2009 National Treasures Is Live, Threads-y

Its Tuesday, and that means that 2009 National Treasures is hitting eBay. I have voiced my disapproval of the direction that this set has taken, and it is becoming that much more apparent now that more cards are hitting eBay. This product used to be about great looking cards with an old fashioned focus, all of which has changed to an overpriced version of Donruss Threads and Rookies and Stars.

Back in 2006, NT was DLP’s answer to Exquisite Collection’s massive success, but now it is put out only to continue the tradition of super high end. In my opinion, with the way that Upper Deck runs Exquisite (all on card, lots of autos, continuity of the main parts of the set, etc) National Treasures has actually become more of a competitor with SPA in terms of value. Collectors expect new ridiculous things out of Exquisite, they just expect National Treasures to be there every year. Oddly enough, National Treasures’ biggest problem is that it has yet to employ the practices it needs to on the high end autograph front. This is pretty much the main factor behind its lack of competition, with design now added into it. With UD featuring as many on card sets as it does, NT hassnt been able to live up to the hype. In a 2006 world where everything was stickers, it was different, but now, UD has set the bar too high for them to reach in that respect. Hell, UD even managed to get on card stuff into the lower end of things with Philadelphia and UD Draft, and that is in boxes that don’t include 400 dollar price tags.

The way that DLP always competed for business with its high end was in the design it used for the product. It hearkened back to the mahogany and painted feel of an antique item, focusing more on the history of the game than the rookies. Rookies were a part of it, but the focus was on the “treasures” of football. In 2007, things started to move away from that, while still keeping the soul of the 2006 product. In 2008, the design was still very good looking, and featured a lot of tributes to the original set. In 2009, all is out the window, and it looks more like an overpriced versions of the lower end sets that DLP puts out every year – minus the foil board.

Don’t get me wrong, the Rookie Auto Patch cards don’t look bad outside of the bubbled on card sigs, but the rest of the set might as well have been National Gridiron Gear or National Rookies and Stars. Instead of focusing on the parts that made the previous sets great, they focused on the rookies and cheap ways to say that NT features on card sigs, when really 90% of it is stickers in a 400 dollar product.

They may think that they can blind us with jumbo logo patches of the 2009 rookies, but even the JCs are not fooled by cards that normally made them salivate in previous years. This years National Treasures is a horrible attempt at an overhaul, and you can bet that things will need fixing if Panini expects to stay in the deep end of the super high end pool.

Worst of the Worst 2004-2009 #1 – 2006(7) Topps Paradigm Football

Its here, the moment you have all been waiting for, the worst product in the countdown of the worst of the worst. I do think it needs to be said that this product could actually be one of the worst of ALL TIME, not just of the last five years. It is so bad on so many different levels, that I cant even think how another set could beat it out. For god’s sake, this product was so bad, it actually got a nickname to reflect it – Paracrime. Yes, 2006(2007) Paradigm football sits a top this list, and I will try to do it the justice it deserves.

First, some background is needed, especially to at least give you an idea of how Paradigm came into being. Back in 2005, Exquisite was first released for Football, and people went fucking nuts. In 2006 Donruss signed on to make National Treasures to compete, and Topps wanted to try their hand at super high end as well. Reggie Bush’s Exquisite rookie patch auto was slated to be the most valuable modern card in decades come the end of 2006, and Topps needed to get a set out to match the hype. The problem is, as good as Exquisite is, it is also incredibly expensive and time consuming to make. Its usually started almost a full year in advance, which provides time for all the on card signatures and awesome design elements. With Paradigm, I doubt it got more than 2 months, thus leaving us with a product equal to a maimed rotting carcass of a raccoon on the side of the road. In 2006, Exquisite was released near the end of december, and Paradigm was so far into 2007, that many collectors didn’t even consider it to be a 2006 set. The season was far over, and Exquisite was rocking, as usual. That was just the beginning.

At over 400 dollars a pack, the product was 100% sticker autos, with cards printed on the brightest rainbow foil that topps could find. If you think all those horrible Panini sets were bad, this was a fucking abomination. The design was awful as well, as the foil was so hard to deal with, that many of the cards looked like they were designed by a guy who hadnt graduated high school. Plus, white borders on foil never really work, especially when you are using a lot of white jersey pictures as well. Then you have the stickers, which were beveled into the design much like Triple Threads, and jersey windows that just didn’t make sense.

The worst part of this set were the jumbo patch autographs, where the card was basically a thin white border, with a large swatch and sticker auto right smack dab in the middle. Yes, this was the basis for the Topps Lettermen atrocities, as the cards had no pictures or any other info. It was like taking a swatch and mangling it beyond recognition. Many people were left tilting these cards in the light to find out the name of the player they pulled.

Since Triple Threads had yet to be done for football, Topps used the triple relic and sticker auto design for the one per pack “Performance Highlights Autos.” These cards were basically a checklist of great to horrible players put into a horrible design with diecut windows of player stats. They were one per pack, and were responsible for 90% of the total value of the box. If you pulled Antonio Gates, the break was basically unsalvageable. People were so angry with many of these cards that they regularly sell for pennies on the dollar.

Even the high dollar pulls were terrible, and when I say terrible, I mean it in a Charles Barkley “turrable” sense of the word. The Dual NFL logos were possibly the worst cards of the worst set, as they featured absolutely no player picture on the card. Not that there wasn’t room for a picture or two, because the logos were done in such a way that there was more negative foil space on the card than needed. I wasn’t able to find a picture of one, but I did find a single one, where you can see what I mean. Just imagine the card below with no player pic and an extra logo blob on it. Its almost like they planned for the full equipment logo and ended up cutting it down without adjusting the card.

In all honesty, Topps Paradigm’s worst feature was its price, costing almost as much as a box of National Treasures and Exquisite. Topps had to compete with those products, and sadly they performed equal to expectations for Topps products costing more than 100 dollars. They took the easy way out for design and content, but took the high mountain drive on the price. Collectors were literally shocked by what they got out of their boxes for that price, and many even sent letters to the company. Even today, the value in the box would be looked upon with contempt, even more so if Topps decided to try it once more before the end of their license.

It would be one thing if Paradigm was one and done, but it gave birth to two products that are on my honorable mention list. The first is Topps Performance, which replaced Paradigm on the calendar after the horrible sales of the product. Performance was a scaled down version of its father, with equally horrible white designs and some of the worst looking relic cards of all time. Although Performance guaranteed one Adrian Peterson auto per case, those autos continue to be the cheapest licensed Peterson autos on the market, selling for less than 70 dollars in some cases. After Performance was axed, it was replaced with Topps Rookie Progression, which continued the Paradigm legacy well into the crapper of 2008. It reminded me of my Uncle’s house in the 70’s from those pictures you see in the family albums, lots of bright oranges, blues and browns. Just plain sucky.

That’s it folks, my worst of the worst. I am going to start working on a best of the best, and I hope I will have as much fun as I did with this countdown. I actually laughed out loud a few times when searching for the bad cards from these products, and I cant wait to compile it for a possible internet release to collectors who are getting back into the hobby. Hopefully this countdown shows how important it is to the companies that laziness will not be tolerated, but with Topps owning the top three spots, we may not have as much of a problem any more.

Here is the complete countdown, honorable mentions will be coming soon.
EDIT: Here is the Dual Logo from reader Kevin. Gaze with awe upon its glory.

Would You Rather Have This Card, Or A Peterson Exquisite?

This recent sale of a ridiculous short print out of 2009 Contenders is making waves across the net. The Aaron Kelly card is limited to just 21 copies, so that means that there are only 21 truly complete sets of the product this year. This card should be worth about as much as the cardboard it is printed on, but because so many people are collecting this brutally ugly set, its worth a ton.

There has been a lot of speculation that this sale was actually done to bolster a market for a card that would normally sell for a few hundred, which is the reason I havent posted on it yet. Sell the card to a friend for a ridiculous amount, file an NPB to avoid the fees, and then re-sell the card for much more than it normally would have. Good plan right? Well, I dont think its going to get to a thousand a second time, but one has to ask, why would anyone care THAT much about a set like this?
Listen, I get that set collectors can be crazy people, but this card at a thousand dollars is going for the same amount as a Peterson Exquisite Rookie Patch Auto. Fuck, at least Peterson has played more than one snap in his career so far. That, and the set looks like more poop this year than it did last year, and that is hard to do. Its confusing to me why anyone would legitimately pay that much for a card like this. I would understand if it were Mark Sanchez, but this is fucking nuts.
Its painfully obvious that the person who spends their money like this probably has tons to spare, but I think it says a lot more about what level we have reached in this hobby. Aaron Kelly has been in a ton of products this year already, and from what I can tell, there is no shortage of his stickers lying around at DLP HQ. So, why create a card like this? Publicity and starting a crazed pack busting mob trying to get this card. In all seriousness, I doubt sales will be any higher, so why torture the fans of this set? That is just a horrible thing to do, in my opinion.
Then again, Panini did design the set to look like it does, so the short print to 21 may not be the biggest crime of the product.

Worst of the Worst 2004-2009 #2 – 2008 Topps Lettermen Football

Over the last five years, there have been quite a few products that havent lived up to billing. Whether its shorted hits, bad design, or lack of content in a box, there were more than I can count. Here is my countdown of the worst of the worst, and I will go into a little of what makes them so bad. Of course, for some, the shittiness extends beyond mere words, but ill at least try to capture it with each post.

The number two worst of the worst, 2008 Topps Lettermen, was so bad that it actually crossed the barrier between sports blogs. Blogs that usually commented only on Baseball or other sports picked this up because no one could fathom why Topps would ever put out a product like it. Back when this came out last year, letter hype was at an all time high, with many products trying to capitalize on the signed manufactured letters and how popular they had become. First being released in Basketball, Topps took letters to a whole new crappy extreme by creating a product that was exclusively focused on signed letters. The price was astronomical, the cards were horrible looking, and the concept reeked of Topps rushing to capitalize on a fleeting fad.

Then they decided to bring it to football, and I am still shocked to this day what ended up happening. Unlike Basketball’s autographs signed directly on the letters, Football incorporated the worst looking cop out of autograph technology in the history of this hobby: sticker autos on manufactured letters. Let me repeat that so you don’t have blood shoot out of your eyeballs. STICKER AUTOS ON MANUFACTURED LETTERS. This means that instead of doing letters in a way that at least made this product stomachable for many collectors, they decided it wasn’t worth their time to even get the prime focus taken care of correctly. This horrible idea took cards that already looked like boring and unimaginative shit and made them 1000 times worse.

Oh, but wait, it gets better. They also created manufactured number patches and manufactured logo patches where the sticker wasn’t even put on the card in a normal place. Instead of going across the manupatch like the stupid letters, they were put off to the side and affixed vertically. The results were visual abortions. I have to say though, my favorite part of this whole thing was when they took all the different craptastic designs and X-fractored them to create hundreds of needless parallels. As if having stickers on your letters werent bad enough, now you had more parallels than Triple Threads, all numbered for each individual letter. Fucking gross.

Lastly, as with all Topps high end products, the price was just as much of a drawback as the product design itself. This pile of two week old camel shit cost about as much per box as a Matt Ryan SP Authentic Rookie Patch Auto. Yes, instead of buying one of the best cards of the year, you can have a 200 dollar box of turds. I have never said this in my life, but I would actually support you buying a box of Triple Threads over this. I cant tell you how much I laugh at the people who bought cases of Lettermen and thought they were getting “OMG SIKX MOJOZ!!!”

When it comes down to it, I just cant imagine who decided this was a good idea. Im guessing it was the same people who created Triple Threads, Sterling, and all of the rest of the products that triggered the golden rule of Topps. Now that Topps football is gone, we can all rest easy, but I have a feeling that Baseball is going to feel the brunt of this blow. My condolences to those fans.

Late To The Party: Chicle Baseball

I rarely pay attention to Baseball Cards anymore because I am continually bored by most of the content these days. However, National Chicle baseball has been making a splash, network wide, so ill offer some commentary. Now, outside of my reports on Chicle football that looks to be as bad, or worse as this stuff, I was not familiar that National Chicle was even a baseball product to begin with. Then after some looking around, I saw that some baseball cards were made, but they never got the same notoriety that the iconic football cards did.

Of course, my feelings on retro sets aside, National Chicle, when done right, can be a great product idea, AS A FUCKING SUBSET IN A FUCKING FOOTBALL PRODUCT. There is absolutely no reason to A) Make an entire baseball product of it, and B) Do what they are trying to do with the throwback cards of Ruth and company. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Back in 2008, Upper Deck decided to do some “Time Warp” cards, as they put it, for Masterpieces football. What that meant is cards that feature today’s players on the same “card” as older players. This meant Adrian Peterson being chased by Dick Butkus, Brett Favre handing off to Paul Hornung, etc, etc. The difference there, was that all players were in their existing uniforms, and it kept the history of the old timers in tact. On top of that, there were no desecration of beloved cards, and so on and so on.
For National Chicle Baseball, Topps is working on a different level that makes many people understandably angry, unless you have to play to your magazine’s advertisers that is. This means that many collectors are going to shit a brick over seeing cards like this, like this, and like this. The Ruth card has caused a considerable amount of damage with baseball fans, as Dayf has so interestingly described. Personally, I really couldnt care less, but that is more about my lack of care for this entire set.

My beef stems from the fact that Topps has taken a “brand” synonymous with Iconic football cards, transformed it into a baseball set, and done an extremely poor job with it. In fact, I believe that they have done a pretty poor job with both Football AND Baseball, as evidenced by the sticker autos and horrible artwork done in the upcoming football set. So, if this is what it means to have an exclusive baseball license, I sincerely hope they have some aces up their sleeve because recent news and releases has left a taste in my mouth usually reserved for my feelings about Evangelical Christians who try to “save” me.
In addition, it looks as if many of the cards look as bad, if not worse than than their football counterparts, though this time, I believe many more collectors will use them as toilet paper.
The lesson here is that you dont fuck with history, no matter how attractive that may seem. I will always support new TRIES at innovation (even if it turns out as shit) rather than forcing me to endure set after set, produced from past successes. All that retro sets prove to me is that there is no more creativity left in the buffet line at the different companies. Trust me, Laziness is not a virtue.