Hobby All Stars: Topps Takes Big Advantage of Baseball’s Midsummer Classic

I have never been a fan of All Star games in sports, with the exception of one – the MLB all star game. Even before Selig assigned the asinine rule of World Series home field advantage to the winner, the game still mattered to many of the players. Not only did they take it as a sense of pride, and played hard, but the fans loved it too. This week, with the All Star game in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN, we are getting another dose of the fun times that surround this event. It is a very big deal for the hobby as well, as there are many collectibles that are created for the Fan Fest that happens during the whole week.

Here are some of the higher end all star cards from this year’s festivities:

2014 MLB All Star Fan Fest Derek Jeter Commemorative Patch /150

2014 MLB All Star Fan Fest Miguel Cabrera Foil Exclusive

2014 MLB All Star Fan Fest Mike Trout Wrapper Redemption

Here are some of the ways Topps will use the All Star game in upcoming sets:

2014 Topps Mike Trout All Star Logo Jumbo Patch Auto

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Logo Patch Booklet

2012 Bowman Chrome Manny Machado Futures Game Auto Patch

Although I despise the fan voting and the odd choices that casual baseball fans make, its always a great experience to watch your favorite team’s players compete in both the game and the Home Run derby. Topps has issued cards for anything and everything all star game over the last few years, some good some completely awful. Yet, because collectors value the circumstantial nature of the game only happening once per year, it provides a big spark whenever Topps chooses to celebrate it.

Its funny, because most of the jerseys that are used for cards commemorating the game are not used during play – rather in events and warm-ups all week long. Because many of the casual fans out there really dont realize this fact, there is a sense of inflated value for me. However, I know that some collectors would buy regardless if it were another event used card, as they love the game just as much as I do.

Added to the other cards that are given out at the fan fest itself, and its easy to see why there is so much money to be made. This is actually the start of a big few weeks with the national collectors convention coming in late July. Being that there are so many Minnesota themed items to collect, Im getting a bit overwhelmed in my player collection. Pay very close attention, as many of the players in this game will populate checklist for most of next year.

LeBron James: Coming Home Helps His Cards

Its rare I talk about basketball cards on this site, but today is a big exception. Not only did the biggest player in the hobby, LeBron James, sign with a new team, but he signed with a team he was with prior. As a result, a ton of cards that had lost some luster are now relevant again, which is a huge deal. Over the course of 2003 until the end of their license, Upper Deck produced close to 1000 different James autographs under their exclusive deal. Those cards just became the most important ones in basketball.

Check out the recent listings:

2005 Exquisite LeBron James Limited Logos Jumbo Patch Auto

2009 Exquisite LeBron James / Michael Jordan Dual Auto

2008 Upper Deck NBA Finals LeBron James SSP Auto

2007 UD Basketball Heroes Lebron James Auto SSP

2007 Exquisite LeBron James Auto Patch

Although James is about as controversial a player as there is in Basketball, he is easily the best. Aside from two rings, he also has 4 MVPs and a handful of reasons why no one else in the league is as valuable a name as he is. He became a hated figure for his decision back in 2010, but seems to have gained some of that back as of late. UD may have had an exclusive with James that ran throughout the time he was on the Miami Heat, they were prevented from making his licensed cards due to Panini's NBA exclusive.

Upper Deck Authenticated had produced some pieces that were NBA licensed, but nothing in terms of cards. Now that he is back on the Cavs, its almost like its okay to all those collectors who werent able to buy his Miami cards. They strived to find substitutes as we saw with prices on rare Panini issues, but nothing like autographs.

Dont get me wrong, I cannot stand exclusives in any way, shape or form, but Basketball suffers more than most because of all the major players signed to deals. James is an autograph only topped by Jordan, and collectors will be waiting to get his new Cavs stuff for a long time. Love him or hate him, James is the best of the best, and the hobby is happy to have him in the news. Trust me on that.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Allen & Ginter Still Captures the Imagination

There arent many sets today that are still worth the time it takes to put together. Allen and Ginter is still one of those epic undertakings that the few remaining set collectors still feel is worth the challenge, even though it has become quite the spectacle over the last few years. I have always said Ginter is a set collector’s paradise with the heart of a high end product, and this year’s product is no different. Although it doesnt have the same star power in the non-sports autos, it definitely has its moments.

2014 Allen & Ginter Bo Jackson / Ken Griffey Jr Dual Relic Auto Book

2014 Allen & Ginter Mark McGwire Box Loader On Card Auto /15

2014 Allen & Ginter Snoop Dogg Auto

2014 Allen & Ginter Yasiel Puig Rip Card /50

2014 Allen & Ginter Roberto Clemente Metal Mini 1/1

2014 Allen & Ginter Sandy Koufax / Jackie Robinson Dual Rip Card /5

2014 Allen & Ginter Jose Abreu Auto RC

Its almost ironic that one of the biggest baseball products of the year isnt about baseball completely, with the non-sport element being as much a draw as anything for everyone who buys in. However, the on card autographs and always beautiful cards never disappoint, and that draws in a secondary crowd that is rare in MLB.

Adding in content from a pretty solid MLB autograph checklist is only part of the draw, as the parallels and plethora of subsets can rake in dollars like no other. Rip cards, wood cards, metal cards, anything and everything make Ginter special, even when you consider that the type of card can create more value than the player on the front. Rip cards are fascinating to me, as so many people buy them and leave them in tact. Even though the cards hidden inside can be extremely cost heavy, the sealed card is just as much of a draw.

I dont collect much baseball, but I always get pulled into Ginter one way or another. Even after close to 10 years of this set, its still fresh in a lot of ways, as showcased by the number of people who chase it each year. That’s a big deal when you factor in how much of it really doesnt change.

2014 Prestige is Live and Does Not Deserve Your Support

I have commented previously on the debacle that is 2014 Prestige based on galleries highlighted on Panini’s blog, and now that it is starting to show up live on eBay, I am only further questioning some of the horrid decisions that were made surrounding the content of this product. Although there are some elements that look very good, its clear that Panini is banking on Elite to cover up any misdeeds that Prestige presents on a larger scale. This should make you angry, as they are just expecting you to buy because its there. A strategy that dumbs down their consumer base in this type of capacity is awful.

Here are some of the Manziel cards with the first pics in Cleveland Uniform:

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel Two Color Patch RC

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel Prestigious Picks Foil RC

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel Draft Picks Foil RC

We also get this crap too:

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel Base RC

2014 Prestige Bishop Sankey RC Auto Base

2014 Prestige Kalil Mack Auto Red Parallel

My biggest gripe has to do with the base rookie cards – a focus for this product, as it is the one thing that I fail to understand the way they are done. If you consider that A) rookie premiere photography is available in other parts of the set, B) retouched NFL uniform pictures are available at other parts of the set, it doesnt make sense that Panini went with C) retouched sideline shots that feature no NFL branding what-so ever.

They are basically delivering forcing us to drive the economy car for the same price we are paying to drive the luxury. From a customer perspective, this does not bode well, as cards without NFL branding rarely sell well. Although Bowman is a stark exception to this situation, Panini should not take that as support to continue down this ugly path. It also goes further to support that the lack of attention to detail is so vast, it almost prevents a loyal fan base from latching on to the product.

Now, some of the cards do look much better than 2013, which was horrendous in its own right. Yet, those aspects are so far overshadowed by the base rookie cards that I cannot put it into words. I still stand by 2012 as Prestige's best year in the entire run of the brand, but to see that things are going down from that peak is disappointing from a staple brand name for years in Football. Dont even get me started on the use of MORE rainbow foil and MORE enormous text, all of which are present in this product.

Lost in all of this is the launch of their new "revolutionary" redemption points system, which to this point has generated little to no buzz industry wide, collectors have seemingly resigned themselves to either loving that they dont have to deal with scrub autos in their packs anymore or shrugging their shoulders in apathy over replacing one issue with another. I have said from the beginning that Panini is trying to fix the wrong part of the redemption problem with this program, as the existence of redemptions is NOT the problem at all. It has yet to be determined how successful this program will eventually be.

Prestige is bad, and I wouldnt waste my time with any of it, just to state your potential disapproval with how the set is constructed. That’s the only way they will learn.

How Big of a Deal is Mike Trout to Baseball Cards?

Over the last five years, we have had our fair share of superstar prospects come and go – some becoming huge deals, others settling into mediocrity. Just named again to the AL All Star team, Mike Trout is far and above the best to come out of the group, performing better than other players who received far more hype.

If you are out to buy a Trout for your collection, here is what I would chase:

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Auto RC – Crazy to think you could buy them for 50 bucks raw at release.

2011 Topps Finest Mike Trout Auto Refractor – These have become pretty iconic over the last few years.

2012 National Treasures Mike Trout Auto Rookie Patch – Never took off in baseball, but this is a nice looking card.

2012 Bowman Sterling Mike Trout Auto Refractor – more affordable and on card.

2010 Bowman Platinum Mike Trout Auto RC

If you remember back to 2012, when both Bryce Harper and Trout entered the big leagues full time, the headlines were dominated by Harper's potential to be one of the game's best hitters. He was supposed to be great in the field, great at the plate, five tool guy. A few years later now, and Trout is two seasons with a few votes from being AL MVP, and Harper is good but not great.

Its far too early to say that Trout will end up being a HOF caliber player, or that Harper wont come around to challenge him. What I am saying is that between these two guys, Puig, Abreu, and others like them, its rare to have a situation like this. Although its early to predict Trout’s final trajectory, its not too early to say he is one of the most valuable in the hobby and will be for a long time.

Because Baseball is a different animal than other sports, high end doesnt have the same following than it does in other parts of the hobby. Trout is one of the only high end players left, as his autograph may be one of the most valuable among active non-rookie players, save Derek Jeter. Since Jeter hasnt signed in a very long time for any company, Trout’s the guy. Miguel Cabrera has come on lately as a top value guy too, but he has never been all that popular with collectors for some reason – considering his accomplishments.

Not only is he now more valuable than his teammate in Albert Pujols, he is more valuable than current/Future HOFers like Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey, and company. That’s pretty exclusive company.

I am a huge Trout fan myself, as its hard not to be. The guy is a perfect representation of all that is good with Baseball. The question remains – can he keep it up? If the answer is yes, he will be in the HOF, and he will have a tremendous career that will go down in history. But, there is a lot that can happen between now and then. Lets just hope nothing goes wrong.