Go-Live Report: How Does 2014 Topps Chrome Baseball Stack Up?

As much as I love Chrome in Football, I have never been as big a fan of it on the baseball side. Last year was one of the first times that I really opened any of the packs, and I think they did a really nice job with it. As I am looking at this year’s Chrome, I havent quite made up my mind quite yet.

Here are some of the big hits already up:

2014 Topps Chrome Jose Abreu Gold Refractor Auto /50

2014 Topps Chrome George Springer Atomic Refractor Auto /10

2014 Topps Chrome Gregory Polanco Black Refractor Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Nick Castellanos Black Refractor Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Xander Bogaerts Gold Refractor Auto /50

After watching some initial breaks and looking at the listings, its hard not to see how much Abreu is poured into this product – much like the rest of Topps’ sets this year. Considering the year he is having, that isnt necessarily a bad thing. The checklist has most of the same guys that have been all over Topps sets as of late, which I think is one of the main drawbacks to the product lines in recent years. Because Bowman Chrome is the king of baseball rookie cards, I would actually like to see Topps Chrome focus more on veteran on card autos instead of pumping the hobby full of another rookie set.

I think the 2014 design lends itself very well to the Chrome set, and though there are added die cuts and subsets, I think that this product really does need a fresh approach. Obviously, the base design would stay, but Topps really needs to find a way to differentiate the other parts of the set from the majority of its product line. I know there are veteran autographs in the product, Im just looking for more. Despite my not liking a lot of what Finest did in terms of design, it did have some REALLY nice on card auto content from some top tier guys. That is what Chrome should shoot for.

Chrome used to be very special because it was one of the first sets alongside Topps Finest to have high end rookie cards. When the hobby shifted more towards prospecting, and Bowman became the flagship set, all that went away. People have rookie cards in Topps Chrome years after first appearing in Bowman, which is a huge issue in the valuation of this set.

I dont want Topps to give up on this set, and I know they wont, but I cant help but feel like its getting to a point of boredom. That is never a good thing.

On the Radar: 2014 Topps Supreme Brings New Elements to An Old Favorite

Back in 2010, Supreme was released with little fanfare around a product that was basically Triple Threads lite. Since that time, Topps has converted it into one of their biggest and most anticipated releases of the year, with a huge focus on creating a brand identity along side some pretty amazing content. Although there are still a lot of reasons why Supreme should be improved year over year, it always looks good. In fact, it has even been successful enough to be transferred over to baseball. This is a brand I will miss come 2016.

Here are some of the better cards:

2012 Topps Surpeme Nick Foles Booklet Drawn Play Auto /5

2013 Topps Surpeme Eli Manning Logo Patch Booklet Auto 1/1

2013 Topps Surpeme Eddie Lacy Nickname Inscription Auto /5

2013 Topps Surpeme Dan Marino Jumbo Logo Relic Auto

2012 Topps Surpeme Russell Wilson Dual Relic Auto

Because so many of Topps’ products are rookie focused, Supreme’s large amount of veteran content is a big deal. Added focus on booklets and nice relics brings the product to a level of attractiveness that many collectors will like. I think that each year, the design gets a bit better, and the checklist gets a bit better, and when the rookie class is great, Supreme is a winner. This year has all of those things, and I hope we get another good year.

We also see from the solicitation that there will be on card rookie autos (at minimum), for the first time in the history of the product. This has always been the biggest drawback of the product, as a late year release like this should have a lot more on card content. Im glad we are getting it for the first time this year. Another big issue is the configuration, which continues to be rough with so many dud relic boxes with the same price tag as every other pack. Those boxes alone should scare you away from busting this en masse.

I think this product has the potential to be a superior version of Limited, and in terms of singles, it does that and more. The difference is on the box break, which Limited’s configuration can be a bit more forgiving.

Bottom line, some of my favorite autographs of the year come out of Supreme, and I expect another big year again.

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.