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.

Breaking Down My Favorite Cards from 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball

As mentioned before, there are more people that wait for the release of Topps baseball than any other set that is released during the year. Almost yearly it gets national attention, which is has happened again this year with Jeter’s final Topps base card. That type of thing rarely happens, and is very good when it does. VERY GOOD. I think this year’s set has some real gems, and I wanted to highlight some of my favorites.

Strata Signature Relics

When I wrote about the set a few days ago, I mentioned how much I love these cards. In football, they continue to be a card I will chase until the end, and I am happy that they are back again for baseball after a lot of success last year. The multi-layer presentation looks awesome with a hard signed signature, and though many are redemptions, they are worth the wait.

2015 Topps Mike Piazza Strata Signature Relic – Live Card

2015 Topps Clayton Kershaw Strata Signature Relic

2015 Topps Jose Abreu Strata Signature Relic

Post Season Relic Autos

Whenever a card company can use the official logos from an event, I will usually perk my ears up. It adds a bit of fanfare to something to get its own logo, and most of the time they are worth adding to the trading cards to commemorate what happened. These cards were cool last year, and this year they are really nice as well.

2015 Topps Clayton Kershaw Post Season Auto Patch

2015 Topps Salvador Perez Post Season Auto Patch

Gallery of Greats

The framing of the picture with a focus on highlighting some of Baseaball’s titans is awesome. I think the cards just look high end, and raised border makes it seem more special. Although the autograph cards look worse in scans than I expect they really are in person, I would chase them if the checklist had a player I collected.

2015 Topps Derek Jeter Gallery of Greats Gold

2015 Topps Mike Piazza Gallery of Greats Auto

Framed Base Parallels

I dont really collect base cards at all. These are a bit different, as the metal frame adds a level of museum to these cards that rarely exist. At 20 copies each, the big guys like Jeter sell for insane money.

2015 Topps Miguel Cabrera Framed Base /20

2015 Topps Madison Bumgarner Framed Base /20

Acetate Base Parallels

Much like the framed cards, the acetate parallel is also one I love. As someone who loves acetate cards (as evidenced in my love of Strata), these are some bad ass base cards. Rarity in 10 copies makes them pretty beastly in price too.

2015 Topps Jose Abreu Acetate Base /10

2015 Topps Eric Hosmer Acetate Base /10

Topps Series 1 remains a hobby event, and that will not change as long as it exists. I think these cards are perfect examples why even the hit collectors can appreciate the product.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Fire Football

If you remember back a few months ago when Topps first solicited this new product, I had a pretty negative reaction to the look and theme. I was likely not the only one that felt that way, as Topps immediately launched a campaign to drum up pre-orders for Fire at hobby shops around the country. It was clear that no one really had much confidence in the viability of this new concept, and it was actually pretty sad that the campaign was launched the way it was.

Here are some of the hits up so far:

2014 Topps Fire Odell Beckham Auto Patch RC

2014 Topps Fire Derek Carr Auto Patch RC /50

2014 Topps Fire Sammy Watkins Wood Base RC /25

2014 Topps Fire Kelvin Benjamin Green Parallel Auto

Fire is another set in the vein of Valor, with a hint of Inception mixed in, and one would expect that would actually result in a pretty nice looking product. However, because of the performance of recent duds in Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome, collector confidence has dropped significantly. Another point worth mentioning is that previous concept set Valor also had major issues upon trlrsdr in 2012, with a strong rookie class to back it. Fire doesnt have the on card autos, and it doesnt have as nice a design, but it does have a cheap box price. That is really the only good part of this whole thing. You wont lose your ass if you come up short. Valor had a resurgence with a reduction in price and more focused content, and Fire is just a re-imagining of that with a lesser concept and a far poorer design.

Where Valor focused on battle and armory, Fire focuses on space and combustion. You can see where one motif may fit with football and the other does not. Similarly, releasing a sticker autograph product this late in the year is only going to appeal to a limited number of collectors, especially when more robust concepts in Museum Collection, Supreme and Five Star are still on the way.

Topps has already cancelled another dog set in 2014 Rookie Premiere Football, which would have performed even lower than Fire. Im beginning to get to the point where Im ready to say less is more – especially with Panini churning out as many terrible products as they have recently. Conservation may not be as much of an option as we think, especially with the cost of hitting minimum licensing guarantees along the way. Topps and Panini almost have to do what they do, or they will have the league to answer to.

The problem is that sets like Fire are just too much of a risk at this point. Topps obviously has less to lose now that 2015 will be their last year, but they still have to make SOME money. Fire was a bold concept that just wasnt executed in a way that is attractive to most people who comprise the target market. I know I am not going to buy singles or boxes.

Im going to go out on a limb here and say that a sticker dump product like Topps Magic may have been a better choice to release in this spot, even if it hasnt performed to standards in the past. Magic at least has a following, and Topps has rarely used its retro chops at all this year, minus a few inserts.

Curious to see what happens coming up, as the meat of Topps’ late calendar has been a favorite of mine for the last 4 years. I am praying that things can turn around, and I am confident that they will find a way to get out of this funk.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Topps Baseball

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training less than a month from now, that only means one thing – 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball is on the way. Even though I rarely buy packs of Baseball cards anymore, the release of the new Topps set is always fun. Seeing that this release ALSO crosses over to the amazing digital apps that are my new favorite past time, Im more invested than ever, even if its not in a traditional manner.

This year’s design is a relative departure from the last few years of the set, but its one that I rather enjoy. Its not so modern that it takes away from the history of the set, but its not so boring that it doesnt feel fresh. The only thing I dont think will work as well stems from the transition of colored borders in all the parallels.

Here are some of the first hits up so far:

2015 Topps Miguel Cabrera Auto Relic Gallery of Greats

2015 Topps Mike Trout Career High Auto SSP

2015 Topps Bo Jackson Coin and Stamp Relic

2015 Topps Jacob Degrom Auto Career High

2015 Topps Clayton Kershaw SSP Photo Variation

We dont know much about the surprises that are definitely in store for the variations or other quirks of the set, but I am excited to see what that turns out to be. Breaks should start showing up tonight, as Topps has planned some pre-release parties with major retailers for the first time I can remember.

The first pitch celebrity cards are generating a lot of buzz among collectors, as they feature some really cool subjects that threw out ceremonial first pitches during last year. The set is selling for some really nice money, and it is a cool idea for an insert.

Topps Series 1 also brings out the set collectors from the woodwork each year, as this is really one of the main products that caters to that kind of hobby participant. Even though I am not a set collector by any definition of the word, its always funny to see people pick it apart with what they like and dont like.

I also like a lot of the designs for the inserts and autographs for the first time in a while, as I feel they have come up drastically short over the last few years. My three favorite parts of the set in the acetate parallels, framed cards and Strata signature relics are all back, and I will definitely try to pick up a few from the guys I chase. I still think the framed cards play after a few years, which is cool.

For whatever reason, card collectors can be some of the most anal OCD individuals about certain things, many of which I dont agree with or understand. There was some annoying controversy around including Derek Jeter as the first card in the set, as people have cited that retired players shouldnt be included in the base set. Although Paul Konerko also has a commemorative card in the base set, Jeter took most of the heat. Im going to say this again, as I said it in Twitter – Really? I mean Really? This is what we are getting mad about? The most iconic player in the game retires and people are pissed at Topps for giving him one last major sendoff? Cmon people. Really? If you think the backup shortstop on the Royals deserves a card more than Jeter in this set, even I will tell you that you have made the wrong cause your banner.

Either way, Series 1 should be a fun rip for Baseball enthusiasts as they prepare for the year, and I hope that will never change. Ill be keeping an eye out to see any of the cards I might want, and hopefully this year, I can find a better excuse to get back into collecting baseball cards. With all the time I spend on Topps BUNT, that shouldnt be hard.

On the Radar: 2014 National Treasures Football Sneak Peak

Over the last few years, Treasures has undergone a transformation that has made it much more of a high end product for the money. Previous years have been spotty at best, and I continue to have no clue why it was given a pass to be the top valued set of the year. After starting the run with a bunch of sticker autos and cards that wouldnt be out of place in their lower end brands, Panini has made an effort to get more higher end content for the set. It has paid off, even though they continue to fail with some terrible designs and concepts each time it is released.

Here are past designs from 2012, where the set first started to go in the right direction. I hated the rookie patch auto design, but the overall look was great:

2012 National Treasures Tom Brady Virtuoso Auto

2012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Rookie Patch Auto

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

2012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

In 2013, the set continued to improve, even though the product tanked thanks to the rookie class being so bad:

2013 National Treasures Colin Kaepernick Auto Colossal

2013 National Treasures Michael Irvin Inscription Auto Nicknames

2013 National Treasures LeSean McCoy Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

This year, lets hope the trend continues.

We got our first preview yesterday and I found myself praying that this is the design for the main Rookie cards of the set. The last few years has gone from awful to not great but not bad, and this design would be a nice change with some great looking cards. It cant be worse than 2012, so I have that going for me.

Im still disappointed that they are going to be using shots from late May, taken at the rookie photo shoot. We have seen with other examples that game photos are easily obtained and used for a set released as late as treasures will be released, yet they opted out in 2013 as well. But, the design is pretty enough that I dont think that will matter all that much.

My only concern will be that they will try to poop out another horrible design for the main rookie patch autos, and these will be an insert. At least I will have a card to chase, as these are easily worth the price of admission. Simplicity and Panini are usually a recipe that doesnt mix well, but it seems like they embraced it for these cards. The results are great.

Last year’s design wasnt actually bad at all, and the majority of the set was pretty damn good in the way it looked. I hope that Panini continues to use Treasures as an opportunity to produce simple cards with great photos and nice patches. It really doesnt need to be anything more than that. This is a great start. A great start indeed.