2014 Rookie WRs Challenging a QB First Hobby

Football is a QB based hobby. Its so abundantly clear that this is the case, that every collector needs a literal firestorm of potential to start recognizing players in other positions. Not only is it sad that we have reached this point, but it is hurting the value of products. Without a strong QB to carry a rookie class, wax is dead. Or is it?

The 2014 class of rookie Wide Receivers has been STELLAR. That might be an understatement. Receiver after receiver has made huge impact for their teams, and we arent even done yet.

Odell Beckham Jr.

If you missed the game on Sunday Night, you might have missed the best catch in pro football, arguably ever. It may not have been the most IMPORTANT catch, but it was like watching something worthy of a super hero. Beckham was injured in the first few weeks of the season, but since returning, he has been nothing short of remarkable on a Giants team that consistently shows that Eli Manning should not have the leash he has been granted. Beckham’s hands are legendary, and his route running is improving by the week. He is destined to be a top flight guy, and that shouldnt be a surprise.

His cards have been on fire:

2014 Flawless Odell Beckham Jr. Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Odell Beckham Jr. Topps Variation Auto

2014 Inception Odell Beckham Jr Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet /5

Mike Evans

Lost among all the Odell Beckham hype over the last few weeks, Mike Evans has quietly put together an awesome rookie campaign. He plays for a horrible team in Tampa, which silences his production significantly, but he has been great all around. Now, one could argue that Beckham also plays for a terrible team, but there are faaaaaar more Giants fans than Bucs fans. Evans is well on his way to a 1000 yard season with over 10 TDs, which hasnt been done for a while by a rookie.

Like Beckham, his cards have been selling very well:

2014 Topps Chrome Mike Evans 63 Tall Boy Mini Auto /15

2014 Flawless Mike Evans Jumbo Patch Auto Red /15

2014 Topps Valor Mike Evans RC Patch Auto /75

Sammy Watkins

Like the two mentioned above, Watkins has done very well this year, and it should go without saying that his ceiling may be higher than both. The issue is that like both of these guys, he has dealt with some QB issues, although Orton has probably played the best out of Manning and Glennon/McCown. Watkins had a slow start to his season, but single handedly beat a few teams all on his own. He is shaping up to be quite the player.

2014 Topps Finest Sammy Watkins Gold Refractor Auto Patch

2014 Leaf Trinity Sammy Watkins Inscription Auto

2014 Topps Sammy Watkins Jumbo Patch Auto

Jordan Matthews

Its no secret that Matthews is a character on and off the field. He is just one of those guys who seems to be having a great time out there. Of the three receivers mentioned above him, his team seems to be the most likely to make the playoffs, which will mean better value for his cards. He has a huge issue in his AWFUL signature, which curbs appeal for his cards, but his production has been really nice.

2014 Flawless Jordan Matthews Jumbo Logo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Prime Jordan Matthews Quad Relic Auto RC

Brandin Cooks

Coming out of the preseason, he was the most talked about receiver coming into the year. Playing with a future HOF QB in Brees only lifted his stock further, and everyone was quite excited to see what he could do. Unfortunately for collectors, the Saints have only mustered an airy fart of a season so far, but have been inexplicably lucky playing in the worst division in Football. If they can win tonight, they will be on track to win the division, which is shocking with a 4-6 record. Cooks had some great games, but is still coming into his potential.

2014 Topps Finest Brandin Cooks Nike Logo Auto Patch 1/1

2014 Flawless Brandin Cooks Logo Patch Auto 1/1

Martavis Bryant

High round pick? Check. Plays for Pittsburgh? Check. Hobby equation for success? Check. Bryant is Mike Wallace version 2.0, a speedster deep threat who can burn the defense for some major plays. The issue is that he didnt play the whole year, and only recently came on board as favorite deep threat target for Big Ben. As a result, his card options are very limited, but lots of people are looking to get some of his stuff because of on field play and team affiliation. 6 TDs in as many games will do that.

2014 Elite Martavis Bryant Auto Red Status

2014 SPX Martavis Bryant Inscription Jumbo Patch Auto

The jury may still be out on these guys, but fear not, there is lots of football left. I am excited to see what they can do in the coming weeks leading up to the post season.

2014 Topps Chrome Football Retail Hits the Shelves!

Im sad. Im sad because this is the second to last time we are going to see Topps Chrome in Football. It has become the penultimate football product every year, a set that appeals to both the set collectors, who enjoy more lower end products, and the hit collectors who chase the high end autos and such. That rarely happens, and it should be maddening that this is not going to continue being the one holiday we can look forward to every year. Instead, we will be left with crappy knockoffs that have never and will never measure up.

Here are some of the retail cards already up:

2014 Topps Chrome Blake Bortles Orange Retail Refractor

2014 Topps Chrome Kelvin Benjamin X-Fractor RC

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel 1963 Mini RC

2014 Topps Chrome Lot of 1985 Rookie Retro Flashback Cards – Cant wait to see the autographed versions!

The retail cards from 2014 Chrome have started to pop up recently, and as we get closer to Wednesday’s release, more and more will surface. Its crazy that a product costing less than 80 dollars per box delivers the top chase cards of the year. Those card DONT come from products that cost 150 bucks or even 1500 bucks per box, just Chrome. Its a testament to the staying power of the brand, and also how much it will be missed after 2015.

When looking at retail, it does actually deliver some reasons to buy. Different parallels, autographs, and other content make it worthwhile trip to Target or Wal Mart to pick some up, and I would suggest taking a gander next time you are there. I absolutely love this set because it can deliver so much value in the non-hit cards, and that only serves to make the retail version that much more attractive.

There have been numerous reports that this is the largest production run for Chrome in a long time, but I dont think it will have much effect. Topps knows people will want to get as much out of this set as possible, and it wont matter that guys like Manziel and company will be tough pulls. People buy Chrome because it always looks great, and always is a fun rip. Its cheap and can pack a punch if you hit something nice. Retail, since 2012 has been a major reason why Chrome’s popularity has increased, and I am probably walking out the door as you read this to go pick some up.

Questions Raised By Panini’s Recent Flawless Football Fiasco

Every so often, something comes along in the hobby that ignites a huge discussion. A good example from the past was Mark Ingram’s photo from the 2011 Rookie Premiere, showcasing a clear representation of the way that Event Used jerseys were done. Although it wasnt displaying anything that most of us experienced online collectors didnt know, it clued a lot of others in, and they werent happy. This new Panini Flawless fiasco is a similarly big discussion, although its far less cut and dry.

The whole situation was further complicated after Panini released a more extensive understanding of how far the mislabeled cards went, and with some additional thought, there are a lot of questions that were established in the mean time. For those of you unaware of the situation, here is my original reaction.

What Does Further Discovery of “Mislabeled” cards Mean?

When Panini released their first statement, I wrote it off. Three players had issues? Okay, whatever. But now more players are part of it? Wait what? That’s a bit different. It seems a larger part of the print run was deemed to be mislabeled, and that is a very disappointing situation. Remember, this is a product that costs a mortgage payment per box, attention to detail needs to be top of mind. Something doesnt compute. This led me to the next question.

Was This Really A Mistake?

Aha! Now we get to the meat of the discussion. Originally, I could see how a few wrong swatches get into the wrong cards. It happens. Yet, to have extensive documentation of which cards from which run were effective? How does that happen unless you know exactly what is going on? Its one thing to say, “Well we missed on these three player’s whole runs. The wrong bag of swatches got used.” Its another thing to say, “3 cards from Subset A were bad, but the rest were good, and the same goes for 6 cards from subset B, but the rest were good.” That shows me that someone probably knew exactly what was going on. You dont have that type of documentation without knowing. Products go through too many QC checks to not catch this many issues.

Flawless came out very early in the year. Very early. I can easily see a scenario unfold that stems from having to rush the cards to print, cutting corners, and hoping no one can tell the difference. Not only is that extremely short sighted with a hobby that is known for its meticulous study of the different releases, but it is a blatant disregard for everything that we find to be trustworthy. This brings me to a third question.

Why the fuck do they have so many old photo shoot jerseys in stock?

Calvin Johnson attended the photo shoot in 2007, which was over 7 years ago. There is absolutely NO excuse for having his swatches in inventory after this many years. Somewhere down the line they needed to pick up a game used jersey, and dump this shit once that happens. This brings me to a fourth question.

How many other cards/products might this have affected?

This was a likely hand packed, highly QCed product that should have never had these issues. What about those other products that cost 1/16th of the price? Can we trust that Panini hasnt cut the same corners with other products? I have to say that my once solid stance is shaken with them, and I am guessing that others will probably feel the same way. Many of the players on the list have been in MANY products, and that only begs the final question.

CAN WE TRUST ANYONE ANYMORE?

I want to say yes. I want to say that the plethora of bad autographs, bad jerseys, and dismantled trust gives us nothing that should shake our confidence, but that just isnt true. Panini made themselves the online bad guy overnight, mainly because they mistreated that trust. This recent post further explaining the situation only makes things worse, even though it is them stepping out from beyond the shadows to own up. The bottom line is that they are only owning up because they got caught, and it seems like they are employing every part of their PR department to try and spin this away from the questions I am posing in the above part of this article.

The industry is not in a good place right now, and it is even more in question now that the company who just signed an exclusive license with the world. These are the people that the leagues are putting their trust in, and we can all but be certain that as long as the checks clear, they could care less. Or, will a shaken public who is coming off the heels of a federal investigation finally have a jumping off point to rid this bully from the yard? Who knows, but this cant hurt.

Here is the article in question if you want to take a look.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Classics Baseball

I have often questioned the ability possessed by Panini’s design team to design a good looking card. Time after time, they have shown that they are not only inept at doing so, but take it to a level previously unseen in the trading card industry. This could not be a more horrifying situation, as its clear that Panini is making a push to own an exclusive license in every sport. Seeing the initial examples from Classics Baseball showcase how poorly they perform in the design arena, and it only reinforces why everyone should be concerned.

Here are some of the hits people have already posted:

2014 Classics Jose Abreu Auto Relic

2014 Classics Mike Schmidt Dual Relic Auto /10

2014 Classics Kris Bryant Base Auto RC

2014 Classics Anthony Rizzo Dual Relic Auto

2014 Classics Roberto Clemente Triple Relic

The part of the classics design that baffles me the most is the separated nameplate area that exists on the majority of the base and base autograph content. It literally serves no purpose to draw a line that separates the player picture and layout from the flag and product logo, thus obscuring close to 1/3 of the card surface. Can anyone disagree that having the free floating flag and product logo would be more than adequate? I cannot see a reason why someone would design a card like they did for classics. Its fucking ugly.

Other inserts in the set are even more hideous, which should be beyond shocking that something could look worse than the base design. Classics has long been about a simple design and cool autos and relics, but this is obviously the opposite direction entirely. Overly complicated layouts, and like every single goddamn Panini set, the signature area is regularly separated off in its own defined area.

There are nice looking cards, and some really cool ones that im sure a lot of collectors will use to breed interested in buying the product. On the other hand, I just cant fathom why anyone would want to open this junk. It only goes to show that the hobby has inexplicably shifted away from desiring good looking cards, and will literally accept anything you put in front of them. As long as it has a player subject somewhere tied to the card set someone will buy it. Doesnt matter if the design was thrown together with no consideration for proper visual appeal. Hell, sometimes Panini doesnt even bother with the player.

Maybe we deserve this. Maybe Panini’s exclusives are our punishment for accepting the low standards they have imposed. That is sad and hopefully something will change. I doubt it though, especially when you see their twitter contests. If the hobby is stocked to the brim with those types of people, we ARE doomed to this existence.

Panini Admits Wrongdoing in Flawless Game Used Patches

Panini has gotten themselves into a hot mess. Quite the hot mess indeed. Basically, for a few players in Flawless, the cards were labeled as game used, when in fact they were leftover event used jerseys from the rookie premiere. These players, Kaepernick, Jeffery, and others, are were part of an exhaustive review thread on the message boards, leading to this identification.

Considering all that goes on in the world of trading cards, we shouldnt be surprised – even with an apology and an offer of exchange that was issued yesterday. Here are the cards:

2014 Panini Flawless Colin Kaepernick Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Colin Kaepernick Jumbo Patch Example 2

2014 Panini Flawless Alshon Jeffrey Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto

Here is the bottom line. I really dont think this was done with nefarious purposes in mind. Im guessing it was a mistake (albeit major), and it is definitely going to hurt them significantly in terms of trust with the public. Issuing the statement only happened because they got caught, and that is not a way to run a business. They should have gotten out ahead of it, no doubt about it.

That being said, the authenticity of “Game Worn” cards within such a high end product should never be in question. Attention to detail is a huge deal. Additionally, this isnt the first time that Panini should have been facing questions around their business practices. I honestly believe three players jersey relics are much less of a concern than the practice of obtaining autographs through the player’s agent and other related people. Many of the companies have resorted to live signings as much as possible, but with Panini, there is good reason to think that they are only doing live signings for the important players.

For years, Topps has put a top priority on being live with the player as they sign for as many of the autograph sessions as logistically possible. They are far from perfect in their track record, but they have avoided many of the problem players as a result. Panini, due to their different ways of obtaining signatures, has gotten caught with everyone under the sun. Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Cordarrelle Patterson, Whitney Mercilus and others.

The scariest thing about using this model is that there is no trustworthy party that can verify the authenticity. Currently, the only way Panini can question authenticity is through the player’s agent or contact, and there is no way they would ever throw their guy under the bus. The only way to completely verify the signature is to be there when it is signed. Panini has failed too many times to count.

When you add on this jersey situation, the trust is damaged further. Panini does these sorts of things to cut cost. All is done in the name of the bottom line, and that hurts collectors. GU Jerseys are expensive. Flying people out to signings is expensive. Panini wants to save that money to offset the enormous expenses of league licenses and player autographs.

This is not good all around. Here is their article that details the situation.

Here are some of the previous articles I have posted on the autographs:

Can We Still Trust Autograph Content in Sports?

Penning the Hobby: Trusting Autograph Content

Calling Into Question Robert Griffin’s Contenders Autographs