On the Radar: 2016 Topps Five Star Baseball

Topps Five Star Baseball

When Five Star debuted in football in 2010, it immediately became my favorite set of the year. It made the transition to baseball shortly after, and though it has never really caught on the same way, I still look forward to it. Now that Football is no longer an option for Topps, the only way to get my yearly Five Star fix is through MLB.

Here are some of the nicer cards from previous editions of the product:

2013 Topps Five Star Clayton Kershaw Silver Signature Auto

2015 Topps Five Star Mike Trout Auto SP /5

2014 Topps Five Star Bryce Harper Auto /25

2015 Topps Five Star Ken Griffey Jr Jumbo Patch Auto /35

This year’s version looks to be a nice improvement in design as compared to 2015, including some really cool looking autograph cards. Although I dont see inscriptions or other unique autograph content previewed, its safe to say that something special will be used to get people to buy in. Since the update to a cheaper format and a two card pack, it looks like more people are willing to dive in on a few boxes, just to see what they come out with. I busted my fair share last year, and was happy with the results, but its all going to depend on the checklist this year, and whether or not the big rookies will be available.

I love that they have single logo autographs again, as stuff like that always draws a crowd. I wish it had more patch autographs like we saw in 2012 and 2013, but if that means diluting what Dynasty brings to the table, maybe its not the best idea. The jumbo patch autos from 2015 did end up being quite coveted, which only led people to start chasing down sets. We will see if that happens again. I kind of hope they go back to the rectangular swatch though.

Five Star will always be a set I want to check out, and this year isnt any different. Although some of the bigger chase items are gone, there is still potential for this to turn out great. So far, it looks like it is off on the right foot.

On the Radar: 2016 Topps Dynasty Baseball

With Topps’ football products out of the picture, Topps Dynasty has become the set I look forward to each year. Last year's set was easily the best of 2015's product calendar across all sports, and 2014 was among the top as well. We are getting our first look at 2016, and right now, im not sure what to think. My initial reactions are not all that favorable.

Regardless, these are some of the most beautiful cards that exist:

2015 Topps Dynasty Hank Aaron Auto Relic /5

2015 Topps Dynasty Bryce Harper Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2015 Topps Dynasty Cal Ripken Jr Jumbo Patch Auto /10

2014 Topps Dynasty Mariano Rivera Jumbo Patch Auto /10

This year’s set is taking a much different design approach, focusing on closer up photos of the players and a different parallel design as compared to the sets of previous years. From description on the sell sheet, the stock used in Definitive Collection is likely going to be used for this product as well, which means that embossing and other elements will be there too.

It looks like the general format of the product is the same, with the addition of game swatches that are authenticated from specific moments. Those moments should be commemorated on the cards, which adds a cool element of connection to the swatch embedded in the card itself.

To be honest, this set is the best Topps makes at the moment, at least until we see what The Mint turns out to be. You are paying for it in the box price, but if you hit it big with any of the insane patches Topps uses, its going to be a good return. Although I dont think this is going to be as good looking as 2015, it should still be ridiculously popular with group breakers and collectors. I just wish they had stayed with the photo format from the first two years.

Topps Huddle Signs Long Term Deal With NFL and NFLPA

Topps Huddle logo

Today, we got some great news for all the digital card and Huddle fans out there. As of 3/31, Topps physical is no longer going to be producing trading cards, however Topps Digital will be in the NFL game for years to come. Announced today, Topps has signed a long term deal with both the NFL and NFLPA to remain a part of the licensed game, and I could not be more happy to report this news.

We knew that there was a deal in place, as the previous deal’s expiration would have prevented new digital Huddle cards from being released over the last month. What we didnt know was the length of the deal, which from the report, looks to be the foreseeable future. I cant even say how big of a deal this is, because it is probably the biggest news for Topps Digital in a very long time. Not only does it keep them in the game, but it is a large obscene gesture in Panini’s face considering their recent acquisition of the exclusive license in physical.

Bottom line, Topps has been in football for 60 years, and Huddle is a new extension of a way to continue that tradition. Although it is far from where Topps likely wants to be in the overall scope of trading cards, I can assure you this deal gives new life to the brand in a sport where they needed fresh air.

With the draft coming this week, Huddle is on its way to a very big month, already shaping up to be the best offseason ever. Not only have they found new inspiration in designing compelling content through the down time, but they have now secured a future that will allow more investment in the app than shorter deals would allow.

This is also the first all digital license for any trading card brand, which should give an added incentive for the digital team to perform. Not only that, but we will see how designs and other digital friendly resources are used without a physical counterpart to hold it back. Going to be very interesting indeed.

There have been many questions on this subject in the app articles and on twitter, and with the formalized statement, Huddle collectors can breathe a sigh of relief.

As someone who is both a physical and a digital card collector, this news is bittersweet to say the least. I am still quite bitter that a company who releases inferior trading cards in my favorite sport got the exclusive, but this does soften the blow a little. Considering how bad Panini’s digital games are as a whole, Topps looks to be ready to show them who is boss for a long time.

Here is the full statement:

Topps Continues Rich Football Tradition with NFL and NFLPA licensed Digital Cards

Are We In Store For a ROUGH 2016 Draft Class?


With the draft just over a week away, we have already started to see some fireworks at the top of the order that signal another year of QBs being drafted first and second overall. Even though that might be the case, the top guys in the class are defense, not offense, and necessity is driving the top picks. After coming off a year where we had two SUPERSTAR QBs at the top, and a soft performance on the secondary market, could we be in store for a year that looks more like 2013 and not 2014-15?

Lets face it people, we have been spoiled. The 2014 class delivered some big names and great rookie years. Similar performances from the 2015 class was another feather in the cap of the hobby, but unlike what we saw in 2014, the market didnt always respond the way we expected it to. As a whole, values were awfully soft, with product shelf life on eBay falling short of a week in many cases. By the time day 7 hit on many sets, prices had already started to settle, and that is uncharacteristic of a class where the rookies had success on the field.

Coming into 2016, we have Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, two QBs with significantly less intriguing resumes than national champions and Heisman winners of years passed. There are periphery value guys in Ezekiel Elliot, Connor Cook and Paxton Lynch, who could end up as top picks as well. From what the experts have said, they are being considered high not because of talent, but because of need.

Some how, some way, the guys are selling okay for now, likely fueled by the two trades at the top of the draft:

2016 Contenders Draft Carson Wentz Auto Ticket

2016 Leaf Metal Jared Goff Auto Pink Refractor /20

2016 Contenders Draft Paxton Lynch Auto Ticket /15

2016 Leaf Ultimate Draft Ezekiel Elliott Auto Gold /50

Other players in the draft that occupy the top tier of elite prospects are mostly defense, and we all know that defense just doesnt sell in football. Dont get me wrong, someone will break out and someone will have a good year. The question is whether or not that player will be a guy worth collecting, and whether or not the main guys from the class will be among the 25% of top picks that dont flame out in amazing fashion.

The issue is that with the rookie wage scale in place, teams no longer have the incentive to continue building top picks that dont pan out almost immediately. Being a first round pick no longer guarantees you a free pass to play until your second contract, and that is a departure from the huge guarantees that previous classes got. What happens is situations like Brandon Weeden, EJ Manuel, Johnny Manziel, and other players who were high profile picks that didnt get the same leash they would have had in 2010.

Add in that players are choosing to retire earlier, and prospecting gets harder and harder by the year. When you also consider that the hobby has lost a main and incredibly popular source of football cards in Topps, the pool of collectors isnt heading in the right direction. Buying wax is only a portion of the health of the hobby, as the rippers and flippers need someone to sell to. If that population shrinks, there isnt as much demand as there is supply. This leads to lower prices on eBay and a softer buyer friendly market.

If a class is mediocre in potential from the start, they have a larger hill to climb to reach prosperity, regardless of their performance on the field. People look at good years from these players as more of a fluke than long term investment potential, and that hurts. If a guy like Jameis Winston goes off, his hype will carry him much further than if a guy like Christian Hackenberg plays the shit out of his rookie season.

There are exceptions, like we saw with Russell Wilson, but that type of thing happens so infrequently that it was almost unheard of. Wilson needed to have a second year of great performance before people REALLY bought in, and I dont think that would have been the case if he was a guy with the hype of Marcus Mariota. They would have been in from day 1.

From what I see in this class a guy like Carson Wentz just isnt the star power that will lend to huge value. Jared Goff and others in the same boat. Although they might turn out to be serviceable starters, they need to be more than that to help support a company product like that features 1500 dollar boxes of cards. High end doesnt work well when the rookies cant fill the boots.

Right now, 2013 is shaping up to be one of the worst drafts in hobby history. Although I think this year’s class should end up above that, it might be a really bad and sour note when we approach the higher end portion of the calendar. With Panini also shoving college cards down people’s throats, it only gets more complicated with 31 products on the market all looking like what we have seen previously from Panini.

Recapping the Best and Worst of 2015 Football Cards

I love year end lists, and I love award shows, believe it or not. 2015 was a big year for football, not only because of the cards, and it brought some things that were both very good and very bad. I want to take some time to offer my recap now that Flawless marks the end of the grind. Its funny how far into 2016 the older products have stretched, but we finally have a good picture of the way it worked out.

Product of the Year: 2015 Definitive Collection

I dont think this was even close. Very few products generated the type of buzz that Topps had with DC, and its something that wasnt hampered by the huge amount of redemptions they had to use because of the release date. Seeing that most of the cards that should have been in boxes are already done and shipped, it only makes this product more impressive. Every big hit was better than the next, including a few that literally made my jaw drop.

Check out this product in all its glory:

2015 Definitive Collection Aaron Rodgers MVP Auto

2015 Definitive Collection Peyton Manning / Brett Favre Dual Auto

2015 Definitive Collection Jameis Winston Framed Auto Logo Patch 1/1

2015 Definitive Collection Todd Gurley NFL Logo Silhouette Auto 1/1

Its rare to see a high end product jump in price as much as this set did, especially with the way most of them perform when ripping them by the box. Definitive Collection offered some of the most impressive and beautiful cards of the year, and collectors jumped all over it.

In my opinion, this consistently offered in design and content what Flawless should offer at its price tag, and Topps should be proud to end their football license on this note.

Hobby Rookie of the Year: Marcus Mariota

This was a tough call, because Jameis Winston was definitely a contender as well. Both had a productive rookie campaign, and both have bright futures if their teams improve. The reason I chose Mariota is because of two things – collector perception and signing consistency. Plus, Mariota has a great looking signature.

Because both QBs had about the same level of productivity give or take, its quite difficult to say one deserves the award over the other from that perspective. That being said, I see collectors have a much better view of what Mariota is capable of, over what Winston eventually will accomplish. I personally think Winston is the better QB, but I know that isnt all there is.

Mariota also signed most of his cards and was rarely a redemption in any product. Winston’s cards in the second half werent live for Panini, which means that the bigger sets like NT had a big hole there. Although they were done shortly after the fact, it prevented collectors from pulling them in video breaks and left Winston a bit short in buzz for me.

Honorable Mention: Jameis Winston

Most Underrated Set: Topps Supreme

I know that the majority of this set is stickers, so you should be shocked that I would give this distinction. That’s how good Supreme was this year, and even I was surprised. Being that the set has been good for a number of years isnt really a consideration when the license is ending, but Topps really went out with a bang here.

Check these out:

2015 Topps Supreme Jameis Winston Auto Inscription Booklet

2015 Topps Supreme Todd Gurley Auto Patch RC

2015 Topps Supreme Ladanian Tomlinson / Barry Sanders Dual Auto

Intricate die cuts and layering made the cards look spectacular in hand, and almost made you forget that the autographs werent hard signed. Im actually curious how some of the cards were built, as they just look so unique compared to others from previous years. I think this might have gone overlooked because you cant see the construction when you scan them.

Additionally, it did have on card content including some cool inscriptions and hard signed rookie content. The checklist also featured some great names and a lot of amazing pairings for the multisigned cards.

It kind of got lost in the end of year shuffle for Topps, and that really sucks. It deserved a lot more credit.

Honorable Mention: Immaculate Collection

Worst Product of the Year: Panini Spectra

I get it, some people like crazy busy cards that are too gaudy for their own good. I hate them. I also hate the stickers signed in neon paint pens, and the design they used for almost every card in this set. Using Topps’ Superfractor pattern for their 1/1s reinforced the lack of creativity Panini has in branding their own products, and that was only the start of the major issues.

To package this garbage in a box that costs 300 plus is just certifiably insane to me, so much so that I put it on my worst products of the last 10 years list a few months back. People were awfully forgiving of the horrendous look because the top rookies were inserted at a nice clip, but some of the designs were so bad, it wouldnt have mattered to me if it were Tom Brady.

If you strip away the trashy late 90s approach to the stock and patterns, the base look of each card was among the worst I have seen in their own right. Weird pictures, big boxes for the stickers, and terrible design composition. The dual auto patches were so bad it was funny.

Honorable Mention: Topps Fire

Biggest Hobby Disappointment: Johnny Manziel

Last year, there was no bigger autograph than Money Manziel, and when he went nuclear this year off the field, I believe I could hear all those voices crying out in terror. People spent THOUSANDS on his cards, only to find him in treatment, out of treatment, partying again, and now without representation and a team. He has basically ensured that his career is over, and that is not good for the hobby.

Considering how many top value rookies have flamed out in glorious fashion (RGIII anyone?), it should serve as a cautionary tale to many people. As it happens more often, alongside careers being shortened as a whole, things are not great in the future of football and hobby longevity on the player level.

Manziel is the next in the long line of top rated busts, which includes some major names from the last few years. Kaepernick, RGIII, Tebow, among a number of others.

Honorable Mention: Andrew Luck

Biggest Product Disappointment: Panini National Treasures

Only Panini would release National Treasures, and mere weeks later flood the market with Flawless. Coming off what was their best year in the entire run of the set, Panini followed success with a giant turd of a release in Treasures.

Horrible photo choices? Check. Weird design choices? Check. Stickers everywhere? Check. Released too late? Check. Overshadowed by Flawless? Check. Looks like its a sweep of shitty situations for a product that people were waiting for.

My biggest complaint had to be the overwhelming amount of posed photographs used in the product instead of the more dynamic action shots they have used more exclusively in years past. There is a reason Topps RARELY uses these types of photos, and its because it looks like fucking trash. Football is about action, not glamorous runway poses of players gripping footballs and screaming at the camera like tools.

As a whole, Treasures needed to be big, and it was a dud in theme and concept. It made me long for 2014, which is funny considering the massive debacle with Teddy and OBJ’s cards that happened. Only shows how big of a disappointment it was this year.

Honorable Mention: Panini Flawless

Biggest News Item: Panini’s Quest for World Domination Extends into the NFL

This is literally the worst possible news for football cards. Much like basketball, where the company who made the best cards DID NOT get the exclusive, Panini’s blank check from Italy landed them another big fish.

Football was the only sport left that not only prevented player autograph exclusives from being signed, but also league license exclusives werent on the table for many years. Now under Panini’s exclusive banner, the people responsible for some of the worst products of the modern era now are the only game in town. Oh, and they have to build twice the amount of products, and print the shit out of them to meet minimum guarantees.

As if that werent bad enough, a company in Topps, who just celebrated their 60th year of history in football is now out of the game. With that departure goes years of iconic sets and products that most of us have grown up with. All that name recognition is gone too, replaced by a company who most non-hobby people have never heard of. Going to be great, people. Cant wait for this year.

That’s a wrap folks, and with it the last year of football cards as we know it. I have a horrible feeling that next year wont have any winners of any sort, but that’s for Panini to prove now. I think its going to be interesting to see what this list looks like next year, to be honest, or if it will even be worth writing about. Who knows?