What are the Coolest 2014 Card Sets Released So Far?

Most of the time, I will not buy a card unless I think it is really cool looking. I have a lot of pet peeves that will prevent me from buying a card, but for the most part, the cool factor is a subjective look at what I would like to display on my shelf. Here are some of the coolest card sets of the year so far.

Topps Inception Inscription Autos

Everyone knows how much I love inscriptions by this point, and it should come as no surprise that this set of cards is one that I love. There are three versions of the card, which include a nickname /10, a saying 1/1, and sometimes a drawn play 1/1. All of them are awesome. This was first done last year, and I am glad it was brought back.

2014 Topps Inception Teddy Bridgewater Inscription Auto 1/1

2014 Topps Inception Derek Carr Auto Inscription

2014 Inception Sammy Watkins Inscription Auto 1/1

Topps Finest Jumbo Patch Auto Superfractors

One of my pet peeves is when a company makes 1/1 cards and they arent special other than the numbering on the card. These superfractors all feature team logo chest patches, which are some of my favorite patches to chase. You really need to check out some of these examples.

2014 Topps Finest Blake Bortles Jumbo Logo Patch Auto Superfractor

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Jumbo Logo Patch Auto Superfractor

2014 Topps Finest Jimmy Garoppolo Jumbo Logo Patch Auto Superfractor

Exquisite XRC Autos

Adding cards from the upcoming rookie class has been a part of Exquisite since 2010, and I think it is a tremendous idea. Adding autographs this year is an even better idea considering how nice the design is. I am a huge fan of these cards and it should not be surprising that they sell for a ton.

2013 Exquisite Kelvin Benjamin XRC Auto

2013 Exquisite Blake Bortles XRC Auto

Topps 1985 Throwback Rookie Autos

Although the cards were hampered by chipping, they picked the perfect retro design to use for this set. The on card autos look amazing, and with the work done on the retouched photos, you can enjoy NFL uniform autographs of your favorite rookie without waiting for November. Nice.

2014 Topps Jadeveon Clowney 1985 Throwback Auto

2014 Topps Carlos Hyde 1985 Throwback Auto

Elite Rookie Premiere Autographs

In my opinion, Elite has been Panini’s best set released so far, but the rest of their calendar has been exceptionally weak. These cards were EXTREMELY rare, but look absolutely great. These combined with the on card rookie signature cards added a lot to a product that everyone already chases, and I was glad to see that be the case.

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel On Card Rookie Premiere Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Elite Jordan Matthews Rookie Premiere Auto

The best part about this list is that we havent even hit the sweet spot yet this year. Even though Topps has had a bang up year so far, they still have a long way to go with the rest of the calendar. We have yet to see top products like National Treasures and Five Star hit the market, and with the addition of Flawless, its clear we are in for some nice sets this year.

On the Radar: 2014 Panini Totally Certified and 2014 Panini Limited

Panini has finally come around to providing previews for new sets, including two that I have a very troubled relationship with. In looking at 2014 Limited and 2014 Totally Certified, I think it has become PAINFULLY obvious that Panini is struggling to brand their sets with interesting material.

So much of the same stuff over and over again makes the cards boring, and in the case of TC, completely disgusting looking. Its sad because there are a lot of products that collectors used to love, but have left for dead because of poor design quality and content.

2014 Limited Football

When I first started collecting football back in 2003, Limited was an interesting set. I think that the 2007 and 2008 sets were relatively nice, but were overshadowed by the other on card sets that Upper Deck was releasing.

Here are some of the examples from previous years, its been a long run:

2011 Limited Tom Brady Limitless Auto /5

2011 Limited Aaron Rodgers Monikers Auto Patch /20

2012 Limited Andrew Luck On Card Phenoms Auto Patch

2010 Limited Calvin Johnson / Matthew Stafford Dual Auto

Since that time, Limited has gone from good to awful, and this year looks like its at least on an upgraded path. However, there are still some HORRENDOUS looking cards in the bunch. Par for the course, as Limited is responsible for some of the worst sets in recent memory. Panini’s top brands of the year have become Certified, Contenders and Treasures, and in the past Limited was in that group. Now its clearly an afterthought.

Although I think the bow tie shaped box is better than the awful giant rectangular square from 2013, its still not all that good looking. Its better, no doubt, but there has to be something that can be done instead of just adding a long giant swatch. These cards may come out of the gate with some value, but in the end, they will tank faster than Certified did. Panini has lost the ability to sustain value in their middle end cards, and Limited is a casualty.

Here are the previews, man that Watkins is a disaster:

2014 Totally Certified

If you think Bowman Sterling is a worthless piggyback set from Topps, you havent seen Totally Certified. Because Panini had such a hard on for the awful looking micro etched look, they needlessly brought this set back from the dead. Someone needs to pull the plug on the life support, because it should have stayed buried.

Take a look at the joke this product has been since 2011:

2011 Totally Certified AJ Green Auto Rookie Relic

2012 Totally Certified Nick Foles Auto Rookie Relic

2013 Totally Certified Cordarrelle Patterson Auto Rookie Relic

Aside from the laughable name, this product offers nothing to the general calendar that needs to be there. It has been garbage for a very long time, including some of the most poorly conceived and designed sets that I continue to make fun of to this day.

For 2014, Not only is the giant white space on the card, and the compartmentalized design a vomit inducing combination, but its clear that making this product again is like producing another year of Prominence. Card shops are still sitting on Totally certified boxes from 2012 that they cant move, not to mention 2013, so WHY ARE THEY INSISTING ON TORMENTING US AGAIN WITH THIS GARBAGE?

The funniest part of this is that it was originally on card, which gave it a slight reason with collectors to actually exist. Now that it is back to all stickers, you are asking for people to send it to closeout immediately. Dont even try the MAPP shit with this, just put it out at 50% off and hope people are dumb enough to buy a box. Cant wait to get my Connor Shaw sticker auto patch.

Even the base design looks beyond stupid, and the last thing this hobby needs is another November based sticker auto set. To think that they are going to have to build like four dozen new products to support the overpayment on their NFL exclusive, I get more and more frightened by the day.

Here is the preview:

They have consistently shown that they do not know how to build good looking cards, and yet here we are. I cant fucking wait for 2016. Happy day! Totally Certified trash all day every day. Good for us. GOOD FOR US.

2014 QB Class Still Looking to Get Their Footing With Collectors

When we came into the 2014 season, there were a number of top QB prospects that everyone was quite excited about. Aside from the top guy in Manziel, there was potential in a few other players that would potentially get a shot to be the best in the class. So far, none of them have really had the success we expected, and Manziel is going to be on the bench for the foreseeable future.

Blake Bortles – Jaguars

I really like what I have seen from Bortles, but the team around him is so terrible that he is starving for talent to help him get wins on the board. Not only does he have no good receivers, but his running game is likely the worst in the NFL. Yet, he is still able put up some solid numbers despite his supporting cast. Jacksonville is a black hole of hobby value and for good reason. Bortles will likely battle issues for his entire career as long as the team continues to struggle in the draft and in FA.

2014 Topps Finest Blake Bortles Gold Refractor Jumbo Relic Auto

2014 Topps Blake Bortles 1985 Throwback Auto

2014 Certified Blake Bortles Freshman Fabric Auto Relic

Investment Potential: Below average
Play so far: B

Teddy Bridgewater – Vikings

Like Bortles, Teddy is really hurting from the talent of people around him. His offensive line is an absolute mess, and his running game went from the best in the league to one of the worst in a hot minute thanks to Peterson's stupidity and pending legal charges. The Vikings need help almost everywhere, but the fan base in Minnesota remains faithful to their players until it is abundantly clear that its time to move on. For that reason alone, Bridgewater remains worth a look despite a HORRIBLE performance today.

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Auto Jumbo Patch Xfractor

2014 Topps Prime Teddy Six Piece Booklet Auto /15

2014 Topps Inception Teddy Bridgewater Inscription Auto Glove Patch /10

Investment Potential: Average
Play so Far: C

Derek Carr – Raiders

Although I think Carr hasnt had a lot to work with in Oakland this year, and a head coaching change mid season will not do him any favors, he hasnt played awful. THe issue with Carr is that they will likely be drafting awfully high in the upcoming draft,which means that players like Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston may be available. That doesnt bode well for the future of Carr as the top guy in Oakland, although his play could quiet the rumors all together.

2013 Exquisite Derek Carr Auto XRC

2013 Topps Finest Derek Carr Red Refractor Auto Patch

2013 Topps Prime Derek Carr Quad Patch Auto

Investment Potential: Risky
Play so Far: C+

Johnny Manziel

Yes, I am aware that Manziel hasnt played yet. After Hoyer's convincing win today vs the Steelers, it looks like that is getting further and further away by the day. Here is the thing. Hoyer is a bit older and no one is going to expect him to come back next year and be the starter unless something amazing happens. In fact nothing could be better for Manziel than to continue to sit and absorb the NFL style. Either way, he was a risk from the beginning and remains so to this day.

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel On Card Auto RC

2014 Upper Deck SPX Premier Johnny Manziel Quad Relic Auto

2014 Topps Johnny Manziel Variation Auto RC

Investment Potential: Risky
Play so Far: N/A

Its clear we do not have a lot to go off of with any of the guys I have mentioned in this post, as Carr is the only one with more than 3 starts. As the season moves on, we will get a clearer picture, but the only thing that can amke things better for 2014 is for one of these guys to start lighting it up. Doesnt look like that is going to happen with how many holes some of these teams have. We will see though.

On the Radar: 2014 Panini Contenders Football Sneak Peak

I rarely turn my head at a one card preview, but this is one of the biggest Panini sets of the year. Last year was a good looking product despite the horrid class, and 2012 was similarly nice for most of the main autographs. This year isnt looking like they were able to put together a three peat.

Let travel back, because this set does have QUITE the rich history:

2012 Contenders Andrew Luck Auto Rookie Ticket

1998 Contenders Peyton Manning Rookie Auto Ticket

2000 Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket Auto

2012 Contenders Russell Wilson Rookie Auto Ticket

Contenders has as loyal a collector base as Chrome, even though I dont feel that the set has consistently looked as good. There are some years of Contenders that are lost because of horrendous design work, and it makes me wonder how this set is still as popular as it is. Let us not forget the dumpster fire that was 2011 Contenders. If you think that is bad, check out 2009’s autographs. Some of the worst ever.

This year’s version has a number of issues with the design we are seeing in this preview, and most of them stem from the layout of the card and the massive amount of wasted space. A pretty common situation from past years as well. Even without seeing the base white version of the card, its already evident that the giant text and logo for the set take up as much of the layout as the player picture, which is the first strike. The separate but not defined auto space takes up more space, leaving a picture that needs to be cropped to the top 1/3rd of the card instead of being more of a focus. All of my pet peeves in one.

Personally, I really liked the ticket design for 2013, and 2012 was great, even though the latter was a copy of 1998. In fact, I cant even give them credit for 2012, because when the Panini design team had to alter the design for the stickers, it was the usual train wreck. Seriously, 2013 may have been their biggest success, and its sad that the class was as bad as it was.

Contenders is going to continue being Panini’s main squeeze, even more so than products like Flawless, Immaculate and Treasures, as it is their most accessible brand. The continued focus on delivering autos over relic content is a good formula if their design team could figure out how to avoid these terrible layout issues.

Here is the big reveal of the 2014 Ticket design:

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Unique Memorabilia Cards Racking Up Big Prices

Ill give it to Panini – they definitely have cornered the market on Jumbo patch cards. Not only jumbo patch cards, but ones with pretty unique pieces of memorabilia in them. So much so that collectors are latching on and with a recent preview from Exquisite BKB, UD is too.

Check them out in all their glory – here are the BKB ones:

2014 Immaculate LeBron James Sneak Peak 1/1

2014 Immaculate Shaquille Oneal Logo Sneak Peak 1/1

2014 Immaculate Blake Griffin Logo Sneak Peak 1/1

Here are the BB ones:

2014 Immaculate Ken Griffey Jr Glove Logo 1/1

2014 Immaculate Cal Ripken Jr Hat Logo

2014 Immaculate Tony Gwynn Glove Logo Patch

I think these cards are a pretty interesting chase, as Basketball has always been about the shoes. Always. Air Jordans continue to be some of the most collectible commodities of the basketball world. Adding in a shoe element to basketball cards is a great idea.

Additional chases in place because of the rarity of the cards is similarly important, mainly because of how unavailable some of these cards are in both BB and BKB. Collectors in basketball thrive on this element, and will go nuts trying to get the cards from their favorite players. Funny enough, with some of the Baseball versions, the whole piece of game used memorabilia can be worth LESS than the piece of it in a card. For top players, batting gloves and cleats are actually pretty easy to come by because of how many are used over the course of the season. Hasnt stopped these cards from being VERY hot commodities.

I really dont even like the way they look, as I have never been a fan of a card that uses a swatch (jumbo or otherwise) in place of design. If you are trying to showcase a large piece of memorabilia, use an oversized format or find a way to make the card look good. So far, Panini hasnt found that balance even in the slightest.

Scary as that may be to people like me, so many collectors will judge value on patch content rather than actual design. Its how Panini lovers and apologists attain that label. They just want big patches and they dont care how it looks. Does that detract from the idea? To me, yes. To everyone else, probably not. Im not going to sit here and battle against cards like this, because I know that fight is a futile one. However, Upper Deck did find a way to use unique memorabilia pieces in the past and have done it well:

2005 Exquisite Reggie Wayne Signed GU Shoulder Pad Autograph

2005 Exquisite Deion Sanders Signed GU Shoulder Pad Autograph

2005 Exquisite Tiki Barber Signed GU Helmet Auto

Other formats including booklets and other situations can circumvent the need for design on a massive patch card:

2014 Inception Johnny Manziel Auto Jumbo Patch Booklet

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Booklet Jumbo Patch Auto

I dont think Panini cares very much considering how successful these cards have become, but when you see how much Immaculate has tanked outside of these cards, maybe its worth more consideration than they are giving it.