Back in the late 1990s, Topps Finest was just that. However, since the recent switch to the current format, it has been nothing but stale, boring and absolutely ugly. This year’s incarnation of the brand seems to be further evidence of this troubling trend for a key product for the company. After seeing the previews for Topps Platinum earlier last month, I think you will understand why I am so underwhelmed by this preview – its basically the same product.
I dont know what it is about March, maybe its the spring thaw or the ending of the cabin fever that winter forces in the cold areas of the country, but Fake Season is upon us. Dont get me wrong, every season is technically fake season, but things get kind of crazy in March for some reason. Everywhere I turn, more and more ridiculous fakes are popping up. The difference with most fakes and this one, is that PSA isnt grading them as authentic.
Yeah, yeah, I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to products as of late, and to tell you the truth, im starting to feel like one. With the recent release of Topps Unique onto the scene, I again find myself with facepalms and rolly eyes all around. I feel like there are few good practices being built upon when it comes to designing new products, and again Topps steps right in to disappoint with their last set as a football card manufacturer. You would think they would want to go out with a bang, but instead they just slap a template from a lackluster baseball product onto a new football product that has already had mixed reviews.
My review is anything but mixed, as I cant see anything in Unique that actually lives up to the title of the set. Besides the fact that Topps has AGAIN built the auto stickers into the design to draw your eye, the actual design of the card could be the most boring ever made. See, the thing about Topps is for the past few sets, they have tried to trick collectors into fawning over their cards by giving huge patches and calling it a day. Rather than putting thought into creating a good looking set, they basically resigned their products to “oh well, the patches are huge so they wont care.” That’s what pisses me off! The truth behind the curtain is that all the cards look like rejected stock MS Powerpoint slide backgrounds, but they think they can get away with it by giving you oversized patches. The sad thing is, lots of people are missing the truth boat, and that’s where I lose hope. Why would anyone want to pay hundreds for a boring looking card that looks like an amateur with photoshop started playing around with the background tools? Yeah, I get it, they have big patches. But honestly, who fucking cares when the cards put me to sleep?
This may be the first time you ever hear me complement Triple threads, but I am going to. At least with Triple Threads it looked like they put effort into making it exciting. They failed miserably with the whole thing, but at least they tried. With this, they just mailed it in. The problem with that is the collectors are basically giving the manufacturers a green light to make shitty sets as long as the cards have big swatches. People have often questioned why SPA’s stuff is always worth so much money despite the mid range cost of the box, and my response is that its because it ALWAYS looks classy. Unique looks bush league in just about every way. There are a few cards that look okay, but it falls under the addage that even the Cleveland Browns stumble upon a Josh Cribbs every once in a while.
Luckily for me, this is probably going to be the last Topps set that I have to talk about for a long time. Unfortunately, Panini is taking up the fallen flag pretty quickly on the other side, as evidenced hard core by this year’s Absolute and National Treasures. The difference there is that Panini’s sets look like they at least put in some kind of effort in copying the previous year’s design so that people wouldn’t notice the laziness.
Overall, my mantra is pretty simple with the release of upcoming products, especially when they break the golden rule of Topps. Don’t let yourself be blinded by big swatches when the set looks like elephant poop. Anyone can throw a huge patch into a set, but it takes true effort and knowhow to make it look good. Even if you are player collector that wonders when the next time you will have a shot at the whole laundry tag of you favorite target, step back and really think about it before buying. Make the companies work for your business, and Topps Unique doesn’t show that they did.
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.
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.