On the Radar: 2017 Topps Inception Baseball

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Inception is one of my favorite sets. Not only does it combine some cool HDR filter type images, but a lot of on card autographs and an easy to digest configuration. Since its first run in Football back in 2011, it has expanded into prospect baseball, and now for 2017 it is switching to a traditional product. We had some veteran presence last year, but it was still dominated by players who would still be considered prospects. This year could be different now that it has been retitled “Topps Inception” instead of Bowman.

Here are some of my favorites from previous years:

2014 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Auto Green RC 25/25

2015 Bowman Inception Mike Trout Silver Signings Origins Auto /5

2016 Bowman Inception Bryce Harper Flashback RC Auto BGS 10

2016 Bowman Inception Kyle Schwarber Silver Signings Origins Auto

2014 Bowman Inception Byron Buxton Inscription Auto RC

For a lot of us, this is long overdue, as we have seen some great looking cards in Bowman Inception, but with prospects being so Chrome focused, its hard to see long term value in the format. Now that it has become a professional level set, it adds a level of collectability that hasnt been there for the veteran side of the product.

We are still getting a traditional Inception look, with on card autographs, booklets, and new silhouette type auto relics, which look absolutely fucking amazing. We also seemingly are getting a checklist of players that looks to combine some of the top rookies with autograph subjects from the normal list.

I absolutely love the look of this set, and though it still rings clearly with the original football set, the addition of some of the new subsets continue to make me want to dive in headfirst. The issue in baseball and football previously has been the box break, where it becomes extremely hit and miss. One pack products always have that element baked in, and with prospects and NFL rookies that was double. With a bit more of a robust checklist coming, hopefully the dud factor will be reduced significantly.

Topps has always done a good job providing top quality cards at more reasonable prices, and Inception has been the flagship example of that. They have had a growing commitment to providing on card autographs in products that cost 100 and less, something that Panini has failed miserably at providing. Resetting expectations that on card is the rule and not the exception is a welcome step forward, and I hope it continues to be profitable enough to continue.

Cant wait to see what is coming with this, definitely in for a few boxes.

2016 Contenders Rookie Ticket Preview Cards are Selling Large

Over the course of the Contenders line, it has always been a set that collectors fawn over. Although I dont think the set deserves the level of collector attention that it consistently gets, I know that any time something has the set name with Contenders in the title, its going to sell. None of this is more clear than when you see just how horrifically awful the sets look in many of the years it has been on the market.

This year’s design isnt great, but it isnt bad either, which is a relief. Its a relief because its going to be used for a number of sets, including a needless college version that will likely be released next year. In what looks like a VERY good move, and one I have suggested before, Panini has inserted preview tickets into the fold. Smartly, they added them to a set that is pretty much a dud, but now looks like a better buy knowing you can pull one of the tickets numbered to less than 25.

Check out the ones already up:

2016 Contenders Preview Dak Prescott Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Ezekiel Elliott Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Carson Wentz Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Jared Goff Ticket Auto /22

We have only seen a few surface, but like previous editions of the preview tickets, they are selling for insane numbers if you pull one of the better guys. Im actually surprised this hasnt been done in previous years recently, as sets like Playbook or Absolute might benefit from a chase like this.

Panini needs to find ways to add value to their products, as its clear that sets like Infinity, Gala, Phoenix, Unparalleled, and other garbage they developed this year are so bad that Blowout is already knocking them down close to 50% and less than cost.

2016 Panini Black Friday Packs are Hitting Early

Well, even with a historically popular rookie class in Football, and a pretty solid class in Basketball, and Panini still has to clear all those products off dealer shelves by making shops order their shitty products rotting in the warehouse. To do so, the Black Friday giveaway is back for another year, even though content seems to be reduced again for the umpteenth year in a row. Collectors, for some god forsaken reason, feel like these garbage packs are worth buying the crap they wouldnt normally buy, and that’s why this still happens.

Here are some of the okay looking cards:

2016 Black Friday Eli Manning Base Auto

2016 Black Friday Richard Sherman Base Auto

These on the other hand, make me want to claw my eyes out with dirty fingernails:

2016 Black Friday Ezekiel Elliott Santa Hat Relic /10

2016 Black Friday Aaron Rodgers Manu-patch Logo

2016 Black Friday Kenyan Drake RC Auto

The packs are up early, as they always are, and like we see most years, the cards range from looking meh to looking like OH MY GOD KILL IT WITH WHITE HOT FIRE bad. Some of these cards look so fucking hideous that I dont even think I would want them out of free packs. That’s how bad this gets.

There are some redeeming qualities, as the Super Bowl cards always look good, and some of the base veterans arent horrible. That being said, the rest of the content isnt worth even THINKING about buying random crap to get the packs.

A word of warning – DO NOT BUY BLACK FRIDAY PACKS ON EBAY. They are easily searched and easily separated so that every hit is taken out.

Overall, you will see Panini pimp this giveaway like its the best thing from sliced bread. You will see shops try to justify the cost of taking on excess garbage when they already have a stock to begin with. None of that should need to happen. If products were built and printed the way they should be, these types of programs wouldnt be forced by dealers sitting on heaps of trash they cant move.

Just say no to Black Friday, and dont force your shop to participate. Buy product that deserves to be bought, and try to get them to use their voice to explain to Panini that overprinting the worst products of the year cannot be a method if shops are expected to continue buying new wax.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Black Gold Football

Its really quite unfortunate that Panini already has released a college version of this set, as I think that it has some of the best cards that they make each year. For whatever reason, they seem to think that diluting a product with a worthless NCAA branded high end product is beneficial overall, while I contend that its a waste. Although Black gold has some seriously ugly cards combined with the winners, the college version hurts the splash that this makes.

Here are some of the nicer looking cards from last year:

2015 Black Gold Marcus Mariota Sizeable Signature Auto Patch RC

2015 Black Gold Stefon Diggs NFL Shield Auto Patch RC 1/1

2015 Black Gold Dan Marino Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2015 Black Gold Jerome Bettis Auto

But, as we have seen with Black Gold, the garbage ruins the rest of the product:

2015 Black Gold David Johnson Auto RC

2015 Black Gold Jeremy Langford Metal Auto RC

2015 Black Gold Davante Adams Jumbo Patch Auto RC

Last year’s set was an improvement, but the absolutely horrible box configuration and pricing was prohibitive to opening this stuff. It made it another in a long line of group break products, to the point where there are very few singles available. Very few people opened 2015, and with a college product added this year, it could be even more of a bloodbath. Bottom line, Panini’s products dont really measure up to people breaking alone, as the quality of the box content just never comes to fruition unless you hit the top guy. If you dont, good luck.

The Sizable Signature cards are among my favorite sets that Panini makes, as I love the acetate approach with a silhoutette style design. I also like a lot of the other cards in the preview, as the similar type of acetate design works really well as a way to get the relics and autographs together without interference in the presentation.

As good as those cards are, OF COURSE we have the typical posed photograph shit show that Panini has made their trademark. I cannot understand why this is a thing. I just cant. I hate it so much as the players look stupid, and therefore the cards look stupid. Panini needs to fucking stop trying to make the players look vulnerable. This is the goddamn gridiron, not the Victoria’s secret fashion show. I swear to god, I will continue to be a harsh critic until Panini’s design team decides to pull their fucking head out of their fucking ass.

Similarly, why are these stupid ass hood ornaments back for another year? They are poorly designed and the gimmick isnt even that good to begin with. I mean, I dont understand the lame ass metal symbols to begin with, and the giant boxes that obscure 75% of this card makes little sense.

All in all, this is as close to a pure singles product as you can get, as its clear that boxes will be a kick in the nuts for a breaker. Im sure Dak and Zeke will continue to carry the hobby for this year, but could you imagine what might happen if Panini actually made great content and great products? Yeah, me neither.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Immaculate Football

As I always say – I love this product, hate the name. It is easily one of the best looking sets that Panini makes, and since the transition over from basketball, has been one of the only Panini sets I look forward to every year. Although there is ALWAYS at least one stupid posed picture hat set in the mix, on a piece by piece basis, I think its better than Flawless. Similarly, with other sets like Impeccable on the market as the only places where you can really get good looking on card content, there just arent many options available.

Check out some of the big hits up so far:

2016 Immaculate Ezekiel Elliott Jumbo Patch Auto /99

2016 Immaculate Dak Prescott Jumbo Patch Auto 4/99

2016 Immaculate Braxton Miller NFL Shield Auto 1/1

2016 Immaculate Deion Sanders Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2016 Immaculate Warren Moon Auto Logo 1/1

For 2016, as we have seen for all the previous years, Immaculate mirrors basketball almost exactly from a design perspective. The rookie patch auto cards are great looking again this year, and Im still curious to see if there is an acetate version that pops up, or if they decided just to go with the regular stock. I dont think I saw the acetate on the checklist, but I could have missed it. If it is gone, that is really a big disappointment.

Additionally, I dont like that they are trying to over complicate the patch auto subsets with jersey number cut outs, jumbo patches and dual and triple versions. I dont think any of the sets look any better than the regular base version, as the windows tend to over extend past the swoops in the design, which really hurts the overall look. Its not like these jerseys are game used, so I just dont get the obsession with “bigger is better” in this sense. Just make the card look good.

I also noticed that the Immaculate Moments set is back, something I really liked before. The problem is that it is starting to be more about finding players they can add to the checklist instead of creating cards for the actual “moments” that are infamous in the history of the NFL. Dan Marino winning rookie of the year is just an occurrence, same with Jared Goff being the top overall pick, They are not something that continues to be a talked about moment from the annals of NFL films.

The one issue I think that Immaculate struggles with is the value in breaking boxes as compared to other high end products. At around 400 bucks, I think that ventures well into “Super Premium” and I would hate to dive into a number of boxes here and walk out with as little as what Panini did in their adver-break. Sure they ended up with arguably the best player in the class, but that isnt a 1200 dollar card. That might cover a box, but what happens when Zeke isnt in the plans. What happens when you end up with Troy Brown as your box hit? That is a kick in the fucking nuts right there. I am sure there are quite a few Ricardo Louis / Troy Brown boxes out there. This is really a plague of super premium in general, but I have seen Immaculate struggle more than others in this space.

As we move into the latter part of the 2016 card calendar, I think Panini is making some improvements, and I hope to see a continued growth as we are forced to endure a Topps-less landscape.