Rest in Peace Topps Football, You Will Be Missed

This hobby has been my life for almost 30 years. For some people, that 30 years is child’s play, as collecting cards usually has a place with people for a long time. To put it into the context of my life, Topps has been in football twice as long as I have been a part of this hobby, and almost 25 years past the beginning of my life. Today, that comes to an end.

Starting tomorrow, Panini will seize control of the NFL after offering so much money for the exclusive deal that it would have been stupid for the league to turn a blind eye. Topps couldnt compete, and even if they wanted to, im not sure they were dumb enough to get for as much money as Panini threw at both the PA and the league. Its just an insane amount of money. Personally, I believe that it was done in the name of trying to push Topps out of business, but that is about as shortsighted a move as possible.

The legacy Topps has built in the top sport in the US is one that will stand LONG past the demise of their brands. The iconic cards from even the recent years will cast long shadows over the stuff Panini is going to have to churn out of their assembly line. The older cards, ones that I grew up longing to have in my collection, will forever be looked upon with nostalgia and happiness, as well as a latent curiosity of why the current state cant measure up.

Personally, since Upper Deck’s departure from the NFL in 2010, no one has made better looking cards than Topps. Their design team rarely had issues, and when mistakes were made, they werent made twice. They made their cards look so good, that I honestly was appalled at how far the gap was between them and Panini. Over the last few years, sets like Chrome, Five Star and others have set the standard for quality in visual appeal. Other sets like Definitive Collection might be some of the best made in this era.

Adrian Peterson Superfractor

With Topps, the cards rarely looked anything but amazing, and that is what drew me to their brands. To me, design and look is the one thing I dont look past. If the card looks like garbage, I dont even put a second thought into other considerations of the set. Thanks to the way they built their products, I rarely had to scoff at the sets like I always do with Panini.

Losing a brand or brands from a sport loses more than just the history. It loses another take. It loses perspective. Panini has a completely different way they approach building a product, and even if I hate their formula, the variety the exclusive deal prevents is scary. In the next 10 years we are going to get nothing but one take on football cards, from one design team, 31 times a year. Its going to be brutal. Its going to be so brutal that Im not sure I can continue to buy new football cards in box form.

I have commented numerous times on how negatively I think the Panini exclusive will impact football cards, and I havent wavered from that. Even if they made  the best products in the world (they dont), the minimum guarantees owed to the PA and league are so high, that quantity will be more important than quality. Considering that Panini already has an ENORMOUS issue in creating good looking quality products, its going to get really bad.

Sadly, we are also losing the one brand in Football that people outside of collecting really know. Say Panini to anyone on the street, and its a grilled sandwich, not a trading card. Topps has brand power that expands past the normal collecting base.

Thankfully, Topps Digital will continue to show the world what Topps Football was and continues to be. The Huddle app will not be part of the exclusive, so they can continue to operate as normal. This is not just important in continuing the rich history of the brands, but also reminding people that the mind-numbingly awful products that are on the way werent always the only option.

Now that both Topps and Upper Deck, the best and second best cards in the hobby are both out of the majority of the four sports, we should all be pretty sad that things have been reduced to this lowest common denominator. Historic modern brands like Exquisite, Chrome, SP Authentic, and Finest are now one sport products, if that. Topps Flagship, the most popular set in the hobby has gone from a 4 sport set to a 3 sport set, to a 2 sport set and now its just baseball. Tides have shifted things in the wrong direction, and for 2 of the top sports, a company no one in the US really knows has taken over.

Its sad that the brands I grew up with in Football are pretty much gone. For the last 20 years, I have collected the top rookies from my favorite teams in Chrome and Finest. Every year, even when I wasnt collecting during my teen years. It was a tradition that transcended my personal preferences in entertainment. For the first time in that span, 2016 will no longer have that as an option for me in Football.

Rest in peace Topps Football, my childhood and adult experience with your products have brought immense joy to my life and my son’s life. The Topps cards in my collection will continue to be a treasured part of my memories, and I am making a promise to regularly go back and appreciate what your brands have accomplished over the years. I understand this sounds intensely personal, because for the last two decades, it has been. I love what Topps has done, and I am bitterly angry that they are no longer able to continue to be a part of the hobby I love. I doubt I will be the only one who feels this way.

 

2015 National Treasures: What Works and What Doesnt Work

Despite my feelings on the product, National Treasures is an important set each year. Although I think many more products are extremely more deserving of the attention NT gets, its not worth having another discussion about that. There are some definite elements that work for this year’s treasures and quite a few that dont work at all. Here is a breakdown.

Rookie Auto Patches – PUSH

Unlike 2012, where I thought the design failed miserably for a very important class, this is an update that works slightly better. The player is still pushed way to the left side of the card in order to house the oversized patch, and its frustrating to see because of how well 2014’s design worked. The spirograph topographical pattern behind the player is both worthless and confusing, and shouldnt have been included. Overall im giving this a push only because I KNOW it could have been a lot worse.

2015 National Treasures Marcus Mariota Rookie Auto Patch

2015 National Treasures Melvin Gordon Rookie Auto Patch

Booklet Cards – GOOD!

As always, the NT booklet cards look great. For whatever reason, people dont seem to put the same kind of value into these that they do the significantly worse looking RAPs, but whatever. Im sure it has to do with all that true RC bullshit. If you want the best rookie cards in the product, its these.

2015 National Treasures Barry Sanders Veteran Booklet Patch Auto

2015 National Treasures Marcus Mariota Titans Logo Booklet RPA

2015 National Treasures Stefon Diggs Vertical Booklet RPA

Rookie Sticker Autos – FAIL

Not only do these cards look completely different than the on card stuff, but the player picture and design in the middle of the card is covered up by a big white area. Although it isnt a defined box for the sticker, its still oddly separate from the rest of the card. These are not good looking at all.

2015 National Treasures Thomas Rawls RC Auto

On Card Veteran Patch Auto – NICE!

This is one of my favorite designs in the product, if not only because Panini didnt feel the need to use giant typeface or needlessly oversized patches. Its a simple design with hard signed autographs. I love this look and wish more cards in the set followed this same formula.

2015 National Treasures Tony Romo On Card Patch Auto /5

Horizontal Rookie Patch Autos – FAIL

The only bad part about these cards are the posed pictures, which I cant fucking stand. I wish this was the main rookie auto patch design, and I also wish they used action photos instead of the awkward studio shots. These photos ruin what would have been a great card. Too bad these lame pictures are all over this product.

2015 National Treasures Todd Gurley Horizontal Rookie Auto Patch

2015 National Treasures Nelson Agholor Horizontal Rookie Auto Patch

Veteran Sticker Autos – NOT BAD!

Although stickers used in NT are a complete fucking joke, the cards dont look bad. The design is simple, and though it doesnt fit the theme of the on card stuff (what the hell?) it doesnt look bad at all. Pretty standard sticker auto.

2015 National Treasures Brett Favre Auto /25

2015 National Treasures Bo Jackson Auto /25

Vertical Jumbo Patch Cards – AWFUL

These might be the worst looking cards in the product, if not only because so much of the player is covered up by the patch. They did horizontal versions of some of the cards, and they look SO Much better. Horrible card.

2015 National Treasures Allen Robinson Jumbo Patch

2015 National Treasures Devonta Freeman Jumbo Patch

Colossal Auto Relics – MEH…

So, Panini found out that putting the relic ABOVE the player on a vertical card gives them a bit more space. Its not great but its not horrible to me. Had this been relic on the bottom, yeah, that would have been bad. I just dont get why they dont do this horizontal for all cards and save us all the agony.

2015 National Treasures Karlos Williams NFL Sheild Auto 1/1

2015 National Treasures Ameer Abdullah Colossal Patch Auto

Hats Off Cards – FAILLLLLLLLL

I hate the concept of this set, I hate the tongue in cheek dad joke name of the set, and I hate the pictures. Nothing more needs to be said about these disasters.

2015 National Treasures Devante Parker Hats Off Auto Dolphins Logo

Base Cards – GOOD!

Like the rest of the sticker autos, these REALLY look different than most of the rest of the set. I have a feeling its because the on card stuff was just rehashing college NT and NT baseball, where this is new. Its completely disjointed in terms of a product, but the base dont look bad.

2015 National Treasures Derek Carr Base 1/1

After about a week to digest the cards since the preview breaks, I think this year’s set is far worse than 2014. I see 2014 as the best designed NT in the run, and this falling behind 2013, but ahead of 2012. Panini needs to step up their game.

SCU Go Live Report: 2015 Panini National Treasures

Since 2010, National Treasures has taken over as the go to for rookie auto patch cards for each class. Although I would argue that many other super premium products have looked better on a REGULAR basis, collectors go nuts for this shit. For the super majority of the run of this product, it has gotten attention I really dont think it deserves, and I think 2015 is just another garbage filled brick in that wall.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2015 National Treasures Matt Ryan NFL Logo Auto 1/1

2015 National Treasures Marcus Mariota Rookie Patch Auto

2015 National Treasures Todd Gurley Rookie Relic Auto /25

2015 National Treasures Marcus Mariota Titans Logo RPA

2015 National Treasures Jameis Winston Quad Patch Auto Relic /5

That isnt saying there arent nice looking cards in this version of the product. There are some very cool cards, especially if you are lucky enough to avoid all the duds that litter this checklist. To me, Treasures represents a bloated checklist, with a partial sticker dump, all mixed together with the content collectors chase.

The main cards are always the rookie auto patch cards, which this year do not improve at all on a very successful design from 2014. Its a vertical card this time around, which I cant fucking stand, and has some spirograph looking shit behind the player. In fact, odd design choices and lack of product continuity are all over Treasures this year, and that’s another reason I dont like it at all.

For the main on card sets, Colossal, RAPs, and a few others, the set looks like a copy paste of baseball and multi sport from 2015. The rest of the set looks very different, and creates a crazy split in the set that suggests Treasures should be two products mashed together. Comparing the base cards, the stickers, and scrub rookie autos to the on card stuff doesnt look like it comes from the same box. All in all, this set will end up being more valuable than Definitive’s patch autos for the big guys, and that is a fucking crime.

My biggest complaint aside from the disjointed design, is the horrid choices of photos across many of the subsets. Its just stupid that Panini continues to find value in adding goofy ass posed photos, instead of using game shots or action shots from the rookie premiere. It literally removes my desire to purchase a card that features some of these terrible player pictures.

There are also a ton of train wreck vertical jumbo patch cards, which as mentioned before are really difficult to make look good, and that is with a design team that is actually competent. It should come as no surprise that Panini’s football team created the equivalent of a cardboard wet fart for most of these cards. Its funny that a card like this doesnt even make my top 3 for worst in the set. The least they could have done was at least try to make things look good. The horizontal versions are actually pretty nice looking.

Im really done trying to fight against the wave of collectors who will chase these cards just because they say Treasures on them. I understand that I am in the minority about the choices Panini continually makes on their products of this nature, but I just cannot support their awful skills at making good looking trading cards. They are the fucking worst.

Go Live Report – 2016 Panini Contenders Draft Picks

I want to start off this post with a very simple statement. The way this product is built and priced is an embarassment. Expecting people to spend 130 dollars a box for college sticker autos on an old design is a fucking slap in the face. Not only should this product feature a new design, but it should feature hard signed cards, at least from the bigger draft picks.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2016 Contenders Draft Ezekiel Elliot Cracked Ice Auto Ticket

2016 Contenders Draft Carson Wentz Auto Ticket

2016 Contenders Draft Jared Goff Auto Ticket

2016 Contenders Draft Derrick Henry Auto Ticket

Although I like the 2015 Contenders design, its clear that Panini is obnoxiously choosing to recycle a design. I feel like this is just the start of this stupid set. Being that this is the first of many products Panini will release this year, you would think they would want to set a tone, and not build another draft picks set that will sell for half of MSRP come mid season. They could have done a new ticket design, at least to show that they arent just looking to skate through the beginning of the year.

I mean, last year, we didnt get a predominantly rookie on card set from Panini until fucking thanksgiving almost, and that in itself is just as bad as this abomination. For whatever reason, Panini doesnt seem to put value in getting hard signed cards from a group that is easy enough for Leaf to get done, and I just dont get it. This dilutes the Contenders brand for them, and that also makes no sense.

We also are going to get an element of NCAA in so many NFL products this year, the college thing is being shoved down our throats in such a hardcore way that Jenna Jameson would be impressed. Upper Deck found out the hard way that CLC is a tough license to manage, and an even tougher license to sell to an ever shrinking group of college collectors. Here we get Panini walking around with a gigantic NCAA boner, not realizing that no one really wants to see that. Two dick jokes in one paragraph, nice.

The right way to do this product is at 85 bucks, hard signed, with a new design. Not 130 bucks for stickers on a retread. Regular Contenders sells for 130 with on card, and the same content, so why should we pay this much for leftovers? Not only that, but leftovers that will be in the bargain bin in a few months? That’s exactly what happened last year with a better rookie class.

Im upset that Panini has the exclusive, but I wouldnt be as upset if they werent so fucking dumb with their choices. If you cant get it done the right way, wait. Wait like normal people do. Who knows, maybe your brand legacy wouldnt be garbage with collectors then.

For this exclusive to work, quality needs to be at the forefront of each product. Not just in the checklist, but in the construction of the product. I dont see that happening for 10 products a year with Panini, let alone 30+. Sad sad sad.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Flawless Baseball

If you didnt see this one coming, im going to question your foresight here. Panini's Flawless brand has invaded all facets of the industry, including an upcoming release in Soccer. Even though I hate the name of the set, I do think that it has merit in some capacity in Basketball and Football. My main complaint is that the brand has rarely offered anything that isnt available in every other high end product that Panini does, and begs the question – should we really have to pay 1500 plus just to get a realistic shot a better players on the checklist?

We know super premium products can work in Baseball, but im wondering if the performance will be too low to justify the price. You can get really nice NT and Immaculate cards for not a lot of money:

2015 Panini National Treasures Michael Conforto Logo Patch Auto /5

2015 Panini Immaculate Kris Bryant Shadowbox Auto

2015 Panini National Treasures "Shoeless" Joe Jackson Bat Relic

2015 Panini Immaculate Carlos Correa Auto Patch RC

Baseball is even tougher to imagine being a rightful direction of the brand, especially when you consider they are unlicensed and almost every big name is under exclusive contract with Topps. Trout, Harper, Correa, plus a number of other top guys will not be able to be used in this product, and that means there will be a large hole that can only be filled with more autographs of guys who I dont see being that important in the grand scheme of things. Add in the fact that the cards will have no logos, and I can see this playing out very similarly to the other high end baseball products Panini has put out.

The cards are simple and nice, like they were in Basketball this past year, and likely will be in Football. I think the simplicity here is where Flawless tends to differ from normal Panini designs, and that is a VERY good thing. They chose to go with a white dominated look, something that plays very well for the autographs and patches, and it looks like photo choices are good too. Unlike just about every single Panini product in existence, design isnt the main issue at play.

When its tougher to sell the cards on the secondary market because licensed cards sell for significantly more money, im curious how this will be accepted. I would much rather have Dynasty or even cards that will be released in the Mint, but that isnt saying the Flawless cards arent some of the nicer unlicensed stuff that is available. In the end, its not about how I feel, its how collectors feel, and the history isnt on the side of Panini here. Im guessing it will be hot at first, but like we see with all of their previous baseball products, its not going to be sustainable.

Obviously, Panini only cares about selling the boxes, and not the secondary market performance, so they will get some of what they need up front. However, this is almost a group break exclusive product, as its going to be tough to see individual collectors wanting to pony up money for a set that has so much prospect content, and none of the big names in Baseball.

The one main redeeming factor of this product should be the REALLY old guys, pre war relics from Ruth and company. Somehow, Panini still has relics of these guys, and that is where they have a place to market Flawless as a big draw. Mixing them in with low to mid range prospects is still confusing to me, and I still see very little unique content outside of these types of historic players.

I wouldnt touch boxes of this with a 10 foot pole, but as mentioned prior, this is group break city. Then again, people broke Spectra football, so anything is possible.