On the Radar: 2014 National Treasures Extended Preview

Here is the previous write up on the first preview if you want more commentary about the cards.

Today we got a deeper look at 2014 National Treasures, and for the most part, it looks better than it has in previous years. Up to this point, I dont think Treasures has deserved the brand equity it has received, as there have always been better looking products that should be recognized above what Treasures has represented.

Here is a quick break down of previous years of National Treasures:

2006:Brandon Marshall Rookie Patch Auto

2007: Calvin Johnson Rookie Patch Auto

2008: Jamaal Charles Rookie Patch Auto

2009: LeSean McCoy Rookie Patch Auto

2010 (My other favorite year): Rob Gronkowski Rookie Patch Auto

2011 (My least favorite year): Demarco Murray Rookie Patch Auto

2012 (A bad one): Russell Wilson Rookie Patch Auto

2013: Eddie Lacy Rookie Patch Auto

When it was released as DLP’s answer to Exquisite in 2006, it never lived up to the best of the best. Stickers for the product rarely performed the way Exquisite’s 100% hard signed product did, for good reason. Although they added hard signed rookie cards in 2007, the product was 90% stickers until 2013. Even then, it still had a ton of sticker based content. In 2010, when UD lost the NFL license, Topps released Five Star for the first time. It looked better than Treasures, it was all hard signed, and the compact checklist was stellar. Yet, by default Panini got the new top spot. Its sad that is the case consider how much better other products have been. Collectors are weird in their loyalty.

As we roll into 2014, National Treasures is being shown up again, this time by products from┬áPanini’s own stable. Both Immaculate and Flawless have made NT an afterthought, and Five Star football looks great for the fifth year in a row. Funny enough, this might be the best that the rookie auto patch cards have ever looked. It could be a waste, depending on how the collectors compare it to previous releases.

I think it goes without saying that the big belt buckle design in 2011 was the worst that NT has ever looked, and this will look significantly better in almost every single way. The cramped rookie auto patches in 2012 were similarly horrendous, but this will be better ten fold. But, because those products went up against only Five Star in 2012 were similarly horrendousand a late release of an NCAA branded Exquisite, there wasnt a real competition. This time, that wont be the case, especially with Immaculate looking as good as it does.

Panini is going to have a very interesting issue on their hands come 2016, with a need to build many more products than have ever been required in any league from one company. If they still want NT to be their big release at the end of the year, they need to play their cards in a more strategic fashion.

Even though the patch autographs look great with the simple approach, the set will automatically go up against the examples we will see this week from Immaculate. I have ZERO confidence that Panini will make the right call, and from what we have seen to this point, you should too.

My Argument Against Oversized Jumbo Patch Cards

I stand by the statement that the jersey card is dead. Although card companies want you to believe that it is still alive and kicking, its not. Its filler at this point,even more evident by more and more cards trying to go a different direction in the structure of their “hits.” Because the quantity is so great, collectors have lost interest in paying good money for jersey cards, with one major exception – one type of jumbo style that I am very upset about.

If a relic has some crazy patch and is oversized, the collector base goes bonkers. It doesnt matter if the card is just a half inch border on a large piece of material, or if the relic is worn for 2 seconds at the Rookie Photo Shoot, people want it.I am sad that we have gotten to this point. Here is what I am talking about:

2014 Limited Odell Beckham Jumbo Patch RC

2012 Platinum Drew Brees Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2012 National Treasures Roddy White Jumbo Patch /4

2013 National Treasures Le’veon Bell Hats Off Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Immaculate Baseball Bryce Harper Jumbo Letter Patch

The scary thing is, with the relic cards looking the way they do, the card companies dont even have to put much work into the look and feel of the card. They dont even have to make the card look good as long as the swatch is huge and has a ridiculous patch. I have always been someone that gravitates towards the players on the cards, as I feel as though there really is no reason to celebrate a card where the subject is not the focus. What is the point of buying a card of your favorite player if they are crammed into a corner?

Panini has been previewing a product stuffed to the brim with cards like this in 2014 Immaculate football, and it only goes to show where they are trying to place our attention. Despite the fact that the autograph cards are looking as good as any Panini product (or Upper Deck product if you saw my previous post) has ever looked, Panini is leading us to believe that their under-designed oversized relic cards are a bigger deal. It is beyond disappointing to see that they are actually correct in a lot of ways.

I know me bitching and moaning on here is likely not going to change the mind of the general public, but I hope that everyone can see my perspective here. We are literally rewarding the card companies for putting in less work, and letting them off the hook on creating ugly cards with no redeeming part other than the content of the patch. Card companies should separate themselves by finding awesome ways to do both, similar to what we see in Silhouette style presentations. They will say those cards are too expensive to make, but I think they SHOULD be worth the investment. Instead the sheep migrate towards the Panini style of showcasing a patch off of one of the FIFTY – yes you heard that right – FIFTY jerseys used for each player at the shoot.

People, I urge you to demand more. When Panini takes over the NFL license in 2016, they will no longer have the incentive to be creative as the only game in town. Speak with your wallets and show that you do not want to put up with this shit. That’s my two cents.

The Most Interesting Hobby Rookies of the Last 10 Years

The NFL is as much about rookies as any other sport in the hobby. So much of the product calendar is about the class, that much of the licensing for the league is built around it. When a good rookie class happens, the NFL hobby is in a good state. If the rookie class is bad, like it was in 2013, good bye. Here are some of the rookies that I have found the most interesting.

2014 – Odell Beckham Jr

Its not that he came out of nowhere, because he was a mid first round pick. It was the fervor in which he rocketed to the top of the class when he returned from injury. Beckham didnt even play the whole year, but he performed in such a maniacal fashion that the hobby jumped on board almost instantly. For a WR in football cards to have the value he has over famous college QBs like Manziel, it takes a lot.

2014 Flawless Odell Beckham Jr. Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Bowman Chrome Odell Beckham Auto Refractor

2014 Contenders Odell Beckham Cracked Ice Ticket Auto /22

2014 Topps Platinum Odell Beckham Superfractor Auto 1/1

2013 – Eddie Lacy

For a team that lives and dies by the passing game, it was very interesting to see the way Eddie Lacy performed, even without Aaron Rodgers for most of the second half. He was a second round pick, but he was on a highly collected team, leading to some hobby relevance. Usually, for a running back, you need to break out like gang busters to make it work in the hobby. Lacy was lucky the rest of the class was so bad.

2013 Topps Five Star Eddie Lacy Auto Inscription

2013 National Treasures Eddie Lacy Auto Rookie Patch

2012 – Russell Wilson

The reason Wilson gets the nod over Luck and Griffin (the 2012 ROY), is because he was never supposed to be as good as he was. The Seahawks drafted him as a project to sit behind Matt Flynn, but Wilson was so good in the workouts and preseason, they had to give him a shot. Although he didnt really get his footing until the second half of the season, he almost became an immediate hobby superstar. Two Super Bowls and one ring later, he still is near the top.

2012 Exquisite Russell Wilson Auto Rookie Patch

2012 Contenders Russell Wilson Auto Ticket RC BGS 9.5

2011 – Cam Newton

I was not a Cam Newton fan, and to this day, im still on the hater side of his fan base. That being said, he broke almost every rookie record during his first year in the league, and his cards were insane during that time. He hasnt been able to replicate that success again, but man, he was nuts during 2011.

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch

2011 Exquisite Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch Tag Logo

2010 – Tim Tebow

Although Sam Bradford was the hottest rookie and ROY, Tebow was the story of 2010. To this day, there is still a legion of fans that want to see him get another shot. I was not among those individuals at the time, but I was in the hobby minority there. He only started 6 games with less than stellar results, but he made waves like no one had ever made with his amount of talent. He was probably better suited to play a position other than QB, but that didnt stop the hobby from going gaga over him.

2010 Contenders Tim Tebow Rookie Ticket Auto

2010 Triple Threads Tim Tebow / John Elway Booklet Relic Auto

2009 – Percy Harvin

Although Sanchez and Stafford became hobby favorites, it didnt happen until the following year. Harvin was the man in 2009 when it came to hobby interest, although Mark Sanchez did become a close second. As a dynamic playmaker for the Vikings, he became a guy who many collectors wanted to have for their displays. Since then, he has relatively fallen off the face of the earth, save his Super Bowl performance in 2013.

2009 SP Authentic Percy Harvin Auto Rookie Patch

2009 Ultimate Collection Percy Harvin Auto RC

2008 – Joe Flacco

Never having played at a prestigious program in college, Flacco was a question mark coming into the 2008 season. The hobby was lukewarm in its response as well, until he rode the Ravens top defense to a playoff berth. Since then, he hasnt really caught on the way one would expect, which I credited to his vanilla persona in the spotlight.

2008 Exquisite Joe Flacco Auto Rookie Patch

2008 Bowman Chrome Joe Flacco Orange Refractor Auto /15

2007 – Adrian Peterson

There was a lot of buzz around the 2007 class, especially coming off one of the most buzz worthy classes of all time in 2006. Peterson turned heads prior to the draft, but injuries were a concern. When he set the NFL record for yards in a single game, the world exploded. He became a hobby superstar much in the way Beckham has this year, and even with a scandal, he is still one of the most valuable active running backs in the hobby. Just goes to show you what people think about his career.

2007 Topps Chrome Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Superfractor /10

2007 SP Authentic Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Patch

2006 – Reggie Bush

I joined the football hobby around 2004, after years of collecting baseball. I really didnt get my feet wet until 2006 when the hype around Bush, Young and Leinart took the hobby by storm. The scary thing is, 2006 has since become a relative wasteland, as very few of the big name offensive rookies ever lived up to the hype. Despite a disappointing career, his 2006 cards maintain value just for the expectations behind that fabled season.

2006 Contenders Reggie Bush Auto Ticket RC

2006 Exquisite Reggie Bush Auto Rookie Patch /99

2005 – Cadillac Williams

You would expect that Aaron Rodgers would be an easy shoo in for the most interesting rookie of 2005, but he didnt play for two years sitting behind Brett Favre. Before the Rodgers we know and love came to be, Cadillac was the big name, putting up over 1000 yards in his rookie year. 2005 is still a tough class to support without Rodgers being the main guy, especially when Alex Smith really didnt pan out the way everyone thought.

2005 Topps Finest Cadillac Williams Auto RC

2005 Contenders Cadillac Williams Auto Rookie Ticket

2004 – Ben Roethlisberger

Like Flacco, Big Ben came from a school that isnt known for football. In his rookie year, he put up numbers that many of today’s rookies would kill to have, and the hobby responded in kind. Considering that Rivers and Manning were also in this class, 2004 might end up being one of the better modern hobby rookie classes.

2004 SP Authentic Ben Roethlisberger Rookie Auto Patch

2004 Bowman Chrome Ben Roethlisberger Auto RC

I think we are in for another interesting year this year with Winston and Mariota, but im still curious to see how the back end of the class performs. Although most of the time its about the QBs now, there are some names on this list that show its not always about them.

Panini Immaculate – An Exquisite Example of High End?

When Exquisite was first released in 2003-2004 for Basketball, it was the dawn of a new era in the hobby. Many would argue that the creation of the first Super High End product spelled the end of sustainability for both shops and the industry, but I see it as the reason people like me still are a part of the hobby. Topps Five Star has always been one of my favorite products, and like Immaculate, it is built on the foundation constructed by Exquisite's domination in the hobby.

Here are some of the cards in which Immaculate is copied from:

2007 Exquisite Marshawn Lynch Rookie Patch Auto

2008 Exquisite Kevin Durant Noble Nameplates Auto Patch

2009 Exquisite Kevin Love Limited Logos Auto Jumbo Patch

2009 Exquisite Matthew Stafford / Mark Sanchez Dual NFL Logo Auto 1/1

2009 Exquisite Harvin / Crabtree / Nicks / Thomas Quad Logo Auto 1/1

Today, Panini previewed another batch of their Exquisite based product in 2014 Immaculate football, a sister product to the previous releases in Basketball and Baseball. I have seen a lot of comments on twitter praising Panini’s design team for the look of the set, but also criticism for its striking resemblance to Exquisite’s previous releases. Its hard to deny that when you can see the resemblance so easily.

That being said, Exquisite produced some of the best looking sets in the history of this era of cards, and the value of those cards remains relatively untouched, even after years of unlicensed releases. Patterning a product after this formula is NOT a bad idea at all, even though it might be questionable in the "taking credit" department.

I love the way the set looks, something I mentioned a few times when it was released in Basketball in 2013 and 2014. The swooping lines and high end gold presentation makes a mark, and really pops in a lot of different ways. Using acetate as a vehicle also looks really cool in a lot of the patch autographs, which are structured almost exactly like Exquisite’s cards of the past, down to the shape of the swatch.

The design of the relic cards for each of the Immaculate releases remain a completely WEAK point for Panini in almost every way, especially when you see how terrible the design is for the oversized jumbo patch. For whatever reason, Panini seems to think its better to build a card that is more about swatch size than actual look, something which I cannot stand. Even worse, when this same approach was used for one of your most inferior brands, not a good idea to bring it to a set like this.

The worst of the relic cards are easily the horrendous hat patch cards, which feature a stupid looking goofy ass picture, and a relic from a hat that the rookies wore for a few seconds at the photo shoot. Its a lame idea, and an even worse execution. I continue to be baffled with Panini's ungodly obsession with posed pictures on trading cards.

On the other hand, the autograph cards look so good, that it almost doesnt matter how bad the relics are designed. The Immaculate Moments and the Champions autos are going to be very popular cards, as are the jumbo patch autographs, which look exactly like the ever-popular limited logo cards from Exquisite.

This is going to be a barn burner folks, and I cannot wait to see what’s in store.

Autograph Elite: Which Players are Must Have for Any Collector?

I have said many times before that I am an autograph collector rather than a card collector. Cards happen to be the best and easiest way to get autographs from my collection, so here we are. That being said, there are a few players whose autographs are among the best in each of the major sports. Think about popularity, value, and performance, and that is what I am calling the modern autograph elite. Some of these you might not agree with, and others might not be easy to get. Here are my choices that every collection should have.

Michael Jordan – Basketball

There may be one or two more autographs in history that are more recognizable than Jordan’s, and it isnt by much. Jordan, under the right circumstances, is the most valuable living signer that there is, and that is saying a lot. The issue is that he hasnt had a licensed Bulls autograph for the last half decade, and that might not ever change if things continue the way they are. If you have a card collection, you likely have a Jordan card somewhere. Good luck finding a licensed autograph from the NBA for cheap though.

2008 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Endorsements 23/23

2000 UD Master Collection Michael Jordan Auto PSA 10

2005 Exquisite Michael Jordan Auto Patch

LeBron James – Basketball

Funny how the two most elite autographs in the sport are exclusive to a company that no longer has a license. Panini would KILL to have LBJ and Jordan under their banner, and that’s because their autographs are some of the most valuable autographs in the entire hobby. James is on pace to break every record that there is, and collectors love what he is all about. Even with PR disasters like his move from Cleveland to Miami, the hobby remained on board. You need one of his cards.

2006 Exquisite LeBron James Noble Nameplates Auto Patch

2007 Exquisite LeBron James Limited Logos Auto Jumbo Patch

2004 Upper Deck SPA Lebron James / Michael Jordan Dual Auto

Derek Jeter – Baseball

I am not a Yankees fan, and I am of that group of people who really dont like Derek Jeter. I respect the hell out of him as a player, im just not a fan. That being said, when it comes to modern autographs, Jeter is an iconic figure. The fact that he has been absent from autograph sets over the last few years have made him more attractive as a signature to obtain, and that will only increase when he is voted into the HOF 5 years from now.

2009 Ultimate Collection Derek Jeter Bat Barrel Auto

1993 Upper Deck Derek Jeter RC Auto JSA Certified

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces Derek Jeter Auto Patch

Ken Griffey Jr – Baseball

I put Griffey on the same level as Jeter in a lot of ways, especially in popularity during the turn of the century. Griffey had video games, ad deals, and all sorts of popularity fueling his hype train, but injuries prevented him from being one of the best ever. He still hit over 500 home runs, and will be a HOFer soon. The issue is that he has signed quite a bit over the last few years, and that has impacted his value. Regardless, no one is sad when they pull one of his cards.

1994 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr / Mickey Mantle Dual Auto

2011 Prime Cuts Ken Griffey Jr Notable Nicknames Auto Inscription

Tom Brady – Football

He just won his fourth ring, and is arguably the best QB ever to lace up his cleats. The rarity of his signature is high, being that he is a late round draft pick that never got the fanfare that someone like Peyton Manning got as the first overall. Cheating or no cheating, Brady is a top hobby attraction whenever he is in products, and remains one of the best autographs living or dead in the game.

2014 Flawless Tom Brady Auto Jumbo Logo Patch /5

2000 Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket Auto

Peyton Manning – Football

Even though Brady has the rings, Manning is more the face of the NFL. He has more ad deals, he owns more records, and is identifiable in almost every aspect of his career. His autograph is significantly more common, which hurts value, but his production is unmatched on the field. The only thing that is missing is the titles, of which he only has one. Regardless of his Super Bowl success, Manning is a must have.

1998 Topps Peyton Manning Auto RC BGS 9.5

1998 Topps Platinum Peyton Manning Auto Patch Superfractor 1/1

Tiger Woods – Golf

I know, you are probably wondering why I am putting Tiger on this list. Even with a disastrous last few years of play, Tiger’s autograph is still as valuable as one would expect. He is the most popular golfer of all time, transcending a sport that only used to appeal to adults, making it popular for all ages. This means his autograph will be among the more valuable ones to get, and it doesnt hurt that it is as nice looking as it is.

2013 Upper Deck Master Collection Tiger Woods Auto Gold 1/1

2014 Upper Deck Exquisite Golf Tiger Woods Jumbo Relic Auto

Muhammad Ali – Boxing

When reviewing athletes that were larger than life, no one fits the bill more than Ali. His Boxing matches were national events, and everyone wanted a piece of “The Greatest.” Parkinsons has taken a lot of what Ali was, but he has signed autographs as recently as the last few years. Finding one in an affordable situation is almost impossible.

2000 Upper Deck Master Collection Muhammad Ali Auto Relic

2010 Sport Kings Muhammad Ali Silver Auto

Wayne Gretzky – Hockey

The Great One remains one of the only hockey players that everyone is familiar with. The league has fallen out of favor with the US audiences in a lot of ways, but collectors still love hockey. There isnt even a discussion that he is the best of all time.

2009 The Cup Wayne Gretzky Auto Dual Patch /9

2011 Ulitmate Legends 1997 Retro Wayne Gretzky Auto

Sidney Crosby – Hockey

I know relatively nothing about hockey, but I know Sidney Crosby. I know his autograph is still insanely valuable even though he has been up and down over his career. If I was opening a hockey product, his cards would be the ones I would look for, and I would be ecstatic if I pulled one.

2005 Upper Deck SP Future Watch Sidney Crosby Auto

2014 The Cup Sidney Crosby Limited Logos Auto Jumbo Patch

There are more autographs that Im sure deserve to be on this list, but this is a checklist I will stick with. These guys will turn heads, even from people that are not collectors, and that says something.