Recapping the Best and Worst of 2015 Football Cards

I love year end lists, and I love award shows, believe it or not. 2015 was a big year for football, not only because of the cards, and it brought some things that were both very good and very bad. I want to take some time to offer my recap now that Flawless marks the end of the grind. Its funny how far into 2016 the older products have stretched, but we finally have a good picture of the way it worked out.

Product of the Year: 2015 Definitive Collection

I dont think this was even close. Very few products generated the type of buzz that Topps had with DC, and its something that wasnt hampered by the huge amount of redemptions they had to use because of the release date. Seeing that most of the cards that should have been in boxes are already done and shipped, it only makes this product more impressive. Every big hit was better than the next, including a few that literally made my jaw drop.

Check out this product in all its glory:

2015 Definitive Collection Aaron Rodgers MVP Auto

2015 Definitive Collection Peyton Manning / Brett Favre Dual Auto

2015 Definitive Collection Jameis Winston Framed Auto Logo Patch 1/1

2015 Definitive Collection Todd Gurley NFL Logo Silhouette Auto 1/1

Its rare to see a high end product jump in price as much as this set did, especially with the way most of them perform when ripping them by the box. Definitive Collection offered some of the most impressive and beautiful cards of the year, and collectors jumped all over it.

In my opinion, this consistently offered in design and content what Flawless should offer at its price tag, and Topps should be proud to end their football license on this note.

Hobby Rookie of the Year: Marcus Mariota

This was a tough call, because Jameis Winston was definitely a contender as well. Both had a productive rookie campaign, and both have bright futures if their teams improve. The reason I chose Mariota is because of two things – collector perception and signing consistency. Plus, Mariota has a great looking signature.

Because both QBs had about the same level of productivity give or take, its quite difficult to say one deserves the award over the other from that perspective. That being said, I see collectors have a much better view of what Mariota is capable of, over what Winston eventually will accomplish. I personally think Winston is the better QB, but I know that isnt all there is.

Mariota also signed most of his cards and was rarely a redemption in any product. Winston’s cards in the second half werent live for Panini, which means that the bigger sets like NT had a big hole there. Although they were done shortly after the fact, it prevented collectors from pulling them in video breaks and left Winston a bit short in buzz for me.

Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston

Most Underrated Set: Topps Supreme

I know that the majority of this set is stickers, so you should be shocked that I would give this distinction. That’s how good Supreme was this year, and even I was surprised. Being that the set has been good for a number of years isnt really a consideration when the license is ending, but Topps really went out with a bang here.

Check these out:

2015 Topps Supreme Jameis Winston Auto Inscription Booklet

2015 Topps Supreme Todd Gurley Auto Patch RC

2015 Topps Supreme Ladanian Tomlinson / Barry Sanders Dual Auto

Intricate die cuts and layering made the cards look spectacular in hand, and almost made you forget that the autographs werent hard signed. Im actually curious how some of the cards were built, as they just look so unique compared to others from previous years. I think this might have gone overlooked because you cant see the construction when you scan them.

Additionally, it did have on card content including some cool inscriptions and hard signed rookie content. The checklist also featured some great names and a lot of amazing pairings for the multisigned cards.

It kind of got lost in the end of year shuffle for Topps, and that really sucks. It deserved a lot more credit.

Honorable Mention: Immaculate Collection

Worst Product of the Year: Panini Spectra

I get it, some people like crazy busy cards that are too gaudy for their own good. I hate them. I also hate the stickers signed in neon paint pens, and the design they used for almost every card in this set. Using Topps’ Superfractor pattern for their 1/1s reinforced the lack of creativity Panini has in branding their own products, and that was only the start of the major issues.

To package this garbage in a box that costs 300 plus is just certifiably insane to me, so much so that I put it on my worst products of the last 10 years list a few months back. People were awfully forgiving of the horrendous look because the top rookies were inserted at a nice clip, but some of the designs were so bad, it wouldnt have mattered to me if it were Tom Brady.

If you strip away the trashy late 90s approach to the stock and patterns, the base look of each card was among the worst I have seen in their own right. Weird pictures, big boxes for the stickers, and terrible design composition. The dual auto patches were so bad it was funny.

Honorable Mention: Topps Fire

Biggest Hobby Disappointment: Johnny Manziel

Last year, there was no bigger autograph than Money Manziel, and when he went nuclear this year off the field, I believe I could hear all those voices crying out in terror. People spent THOUSANDS on his cards, only to find him in treatment, out of treatment, partying again, and now without representation and a team. He has basically ensured that his career is over, and that is not good for the hobby.

Considering how many top value rookies have flamed out in glorious fashion (RGIII anyone?), it should serve as a cautionary tale to many people. As it happens more often, alongside careers being shortened as a whole, things are not great in the future of football and hobby longevity on the player level.

Manziel is the next in the long line of top rated busts, which includes some major names from the last few years. Kaepernick, RGIII, Tebow, among a number of others.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck

Biggest Product Disappointment: Panini National Treasures

Only Panini would release National Treasures, and mere weeks later flood the market with Flawless. Coming off what was their best year in the entire run of the set, Panini followed success with a giant turd of a release in Treasures.

Horrible photo choices? Check. Weird design choices? Check. Stickers everywhere? Check. Released too late? Check. Overshadowed by Flawless? Check. Looks like its a sweep of shitty situations for a product that people were waiting for.

My biggest complaint had to be the overwhelming amount of posed photographs used in the product instead of the more dynamic action shots they have used more exclusively in years past. There is a reason Topps RARELY uses these types of photos, and its because it looks like fucking trash. Football is about action, not glamorous runway poses of players gripping footballs and screaming at the camera like tools.

As a whole, Treasures needed to be big, and it was a dud in theme and concept. It made me long for 2014, which is funny considering the massive debacle with Teddy and OBJ’s cards that happened. Only shows how big of a disappointment it was this year.

Honorable Mention: Panini Flawless

Biggest News Item: Panini’s Quest for World Domination Extends into the NFL

This is literally the worst possible news for football cards. Much like basketball, where the company who made the best cards DID NOT get the exclusive, Panini’s blank check from Italy landed them another big fish.

Football was the only sport left that not only prevented player autograph exclusives from being signed, but also league license exclusives werent on the table for many years. Now under Panini’s exclusive banner, the people responsible for some of the worst products of the modern era now are the only game in town. Oh, and they have to build twice the amount of products, and print the shit out of them to meet minimum guarantees.

As if that werent bad enough, a company in Topps, who just celebrated their 60th year of history in football is now out of the game. With that departure goes years of iconic sets and products that most of us have grown up with. All that name recognition is gone too, replaced by a company who most non-hobby people have never heard of. Going to be great, people. Cant wait for this year.

That’s a wrap folks, and with it the last year of football cards as we know it. I have a horrible feeling that next year wont have any winners of any sort, but that’s for Panini to prove now. I think its going to be interesting to see what this list looks like next year, to be honest, or if it will even be worth writing about. Who knows?

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Prizm Collegiate Draft Picks

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Prizm has been around since 2012, and I have hated every edition other than 2015 football. Each set seems to be worse than the last, aside from 2014, which is one of the worst designed sets of the modern era. Seeing Panini foolishly try to extend out the brand into college, despite a DISMAL performance of the product last year, is pretty laughable, but that’s not even the half of it. Last year had a better design, a MUCH better draft class, and the fresh new product curiosity. This year? NONE OF THAT.

Check out this visual diarrhea:

2016 Prizm Draft Dez Bryant Auto

2016 Prizm Draft Carson Wentz Red White and Blue Tire Track Refractor

2016 Prizm Draft Joey Bosa Hippie Fractor Auto /49

2016 Prizm Paxton Lynch Camo Auto /199

Panini’s hopes for a mediocre performance this year just got a hair better with the Titans trading the pick to a team that is obviously in need of a QB. The problem is that this set is so ugly it doesnt even matter. The boxy background and terrible composition of the card is beyond vomit worthy, and that’s before we consider that this is ANOTHER sticker product that should be on card. Hell, maybe for the top guys at least.

When you look at the card and wonder, “WHY THE FUCK IS HALF THIS CARD TAKEN UP WITH A NAMEPLATE?” you would be asking the right question. Panini literally decided it was more important to completely segregate the sticker from the upper part of the card, and in the process, obscure almost 50% of the surface area. That’s not saying the top part of the card is any better, because the layered boxes that are used as flair for the look confuse me just as much. Someone needs to tell their design team that we want to see the player, not some dumb background and sticker area.

I mean, shit, they had the nerve to add the tire track roadkill pattern to a card that has a red, white and blue refractor pattern. Its the busiest card I have seen in a while, and that’s saying something considering the same company produced what they did in Spectra last year.

If you are looking to buy something in the offseason leading up to the draft, it shouldnt be any of the Panini products – especially when you see that Leaf is completely lapping them in every way, shape and form. More compact checklists, better designs, and on card autographs make for better products, even if the secondary market doesnt give them the credit they deserve. At least you will prevent the eye pain you would get from opening a box of this and pulling horrid looking garbage.

Last year’s set is selling for literally nothing per box, so you can easily see the foreshadowing in place for what is going to happen here. Even if Wentz and Goff go 1 and 2, they just arent the same type of prospects that Winston and Mariota are. Dont waste your time. I promise, you will thank me.

SCU Go Live Report – 2016 Museum Collection Baseball

Over the last few years, I have become a fan of Museum Collection baseball. Well, at least PARTS of Museum Collection. Some of the parts of it I could do without, but others are some of my favorite cards any company makes. This year’s baseball product mirrors the Football version almost to the letter, and that isnt necessarily a bad thing. Some of the cards are very successful, where others have the same issues it’s sister product did. Its a high end chase for some very nice cards, and Im interested to see what is in store as more of the product is opened.

Here are some of the bigger cards already up so far:

2016 Topps Museum Collection Mike Trout Auto /25

2016 Topps Museum Collection Jose Abreu Framed Auto /10

2016 Topps Museum Collection Corey Seager RC Auto

2016 Topps Museum Collection Jeff Bagwell / Craig Biggio Dual Auto

The focus of Museum during the last few seasons has been a combination of the framed autographs and other high end on card autographs, and 2016 is no different. Being that the framed cards are some of my favorites to collect, I was interested to see if they remained the same from Football. They look good as usual, although Im not a fan of the wood parallel that Baseball has used for the last few years.

I also really like the on card autograph content outside of the framed cards, especially the horizontally oriented ones. I think they really improved this over the stickers in football, and the parallels look even better with sepia toned photos and silver signatures.

Although the dual relic autos dont look that gross, the one part of Museum that I literally despise is the triple relics that add one more 1×1 square to the dual look. The L shaped approach of the configuration intrudes on the player, and makes the design so packed that everything looks strained. There are also jumbo relics where the player photo is about the same size as the product logo, one of my biggest pet peeves. On a high end product like this, silhouetting a larger player picture over the patch would be so much better. I hate when the player is a secondary focus to the relic, especially when the product logo has as much prominence. Its completely wonky.

For one of the first high end products of the year, Museum fills a gap that has been present since the release of Topps Series 1. I think that by the time products like The Mint roll around, the only cards of note from this will be the chase content and framed cards, so get your cards up if you are a seller. Sticker auto relics just arent special anymore, and I think that products like this should have a focus to maintain a 100% hard signed approach. As a whole the stuff is right on par with previous years, and Ill definitely be looking to chase down some singles of the guys I collect.

Trevor Story Ignites Baseball Card Values With Torrid Start

For the first week of the MLB season, there has been no bigger hobby news item than Trevor Story’s historic run. He has hit 7 HR in his first week in the big leagues, and as expected, collectors are going absolutely nuts. But, unlike many might say, I am going to break some bad news on this – you are too late. Buying now is more risk than high reward, and its breaking the cardinal rule of prospecting. Buy low and sell high.

Here are some of the auctions, you can see the insane prices right now:

2011 Bowman Chrome Trevor Story Base Auto RC

2011 Bowman Chrome Trevor Story Blue Refractor Auto

2011 Bowman Sterling Trevor Story Blue RC Auto

2011 Elite Extra Edition Trevor Story Auto Red /10

Bottom line, this is a dream scenario for prospectors, especially those who have waited YEARS for this time. Most people who have stood to make money already have, and its not from a short term investment in most cases. Trevor Story is a guy who was drafted 45th, to a team that had a need, and I can guarantee you that there were a lot of prospectors who saw him as a guy worth picking up a small stash.

Story’s cards probably sat in people's common boxes since his Bowman card from 2011. That’s the way many prospecting stories start. People like Correa and Harper were drafted #1, so their cards never were rock bottom the way his cards probably were.

That doesnt mean there isnt more money to be made, but the massive increases in his pricing have likely already happened, and the baseball law of small sample size will eventually catch up to him. Even if he goes on to win ROY, he might only go up in a small way. There is a chance that he hits 60 home runs and goes onto be MVP, but there is also a chance that the Twins win the World Series this year. Both are too slim to bank on.

If you are a Rockies fan, sure – go nuts. This is your time to shine. If you are someone looking to make some money on cards, my first inclination is to ask you why cards are your preferred investment tool? Then I would point you to Prospecting 101, where you might learn that buying guys that have already popped is probably the worst thing you can do.

Im guessing that Topps is already looking for more ways to get Story into products, which means he is likely going to be in a lot of products as the year progresses into the second half. He already has 3 Topps Now cards. Considering the draft is coming up and 2016 Bowman is on its way, you might want to figure out what you need to study to find your targets.

I love stories like this because it brings attention to the hobby, especially when you see what kind of money people are paying for Story’s cards. If you remember back to Yasiel Puig, a very similar thing happened to what is happening here. Lots of HR, high batting average and a potential to be one of the next big super stars. We all know how that has worked out so far.

Prospecting is an art, and I would say that most people dont really get how to survive. The ones that do it well are already done unloading Story, and are onto looking for their next guy. They will also have a hundred tales of investments that didnt work out. All in all, there is always risk, and basing a collection on a few games is never a good idea.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Flawless Football

I was shocked last year when Panini decided to bring Flawless to football, especially at a price tag that was suited for Basketball. The singles havent performed very well long term, and though the box price remains high, its more because of group breaking than anything. The thing is, because the product came out SO early last year, it had a completely different appeal to it. There were no high end cards of that caliber even close to the stuff in Flawless and that added a lot. This year, its the last product, and boy its looking like that was a huge mistake. Thankfully the design is much better than NT was, so I can look to get some singles of the guys I collect.

Here are the big hits up so far:

2015 Flawless Jameis Winston Auto Patch RC /20

2015 Flawless Marcus Mariota Auto Patch RC /15

2015 Flawless Amari Cooper Quad Photo Auto RC /20

2015 Flawless Peyton Manning Auto Jumbo Patch /10

2015 Flawless Dan Marino Auto Jumbo Patch /20

Right now, the football market as a whole is insanely soft for singles, with many collectors already into offseason mode and planning for the upcoming draft class. Similarly, Panini JUST released National Treasures a few weeks ago, and the dust hasnt even settled on that set. Production delays happen all the time, but this is a bit ridiculous. There is no reason why the two biggest Panini products of the year should hit within two weeks of each other. No way.

My biggest gripe with Flawless has always been that it offers nothing unique. In fact, it offers less chase content than both Treasures and Immaculate, by a significant margin no less. Add in that at $1500+ per box, it costs 3 times the amount, or 5 times the amount if you consider where Immaculate is in price right now. Asking people to pay that much for what they get in Flawless is so insane I cant even put it into words. People will come in the comments and say “Well the price supports what people will pay…” but Im not sure that is a true representation with group breaks in the mix. This is a set built almost explicitly for that format, and its maddening to see how little Flawless offers outside of an encased hit per box. I wish Upper Deck was around so we could see what they would do with a price tag of this nature. I have a feeling it would literally be the most crazy content ever put in a box.

That isnt saying the Flawless cards dont look great, but with NT delivering such similar content so recently, its not special at all. I really like the quadruple exposure cards that Panini previewed a long time ago, and the main autograph patches in the set are definitely the best looking cards Panini has made so far this year. I just dont see why we dont get something more on the level of what NT and Immaculate offer for chase content, and that is why Flawless singles dont hold up. Treasures literally has cards with like 50 NFL logos on them, including logos all over the product. Flawless has none of that, despite Panini offering them in just about every other product this year. Panini has so much Event Used shit in their warehouse that they can put 18 logo cards in Black Gold but none in a box that costs a ton.

I havent even started discussing some of the names on the checklist, which is like a who's who of college players that didnt pan out in the NFL, mixed with HOF guys who dont charge much for their autograph. Paul Hornung, Charlie Joyner, and Dan Hampton are all there, and they are coupled with FLAWLESS MEDIOCRITY in Danny Amendola, Julius Thomas, and other current guys. Lets not forget guys like Antonio Freeman and Dallas Clark, who were good but dont sell. These guys probably dont want 150 bucks a card like Montana or Emmitt, and collectors cant see how they are in there to cut corners where corners shouldnt be cut.

Of course, guys like Montana are in there, but I have already seen him, Thurman Thomas and Tony Dorsett in uniforms that arent their main team, which cuts value even further below on the secondary market. No one wants a Dorsett Broncos card over a Dorsett Cowboys card, and its poor planning to buy those relics knowing people are going to devalue their presence.

Bottom line, if you are looking to enjoy Flawless, pick up some singles, because they are nice. The cards are good looking and they do hold Treasures like value for the first few weeks. Once the novelty wears off, the prices will drop hard. Just join in on the massive amounts of group breaks before diving into personal boxes. It will be much more price friendly and if you get skunked, you wont be out 3 grand on a case.

I hope that the day of reckoning for this highway robbery comes fast. Its disgraceful to see them too lazy to even put on a ski mask when they mug their customers.

EDIT: User Pazerbaijan on Blowout just posted this analysis and I think it is amazing. Panini is such a fucking joke.

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