Missing in Action: Topps Football Products We Need to Come Back

Its been a long year and a half without Topps in football, and as you can imagine, I am deeply distraught over my favorite products no longer being available. Some of them had been around for decades, others were a one and done, but they are all missed. Panini's track record of building new products is an absolute umitigated disaster, and that is on top of a calendar that was already severely lacking in regular top performing products. With that, here are the Topps products I want to see again if/when Panini deservedly loses the exclusive.

Topps Chrome

In my mind, there is no better football product available over a long period of time. It has been THE most consistent product in existence (in combination with base Topps), and when you see the way the community reacts to dogs like Optic, its clear how much Chrome is missed. Chrome created a market that has yet to be replicated, at a price point that is as low as it gets. There is a reason the top card of the year was always from this set, and why it isnt a contest anymore.

2014 Topps Chrome Odell Beckham RC Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2015 Topps Chrome Marcus Mariota Patch Auto /75 BGS 9.5

2012 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck Pink Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

Topps Definitive Collection

This was the product of the year in 2015, and it SUCKS that it only got one year on the market. Panini has tried to build Flawless in a way that doesnt just appeal to group breakers, but they have failed year after year. At 1500 a box, Flawless is basically unbreakable if you are an individual. Its just too much money for cards that historically dont hold value the way Contenders or Treasures do. Definitive offered better looking and more interesting content than Flawless ever did, at a price that started below Treasures.

Definitive is a beast in every way:

2015 Topps Definitive Collection Marcus Mariota Framed Patch Auto

2015 Topps Definitive Marshawn Lynch / Russell Wilson Dual Auto

2015 Topps Definitive Collection Peyton Manning auto

Topps Inception

Let me start by saying that Panini’s blatant rip off looks exactly like Inception, but its not Inception in quality and execution. Panini ripped off the idea, but failed to use the right stock, right configuration, and right quality in the way the product was built. Its like buying Foakleys instead of Oakleys. In the end, its just a cheap knockoff that looks just like the real thing.

Here are some of my favorites:

2014 Inception Derek Carr Gold Inscription Auto

2014 Inception Jameis Winston Booklet Tag Patch Auto /5

2012 Inception Andrew Luck Auto Green /50

Topps Finest

Another great Chrome stock product, good enough that Panini modeled a portion of their calendar to mirror all the Chrome stock products with a copycat. Chrome was Prizm, Finest was Select, and Sterling was inexplicably built into Spectra. It all started in 2011 when Topps reconfigured everything for a modern approach. Once the new configuration was launched, the brand took a great turn for the better, and delivered some quality hard signed and sticker autos quite early in the year. Its always fun to rip en masse, as well as ripping by the box. I feel like this is where Panini has given up, as so many of their products seem to be configured at the case level, which makes them attractive solely to group breakers.

2015 Topps Finest Amari Cooper Atomic On Card Auto RC

2013 Topps Finest Le'Veon Bell Auto Patch Red Refractor /10

Topps Supreme

For a set that started out as shitty as Supreme did, they really, really turned it around. Tons of veteran autos, amazing patches, and some really cool booklet cards that I chased on a yearly basis. I think the final year of the set was even better than most years, with awesome die cutting action that brought a 3D element to each card. Panini just hasnt found a way to replicate much of this success at this price point.

2014 Topps Supreme Tom Brady Auto

2013 Topps Supreme Matt Ryan Jumbo Patch Auto BGS 9.5

Overall, I know its going to be a ton of time before any of these are even able to make a comeback, but a man can dream right?

Aaron Judge is a Monster and That’s Good for Cards

Let me start off by saying that I always hate when the Yankees get talent in their pipeline like Aaron Judge. I am not a Yankee fan. Unlike most of the stars they acquire, Judge isnt a free agent they bought for the highest bid. Somehow that makes him more likable, and also more collectible. All that aside, his stats are unreal, and for 2017, its Aaron’s court. The hobby hasnt waited long to jump on the bandwagon.

Check out these prices:

2013 Bowman Chrome Aaron Judge RC Auto Black

2013 Bowman Chrome Aaron Judge Auto RC BGS 9.5

2017 Topps Heritage Aaron Judge Real One auto

2017 Topps Inception Aaron Judge Jumbo Patch Silhouette Auto

Now. Here is where things get interesting.

For the last few years there has been a MONSTER superstar that comes around and breaks the internet, sometimes more than one. Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, and others seem to bring life to baseball cards because everyone wants a piece of the action. It goes back further with Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, and of course Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. With so many names lighting the world on fire, is it time to chill a bit? Abreu hasnt really replicated his success, Puig almost lost his job, and Strasburg was never the same after the injury. For every Kris Bryant and Mike Trout, there are so many other names that could be used as a counterpoint.

Of course, Aaron Judge has put up numbers that are a bit beyond what we saw from the other players, and his sheer number of autographs available dont help value. What made some of these guys so valuable is that autographs werent plentiful. Others like Bryant and Harper are a bit different, but they now have MVP awards and world series titles to bolster their resume.

Im not saying this is a fluke, or that he is destined for the career some of these guys have suffered, but I am warning about what might happen. Right Todd Van Poppel and Brien Taylor? All things considered though, Judge is good for cards. National attention brings casual collectors out of the woodwork, and that should always be celebrated.

Considering that Judge is a Yankee to boot is like a combo multiplier, as its clear that Yankee fans are hungry for their next collecting project alongside Jeter's latest Topps resurrection.

I always like seeing things explode and digging through my common box to see what I have, but as always, look at comparable value before you drop a mortgage payment on this guy’s stuff.

2017 NFLPA Rookie Premiere Kicks Off the New Card Season

Here we go ladies and gentlemen, the true beginning of the 2017 football card year. Although I think there were a few bright spots last year, as a whole, I wouldnt give Panini above a D for rolling out worthwhile products across the entire year. Sets like Impeccable, NT, and Immaculate were exceptionally nice, but they are either exclusively broken by group breakers, or by the top 1% of the hobby. The average collector isnt going to break multiple boxes of ultra premium products, and that’s where Panini failed so miserably, I dont even have words to describe it.

Im hoping that 2017 will be a better use of the exclusive that Panini began last year, and the rookie premiere is the place where much of the beginning part of the year is funded. Last year, Panini failed to generate much buzz, using a cookie cutter rehash of Inception to drive on card content. Because Topps had already carved out the path with their product, an identical looking product wouldnt stray far in collector’s minds. That was one of the only new products that Panini did even remotely okay, and it wasnt even their idea. That is scary.

Origins is back again for this year, and much like last year, its featuring a direct copy of Topps’ previous cards, made cheaper by too early of a print deadline, which forced an ungodly amount of double zero jerseys. Origins WILL be one of the best looking things to come out of this weekend, as we see the retouched Elite mug shot cards are back for a second year. Instead of rolling with college action shots retouched or even straight, Panini’s team actually took the time to go through and edit these goofy photos normally used for player designation. Its crazy.

My largest complaint from last year was the over dependence on posed photographs used in SO MANY of Panini’s product lines during the year. As we saw Upper Deck and Topps close out their product licenses, both companies RARELY used this style of photography because A) Its fucking goofy looking B) the players arent fashion models and C) company owned action shots from the premiere look more dynamic. If I had my way, these would be eradicated from ALL products. Unfortunately, Panini uses the premiere to take players OFF the field more than on it, and that is just ass backwards. The premiere was originally designed to provide the licensees an opportunity to interact with the players and get on field photos for their goods, knowing that real game photos were both expensive to maintain/obtain, and unavailable until Q3.

Instead of dynamic photos of players doing their best to look like they are in a game, Panini sets up tents, takes players into stairwells, and uses a ton of time to get posed photos of attendees using cliche poses to use on cards. From my experience, the products that use these photos in a dominant fashion are rarely ever successful, and if I had my way, they would be gone forever. Football provides the ability to capture the most dynamic activity of arguably any sport, and for whatever goddamned reason, Panini thinks they know better. Aside from the inferior design across all products compared to competition, photo choice has been the cards’ worst flaw.

Right now, Im eager to see what happens with some added time across the calendar. This is year two, and year two better be better than year one. Its clear that there are enormous reasons why improvement has to be the name of the game this season. Garbage sets like Unparalleled, Phoenix, Infinity and Gala need to either be scrapped or completely and utterly retooled. Winners like Origins, Impeccable and Optic need to have some aspect of year over year improvement. So far, that prospect is slim based on track record.

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On Shelves Now: 2017 Panini Majestic Football

So, Im a bit surprised. Panini has decided that its important to release a super premium set prior to the rookie premiere, and include a contingent of veteran signers who have added to the allure. The problem is that all the rest of the rookie stuff is sticker, in NCAA uniforms and the price is so insane, I question how this becomes worthwhile to keep on the calendar.

Here are some of the cards that are already up:

2017 Panini Majestic Jerry Rice On Card Auto Gold

2017 Panini Majestic Marshawn Lynch Auto gold

2017 Panini Majestic Mitch Trubisky Auto Patch /25

2017 Panini Majestic Christian McCaffrey Auto Patch Logo

College branded products have become super saturated thanks to a highly questionable strategy of diluting product brands throughout the season, and it has been incredibly rare that high end and college have ever worked together in any remote fashion what so ever. Adding veteran NFL cards and signatures may help the product from completely tanking like every other set with NCAA branded cards, but this wont stand the test of time with such a weak checklist.

As a whole, the hard signed veteran cards are really nice. Really really nice. The problem is that when you see the rookie bullshit that cant hold the jock strap of the NFL cards, its a major problem. Adding to the issue is that more single color player worn swatches from the 2016 rookie class are also included, and boy are they terrible. Panini doesnt fucking understand that player worn non-autographed relic cards are worthless in just about every sense of the word, and yet, here we are again and again.

Seeing how poorly Panini managed their calendar last year, scrambling to resurrect products no one cared were gone, Im curious why they think a tired format and high end price tag will solve their challenges around building lasting product lines. If anything, this set is basically Panini Black with a new name, which was already a direct ripoff of UD black. This isnt new, it isnt interesting, and as a rule, Panini needs to pull their heads out of their ass and get to fucking work. They need better ideas, and rehashing the tired bullshit of past years is not the way to go.

On Shelves Now: 2017 Topps Bunt Physical

Let me be the first to say that I am shocked this product is back, all things considered. I understand the business reasons why it would be brought to the table again, as it is a cheap product to make, and one that doesnt require a huge autograph budget to make it work. That being said, the coordination between the physical and digital team was quite poor last year, and it really killed the buzz on the initial release. Some awesome contests and fun adjustments brought the magic back, but it didnt look good for the first few days.

Similarly, the physical product itself was quite ‘blah’ in 2016. Autographs fell one per three to four cases, and the redemption cards were ten times as difficult to pull as they should have been. That being said, there wasnt much to lose, as the price per box reflected how valuable a kid friendly product with a digital tie in COULD be if done the right way.

That being said, the cards that have shown up so far for the 2017 product are getting some nice looks:

2017 Topps Bunt Johnny Bench Vapor Redemption /99

2017 Topps Bunt Yadier Molina Universe Redemption /99

2017 Topps Bunt Rickey Henderson Splatter Redemption /99

Thankfully, I think we are getting closer to that with the Star Wars Card Trader physical product, and now with the Bunt product as well. This year looks to have brought more content, more redemptions and more autographs to the table, and as long as the loot cards contain some of the rare gems they did last year, I think 2017 will be infinitely better than 2016.

There is one main issue.

The loot cards in physical packs show that you can get 25 dollars in free coins, which I find to be relatively worthless to include in this product for existing Bunt users. Although the offer is attractive for new users, coins are easy to come by, especially with Batter Up now in the fold.

From what I understand, the code cards actually do not give any coins, but rightfully give access to a loot pack, similar to the format last year. This is the RIGHT call, but the curious misprint makes things weird. It might be the offer was meant to say “a chance at” or something like that, but giving loot packs is so much more important than anything else. If the goal is to get the digital users who dont buy physical cards to try ripping real packs, the loot cards need to deliver something worth chasing. Coins are not worth chasing in that way. They are helpful, but only if the other stuff is ALSO included.

As for the content, it looks like there are A LOT of cool looking cards to be had. Vapor, Splatter, and other Bunt sets from last year have been added to the product, and they look really cool. In fact, the signature cards in the physical packs look better than the signature series cards for Bunt this year, in my opinion. Its a great looking base set, and after checking out on this product early on, my mind might be changed all together.

There are also a few players that I have seen making their Bunt debut thanks to these cards, including a very important Yankee who I dont think has been in the app to date. I searched for Roger Maris on all cards, and didnt see any, so this might be the first card he has.

I do have a few suggestions for next year, and I would hope that they take a look if this does indeed make another run in 2018. First, there needs to be more crossover promotion. The physical world rarely ventures into Bunt territory, and for good reason. Many physical collectors hate that digital exists in their territory, and refuse to even check it out. “Why would I want photos of cards on my phone if I can have the real thing?” they say. Well, this is the opportunity to change the narrative a bit.

Additionally, its time to really make an investment in linking the cards to the app. Bring some super premium┬ácontent to this product, in a way that doesnt add any cost. So, im not saying you need Kris Bryant physical MLB logo patches, but why not offer some of that type of content on the digital side? How about some tickets for live signatures that might be scheduled in the future? Why not some coin cards to supplement the loot packs? Hell, this is the opportunities to bring signature series variants that are unavailable anywhere else to the fold! Give us a reason to chase the digital side of this product, none of which adds any cost to the product. As soon as the physical team embraces the true “soul” of what this should represent as a product on the calendar. Content in the loot packs and the physical packs should have super high end versions of the digital cards in place. If printing costs are increased by adding additional short printed designs, fix with generic cards that “unlock” access to a pack containing a massive hit.

Either way, ill be ripping some later today, stay tuned to see a bit of what I pull.