock in the same way every Panini baseball product has over the last few years. Prizm usually takes a larger fall than most, which means it is not in your best interest to buy in at this point. If you can wait, this will be less than dealer cost as soon as the MAPP wears off. Considering that Bowman is still fresh on the shelves, its a much better idea to go that direction.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Finest Football Preview

Over the last few years, Finest has been one of my favorite releases of the pre-season. It comes out right as things are getting hot with the new class, and the cards look great on the Chrome stock. It is also the first of the pro-uniform Superfractors of the year, and that creates a lot of collector interest. This year will be the last version of the set as it is structured currently, which is easily a bittersweet situation to be in. I am still very upset that we will not get licensed Topps sets in 2016 as it stands now.

Finest has always had some cool cards:

2012 Topps Finest Andrew Luck Die Cut Auto Red Refractor /25

2012 Topps Finest Russell Wilson Blue Refractor Patch Auto BGS 9.5

2008 Topps Finest Tom Brady Auto

2006 Topps Finest Emmitt Smith Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Topps Finest Jimmy Garoppolo Superfractor Auto Jumbo Logo Patch 1/1

This year’s design is very futuristic, something that Finest has always used as a theme. It has a combination of swooping lines and blocky modern patterns, all of which work very well. Last year’s design had a few issues with the way thick borders and elements conflicted with the main subject matter, all of which have been corrected in the 2015 preview. The only major complaint I have is on the Amari Cooper preview, where the design inexplicably features a stupid box around the sticker. Since Chrome mockups never do the cards justice, ill have to wait to see the final product. Either way, that box looks like poop, and hopefully it will be corrected.

Topps is also previewing autographs and retro Finest content from 1995, which is a Finest set that I collected the shit out of. It was the set that had a portion with that protective coating still on the cards, making it one of the more interesting of the run. As a kid, I immediately ripped all of that coating off, which was obviously a mistake. That year of Finest was definitely a fun one, and it only adds to the reason why I love this idea. Its unfortunate the autographs are stickers, but it is what it is.

Lastly, and most importantly, Finest looks to be going back to on card autographs on some of the non-relic rookie cards. I could not be more happy that this is the case. Last year’s versions were less attractive because they were stickers, something that I really was upset about. Glad they are going back to the way they were in 2013 and 2012.

Overall, as mentioned above, I am sad to say goodbye to a set that has been with me since I started in the hobby. I have always loved Finest’s cards, save a few of those awful “dead” years like 2008, and I wish that there was a way to keep it going. At least the product will be going out looking good.

Tom Brady Suspended – Jimmy Garoppolo Next Man Up?

In yet another display of suspension brute force, the NFL has brought down the hammer on Tom Brady and the Patriots after a long investigation. Considering his recent large role in the hobby after a Super Bowl win, this isnt great for business. Im not really going to add my scorching hot take to the mountainous pile of stale hot takes, but I do want to look at this from a hobby perspective and what it might mean in the hobby for both Tom Brady and others. Spoiler – he is still one of the best to ever play the game.

Tom Brady’s Hobby Legacy

I dont think this changes all that much in the long run. He might take a small hit in this new age of “what have you done for me lately” collecting, which is insane in its own right. As mentioned above, with the fact that he just won a Super Bowl, this should be one of his brightest hobby moments, regardless of the mob bearing torches and pitchforks in the over-sensitive media.

Here is an idea of what is going on right now:

2014 Topps Five Star Tom Brady Auto

2002 Topps Tom Brady Ring of Honor Auto PSA 10

2014 National Treasures Tom Brady Notable Nicknames Auto

2014 Museum Collection Tom Brady Gold Frame Gold Auto

It should also go without saying that Brady has had some really awesome cards for the first time in years. Both Topps and Panini have gotten in on some recent signings, which has led to cards from all sorts of high end products. If you are a Brady fan, this is your best time in almost a decade.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s NFL Starter Debut

As mentioned above, this is the one time where someone in Jimmy’s position can shine. He WILL play well, a la Matt Cassel, and that will make his cards go through the roof. You can almost bank on it. That wont change that Brady will be back and he will be better than ever after the first 2-4 games depending on appeals.

There are still some high prices on Jimmy out there, as well as some good buys:

2014 National Treasures Jimmy Garoppolo Auto Logo Patch RPA /99

2014 Finest Jimmy Garoppolo Auto Patch

2014 National Treasures Jimmy Garoppolo Colossal Auto Relic

Being that Tom is near the end of his career, he will eventually retire, but that doesnt mean Jimmy is a lock to take over the reigns. By then, Jimmy may be near the end of his rookie contract, which means he may be on his way out of Boston. New England loves to draft QBs and then trade them for value, but this situation IS a bit different than before. They really like Garoppolo, and they will likely want the time they have spent developing him to pay off. Maybe that's why his prices have been relatively steady for most of the year.

That means if you are planning to buy in, you had better be prepared to sell by week 3, or hold for a few years while Brady rides off into the sunset. Im not sure I would be willing to do that in this hobby environment.

Either way, I would actually advise against selling now, as the Pats system is just too good to expect Jimmy to fall on his face. He will win at least 2 of the 4 games, and that’s if he even plays 4. No guarantee Brady isnt back earlier, but it will spike his cards even if the appeal is granted.

As with any prospecting situation, you have to be ready to slow play things. Dont get trigger happy, or you could end up missing out like I have on so many different occasions.

On the Radar: Topps Adds Ichiro To Upcoming Products

The overseas market for trading cards is a wild card for most of the manufacturers, something I find to be a bit shocking. Considering how things can play, it seems like a no-brainer to bring cards frequently to that region. Topps has done special Asia only product lines in the last few years, many of which have been very interesting. I can see why they would want to chase Ichiro, as he is literally the biggest name in Japanese baseball to this day.

Here are some of his prices from prior products:

2004 Upper Deck SP Game Used Ichiro Auto Patch /10

2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Auto RC

2014 Leaf Immortals Ichiro Auto Jumbo Patch

2002 Sweet Spot Ichiro Auto Ball

In the past, Ichiro’s autograph price tag have limited the companies from getting on board at a level that would make him readily available for a large product run. During the first few years of his career, Upper Deck had him in a few products, sets that housed his most expensive cards.

Recently, Leaf had signed a deal with Ichiro that granted them access to his likeness and autographs for some of their biggest releases to date, including the first game used patch cards in a very long time.

Based on what we have seen with his cards in the past, Topps’ adding him to their stable is a very big deal. Not just because he has a valuable signature, but because of how many overseas collectors will want the cards and the products. There is no telling how much the deal is for, but you can bet it is a significant amount.

I would guess he will be a very limited autograph in any of the products he is used for, which means he will not be a card that many can afford to buy right out. Now that Topps has announced that Allen and Ginter will be the first cards, I would think that the price should go up as a result.

Again, this is big for 2015 products. Interested to see how it plays out.

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Is This The Beginning of the Bryce Harper Era?

Back in 2010, Bryce Harper was the second biggest prospect of the year, with USA cards in a Bowman product where Stephen Strasburg took top billing. In 2011, pending his call up to the Majors, Harper became the top prospect in the set. Over the next few years, he had his ups and downs, but never really lived up to the hype. That has all changed this year, as his play in recent weeks has been some of the most productive games in MLB history.

Check out some of his recent prices:

2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper Blue Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2015 Topps Gallery of Greats Bryce Harper Jersey Auto

2011 Bowman Bryce Harper Auto RC BG 9.5

2015 Topps Museum Collection Bryce Harper Auto Quad Patch Booklet Gold

If you thought Kris Bryant was big this year, Harper was that big too. The hobby tends to get obsessed with potential, even more so than production. The thing is, Harper is still incredibly young, and has a long career ahead of him. There is a lot of time for him to develop, and there are many people who want him to be the biggest attraction in the game.

Since his time began, he has always lived in the shadow of Mike Trout, who has already notched an MVP and a few second place finishes to boot. Coming up at around the same time, Trout has become the hobby's biggest star, where Harper has found himself on the downturn of his value spike that happened over the last few years. His recent production has brought a lot of value back to the cards, but he has yet to convince the majority that he is ready to take the next step in his career.

Three weeks does not a career make, yet Harper seems to be a bit different than guys like Bryant and company, as his talent has been at the forefront of our consciousness since he socked some towering dingers back before entering Junior College the year before the draft. Now that those home runs are coming back in bunches, some collectors are finally seeing the return they have been waiting on year over year.

The question always remains, is the potential ever going to measure up to the production? If the answer is yes, that’s where we start to see all that value that Trout has achieved. If the answer is no, the player becomes on of the hundreds of players who never really made the impact they were supposed to.