2014 Topps Football – Rebuilding After A Weak Class

This is one of the bigger weeks for Football cards as Topps releases its flagship brand, even more so with a strong class. Its clear that they are banking on a big year for 2014, as the checklist that was just released is definitely showing some surprises.

Here are some of the cards already up:

2014 Topps Football Johnny Manziel RC

2014 Topps Football Blake Bortles RC

2014 Topps Football Jadeveon Clowney RC

2014 Topps Football Tom Brady Commemorative Coin Card

This set will likely be lost after next year with the Panini exclusive kicking in, and it should be abundantly clear how big a loss that will be. For now, Ill bask in the glory of one of my favorite sets of the year. Here is what to look forward to.

Rookie Premiere Autograph Changes

As I mentioned during the first preview when the product was solicited, it was the right call to switch the format of these cards. Because of the limitations of the premiere, Topps had said it was getting tougher and tougher to get the rookies to sit down for their pics, which led to inconsistency in the set. Using the inception pics looks better anyways. These cards should end up being VERY nice.

Here is what I mean by inconsistent:

2013 Topps Geno Smith Rookie Premiere Auto – On site pic from RPS

2013 Topps Montee Ball Rookie Premiere Auto - On site pic from RPS

2013 Topps Zach Ertz Rookie Premiere Auto – Retouched pic

Better Autograph Content

Back in 2013, Topps started adding base veteran autographs to their checklist to make up for a weaker rookie class. This is in addition to the other non-rookie autograph content that was already present. Typically, it is rare to have really top level players constitute the checklist, but it looks different this year. This year, there will be another push for top signers, including from what I am seeing on the release, Tom Brady.

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1985 Autographs

If you are unware of the 1985 design, its time to familiarize yourself with it, because it is featured in this year’s set. Not only is it one of my all time favorites, but it lends itself perfectly to retro content. They used it last year for a rare auto redemption that turned out great, and I am happy they are bringing it back full scale. I was never a real fan of the tall boys or any of the helmet off pics used for the minis, and these cards definitely look really good from the previews.

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Largest Set in Years

I am not a set collector, nor do I identify with the motivation to painstakingly put together a huge base set. As I high end collector, I strive for the biggest and best single cards I can find. This year Topps seems to be going back to its roots in building a huge product with tons to collect. There are going to be a lot of happy people there.

More Variations

As mentioned above, the base set is of LITERALLY no interest to me, but I do love the rare variations that tend to carry tons of value upon release. Top rookies and players can easily generate 20-30 dollars in a non-parallel non-autograph which says a lot. The variation checklist is pretty large this year, and I cant wait to see some of the pics. *CROSSING MY FINGERS FOR AN ADRIAN PETERSON ORANGE PEANUT CARD!*

Nicely Designed Inserts

This is where Topps has always beaten the shit out of Panini, as their design team has always been miles ahead. However, last year’s inserts left A LOT to be desired. After seeing some of the previews this year, we are FAAAR past that point, thank god. Some of them were horrendously bad.

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In all likelihood, Topps should hit eBay tomorrow night, with early breakers listing their pulls. Time will tell how the product performs, but I am predicting big things a la 2012 with such a strong class.

2012 Contenders Robert Griffin III Autos Called Into Question

Determining autograph authenticity in sports cards has been an issue for years. It is also likely an issue that will never be solved until the companies invest in its solution. I want to reinforce that this is something that can be prevented by the companies, but ultimately it is the player that should be held responsible. Players having cards ghost signed is not like situations presented with cards like the 2007 RP autos – that is all collector douchebaggery at work.

Here is the breakdown. On blowout, some of the hardcore collectors of Robert Griffin III are claiming that there is a part of the print run from his 2012 Contenders autograph that are signed by someone else. This is evident when comparing version one versus version two, and if an amateur like me can tell – it’s an issue.

Here are some of the real ones:

2012 Contenders Robert Griffin III Rookie Ink Auto

2012 Contenders Robert Griffin III Playoff Ticket Auto /99

These loopy signatures are the ones in question:

2012 Contenders Robert Griffin III Ticket Auto Variation

2012 Contenders Robert Griffin III Ticket Auto

I have met Griffin personally, and his autograph looks nothing like this on the ones he signed for me.

This is not new to Panini either, as other cards like we saw with autographs from players like Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews, and Cordarrelle Patterson had the same issues.

Real Patterson: 2013 Topps Five Star Cordarrelle Patterson Auto RC
“Real” Patterson: 2013 Crown Royale Cordarrelle Patterson Silhouette Auto Patch

Real Dez: 2010 Topps Platinum Dez Bryant Auto
“Real” Dez: 2010 Certified Dez Bryant Auto

Real Mathews: 2012 Topps Supreme Ryan Mathews Auto Jumbo Patch
“Real” Mathews: 2013 National Treasures Ryan Mathews Dual Auto

Unlike Topps, almost all of Panini's signings are done through the mail with a signed affidavit from the player saying the cards they are returning are real. The issue is that many of the players A) dont need the money, B) dont care about a lawsuit, C) know a lawsuit isnt coming because of the need to get other autographs. If collectors ever question the authenticity of an autograph, the company goes to the agent and asks for clarification. Of course the agent isnt going to out their client, so it all comes back as real. The grading companies wont help either, as their relationships with the card companies are too important to tarnish with truly giving their opinion.

However, thanks to the huge community of pictures online these days, its almost too easy to spot when things dont look correct. In reality, this is a vicious cycle that can only be fixed with in person autograph signings, which not only take a ton of time to coordinate, but a ton of money to execute. Topps has said on numerous occasions that they strive for this with every signing, and as a result have had the least amount of problems of this nature. Panini has no doubt had the most problems, but Topps hasnt been without issues in the past.

Card collectors really dont know what to do either, because they automatically assume that ever autograph they get is real. Since the beginning of widespread autograph content in packs, this has been a challenge that has never gone away. We are just much more able to identify it these days. Players are getting pressed more and more to sign thousands of autographs at a time, which only exacerbates their frustration with the process.

For amateur sleuths like myself, I can easily pinpoint the issues when ZERO certified in person autographs bear the signatures in question. There are times when players will switch the content of their autographs, without question, but there will also be in person examples to reflect the change.

Because the worst offenders are usually higher profile players, its hard to ban them from signing. Cam Newton was accused frequently back in 2011, but has since come back on board with regular signatures that look player signed. Dez Bryant has never really had the opportunity to sign more cards after collectors outed him. From what it seems like, the companies never went back to him. It should come as no surprise that the most immature players are the ones that have a tough time fulfilling commitments, but that is always a risk. Its why the Rookie Premiere is so important each year. The companies have a captive audience and they try to milk it for all its worth. I dont blame them one bit. Players are humans who usually see autograph sessions with card companies as a nuisance.

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.