What Does National Treasures Basketball Say About the Future?

I have been paying more and more attention to Panini products in other sports, just to see the level of sucktitude we are in for come 2016 in football. Even though Panini football products up to this point are so bad that I cant put it into words, I am afraid they will get exponentially worse without competition. 2014 National Treasures Basketball was a product I really wanted to check out, because I had seen the nauseating marketing blitz they put behind it.

Basically, let me break this down for you, just in case you dont follow Basketball cards. National Treasures basketball costs about the same as you get in the other sports, sticker autos and cigar box be damned. However, the dynamic has changed a bit with the releases of Flawless and Immaculate taking its place as the highest end products of the year for Panini.

I think that this year’s set is a sad excuse for 479 dollars a box, despite how Basketball really performs. Yes, you can literally fart into a box, slap a 500 dollar price tag on it, and Basketball collectors will line up to buy it. In fact, im pretty sure that’s happened before. That’s just the way basketball is, its easy to sell high end. This version of Treasures is sadly one step below, with some of the oddest sets I have seen.

First off, there is a printing plate per box, sometimes more than one. Its a bit more than strange that most of the plates are from other products. Aside from the fact that I hate printing plates in any high end product, isnt it a little weird that they are adding this as guaranteed pack content in National Treasures again? Its like putting a TV in a car that faces out the rear window (yes this is a thing). Completely useless, and really just adding for the sake of adding. Im guessing the conversation went something like this:

“Holy shit Joe, these boxes are pretty dry. Should we add more autograph or relic content?”

“Nah, just insert that pile of printing plates at the back of each pack. They love them plates.”

I guess it goes without saying that adding printing plates makes up for your Chris Andersen sticker auto you got in the box.

Then we go onto further box content of AT LEAST one redemption per box. I guess the whole points thing isnt going to transfer over to products where the cards per box actually matter? That was quick. To take it further, I cant believe people are okay with a guaranteed redemption per box. For a box to cost as much as it does, and for most of the autos to be stickers, how is this acceptable? Oh right, no one else can produce NBA cards. Forgot about that.

Then we get onto the chase cards – those logos that everyone is talking about. Have I mentioned that many of them can be numbered as high as FIVE? All those logo cards that Upper Deck used to make a name for themselves are all 1/1, but is it still a chase when 4 other people can pull the same card? Secondly, just how many game used jerseys are they hoarding per player? Good god! Is it cool that more people have a chance to pull one? Sure, but maybe not when it could be Enes Kanter and its not a 1/1?

Speaking of Enes Kanter, these product checklists are just wacky. They are about 80% too deep for a box that you literally have to drop a car payment on, and dont give me this crap about player collectors either. Im not saying to not include them ever on any auto checklist, but you would be pissed too if your box had JJ Redick as your main hit. Sure, some JJ Redick collector is half staff that he gets a card to collect in treasures, but does that make it okay?

When you consider that high end is crap shoot to begin with, I know its not a good idea to study box content in any high end product. However, when you take a look at the other products on this level, ALL OF THEM ARE 100% ON CARD. Exquisite, Five Star, Immaculate, Flawless, etc. No stickers. They definitely dont have a guaranteed redemption per box. The issue is that there is no competition to challenge Panini’s reign, and they dont even have autographs from the two biggest names in the sport.

Sure, this rant is overly harsh in a lot of ways, as there are a lot of nice looking cards in Treasures. I just cant help but be angry that collectors continue to settle. Everyone speaks with their wallet and for whatever reason, Treasures still has buyers. That is pretty sad, especially when you look at some of the breaks. I think I saw someone pull something like 10 Alex Len auto redemptions in 20 cases.

Topps has a lot of the same issues with complacency on the baseball side, which only goes to show how fucking stupid it is to grant exclusives to anyone. No matter how much you like or hate a company, its just blasphemous to say that exclusivity is better than a competitive marketplace. Competition has always bred innovation, or at least some minuscule level of quality in the product. Now, its just a matter how close to a fart in a box a company can get before people start asking for their money back.

On The Radar: 2014 Topps Museum Collection Football Preview

New brands are hard to build, and even more difficult to draw up enough buzz for them to be successful. In high end, the challenges can be doubled, as many collectors will only support established products that they feel comfortable with. Museum Collection was a surprise hit last year in a high end capacity, which makes it that much more of a shock. It's sister product in Baseball was a likely contributor, but it didnt hurt to have on card autos from a number of top non-rookie signers as well.

There were some very nice cards in this set last year:

2014 Topps Museum Collection Peyton Manning Metal Frame Auto Gold BGS 9.5

2014 Topps Museum Collection Joe Montana Auto /55

2014 Topps Museum Collection Kurt Warner / Marshall Faulk Dual Auto

2014 Topps Museum Collection Marshawn Lynch Auto

For 2014, you would expect that the product is back with even more to offer, and from what we are seeing in the solicitation, there is a lot to be excited about. More on card autos are on the way, with likely high value signers again populating the checklist like last year. Adding cards that give a chase element to the set is a huge indicator for a successful high end product, and its exponentially greater when the signatures are on card. Last year had some great card, including dual signed live autographs that were not available anywhere else but five star.

My favorite cards of the product last year were the metal frame autographs, which I think continue to be a cool innovation that adds display quality to a normal card. This year’s design looks better than last year in my opinion, and I am expecting that there will be more of a higher quality checklist based on some of the previews we already see on the sheet.

The only major question that I see in the cards displayed has to be the base and non-signature cards, which have some really BAD design work. They were pretty good last year, in terms of design, but dont look to be as nice this year. The base cards look really odd with the solid background, and dont even get me started on more of these fucking Pro Bowl cards. If there is one thing that needs to be completely gone from football cards its the celebration of the Pro Bowl. Both Topps and Panini have had a history of such celebration, and I cant stand it.

Overall, I will throw a ton of support behind this set because it features a lot of hard signed non-rookie content. Although the cards are a bit boring, the low standards we have for cards these days almost forces me to get excited. Honestly, the metal framed cards could be added to another set and it would be just as cool. I dont think things are on their way up, either, and that’s the scariest part.

Here are the pictures:

Big Hits Turning Heads in 2014 Topps Football

This is one of my favorite things about Topps’ flagship low end brand each year. They give something that appeals to both low end collectors and high end collectors in the same set. In fact, some of the cards I am seeing belong in a high end release anyways, which makes me wonder what is in store as Topps closes out its time with the NFL.

40 Autograph Booklet Card

This is one of the highlights of the product, and last year it took a LOOOOOOOONG time for it to surface. When one popped up during the day of release, I was pretty shocked. Not only did Topps manage to complete all 40 signatures on card, but they did it with 3 players missing from the premiere. PRETTY impressive card.

2014 Topps Rookie Premiere Auto 40 Signature Booklet /5

Top Veteran Signers

I was pretty shocked when I saw who was going to be on the checklist for veteran autos in Topps, as Topps has opted to load most products with rookie content over the last few years. Its rare that they take money out of the rookie pool and dedicate it to getting more big vet autos, but this is a delightful exception.

2014 Topps Tom Brady Base Auto SSP

2014 Topps Peyton Manning Auto Relic /50

2014 Topps Drew Brees Auto Variation SSP

Platinum 1/1s

In previous years, the platinum 1/1s were basically gray bordered with a 1/1 serial stamp. This year, that has changed significantly with more foil. Johnny Football has already been pulled.

2014 Topps Johnny Manziel Platinum 1/1 RC

2014 Topps Haloti Ngata Platinum 1/1 Base

Rookie Jumbo Patch Autos

For 2013, these cards were extremely rare at just 5 copies, but this year’s numbering is 20. The insert auto design works SO much better for these, as the bigger relic covers up some of the overly CGI style background. I really like these cards.

2014 Topps Sammy Watkins Jumbo Patch Auto /20

2014 Topps Bishop Sankey Jumbo Patch Auto /20

Letter Patches

I have absolutely despised Topps letter cards in previous years, mainly because they choose a larger patch window over displaying more of a card design on the border. This year’s look better with a fuller player pic on the side, but I still think there is much more room to do better. I think 2013 Supreme did the best job, and even that was far from perfect.

2014 Topps Jadeveon Clowney Letterman Patch 1/1

2014 Topps Larry Fitzgerald Letterman 1/1

2014 Topps Reggie Bush Letterman 1/1

It shouldnt shock anyone why I love Topps’ first real post-premiere product, as they do a great job with it every year. They need to do a great job, as it continues to be one of the best sellers in football. Ill be sad to see it go in 2016.

On the Radar: 2014 Panini Prizm Continues Its History of Horrible

Sets like Prizm cement why I hate most of what Panini does. It is everything that shows they are not only unable to cultivate their own brand identity, but they cant even copy things well. Prizm is literally Diet Chrome, but that almost does a disservice to Diet Coke, which is good on its own. This is like Chrome Zero. Today we got the preview for 2014 Prizm and I dont even know what to say.

Check out how bad it has been in previous years. God I hate this set:

2012 Panini Prizm Andrew Luck Auto RC

2012 Panini Prizm Russell Wilson Auto RC

2013 Panini Prizm Eddie Lacy Auto RC

2012 Panini Prizm Demarcus Ware Auto SP

First off, let me say that the base design is better than it has ever been. That’s not saying much due to the horrendous designs of previous sets, but its really one of the only good things that I can say about this preview. They consistently show that they do not know how to recreate the good parts of Chrome, instead failing when they put their spin on it. Stickers instead of on card, separated signature areas and ugly ass white boxes instead of ghosting, horrible names for their sets.

Chrome may use the same design and photography as regular Topps, but the autographs are on card for the rookies, the design is always top notch, and the break is about as fun as it gets. Both sets have an absolute TON of parallels for each card, which is fun at first, but when you start getting above 6 regularly available parallels, it gets to be overkill. Now that Panini has decided to make icon based refractors and fucking tie dye shit, Im well past my level of comfort. Tie dye, I cant make this up. This is who the NFLPA chose to be the sole provider of football cards come 2016. Get ready!

When you also see that they have made photo variations (which I whole-heartedly support), but then choose to use pictures like these, I just lose all interest. Yes, Panini has found a way to make Johnny Manziel into a red carpet fashion model. Congrats?

Maybe we should treat their cards as they want them to be treated. Who wore it better ladies? Johnny or Scar-jo?!?

 photo Capture-3.jpg

Panini is going about this all the wrong way, and I am through sitting back and taking this all in stride. I am past the point of being upset, and I am slowly progressing towards anger. Panini will chalk this up as something that collectors want, but their aftermarket price decreases show differently. I hope you guys eventually join me in voicing our opinion as loudly as possible.

NOW – WHO IS READY FOR SOME HIPPIE-FRACTORS?

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Football Signals the Real Start to the Season!

As I talked about yesterday, 2014 Topps Football is one of those days on the calendar that really makes things obvious that football is back. Although I am not a base collector, and have yet to spend the time putting together a set in my life, this product is still exciting. Topps has always been a leader in making their big products look great, and the 2014 set this year is no exception.

Check out some of the bigger hits already up:

2014 Topps Sammy Watkins 1963 Auto On Card /150

2014 Topps Teddy Bridgewater 1985 Auto On Card

2014 Topps Khalil Mack Jumbo Patch Auto
2014 Topps Jadeveon Clowney 1965 Tall Boy Auto /150

2014 Topps Carlos Hyde 1985 Auto On Card /150

Here are some of my initial thoughts after seeing previews and the first cards up, some good some bad. Ill try to organize everything so its easier to follow along.

The Good

Topps has made it a point over the last few years to include some great photography in their sets. It has been more impressive in recent years for Flagship, and I really like a lot of the pics this year for non-rookies. The Variations with TD dance celebrations are really cool, a theme that has never really applied in years past.

I also really like the changes in the Rookie Premiere Autos, even though its another subset autograph with the exact same pics from Inception. Because of how short a period of time it is between the draft and the rookie premiere, both Panini and Topps have had to recycle a lot more of the retouched work that constitutes their initial on card offerings. At least the work is really well done.

Another good part of the product has to be a better checklist of veteran base autos, which includes some guys that havent had Topps autos in a very long time. These are some of my favorite cards in the set, and I wish there were many more of them to fill things out a bit.

To add some nice flare, the insert designs this year are pretty eye catching. Although they do have a bit of a video game feel to them, the lighted stadium look isnt something I am going to complain about after seeing some of the examples from previous Topps sets. The theme of "Unleash the Future" is a nice idea, but unfortunately named after recent news.

When it comes to the 1985 autos, I absolutely love these, as I think they are vastly improved over the 1986 autos from last year’s set. The design is similarly iconic, and though black stock does not lend itself well to being manhandled by the rookies, the cards still look awesome.

Topps has also done a good job with interactive programs in their products over the years, and the Power Players is one that was a popular fantasy style game with Baseball. It was reconfigured for FB, from early pulls, and I think it is definitely going to be fun chasing down some of the inserts.

The Bad

I am beyond done with these Tall Boys. We have had them in 2012, 2013 and now 2014 on multiple occasions, and all three times I have not bought a single one. I despise the sideline shot with helmet off, even though I know that was the way they were originally done back in 1965.

Adding other minis with similar work on the pictures doesnt make things any better for me either, as I wish we could have gone a different direction and used a different style of pic – retro theme be damned.

After reviewing some of the rookie variation cards, I sincerely wish the photos were much more different, as so many of them look like they are just the next pic on the roll. One pic is right as they are winding up, with the variation pic seemingly taken a split second after. We need more changes to be cool. Im still going chase them, but Im not as excited this time.

I also am really against using Fantasy Football as a theme for any card set. It plays into two different sets this year, and I find it completely off putting. Although I understand that fantasy is a big element of the success of the NFL, im just not a fan of adding it to this product as a theme TWICE.

All that being said, I think 2014 Topps really did turn out very nicely, and is an improvement for sure over 2013.