2015 National Convention – Giveaway Cards Hit eBay

Some collectors go to the National Convention for one reason, and one reason alone. Although its completely the wrong reason, its going to happen. The giveaways draw people in, especially now that the card companies have developed exclusive sets for the show. The reason I say its the wrong reason to attend is not because the cards arent cool, its because of all the other reasons to attend. Giveaways are just the cherry on top. Either way, I digress.

Topps Giveaways

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of one of the most popular baseball sets of the year, Topps has designed an exclusive set of die cut Allen & Ginter cards. The cards are a combination of baseball and football players, including some of the top NFL rookies like Winston and Mariota.

Here are some of the cards:

2015 NSCC Allen & Ginter Tom Brady 10th Anniversary Die Cut /10

2015 NSCC Allen & Ginter Anthony Rizzo Auto Die Cut

2015 NSCC Allen & Ginter Kris Bryant Die Cut RC

2015 NSCC Allen & Ginter Jameis Winston Die Cut RC

In the past, Topps’ giveaways have been less about the packs themselves, and more about a straightforward smaller set, but this year, its much different. The set is bigger (100 cards), there are low numbered parallels, and nicer autographs as well. Instead of giving away one card per day like they have in the past, Topps is offering sealed packs for boxes opened at their booth. As far as I can see, you can pretty much bring over whatever current product to get the packs. MUUUUUUUUCH different than Panini, who has a specific list of products that you must break. Ill get to that in a second.

They are also doing some cool Gypsy Queen exclusives for Bryant and Buxton, which look awesome, and like the Ginter parallels, it looks like they have low numbered versions available.

Topps has done a set of Allen and Ginter at the NSCC for as long as I can remember, which has usually included a mix of players from many different sports. I find the cards extremely attractive for that reason, as Football never really makes the licensed cross over like it does for the NSCC.

The cards have sold very well for the first days of the show, going to be interesting how they continue to sell as the show gets busier and more packs are opened.

Panini Giveaways

For reasons explained many times prior, Panini has to create a huge program for the NSCC each year. Although it creates a fanfare unlike any other manufacturer on the floor, many collectors fail to see the true motives behind why it exists. Go read through my previous posts on Panini giveaway programs to understand the reasoning behind the program’s existence, as its clear that this was not done by choice originally.

This year, Panini’s program is a combination of NCAA licensed cards and league licensed cards. They have a large base set, combined with relic and autograph content as they have in previous years. Some of the more interesting examples are baseball cards featuring players like Russell Wilson and Jameis Winston, both of which were drafted for their proficiency in the sport.

Here are some examples:

2015 Panini National Convention Stephen Curry Auto

2015 Panini National Convention Russell Wilson Baseball Auto

2015 Panini National Convention Todd Gurley Towel Patch – I have always hated these. Why towels?

2015 Panini National Convention Andrew Wiggins Tools of the Trade Patch

Although the design isnt as strong as it has been in previous years, the program looks like it has a good mix of cards. You can also buy packs if you want – although I would advise against paying more for thick packs despite relics. Thin packs might be longer odds on the autos, but there have been decoys inserted in other giveaways, and many of the relics are shit. Most of the stuff will be forgotten in a matter of weeks, so dont go paying 40 dollars for a relic or thick pack that will be 5 bucks after the show. Just wait. I promise.

There will also be two versions of the program that will not be available to the general public, including a special version for VIPs, and another for Group Breakers. These other versions will have much more high quality cards, which may include rip off Superfractors like last year’s did. The access to the packs is severely diminished, so the cards tend to be worth more.

Upper Deck Giveaways

Despite losing another league license this year Upper Deck’s promos still offer a lot to be chased. Their Prominent Cuts set is back, with likely the last of its NCAA cards ever to be produced, including autographs from their main exclusive signers and more. The autographs are REALLY tough pulls, but if you can walk away with Gretzky, Jordan, Lebron or Tiger, it might pay for your plane ticket and hotel. I do have to give them a ton of credit for getting them signed on card. WOW.

Here are some of Upper Deck’s cards:

2015 Upper Deck Prominent Cuts Wayne Gretzky Auto 3/5

2015 Upper Deck Dinosaurs Preview Card

The design is nice looking, and it makes me long for the days when Upper Deck had both MLB and NFL cards to giveaway at the show. Its been a long time.

Leaf Giveaways

As they have done in the past, Leaf has a lot of giveaways for the show, including some really nice autographs from Legends of Sport. They have a big base set, as well as parallels and autographs from what it looks like, which are always impressive to see in their giant booth.

Here are some examples:

2015 Leaf Legends of Sport Roger Federer NSCC Auto 1/1

2015 Leaf Legends of Sport Lionel Messi NSCC Auto Plate 1/1

Leaf’s recent acquisition of In the Game and other companies under the same banner has gone over well for them, and I would guess that new alignment will be on display.

Overall, these giveaways are all about volume and luck. However, as mentioned before, dont go out of your way to buy something you dont want or dont need just to get access to the packs. If something is being offered for packs or boxes you would open normally, go wild. You can get some nice stuff.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Panini Prestige Football

You know a product is bad when I have to start this post with “I just dont know why this product still exists.” That’s Prestige in a nutshell, and its sad that we have gotten to this point after how good the product was back in 2012. To see what Panini had the opportunity to do with 2015’s edition, and then what actually came out of it is a bigger question mark than the gigantic text they use on most of their cards.

Here are the big hits up so far:

2015 Panini Prestige Jameis Winston Auto Purple Parallel

2015 Panini Prestige Marcus Mariota Auto Purple Parallel

2015 Panini Prestige Giovani Bernard Vet Auto Purple Parallel

2015 Panini Prestige Devante Parker First Impressions Auto

For a while now, Prestige has been the first sets where true NFL team affiliation was available for depiction in the product. With the rookie premiere now almost 2 months ago, the time is available to create and print cards with NFL uniforms and OTA shots for most rookies. For the 40 attendees of the photo shoot, full NFL branding is available. Instead, Panini opted to use a combination of NCAA and NFL branding for the set, some of which is understandable.

What completely baffles me, is the lack of on card content that is showcased in Prestige. With the available usage of NCAA uniforms, Panini had EVERY opportunity to get on card autos done for the big rookies who they were granted access to for an entire weekend in March. Topps used this oportunity to get tens of thousands of cards hard signed by the class, where Panini obviously thought better of that opportunity. Any card that depicts Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Todd Gurley and others in their college uniform, could have been hard signed. I know this is the case because that is what Topps chose to do.

To provide context, Topps Inception will be on shelves August 12th. In this product, which will cost about the same as Prestige’s sticker fest, there will be a combination of on card autographs and sticker relic autos. Among the on card autographs will be booklet cards, logo cards, inscription cards, and all sorts of other amazing looking content. There will be no college branding or players without logos on their cards. In fact, many of the first 5-10 Topps sets will be similar, some even featuring non-rookie on card content. So far, nothing of the sort from Panini. Its also worth mentioning that Inception will be redemption free.

There is one on card set in Prestige, and boy is it worth your time to check out. Panini thought it was a great fucking idea, to get the rookies to don their Panini shirts, hold the helmet of the team they are playing for, and sign the cards the next day. Besides the fact that this makes for some hilarious looking shit, the design is even more puzzling. Everything about it screams Panini, with giant text everywhere, and nameplates obscurring the bottom fourth of the layout. What a fucking joke.

Topps is making a huge push to put out some of the best sets in their last year of a deal with the NFLPA. Panini has had their exclusive in place for one year, and we have yet to hear of an exclusive with NFL properties, who owns the brands and logos for all the teams. Even if the exclusive with NFLP was in place, Topps is making a case for why they are so much more worthy of a license than Panini, and its not even close. Right now, based on what we are seeing, Topps is running the race like Usain Bolt, and Panini hasnt even gotten to the track to get suited up.

This is a wholly scary situation that puts a lot of things into perspective for 2016 when the NFLPA exclusive takes effect. You may wonder why I bring this up at every chance I get, only speaking to the importance of the matter. No company should be able to operate with lower quality without recourse. That’s exactly what is going to happen, unless Topps can find a way to keep their NFLP license and continue to produce football cards.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Strata Baseball

I am a huge fan of everything Strata. From its inception in football back in 2012, to the eventual transition to Baseball as a high end hit in Topps Series 1 and 2, it has consistently been a concept that works extremely well. Now that it is becoming its own standalone product for baseball, there are a few things at play that make this set even more interesting than it was in its previous incarnations.

Strata’s cards have always been great looking, including a huge improvement on shadowbox technology that has permeated all sorts of facets of the hobby after its creation in 2009 SPX. Although Baseball wont have all the elements from its sister NFL product, its worth checking out some of these awesome examples:

2012 Strata Andrew Luck Clear Cut Auto Patch BGS 9.5

2014 Strata Odell Beckham Strata Signature /50

2014 Strata Sammy Watkins Strata Signature Patch Auto

Funny enough, despite all the hobby circle jerk around acetate lately, the main draw for this product is actually not the designs or the cards themselves. Instead, the big news is around provenance associated with the relics that this set utilizes to create the cards. For a long time, collector questions over swatch authenticity have contributed to a decrease in confidence and value. To combat this sentiment, for the first time ever, all swatches in Strata Baseball will be MLB authenticated. This includes a label on every swatch that can be tracked through the MLB authentication database. According to the sell sheet, in addition to tagging each relic, each swatch will be able to be tracked to a specific game. This is huge for a few reasons, even though game dated swatches have been available in prior products with little added value.

MLB authentication offers a third party confirmation that many collectors will consider to be absolute in its authenticity. Even though there are individuals who have more questions that are created by the inclusion of tagged relics, 99% of the people who open Strata will not hesitate to assign certainty. Previously, all game matched swatches have not had this third party involvement, relegating collectors to trust the company's guarantee. Obviously, this still presents more trust that needs to be applied, and trust is always in short supply. As a whole, collectors will be more likely to trust a “disinterested” third party, even more so if that party is the league’s program. Im very curious to see if Strata’s popularity will be influenced solely by this tagging.

I am pretty disappointed that the clear cut auto relics are not included in this set, and also that the Strata signatures dont all seem to have relics in them. This takes away two elements of the set that have made it so attractive to me in Football, and I was really hoping that they would make the trip across the sports. The cards that replaced them are cool, dont get me wrong, but its just not the same. If they are trying to build a separate brand identity in baseball, I dont think that is a bad idea. However, I would have liked to see more of the traditional elements ported over with the set. Its not the same Museum collection without the framed autos, and its not the same Strata without Clear Cuts. At least the rivet cards are included, and as we learned in football, the Rivet cards are bad ass.

The biggest victory of the product has to be the price, which looks to be very low in cost compared to what is being offered in the new elements. This should end up being below the 80 dollar mark in MSRP if the sell sheet cost holds up – something that means you can buy boxes without breaking the bank. All the autographs are on card, and the new relic authentication adds some great intrigue to an already popular product.

With Football on its way out for Topps in 2016, this might be the only way the Strata format carries on. Really unfortunate that is the case, but im glad this is looking like a great addition to the baseball calendar.

The 2015 National Collector’s Convention Show Preview

If you have never experienced a National Convention, you are missing out. You are missing out on a gathering of collectors that happens only a few times a year, and this is definitely the only of those events with this type of fanfare. The convention is always important because of attendance, announcements and giveaways, but there are also other things at work that will definitely make this worthwhile for anyone interested in attending.

Each year, the convention is comprised of a few groups of people. First are the collectors, who will travel from around the world to Chicago, which will house thousands of exhibitors looking to connect with new customers and sell their wares. Every type of collector will show up, whether they are modern hit chasers or vintage pre-war set collectors.

The second group is the card manufacturers, who will all be there to meet their customers and give a bunch of stuff away. In recent years, the only reasons some manufacturers attend are just to be seen and make it rain wrapper redemptions, offering little in terms of actual experiences with their customers. Topps is one of the only companies that offers a formal Q and A, but all the companies have reps on the floor during the whole show if you have something to say.

agdiecuts-300x200

The third group of people are the exhibitors, who sell everything from packs and boxes to game used memorabilia. I would advise against buying sealed wax from anyone but the usual suspects, as trust is always a huge issue with low volume sales. Blowout, Atlanta Sports Cards, DA Cardworld, and all the big players will have huge setups, and if you are going to buy, that’s where I would go. All should have special deals for the show, and will likely have the best prices.

One thing about the national is that most of the people who set up ALSO sell their stuff on ebay, which means there really arent many cards that you cant already find (likely cheaper) online. They have to pay for their space at the show, so that means overhead and higher prices. You can also buy the wrapper redemption cards you actually want, instead paying all that money for boxes of product you would never buy in the first place:

2014 Panini National Convention Kris Bryant Auto

2014 Panini National Convention Johnny Manziel Auto Patch

2014 Topps National Convention Mike Trout Ginter Mini

2014 Upper Deck National Convention LeBron James Auto /8

This includes the packs themselves, including the gold ones from the Panini VIP party:

Lot of 10 Gold Panini VIP Redemption Packs

The one thing I would actually consider buying at the show is memorabilia – especially signed and game used. Those types of things can be had for some GREAT prices, and if you question a signature authenticity – PSA, JSA and the other auth companies are on hand to take a look. Make sure you get a receipt to prove any issues if one surfaces.

There will literally be tables and tables full of bats, helmets, balls, plaques, figures and artwork, all of which will literally blow your mind. Want a vintage bobblehead? Someone will likely be selling hundreds at negotiable prices. Want a signed ball from Babe Ruth? Im sure you can track one down.

Group breaks will also be a huge draw for people at the event, with the show organizers realizing how much product really flows through these individuals. They will have an area at the show again, and it is likely that they will be breaking non-stop for every single minute of the convention. If you want to jump in on one, all the big sites will be there.

As a collector, its important to go and experience everything that show has to offer, whether its the massive amounts of giveaways that will be happening, or the opportunity to catch up with your buddies who have only existed as a username prior to the show. Its a way to connect with cards in a way that isnt available online or in a shop, and to also be a part of the hobby’s fabric that is slowly thinning at the edges.

Speaking of giveaways, they will be all over the show floor, and some will be worth your time to check out. There should be a running monologue in your head about the true motives behind each giveaway, and if you read my posts about Father’s Day and Black Friday, you now know why Panini’s booth features hundreds of thousands redemption packs to bribe people into buying their boxes at the show. Dealers bring specific Panini overstock to the floor solely for the giveaways, and there is A LOT of Panini overstock these days. So much so that it can choke the distros without these types of events in place.

You have to make the giveaway worth people’s time if you expect them to voluntarily open Spectra Football:

Trust me, Panini doesnt love you enough to give away free shit without scratching their own back too. Its why there are specific products that are required to get packs. They want you to buy the stuff that no one can move at the show, so that their true customers can clear shelves of all those terrible sets that Panini puts out. Sure, the redemption packs have some nice cards in them, but from personal experience, you have to get CRAZY lucky to pull anything worth while.

The main rule is simple. If you wouldnt normally buy the box, dont buy it to get the wrapper redemption either.

Here is the underlying point of this post and its one you should take very seriously. If you are reading this blog, you are likely a part of the online community. Use this time to hang out – set up meetings with your contacts from Twitter and the boards, and use the show as your own cardboard vacation. Most people go to the national only to spend time there, so the free time after hours will be plentiful. Try to get involved in the group activities that will be taking place, and dont be afraid to join up with a group. There are lots of people who would love another person to keep things fun.

None of my friends collect cards, and not many understand why I do. The feeling when you are sitting at a table full of people that all get you the way you understand yourself, its an unequaled sense of belonging. Can you get that at your local shop? Of course. Can you get that online? Yes. In the same dose as the national convention? Nope. And that’s why you need to go.

Although Chicago is usually a show location that I will attend each time, the recent addition to our family prevents a vacation this year. I wish I could be there with the gang this year, but its just not in the cards. Have fun, and if anyone gets some cool Vikings or Twins stuff in their redemption packs – shoot me a message.

On the Radar: 2015 Panini Gridiron Kings Football

When I saw that Panini was bringing this on for 2015, I was VERY excited. The baseball product released earlier in the year was a great looking set, with a focus on cards that look like sports art. I thought this was going to be an opportunity for us to get on card autographs on licensed cards that look similar to the baseball version. When I opened the sell sheet, all I could think was how much of a fucking let down the preview turned out to be.

Gridiron Kings has been a force for many years, which is why I am so upset. It was actually responsible for some of the first higher end autographs in Football, and though it has been stickers for the last few times, there is no excuses why it continues to be:

1999 Donruss Gridiron Kings Walter Payton Auto

2000 Donruss Gridiron Kings Sammy Baugh Auto

2009 Threads Gridiron Kings LeSean McCoy Auto

2011 Threads Gridiron Kings Santonio Holmes Auto Patch

Here is what Baseball looked like earlier this year:

2015 Diamond Kings Kris Bryant Auto Dual Relic

2015 Diamond Kings Jose Abreu Auto Patch /5

2015 Diamond Kings Miguel Cabrera Dual Relic Auto /10

Let me start off by saying we have not had a set from Panini previewed YET that has on card rookie autos. Its a sticker parade, and I am disgusted by how many sets they think they can trot out in front of collectors that end up being trash filled with cards they SHOULD have gotten signed at the rookie premiere. The funniest thing is that this isnt even the worst part of the product, and that should scare the shit out of people.

With how awesome the "Kings" brand has been over the multiple decades, this set is a design travesty. Although it features backgrounds that look artsy, the composition of the cards takes a big shit on any design prowess shown at all. Big white boxes for the stickers are EVERYWHERE, including my favorite “big white box against a light background” as we see with the Favre autograph. The Luck/Dorsett dual auto may be the ugliest card previewed this year, which is saying something considering what they just previewed with 2015 Certified.

Even the main box hit, showcased in the Jameis Winston patch auto is so odd and unbalanced, that it doesnt even look like its worth talking about. This is one of the first times Panini has taken an action shot, which I have been looking for, and actually cropped it so much it looks like their stupid ass posed shots like we see AGAIN with the Mariota. Panini’s obsession with these types of cards is unhealthy, and leads to some UGLY fucking cards. Ugly cards lead to many things, but one of those things is this set eventually selling below dealer cost.

I hope they pull their heads out of their asses, or they are going to walk into 2016’s exclusive with a collector base that resents them for kicking out competition that VASTLY out performs them in every way, shape, and form.