On the Radar: 2014 Bowman Chrome Football is BACK!

If you have been reading this blog for some time, you know that I am a huge fan of anything Topps makes with Chrome in the title. This year, we are already getting two new sets that puts my fandom into action, one being Topps Chrome mini, and now the other being 2014 Bowman Chrome.

2009 was the last time Bowman Chrome was its own set, although it did make subset returns in Topps Chrome in 2010 and 2011:

2009 Bowman Chrome LeSean McCoy Auto Blue Refractor

2010 Bowman Chrome Tim Tebow Auto Refractor Insert

2011 Bowman Chrome Cam Newton Auto Refractor Insert

2011 Bowman Chrome AJ Green Auto Refractor Insert

Topps had told me in the past that it was hard to continue brand equity with Bowman Chrome as its own product (because of how popular Topps Chrome was), and that it was almost diluting the market. I said that one can never have enough, especially in a hobby where so many of the products are forgettable. After two VERY strong years of regular Bowman in 2013 and 2014, I am beyond happy they chose to resurrect this brand.

To be frank, I do agree that there is a lot of overlap between the chrome stock brands for Topps, with the calendar already consisting of five to six products. However, I think there are a TON of collectors who would happily give up an overpriced set like Bowman Sterling to have another more affordable option available in Bowman Chrome.

I mean any time you have on card autographs with chrome stock, im not going to complain. I just love the way the cards eventually turn out. Im also going to need as much of this style as possible knowing that it wont be back after 2015 thanks to the pending Panini exclusive. The more the merrier.

Here are the pics:

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Mid August Surprise: Topps Releases 2015 Series One Designs!

This is a big day for baseball cards each year, and I am always excited to see what Topps is able to come up with each time the design is released. Playing off a lot of retro themed looks for recent sets, it should come as no surprise that the new design has a feel similar to some of the older sets from the late 1990s.

Base Design

I really like it, and I think it will transfer EXTREMELY well to Chrome and parallel structures. As much as a conservative look as 2014 Topps turned out to be, this is a complete departure. I think it presents a very cool take on how to present the MLB players in a way that looks fresh, and they have done a really good job here.

Last year:

2014 Topps Jose Abreu RC

2014 Topps Masahiro Tanaka RC

2014 Topps Yoenis Cespedes Platinum 1/1

This year:

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Strata

There is no other set in baseball that I like more than Strata signature relics. Making their debut in football over previous years, Strata came to baseball last year and were some of the most sought after high end inserts of the year. The design is a carbon copy of 2014 football, which is its own set, and I hope the checklist works out to have some of my guys in the mix.

Last Year:

2014 Topps Strata Reggie Jackson Shadowbox Auto

2014 Topps Strata Hank Aaron Shadowbox Auto

This Year:

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Metal Frames

In previous years, Topps has done reprints of iconic rookies with Metal Frames /10, and it looks like they are returning as a parallel to the base set. Not only do I think this is a really cool element to the set, but I like adding them as a parallel instead of a subset.

Last Year:

2014 Topps Cal Ripken Jr RC Metal Frame Reprint /25

2014 Topps Derek Jeter RC Metal Frame Reprint /199

This Year:

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Other Inserts

I think this years group of inserts are actually about 100 times better than 2014. Where I thought 2014 was horribly boring and uninspired, these look to have a much better theme and presentation to them. I am exposed to these inserts so much on Topps Bunt that I am kind of invested in their look. These are nicely done.

Last Year:

2014 Topps Mike Trout Trajectory Auto

2014 Topps Felix Hernandez Commemorative Patch

This Year:

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Overall, its no secret that Topps needs to make a splash with their upcoming products in light of recent news, and I think this is a damn good start to the 2015 card year. Im actually pretty excited.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Rookies and Stars Back for ANOTHER Tired Year

Rookies and Stars is live, and after seeing the cards that are up, im a bit shocked this set still exists. Not only is it literally one of the most snooze-worthy and forgettable products of the year, but it has been shown to be a poor seller year after year after year. The scariest part? These are the type of products that Panini will be forced to build come 2016, and that is beyond concerning.

Here are some of the bigger hits already up:

2014 Rookies and Stars Johnny Manziel Auto Jumbo Patch 1/1

2014 Rookies and Stars Sammy Watkins Auto RC

2014 Rookies and Stars Doug Martin Vet Auto Patch /5

2014 Rookies and Stars Le'Veon Bell Vet Auto Patch /5

2014 Rookies and Stars Johnny Manziel Crusade RC Refractor

I also find it hilarious that even after YEARS of poor product performance that Panini continues to bring this boring shit show back for more licks. Funny that the best news of the entire product release is that the stupid manupatch autos are gone (at least I think they are), and really havent been replaced. Not a good showing, if that’s the best thing about your new release.

Additionally, Im pretty convinced that Panini owns the last of the worlds unused slides, and I am shocked that they are still trotting out these lame slideshow cards even though acetate technology has come as far as it has. That type of stock DOES accomplish the same thing, right? I know every collector loves having to hold their card up to a light to appreciate it.

The continued use of the shots that feature players awkwardly posing for collectors baffles me, especially when you name the set “DRESS 4 SUCCESS” with the number 4 instead of the word “for.” I cant make this shit up. You have unamused players who are being forced into a room at the rookie premiere to take these pictures, when they just want to get out of their uniforms and into the locker room in the 100 degree weather in LA. Thats what these pictures are showcasing, and I cant stand it.

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Panini shows product after product that they are incapable of cultivating value in their releases, and it fucking blows my mind that collectors continue to support their charge to obtain exclusives in all four sports. There is a reason why this product will be at half price in 2 months, and it has everything to do with the way Panini produces cards.

Bunting for a Hit: Are Digital Cards the New Frontier of Collecting?

If you arent familiar with Topps Bunt, the digital trading card app on iPhone and Android, its time to familiarize yourself with it. Its a game that combines elements of Fantasy Sports with card collecting, and it is taking off this year with new content designed to create value in cards that arent actually tangible. Although this concept is foreign to most collectors, this might be something that has potential to expand the hobby more than any other medium.

As you can see, the digital autograph cards sell for a ton, more than actual autograph cards:

2014 Topps Bunt Mike Trout Signature Card

2014 Topps Bunt – Lot of 21 signature cards

2014 Topps Bunt Derek Jeter Signature Card

2014 Topps Bunt Miguel Cabrera Throwback Signature Card

Here are the less rare cards, which still sell for insane money:

2014 Topps Bunt Troy Tulowitzki Signature Card

2014 Topps Bunt Jose Bautista Signature Card

When you consider that I can buy a real Johnny Cueto autograph for 50 percent of what I can buy a Bunt autograph card, it should perk your ears up. Most collectors would scoff at paying good money for cards they cant ever hold in their hand, but that is the beauty of what is going on with Bunt. As an avid player, and fan of the game, I can tell you that most of the users ARE NOT card collectors.

Think about that for a second. Value in intangible items, to people that have no interest in collecting real cards. Bunt has an active user base of tens of thousands of people, and Topps is making a play to target more of these individuals than you could imagine. The question is whether or not its a fruitful venture in the long run.

It should be made clear that the amount of money Bunt and its sister apps generate is not without extreme cost to produce. Apps of this complexity require constant maintenance, community upkeep, and most importantly a huge amount of capital to build. There is a staff of around 10 people that service the apps, and with salary plus benefits, you can see that the EBIT may not be all that high. Digital licensing also plays in, but its clear how popular these games can be.

Everyone is currently searching for the next big thing, and it is still not obvious that this is it. However, when a card company can engage this many users without issuing packs of tangible cards, why not blow this up to the highest possible element? Its attractive for them, right? No headaches of tracking down players for autographs, or paying exorbitant prices for vintage game used materials. For collectors, there are no redemptions and every card you own can be carried around in your pocket as long as you have your mobile device.

It should be no surprise that the best cards in the game mirror the best cards in real life, but often have exponentially more monetary value (here is the real card), regardless of how the current collector views the medium. Bottom line, it almost doesnt matter what collectors of real cards think, as they are a tiny group, and not the target market.

The true target market is the casual sports fan who enjoys fantasy sports, and that encompasses a group of people that would outnumber card collectors by the millions. I have taken root in the ability to open packs at any time of the day in any venue, and never have to worry about where to store my collection. That’s quite the concept – especially for all the people who have entire rooms dedicated to storing cards.

It also should be noted that cards can be produced on demand, and do not require any lag between event and production. For poignant moments in the season, Bunt can produce cards as needed with huge results. That is powerful to have that type of ability to market to new users. All the wheeling and dealing at the deadline has already been captured in Bunt, where it may not be captured in real cards for a year.

I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts, but again, this type of thing breeds new collectors like you wouldnt imagine. Every day, I get emails from Bunters who have made the transition to real cards, and need guidance. Lets be clear – this is a powerful recruiting tool, yet that may not be the point. Im beginning to think that the more Topps can invest in these apps, the more they will see the rewards outside of their normal target market. Something that hasnt been done since the early 1990s.

Here is some additional reading if you are interested:

Prospecting Johnny Manziel – Hold or Sell the Hottest Rookie in the NFL?

There is no doubt that Johnny Manziel has an effect on both fans and collectors. I have never made it a point to watch a pre-season game that doesnt have my favorite team playing in it. Last night, that all changed when I actually DVRed the Cleveland vs Detroit game just to see how Johnny Manziel did. I am going to guess and say it was the highest rated game of this type in NFL Network history. Manziel is just that type of guy, very similar to when Tim Tebow came to the league. The difference is that Manziel can actually play QB, where Tebow was a running back who just happened to throw passes every once in a while.

Manziel is easily the hottest rookie we have seen in a long time:

2014 Panini VIP Party Johnny Manziel Superfractor Auto

2014 Inception Johnny Manziel Laundry Tag Booklet Auto /5

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel Red Ink Inscription Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Inception Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto /25

The Browns have already announced that come the next pre-season game, Manziel will be starting, and I am going to go out on a limb and say that he will likely also start week 1. He is a captivating personality and polarizing figure, which means that it is stupid not to play him whenever possible. Fans have already made his jersey the top seller in the league, and collectors are tripping over each other to pick up his cards.

For a lot of us who arent Manziel fans, it becomes a game of when to sell. For the fans out there, its a question of whether or not to buy without much frame of reference for his play. Here are my thoughts on both:

Selling Manziel

I am always someone who will advise to sell a brand new product as soon as it comes out. Football is weird in that cards can drop almost 50% in value over the course of one week. Once the team and player collectors get their licks, the bottom drops out. Manziel’s rarer cards have been able to hold value in Bowman, but in every Panini product, his cards rarely hold their top flight value. The jury is still out on inception, but its likely that it will follow suit.

Outside of selling new product cards quickly, you will have two options to sell in the future and I would take advantage of at least one. The first is when he is named the starter, sometime around pre-season week 3. At that point, everyone will want to gear up for the start of the season, and you will want to capitalize.

The second point is when the season starts and he has his first good game. The initial Browns’ schedule is pretty brutal, so Manziel may struggle at first. On the other hand, he may play well along the way, which could be a great time to sell. Ideally, you have your cards up and get some bandwagon fans to buy in as soon as he throws or scores his first TD.

Keeping Manziel

There are a large contingent of collectors who think Manziel is the next big thing. Although I disagree, anything is possible in the NFL. I was definitely not sold on Cam Newton, and he has turned into a surprise QB that can actually play. Collectors seem to think he is going to help Carolina get to the big game, which helps the value already brought from being a heisman winner and #1 pick. I personally think Manziel will be a starter in Cleveland for the duration of his rookie contract. I dont think he is going to be a guy who will eventually get a 100 million re-up unless he blows the roof off the joint, but I do think he has potential to play into a second deal, something that Tebow was never able to do.

That being said, do you want to spend hundreds or thousands on a guy who may just keep going long enough to make it to a second contract? Im not sure. The personality and polarization of the collector base on Manziel’s prospects may keep his value higher until he solidifies whether or not he is going to be good, but many non-Browns fans may not be willing to wait that long.

I have pulled two big Manziel autos this year already and have opted to sell immediately due to hot product bumps in value. At this point I have no reservations about doing so, even after last night’s game.