On the Radar: 2016 Museum Collection Baseball

Im very happy that we are already starting to see some action on previewing upcoming 2016 sets. Museum Collection has been a collector favorite over the last few years, mainly because of how nice many of the cards have looked. It has been a product that has made the jump to football as well, and I am a fan of both versions for sure.

That being said, this is one of those sets that has a good side and a bad side in a VERY definitive fashion. Here is the good side:

2015 Museum Collection Clayton Kershaw Framed Auto

2014 Museum Collection Sandy Koufax Gold Framed Auto

2014 Museum Collection Bryce Harper / Mike Trout Dual Auto

2014 Museum Collection Jason Heyward Bat Nameplate 1/1

Here is the bad side:

2015 Museum Collection Ken Griffey Jr Jumbo Relic Auto

2014 Museum Collection Bryce Harper Triple Relic Auto

2014 Museum Collection Freddie Freeman Jumbo Logo Patch 1/1

Because a box costs as much as it does, the content needs to be premium. Premium in a way that presents an opportunity for the collector to walk away feeling like they have something awesome looking, even if they get skunked. Obviously, there will be 11 boxes that DONT have a framed card in it, and that means Topps has to deliver. This is where Museum has had some success, but also some major failure as well.

As we see with 2016, the Framed cards again look really nice, even though they look a bit different with the white embellishments to the design. The on card autographs with the black and white photos and silver signatures look nice too. They did really well with these last year, thanks to some big names on the checklist. My main issue is that the rest of the set looks relatively awful. So bad that I would avoid buying this product out of fear that I end up with one of the sticker autos as my main hit. You usually end up with 1 on card per box, but that doesnt always mean that its going to be something good. That leaves the relic auto for you to have as your box hit, and they are not good looking cards at all.

So many of the cards in this preview look crowded. The entire preview is claustrophobic in a lot of ways, especially when you see some of the way they incorporated relics into the design. That McCutchen Logo makes me hyperventilate its so packed in there.

Similarly, the boxy look on the autograph relics gets incredibly crowded, especially when the third relic is added in. In past years, this has also been the case, and I HATE HATE HATE that 'L' shaped presentation that looks like a tetris piece. The saving grace in previous years has been that the rest of the design is super clean, where this is far from it. Borders bring in the usable space to close to nothing, made even more apparent by the close up pic of the player.

Here is the thing. I love the look of the on card autos, but those depend on checklists more than ever. Now that Topps has made a commitment to getting more and more on card autos in their products, people are looking for better player quality, and unique content to match. This means that just having on card autos isnt enough to maintain value, regardless of how nice the cards look.

People will go nuts for the framed autos, as they always do. I think that Museum has become a premium product where where people only chase one rare set. That is not a recipe most would like to see. I hope we see that there are some surprises that give us a bit more to chase.

On the Radar: 2016 Bowman Baseball

I love Bowman. I love it because it signifies the beginning of the prospecting year, and offers the first shot at some of the biggest rookies of the upcoming season. This is the product that has generated some of the most iconic cards in the hobby, and remains a place where you can open a box or case and walk away with the most valuable chase cards of the year.

Here is the power of this product and its subsequent releases based on this design:

2014 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Auto RC

2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Black Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Bowman Chrome Carlos Correa Gold Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper Auto BGS 9.5

This year’s design follows a tried and true formula of a bordered card with space to adjust the color for different parallels. It looks a bit like a play on a few different years, and that isnt a bad thing. Like Topps flagship, Bowman has had a very consistently top notch design, and I dont think this year is any different. Its nothing groundbreaking like 2016 Topps, but its definitely not ugly in any way.

Some of the inserts leave a little to be desired, but unlike many of the other baseball sets, they rarely play a part in facilitating the wow factor of any given year. At its core, Bowman represents the young crop of players that are chased by all sorts of different collectors. It holds its value because it has earned the legacy over years of consistency.

When this product hits, the new season will be about to start, and I cannot wait to see how this shapes up. I can already see that there are going to be some nice autograph content that could be available, but its up to Topps to execute. The waiting game begins now!

Recent Group Break Scam Showcases the Gross Underbelly Once Again

Group breaks are quite the polarizing topic in the hobby these days. Some see them as an opportunity to bring more people into a hobby that is fraying at the edges. Others see it as a ring of carnies that serve to hook gamblers into spending money on impulse. There is reason to believe its both, but when one exposed as a sham, the whole model comes under fire. In fact, I would argue it restarts the whole conversation on whether or not this hobby really is as seedy as some people think it is.

Without diving deep into the group break model as a whole, the scam is pretty easy to understand. On Blowout, a member ran breaks where nice hits from community boxes were switched out with lesser hits he had purchased from members and opened in his own personal boxes. Im not quite sure how they were able to do this on a live feed, but that is why the good scammers never get caught, I guess.

This person was caught pretty much red handed by a member who was able to match serial numbers, cataloging a card they sold and seeing that card “pulled” from a pack in a group break by this individual. From the vantage point presented, it looks like this guy has been running the scam for a while. As we have seen COUNTLESS times in the past, it takes an event like this to start the referendum on how at risk group break participants can be in any given break.

Let me say I am not looking to scare people away from group breaks. I like group breaks. I participate in group breaks. There are a lot of good people out there. They are not unicorns, believe it or not. That being said, when I participate, I UNDERSTAND the inherent risk implied with such an odd transaction. Consider this: we are literally handing money to someone for them to spend with our trust and open cards we would normally open ourselves. There is trust there. So much trust that I dont think people truly understand that there are some really shitty people out there who will exploit it until they get caught.

If you do not know that shitty people are everywhere in this hobby, you cant swing a dead cat at a card show without hitting someone who has been scammed or run the scam themselves. Whether its fake patches, fake autographs, or just overall immoral behavior, its everywhere. YOU are the only person who can protect YOU, and that’s that. I have chided publications like Beckett for trying to present the hobby as this wonderful utopia where every company farts rainbows and cries holy water, but its not. In fact, it might be just as disgusting a place as ever. The only thing is that the internet has removed the face from the perpetrator. They become usernames on a forum or a handle on twitter.

Arguably, this is where group breakers are the exception, as many present themselves as characters and personalities. They want you to break with them over their competitors, so they come up with some of the most annoying catchphrases and animated graphics to make you feel like they are worth the trust you are implying on them. Its the same concept as any on air personality, especially the ones like we see on QVC and other shopping networks.

My dad imparted some wisdom on me when I was little, and I have hated myself each time I have failed to heed the warning.

“If there is money to be made, there will be someone out there who will try to take advantage of the people who are unwilling to educate and protect themselves. The wolves will ALWAYS eat the sheep.”

This applies so much to this hobby that it isnt even funny. In fact, I would say its one of the main reasons I started this blog back in 2007. I wanted to be the voice that people could use as a reminder to look at things with a different perspective. The hobby isnt a place where good people dont exist, they are out there. But at the same time, if you cant recognize the wolves, you will be eaten with the rest of the sheep. Trust me on that.

I remember back to when the 2007 Rookie Premiere autograph forgeries first started to hit the market. I received A LOT of criticism for saying the cards werent real. No one could fathom that real cards made it into the hands of a person who would singlehandedly bring down an entire year’s worth of this set. To review, the cards were blatantly forged. So blatant that Topps was forced to serial number the cards starting in 2007, only after I pestered them mercilessly. BGS stopped grading the cards out of fear, and rightfully so.

I also remember back when group breaks were in their infancy, and an asshat decided it was a good idea to not show all the cards in a break when the grainy video was clear enough to everyone that he was holding back a big hit. Stories like this are everywhere, and that’s just the start of it.

A few years ago, someone on blowout convinced people to send him thousands of dollars to participate in grab bags that looked to be loaded with high end goods. When he walked away with the money, everyone freaked out.

The main point, in case I havent beat you enough in the face over the last 800 words, is that trust is a luxury. If you cannot live with the consequences of someone exploiting that trust, its time to move on. I will say, there are a few people I trust implicitly in this hobby. However, it took more than a fancy website and some stupid catchphrases for me to put that trust in their favor. Years and years worth of back and forth has led me to understand what I believe to be trust. They could be mass murderers for all I know, but thanks to those many dealings I have had, I can go to bed at night knowing that I can live with the consequences if they turn out to be assholes.

If there is one lesson we should take away from this, it cant be that a big scam is the only thing that gets us talking about education and prevention. This the same with any tragedy out there, and thankfully these hobby scams never take any lives. There is a reason people are so green to the idea that people will fuck them over without a thought. Its because they dont have many warnings at play that serve as educational checkpoints. Sure, there are voices that have remained constant out there, but I will say that even I have backed off talking about this at a regular pace. It literally happens so frequently that it is too taxing to continue being the white knight to the 10 people that still read my blog (9 if you take my dad out of the mix).

I will close with this. Education is the only defense against the ever growing intelligence that continues to evolve within the scams of our community. They will ALWAYS be a few steps ahead because money is the root of collecting. When money is involved, things get nuts. You will not be able to stay ahead of the crazy fucktards that sit in front of their computer screens and find ways to exploit the stupid. The only thing anyone can do is learn from what they see, operate every transaction with a skeptical eye, and never trust anyone so much that they lose that safety net. If you can make that work, you will be fine.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Topps High Tek Baseball

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was more interested in music and unsuccessfully fitting in at school than collecting sports cards. During that time, the hobby was a hodge podge of gaudy inserts that for lack of a better term, were better suited for the front of a trapper keeper than a modern card product. High Tek is based on that time in the hobby, which is probably why it is lost on me.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2015 Topps High Tek Mark McGwire Pink Proof Auto 1/1

2015 Topps High Tek Omar Visquel Auto

2015 Topps High Tek John Smoltz Gold Auto /50

2015 Topps High Tek Noah Syndergaard Auto Gold /50

Dont get me wrong, I love on card autos on acetate technology, and that is the only reason why I am even slightly intrigued by this set. I mostly stayed away from the set last year, save a box I bought well after release, but the way the cards look in person really do have a certain quality about them.

The “bright horizons” cards are pretty awesome in their own right, and I believe there are autograph versions as well. These feature the skyline of the city the player is from, and they look REALLY cool. Cards like this werent really in the product last year, as they went with retro designs from the original set.

This year’s set is definitely trying to recapture some of the popularity from last year’s product, which includes a sister set being released in Football to boot. I like that the autograph checklist looks pretty strong, and that Carlos Correa will again have hard signed cards in the set. He will be paired with the usual suspects in Trout, Bryant, and the rest of the Cubs young battery, which should make for some fun.

It also doesnt hurt that the price tag isnt enormous for the one autograph per box, especially when you consider that some of the parallels can be pretty valuable without an auto. I might try a box or two just to see what this is about, yet I cant help but feel this is probably better aligned for a person who was my age during the turn of the century.

Under Market Value: Players That Deserve More Hobby Love

Right now, the NFL “recent release” card market is about as soft as I have ever seen it. Unless you are dealing in proven champions and iconic rookie cards from the last few years, the market just isnt performing that great. The wheeling and dealing of top performers has left football in a lot of ways. This is troubling with some of the exciting rookies and recent stars that have been playing out of their mind.

After seeing a few guys blast off in the first few weeks of the 2015 season, there might be some indication that things could be turning around. Even more impressive is that most of them are not QBs, which have become the only position left that holds any value. All of these guys are still massively undervalued to me.

Devonta Freeman – RB, Falcons

The Falcons have had a renaissance under Dan Quinn, highlighted by stellar play from their defense, and of course Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones. During his rookie year, Freeman sat relatively unused behind Stephen Jackson and Jaquizz Rodgers, but this year, he has seen the bulk of the carries. He has 7 TDs so far, and leads the league in just about every category.

Much to my amazement, collectors have yet to catch on:

2014 Immaculate Devonta Freeman Rookie Auto Patch

2014 Topps Chrome Devonta Freeman Camo Auto /99

2014 Contenders Devonta Freeman Cracked Ice RC Auto

Todd Gurley – RB, Rams

There really hasnt been an answer of how to stop Gurley since the Rams have put him into full rotation. In his last two games, he has rushed for over 140 yards each, giving us a good picture of why he was drafted so high. Although he has yet to find the endzone, his production has been nothing short of amazing.

Collectors have been high on him for a while, but his give up signature has kept prices lower:

2015 Topps Todd Gurley Auto 1987 Super Rookie /25

2015 Donruss Elite Todd Gurley / Marshall Faulk Passing the Torch Dual Auto

2015 Inception Todd Gurley Gold Signature Auto 25/25

Andy Dalton – QB, Bengals

There has been no QB that received more criticism with their new deal than the Red Rifle. He has shown that he has been worth the money and then some, putting up MVP caliber numbers so far. Because of his lack of success in the playoffs, collectors still havent bought in, but they might have no choice but to take notice if the Bengals keep playing the way they do.

Here are some of the nicer Dalton cards:

2011 Topps Chrome Andy Dalton Atomic Refractor Auto

2014 Flawless Andy Dalton Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2014 National Treasures Andy Dalton Notable Nicknames Auto

DeAndre Hopkins – WR, Texans

Look, I understand the Texans havent done so well on the scoreboard. That being said, Hopkins has played like the Andre Johnson of old, with some insane numbers. Like Gurley, collectors havent put much stock into his cards because of what his role was and his give up autograph, and I am sure that might start to change now that he is playing better than most of the top flight receivers out there. Might not be much of an increase until the Texans start winning, but he is having himself a season, regardless of Ws and Ls.

Check out his cards:

2013 Topps Finest DeAndre Hopkins Jumbo Patch Auto Pulsar Refractor /25

2013 Contenders DeAndre Hopkins Rookie Ticket Auto

2013 Crown Royale DeAndre Hopkins Silhouette Patch Auto

There is no guarantee that these players will continue playing at this high a level, but for most of them, you can buy them cheap enough that it wont matter. I rarely use the word investment with cards anymore, but if you are looking to pick up a few new PC players, these are a good bet.