Well, ladies and gents, 2012 is officially over as of last Friday. Its crazy I have to wait until April to say that, but I completely understand why the companies would want a circular calendar that doesn’t leave gaps between the card seasons. Now that everything is over, and we have complete picture of the best year of football cards in a while, I want to take some time to review my favorites.
Both companies deserve credit for coming through with a great year, and I hope that carries over into 2013. Its abundantly clear that with the best rookie class in forever, this was the year to capitalize, and I think that for the most part we ended up with some incredible cards.
Best New Set – 2012 Strata Signatures
Although this wasn’t a completely original idea, the execution was exceptional. The way these cards were structured added depth and action to a still frame, which coupled with an on card auto made this the best of the year. It got to the point where these cards were so popular that it priced people out of purchasing them, but the set really said that Topps is up for improving on any idea they can. Adding in the jumbo swatch or patch as the background, and using the rivet on the low numbered examples really made this complete. It was truly awesome.
Biggest Improvement – 2012 Prestige
2011 Prestige was one of the ugliest sets in recent memory. Moving onto 2012, Prestige’s set was pretty much my favorite Panini product of the year, which is saying something. The design hearkened a Contenders style presentation, and for the most part, every card in the set looked nice. Switching this to a post-premiere release was one of the best moves of the year, and it was highlighted by a great class. I credit Panini for incredibly fast turnaround on the relics and autos, which were really well done in a short period of time.
Best Unlicensed Card – 2011 Exquisite XRCs
I hate that UD is without an NFL license, but these cards were gorgeous. The base set was quite impressive, and adding in cards from the 2012 class added some GREAT value to a product that didn’t really need it. Upper Deck was hurting from not being able to add Andrew Luck to their products, however using incredible design seemed to really make up for it. I would give this award to the SP Authentic patch autos, which were EXCELLENT this year, but these cards are just too pretty to go without an award.
Best On Card RC – 2012 Chrome
Ever since Topps was able to make Chrome on card, it has become a juggernaut that is not able to be stopped. This year’s design was tremendous, and did wonders when the cards were signed. Every player collector needs to have a Chrome autograph in their collection, because Topps never fails to make them memorable with a timeless design. I think its obvious that these cards are coveted like nothing else, and its for good reason. They are the best looking card you can buy, and the box has an MSRP below 80 bucks. Honorable mention to the 1984 Chrome Autos.
Best Sticker Auto Set – 2012 National Treasures Century Jersey Autos
For the first time ever, Panini adjusted the base design when switching from the normal layout to an auto relic layout. In previous years, they had tried to stuff everything into the vertical design, which usually resulted in a hideous and busy looking execution. This year, the clean cards looked almost minimalist, but they were done extremely well for a product without on card autos. It also left the base cards looking oddly unfinished. The results of 2012 speak for themselves.
Biggest Chase Card of the Year – 2012 Chrome Andrew Luck Superfractors
I know, I know, I should be mentioning that the Championship ticket “sold” for 40K, right? Well, thanks to that auction, the Chrome superfractor of Andrew Luck legitimately sold for 16.5K, making it the chase of the year. The Contenders 1/1 eventually did sell for a ton, but it was less than half the price the Chrome one got. National Treasures has yet to surface, but with an inferior design for the RPAs, I don’t think it will break this mark. Topps has put an aura around the Supers that is never equaled across the board, and 2012 will stand in history as the best of the best.
Best Rookie Year Card – 2012 Five Star Jumbo Patch Autos
Many would argue that National Treasures should have this spot because the cards are worth more, but this isn’t the price guide awards. Topps Five Star was a sight to be seen this year, highlighted by these wonderful additions to the product. Not only are they beautifully composed to highlight a jumbo swatch and a large player picture, but they ALSO have a huge place to display a large player signature. I would go so far as saying these look better than any Exquisite card did in the past, which is high praise coming from me. I think it’s a shame that collectors haven’t assigned a higher value to these cards, but I don’t really think that’s as big a deal as people think. If you really want a cool 1/1 parallel to boot, these are the cards to chase. Bottom line, these are the best cards of the rookie class, hands down.
To be honest, Im sad to see 2012 gallop off into the distance, as I had a blast through the year buying all the cards I did. It might not have been a year that everyone was able to afford due to the rookie class’ performance on the field, but man was it fun along the way. Next year is going to be a true test of the lessons learned during a boom year, and it will fall on the shoulders of the companies to find ways to survive without guys like Newton and company in 2011, and Luck, Griffin and Wilson for 2012. I hope for our sake, they find a way. I have confidence that it will turn out fine.