2015 All Star Game: Fan Fest Giveaways Are Live!

I love big events in sports, especially ones that have an attached fan event. Each year, baseball has the All Star Fan Fest that runs simultaneously with the All Star Game, much like the NFL experience that runs along side the Super Bowl. This is one of the biggest sports memorabilia shows of the year for MLB, and with it, comes a lot of fun giveaways.

Here are some of the more interesting things you can pick up:

2015 Topps All Star Game Chris Sale Die Cut Auto

2015 Topps All Star Game Johnny Bench Commemorative Patch

2015 Topps All Star Game Todd Frazier Fan Fest Set

2015 All Star Game Fan Fest Mr. Redlegs Bobblehead

2015 All Star Game Oyo Minifigure Felix Hernandez

Last year in Minnesota was a big deal for me, as I loved chasing down all the Twins themed items like Bobbleheads, manu-patch cards, and posters. Some of the cards ended up being quite the desirable item. It looks like Topps really wanted to have a repeat performance, as they brought back the card giveaways, and complete sets that have special cards.

Topps Bunt is also getting involved, with All Star themed cards for the next week, some of which are already out for the players participating in the game. There will be dozens of ASG themed releases, which should include player signature cards, legends, and Fan Fest themed sets.

If you are in the Cincy area, I would definitely go check out the show, as it is worth it just to see all the booths that will be set up. From what I saw last year, its more than just cards and memorabilia, it should have some element of All Star History as well.

When you do attend, Ill be happy to get any of the Topps Digital stuff you arent looking to keep! Shoot me a tweet if you would like to make a deal!

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Bowman Inception Baseball

In 2011, Inception became one of the best pre-rookie premiere products in football, being the first to really use retouched photos to deliver NFL uniforms. Back a few years ago, Topps decided to bring it to Baseball as a prospect focused Bowman product, and collectors have liked the way it transfers.

Here are some of the nice hits so far:

2015 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Auto Letter Booklet 2/2

2015 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Orange Auto Inception'ed RC

2015 Bowman Inception Mike Trout Origins Silver Signings

2015 Bowman Inception Bryce Harper Origins Silver Signings

Like football, Inception offers a lot of hard signed content for the prospects in the set, presented in a way that looks like painted sports art. Because many of the players have had photos in their MLB uniforms already, the retouching required for football isnt necessary. The cards look a lot cleaner as a result.

For the first time, non-rookie content has also been added to the product in the Silver Signatures set, with guys like Trout and Harper making their inception debut. With a design that looks like the side panel of a baseball, the cards look awesome with the filter used to create the look.

The one draw back is the bottom part of the checklist, which can be comprised of pretty weak performers on the secondary market. Because many of the subjects have already been featured in Bowman products prior, and their inception cards end up being just another in the pile. There are special cards like Silver Signings and Relic Auto parallels that still sell very well, but those are very tough pulls. The strong crop of rookies making their MLB debut have made it much easier to do well if you can pull one, though. Sano, Buxton, Correa, Schwarber, Bryant, Pederson, and others are all included to make up for the duds.

Box prices started at around 90-100 dollars for 5 autos, which isnt a big hit to the wallet. You can bust a box or two and not walk away feeling cheated. The relic auto per box has logo parallels, which are some of the only logos they will have for years. Inception'ed versions of Bowman RCs also are case hits, which have been really popular in the past. All look really high end and nice.

If I were more of a baseball collector, I would be all over this stuff. It plays to everything I love – on card autos, clean designs, and high end content. I have seen some hot cases too, so if you get a nice box, it might be in your best interest to keep ripping.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Leaf Trinity Football

Just a few days ago, I talked about how important unique autograph content is these days. In football its doubly important because of how many products are built around rookie autographs. Leaf Trinity, like Upper Deck Inscriptions is a product that offers a lot of great content in a unique fashion, and in the process makes their competition look foolish. Also live tomorrow is 2015 Panini Prestige, which might as well be added to the bargain bin black Friday list come two months from now. Trinity is better in every way.

Check out some of the cool cards already up:

2015 Leaf Trinity Marcus Mariota Inscription Auto Gold

2015 Leaf Trinity Jameis Winston Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2015 Leaf Trinity Marcus Mariota Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2015 Leaf Trinity Amari Cooper Inscription Auto

2015 Leaf Trinity Todd Gurley Auto Inscription RC

My favorite part of this product is the inscriptions, which are available for most of the players in the set. The inscriptions are either based on NFL type stuff or a combination of sayings and College accomplishments. Being that most of the content in Panini’s products will be stickers for the majority of the year, these cards are a welcome treat. Topps’ first post premiere product in Inception will not be out until next month, so this is something that should be at the top of your list for a while.

Another highlight over the last few years have been the Pure plexiglass cards, which are back with a new look for the first time in two years. I am not as big a fan of this design as I have been in previous years, but it is still a very nice looking use of the glass with on card autos. Again, better than anything available in Prestige.

People really seem to enjoy the patch autos that come pretty much one per box, but I dont like the vertical presentation on these at all. These would be HIGH END looking cards if they were done horizontally, but it looks like Leaf wanted to save cost and not alter the plates used for the other cards in the set. Really unfortunate, as the player picture would look so much better as a horizontal card. Even the inscriptions would look good as a horizontal card, but im not sure why Leaf has done these vertical the whole time.

Trinity doesnt get half the credit it deserves because its unlicensed, which is the same with other products done in a similar fashion. Brian Gray at Leaf takes pride in the product quality more than many of the other manufacturers, and its terrible that collectors dont respond. This is one of those sets that everyone should check out.

Why Are Jersey and Patch Cards Dying Faster Than Ever?

Now that the Jersey card is approaching its 20th anniversary in the hobby, we have seen them go from a treasured part of a product to a throw in for the sake of filling out a set. Prices have tanked on relic cards in general, mainly because of supply and collector confidence in their authenticity, among other things. In fact, the decline of the Jersey card over the last few years has been so drastic, that the product configurations are almost unrecognizable when compared to sets released less than 5 years ago.

I would go as far as saying that the rookie player worn jersey is as much to blame as anything, as manufacturers have found ways to artificially create value in their products with more crazy content.

Here is what I mean – check out these crazy logo cards JUST FROM ONE PRODUCT:

2014 Black Gold Teddy Bridgewater Vikings Logo Auto

2014 Black Gold Teddy Bridgewater Vikings Logo Auto #2

2014 Black Gold Teddy Bridgewater Vikings Logo Auto #3

2014 Black Gold Teddy Bridgewater Vikings Logo Auto #4

2014 Black Gold Teddy Bridgewater Vikings Logo Auto #5

The problem isnt that the jerseys arent game worn, its that collectors expect rookie quality content throughout a relic set that includes non-player worn content. My connection may be a wrong, but to me, it looks like the lack of crazy patches in game worn jerseys has made them worthless, even though the artificial supply just cant support the demand of the collecting base.

Because Panini and Topps can have a 40+ team logo patches for any given rookie who attends the premiere, collectors almost expect that type of content to be available in EVERY jersey release. It has made normal content that is game worn seem cheap and worthless, when in reality, its what is available at the cost most people are willing to pay. Sure, manufacturers could secure 40 Peyton Manning jerseys, but the cost of doing so would be prohibitive. But, when his plain white game used swatch is available, its worth nothing because its white and not 8 colors like Blake Bortles' Jaguars event used logo patch.

Authenticity questions are also a huge part of devaluation, as language on the back of the jersey cards has changed almost 100% since I started collecting jersey cards back at the turn of the century. That doesnt mean that the cards are any less game used, just that companies dont want to be liable for any mistakes made by their suppliers or their own employees in acquiring and executing relic content. It has rightfully led to questions from collectors, and that will not go away until the language changes. At the same time, game sourced relics that have been used in some sets dont sell any better, so there is really no incentive to do anything different.

This new shift in the way rookie relics are done has also opened the door for patch fakers to take back the market with relative impunity. Bascially, because every parallel has the potential to be a logo, they can change the patches in cards and no one will notice. Not good.

Overall, I have said for a long time that relic content is a crutch that needs to be ripped from under the arms of the manufacturers. I would much rather see value restored to non-hit based cards, even though I am a person who only collects those types of things. With Topps likely exiting football, it puts another sport in the hands of a company that has completely the opposite viewpoint. Panini injects more worthless content into their sets than anyone else, and it will only serve to hurt the market more.

I sincerely hope that something changes, but it doesnt look like it will.

New Competition in the Digital Collecting Market On the Horizon?

Over the last few years, digital cards have gone from an experiment, to a lucrative future in the trading card game. Thanks to the ability to print on demand, not deal with redemptions or even card condition, and have interest from new corners of the hobby, digital cards are now a top priority at Topps. Ever the follower and never the leader, has Panini FINALLY decided it was time to dive into the game? Hobby tweets are saying that is a possibility.

If you remember, Topps is even bleeding their digital lines over into physical, with the release of Topps Series 2 and Topps Update. The ultra limited player code cards have become the top selling inserts in Series 2 as a result, and the coin reward cards are still selling well too:

2015 Topps Series 2 Felix Hernandez Bunt Player 5x Boost /25

2015 Topps Series 2 David Price Bunt Player 5x Boost /25

2015 Topps Series 2 Aroldis Chapman Bunt Player 5x Boost /25

Digital cards from Topps in general can have huge value, even without physical equivalents:

2015 Bunt Miguel Cabrera Variant Signature Series Card

2015 Bunt Chris Sale 3x Black Boost Card

Topps has even expanded into the pop culture realm of non-sport collecting with the recent release of Star Wars Card Trader, which has become one of the most productive apps in their portfolio. They have digital down to a science, and to hear that Panini wants into a market dominated by the existing apps? Makes me curious to see if they can even make a dent in what Topps has been able to accomplish over the last 3-4 years.

That’s not saying they cant figure out a way to eek out an existence, but its going to be extremely difficult to make it work on any level close to what already is there. The one thing that Panini has going for it is the sticker licenses that their parent company has in their back pocket, but it would take an immense effort to make money in a consistent manner without structuring their apps exactly like Topps’ pre-existing games.

Now, there is not an NBA game currently, and with Panini's long time NBA exclusive on the books, that is a logical first step for them to delve into digital. I could also see digital sticker collections becoming their main focus. They could spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and launch their games, but their lack of proficiency displayed in creating the Panini rewards app and rewards program brings any potential success into major question.

Digital is a growing area of the collecting market, and its interesting how small of a percentage is made up by physical card collectors. Bringing a license like Star Wars to digital was possibly one of the best moves they could have made, and it has paid off in spades. Topps also made the right call by initially integrating fantasy sports into their games, and its still unclear what or even if Panini is going to try the same thing. They dont have the data on the market the way we see with existing games, and apps have been proven to be a money pit if you dont know what you are doing.

Like I have said in numerous posts prior to this one, competition is welcome in my book. It gives a reason for everyone to keep running at full speed. I just dont see a near future where Panini is even in the same continent as Topps when it comes to digital, but you never know when a company has a blank check in a lot of ways. Panini could outspend Topps and not even blink an eye, much like they have in overpaying drastically for exclusive licenses in physical.

Regular collectors should take notice of what is going on, even if they dont plan to want to pay money for digital cards. This is an aspect of the collecting world that is here to stay, and I am curious to see how it plays out.