Worst of the Worst 2004-2009 #1 – 2006(7) Topps Paradigm Football

Its here, the moment you have all been waiting for, the worst product in the countdown of the worst of the worst. I do think it needs to be said that this product could actually be one of the worst of ALL TIME, not just of the last five years. It is so bad on so many different levels, that I cant even think how another set could beat it out. For god’s sake, this product was so bad, it actually got a nickname to reflect it – Paracrime. Yes, 2006(2007) Paradigm football sits a top this list, and I will try to do it the justice it deserves.

First, some background is needed, especially to at least give you an idea of how Paradigm came into being. Back in 2005, Exquisite was first released for Football, and people went fucking nuts. In 2006 Donruss signed on to make National Treasures to compete, and Topps wanted to try their hand at super high end as well. Reggie Bush’s Exquisite rookie patch auto was slated to be the most valuable modern card in decades come the end of 2006, and Topps needed to get a set out to match the hype. The problem is, as good as Exquisite is, it is also incredibly expensive and time consuming to make. Its usually started almost a full year in advance, which provides time for all the on card signatures and awesome design elements. With Paradigm, I doubt it got more than 2 months, thus leaving us with a product equal to a maimed rotting carcass of a raccoon on the side of the road. In 2006, Exquisite was released near the end of december, and Paradigm was so far into 2007, that many collectors didn’t even consider it to be a 2006 set. The season was far over, and Exquisite was rocking, as usual. That was just the beginning.

At over 400 dollars a pack, the product was 100% sticker autos, with cards printed on the brightest rainbow foil that topps could find. If you think all those horrible Panini sets were bad, this was a fucking abomination. The design was awful as well, as the foil was so hard to deal with, that many of the cards looked like they were designed by a guy who hadnt graduated high school. Plus, white borders on foil never really work, especially when you are using a lot of white jersey pictures as well. Then you have the stickers, which were beveled into the design much like Triple Threads, and jersey windows that just didn’t make sense.

The worst part of this set were the jumbo patch autographs, where the card was basically a thin white border, with a large swatch and sticker auto right smack dab in the middle. Yes, this was the basis for the Topps Lettermen atrocities, as the cards had no pictures or any other info. It was like taking a swatch and mangling it beyond recognition. Many people were left tilting these cards in the light to find out the name of the player they pulled.

Since Triple Threads had yet to be done for football, Topps used the triple relic and sticker auto design for the one per pack “Performance Highlights Autos.” These cards were basically a checklist of great to horrible players put into a horrible design with diecut windows of player stats. They were one per pack, and were responsible for 90% of the total value of the box. If you pulled Antonio Gates, the break was basically unsalvageable. People were so angry with many of these cards that they regularly sell for pennies on the dollar.

Even the high dollar pulls were terrible, and when I say terrible, I mean it in a Charles Barkley “turrable” sense of the word. The Dual NFL logos were possibly the worst cards of the worst set, as they featured absolutely no player picture on the card. Not that there wasn’t room for a picture or two, because the logos were done in such a way that there was more negative foil space on the card than needed. I wasn’t able to find a picture of one, but I did find a single one, where you can see what I mean. Just imagine the card below with no player pic and an extra logo blob on it. Its almost like they planned for the full equipment logo and ended up cutting it down without adjusting the card.

In all honesty, Topps Paradigm’s worst feature was its price, costing almost as much as a box of National Treasures and Exquisite. Topps had to compete with those products, and sadly they performed equal to expectations for Topps products costing more than 100 dollars. They took the easy way out for design and content, but took the high mountain drive on the price. Collectors were literally shocked by what they got out of their boxes for that price, and many even sent letters to the company. Even today, the value in the box would be looked upon with contempt, even more so if Topps decided to try it once more before the end of their license.

It would be one thing if Paradigm was one and done, but it gave birth to two products that are on my honorable mention list. The first is Topps Performance, which replaced Paradigm on the calendar after the horrible sales of the product. Performance was a scaled down version of its father, with equally horrible white designs and some of the worst looking relic cards of all time. Although Performance guaranteed one Adrian Peterson auto per case, those autos continue to be the cheapest licensed Peterson autos on the market, selling for less than 70 dollars in some cases. After Performance was axed, it was replaced with Topps Rookie Progression, which continued the Paradigm legacy well into the crapper of 2008. It reminded me of my Uncle’s house in the 70’s from those pictures you see in the family albums, lots of bright oranges, blues and browns. Just plain sucky.

That’s it folks, my worst of the worst. I am going to start working on a best of the best, and I hope I will have as much fun as I did with this countdown. I actually laughed out loud a few times when searching for the bad cards from these products, and I cant wait to compile it for a possible internet release to collectors who are getting back into the hobby. Hopefully this countdown shows how important it is to the companies that laziness will not be tolerated, but with Topps owning the top three spots, we may not have as much of a problem any more.

Here is the complete countdown, honorable mentions will be coming soon.
EDIT: Here is the Dual Logo from reader Kevin. Gaze with awe upon its glory.