SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 National Treasures Football

Today is quite the day for product releases, and judging by the level of hype surrounding all three products, I think we are in for an interesting go of it. National Treasures is the first of the big releases to hit eBay in mass, so I am going to start there. From what we have seen in the previews, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about it, but there are some massive reasons to be beyond frightened as well.

Here are some of the big hits so far:

2014 National Treasures Odell Beckham Colossal Auto Patch

2014 National Treasures Tom Brady Auto 5/5

2014 National Treasures Kelvin Benjamin Panther Head Rookie Patch Auto /10

2014 National Treasures Blake Bortles Rookie Auto Patch /99

2014 National Treasures Brett Favre Auto Patch

First off, the design is better than it has ever been. The cards look great, the design of the main hits is really nice looking, and for the most part, the enormous dud designs that have plagued this product in the past are less of a focus this year. Dont get me wrong, there are some horrendously designed cards that are still a part of NT, but it wouldnt be a Panini product without those.

Considering how fucking awful some of the main sets have been (Contenders is at the top of that list), I consider it a relief that NT isnt in that same vein. I love the rookie auto patch design this year, which in the past, has been one of the weakest parts of the product. The simple design, with big area to sign, coupled with a large player picture, all play to what I love.

My other favorite part of this set – the notable nicknames inscriptions also look pretty good, despite being a vertical card with a separated area for the signature. Some how, some way, Panini made it work, and it looks better than expected.

The booklets are back again, this time with a twist, and I think this is where the set starts to become a bit tenuous in the way it looks. The normal horizontal booklets look great, but the new vertical booklet look forced, and have those shitty pictures where the player is literally sliced off at the waist. Its funny how something so simple can derail a card.

All this under consideration has one tremendous fucking drawback, and it is a big one. A BIG ONE. Where Exquisite and Five Star are both all on card in the same price arena, Treasures remains littered with stickers. Not just stickers of players that are hard to get autographs from, but rookie stickers – a lot of rookie stickers from guys with on card other places in the set. To say this is inexcusable isnt giving the correct amount of gravitas to the situation, especially when you see how much a box of NT still costs. Im also not sure I agree with this as a choice for the checklist of Green Bay Greats.

Add in that there could be a brewing Russell Wilson scenario with Odell Beckham Jr being a redemption, that might not be filled in the near future, and this product gets murky at best. Teddy Bridgewater looks to be a redemption as well, but his cards have already been posted on their blog as completed and in house. Not sure why Topps was able to get their stuff done, but Panini has not for the last two sets.

If you are satisfied with the risk of opening a box, and not coming even close to your investment, pulling a Asa Watson or Michael Sam as your main hit, then have at it. This type of risk is inherent to all products of this nature, but at least with Five Star and Exquisite, there are no stickers from the first few looks we have gotten. I think Five Star is the better looking product, but its obvious that Treasures has the legs. Its really unfortunate that we dont reward the product that does it the right way. Sad really.

Kris Bryant Superfractor Pulled – Repack Products Target Pull?

Every so often, a player comes along that people absolutely go nuts over. Last year it was Jose Abreu, the year before that it was Yasiel Puig, so on and so forth. It happens frequently. None more than Stephen Strasburg back during his rookie season, but that time has come and gone.

This year it will be Cubs prospect Kris Bryant, who put on a show during Spring Training, adding fuel to an already red hot fire. Recently, his RC superfractor from 2013 Bowman Chrome was pulled, and naturally graded 9.5 by BGS (who would have guessed, right?). It has now been listed for a staggering price, likely trying to attract the big fish:

2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Superfractor Auto 1/1 BGS 9.5

Bryant’s other cards, as discussed previously are similarly insane, and could go higher depending on his potential call up:

2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Orange Refractor Auto /25

2014 National Treasures Kris Bryant Silhouette Auto Patch /25

2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Social Media Auto /10

Its clear that Bryant has talent, but without an official at bat in the bigs, can anyone in their right mind justify spending anywhere close to the asking price? The same could be said about other huge Bryant pulls. The idea is pretty simple – the answer is no. However, with repack products often gaining more traction in the marketplace by buying up these cards for their runs, things could get pretty competitive between the few that are out there.

Last year’s Jose Abreu Superfractor auto was bought in this manner, soemthing that didnt come as a surprise. Yasiel Puig's biggest pulls were also a repack target all year. This practice, a great marketing tool, was started by Brian Gray’s purchase of the Strasburg Superfractor for his Best of Baseball type products. It helps to move product when collectors can potentially get a card that could pay off their car or part of their mortgage.

I dont see a regular collector buying in at this point, unless this type of money is pocket change to them. Yes, those people still exist. At the same time, this chase by the repack companies is something that should be interesting. It rarely used to happen that big pulls could be moved without fear of having some sort of buyers remorse, but with Repack companies involved, that element is likely removed. Its quite a good thing.

Kris Bryant may or may not have the career people are expecting, but items like this rarely come around. Savor it while you can.

Big Week Ahead – Releases of 2014 National Treasures and 2014 Five Star

This is one of the biggest weeks in the hobby coming up, with two of the biggest products of the year coming out this coming Wednesday. These two products have become the biggest releases for the high end space, with each having some massive hits in the course of the breaks.

Five Star

I love the look of the product this year, with the first time that baseball and football have had the same look. Baseball had some really nice looking cards, and I cannot wait to see what Five Star has in order. Last year's product looked similarly great despite a horrible RC class, and continues the long standing tradition of Five Star being the best looking product in the tier.

It does not come without disappointment this year, as the non-rookie checklist does not look like it matches what it has been in the last few years. This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how star studded the on card checklist was for Museum Collection. Not only that, but my favorite cards of the year, are no longer part of the checklist. Previously, the inscription cards have always been the gem, but they have been seemingly left off the checklist for 2014. This is borderline blasphemy for me, and I cannot express how disappointed I am that none of them are part of the set.

Check out what I mean:

2014 Five Star Bo Jackson Auto Inscription Quotables

2010 Five Star Adrian Peterosn Auto Inscription Quotables

2012 Five Star Andrew Luck Auto Inscription Quotables

2011 Five Star Peyton Manning Auto Inscription Quotables

Overall, I think that this product will still be on par, and the rookie content will still make the product worth checking out. This year’s single logo autographs are the first time that Five Star has offered cards like this (usually dual logos), and I am quite interested to see how they perform. Because Topps does not offer many logo cards over the course of the year, hopefully they will be special, unlike Panini who puts out 10 per rookie per product.

National Treasures

Over the last two years, I think the design for Treasures has been better than it has been in the previous years combined. I have often said that it does not deserve the fanfare it has relished over its run, as the cards have been so ugly to describe with normal adjectives most years.

One of the biggest factors that I see making treasures such a disaster each year is that it uses sticker autographs in a product that costs as much as NT does. Additionally, this year they are using stickers for the rookies more than I have seen in previous years, which makes me question why an ultra high end product cant have 100% hard signed rookie content, but other products from Panini can? That makes no sense. Maybe Panini should spend less time putting together horse shit products like Spectra and Black Gold and focus on delivering for their biggest release of the year.

That being said about the stickers, I am a huge fan of the rookie auto patch design and a bigger fan of the cards that are on card. This year’s design is EASILY the best design treasures has ever had, and its sad that wax breakers will have to endure the sticker embarrassment just to get at the good stuff. Similar things could be said about the shitty throwaway relics that have plagued this product for so many years. Dear Panini, THE JUNK RELIC IS DEAD. Let it rest in peace, instead of annually digging it out of the shallow grave you are responsible for putting it in.

Despite collecting the hell out of Teddy Bridgewater all year, this is likely the first year I will not be buying any boxes of either product. I will be picking up singles from both, but I just cant see spending a ton on this year’s stuff – especially when we havent seen any previews that showcase a reason to buy either set.

First Impressions of the New 2015 Topps Bunt App

If you guys have been following along with my site, you will likely know my affinity for the ever growing community of Topps Digital apps. The biggest of the 4 games is Topps Bunt, which combines fantasy baseball with card collecting in a digital arena. The game is an absolute blast, and yesterday, they released their build for the upcoming 2015 season.

As expected, there is already a pretty active secondary market for the cards:

2015 Topps Bunt Clayton Kershaw Super Rare Gold Base Card

2015 Topps Bunt Mike Trout Team Spirit Insert Card

2015 Topps Bunt Rusney Castillo Gold Base Card RC

2015 Topps Bunt Adrian Beltre T206 Mini Insert

As you can see, the cards mirror the 2015 Topps series one cards, including the look and feel, but digital has made a niche for themselves by creating some pretty stunning exclusive insert cards only available on their apps. If you havent checked it out yet, this is definitely the time to do it.

For my other site, digitalcardcentral.com, I wrote a pretty extensive breakdown, and I think its worth sharing here, just in case a few people want to read up. I would also check out this article for more information, as well. If you want to see more articles I have done on this site regarding the world of digital, its all here in this search.

We are less than a day into the new season of Bunt, but I have already spent a number of hours tooling around in the app to see what has changed and what has stayed the same. Let me start off by saying things are different but similar. I know that there are a lot of people who will say that because its different, its terrible, but I urge you to give it a shot. Here is a breakdown.

Home Screen

There are some nice changes to the home screen that I like, and some that I absolutely hate. As for the good, I think that putting the bulletin box in the top left corner will work well so that everyone can see immediately if they have a message. Additionally, moving the games on tap down near the bottom is nice, as not many people use that box anyways.

Here is where one of my biggest gripes of the new layout exists, and it is going to greatly impact the way I interact with the game. Instead of the flag icon at the bottom representing the fan feed, it is representing the contests screen. The fan feed has been moved to the bottom of the home screen under social, which normally would be a good thing. It causes one specific ripple effect, which I absolutely hate – you can no longer toggle between the fan feed and the trade screen with single clicks. You have to back out of the feed to access trades, which will be very annoying. It seems like a little thing, but for someone like me that loves to go back and forth, its going to take some getting used to.

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Now, as the contests become more a part of the every day usage of the app, this could change. I have a feeling the layout was deliberate in that fact at the moment, but until the contests get going, this is the way I am going to feel.

Store Screen

If you havent been playing along with Star Wars Card Trader, this new type of structure is going to be very foreign to people. Its also going to cause a few unhappy people who have transferred from last year, as the card availability is one of the bigger changes.

Here is the way it works. When you open the store, you will see 3 packs at the moment. These packs are the 1, 3, and 5 card pack. The first pack only contains commons and uncommons, the second contains the first two levels, plus a 1% shot at rare, and the third contains the first two levels with a higher percent shot at rare. Last year, all packs contained all cards, which made it easier to buy cheaper packs and get the top cards.

To get access to the Scarce Blue cards and the Super Rare Gold cards, you need to buy a bundle of coins with real money from the store. It can be the .99 cent bundle, but you will need to buy to see the best packs. The new packs will be a 5 card pack with a 5% shot at blue, and a 15 card pack with a 1% shot at Gold SR.

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This is the way it is in Star Wars as well, and to be honest, it wont be as bad as you think it will. From what happened in the other game, the inserts were available to everyone regardless of purchase status. They usually got their own pack, and no one missed out on those cards. Once the inserts are live, they will become the more valuable cards, and golds will be more readily accessible. As the season goes on, the golds will not sell out and more people will be apt to trade them.

Free players and even some of the lower tier pay players will be upset that they are not going to have the same kind of access they did last year, but that shouldnt come as a surprise. If you dont pay to play, your existence in the game is less important than those that do. I understand that last year was different, but I get this change.

There are also significant changes to the play structure that should lend itself more to ensuring a more equal playing field in the gameplay element, so its a bit of a tradeoff. Bottom line, free players are tolerated, but not catered to, and that shouldnt be a shock to an app that needs to make money.

The positive thing with this is that Golds will be significantly more valuable, and add more of a chase to the game. That is a very good thing, as it was so easy to pick up cards at will. The new structure puts more of a focus on collecting specific targets and really building a team instead of just getting 9 of everything and letting the chips fall as they may. As we will see in the contest screen portion of this post, more of a focus on the fantasy element is a common thread for 2015.

Go check out the situation over on Star Wars, where 10,000 count inserts sell out in a matter of hours. The structure has reshaped the value proposition, and I think if you give it a chance, you will see what I mean.

Contest Screen

This is the biggest change of anything, and I also see it as one of the best improvements for the year. As I explained in my first post about the 2015 structure, users are no longer going to compete against the entire leaderboard every day of every week. Instead, you will be able to sign up for special “contest leagues” that can last from a day to a week, to possibly longer.

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Right now, there are 3 options. The first option is the free league, that can be entered without paying any coin fee. The prizes are listed on the screen, where the top person will win 2500 coins. You can only play Cubs and Cardinals, as it is a one day league, and that is the only game on the schedule. The boost is limited to 175, which means that all your cards can only add up to 175x. At this stage, that is astronomical, but in the future, it may more of a limiting factor. You can basically play a max of 175 cards in this league, as each common is 1x. Each boost above the 1x will take more of the pie, and will limit the amount of cards you can play.

Above the free league will be the All Star League for 7500 coins and a middle league too. Each has different prizes, which includes a 20k pack sent to the winner of the All Star League. These two leagues are not different in play structure, its just about the level of competition.

You might say that the big pay users will just join every league and win, but that is where things get a bit different. You cant use the same cards for each league. Once a card is used in a play deck for a certain contest league, its not available for the others. More of an even playing field for right now.

In the future, there is no guarantee that the Diamond VIP users wont eventually collect enough cards to have enough to use in all available contest leagues, but for right now, I doubt it will be a factor.

There are also a number of league ideas that wont make it so simple as 175x and one game. This contest screen provides a significant opportunity to have a lot of fun with the structure week to week.

Card Sheet Screen

Before I start, Topps has already said in the comments that sort filters will be fixed in a future update. Until that happens, this is going to be a relative mess. The best way to organize cards is by parallel, and that does not give any indication of rarity inside the different parallels available.

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Because sort by rarity is unavailable, everything is sorted alphabetically. For 2015, there are not that many cards and its still relatively easy to follow. But for 2014 and before, the cards are no longer able to be displayed in a way that is easy to follow in any way. Alphabetically just doesnt work, and with every pre-2015 card in the same “Not For Sale” parallel, its impossible to find anything just by looking through someone’s sheet.

Once sorting by rarity is available, this will all be an easy fix, and I dont think its going to be a big deal to wait AT THIS POINT IN THE GAME.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Upper Deck Football

Today marks a sad day, as this will be the last licensed version of Upper Deck football to be produced. That’s not saying it wont continue in some way in thew future, but for right now, this is it. I remember back in 1991 trying to rip through Upper Deck packs with my allowance to pull the triple exposure Joe Montana card, and every year since then, I have always cracked a few packs of the product. Now that the cards are live, its very bittersweet.

Here are some of the cards already listed so far:

2015 Upper Deck Jameis Winston Letter Auto

2015 Upper Deck Jameis Winston Die Cut Auto

2015 Upper Deck Marcus Mariota RC Auto

2015 Upper Deck Hines Ward Die Cut Auto

The main thing that Upper Deck has always done well is the photography for the set. Their photo choice has always been nothing short of dynamic, and this year is no different. Each card has a cooler photo than the next, and as a connoisseur of fine game shots, this product is always a treat. Although I dont think this is as strong a look as it was in 2014, the base still looks pretty good.

Here is what I dont really get, in regards to the use of stickers instead of going for hard signed autographs over the product. With Inscriptions being as awesome as it was, I would have really liked to have seen UD go all out for this set and get the autographs on card. Also considering that the autographs can literally be obtained the MOMENT the prospects sign with an agent, why not have every card done ahead of time so that no stickers are even needed?

There are hard signed cards in the product in the signed letters and a few other cards, and it goes to show that the opportunity was there. My favorite cards in the whole product are the SP Authentics on card autos, which were incredible last year too. These are retro themed inserts, and they strike all the right notes in all the right ways. Some of the better pre-draft cards that exist, even more so than some of the ones from Inscriptions.

Im not a fan of signed swatches in any way. The ink bleeds, and the cards rarely look good. This year is no different, even though the letters are a bit larger in thickness. I wish that they had taken a page from basketball, and layered the cards with acetate, so collectors can still try to spell out all the weird shit they love, and you dont have to deal with all the issues from signing so small on little pieces of fabric. They have also had rookies sign the side of the card too, either works better.

Overall, I still wish Upper Deck had their NFL license. I still wish Panini hadnt bullied their way into a CLC (NCAA) exclusive to take over what UD has built over the last few years. UD still makes great looking cards, and this is a shame we cant have them in the licensed market in some fashion.