2010 Topps Sterling Brings Everything I Hate In a Product

Topps Sterling came out in 2006 to rave reviews, even a few upturned eyebrows on my end. It had on card autographs from the living players included in the set, and ridiculous amounts of relics and cuts for the people who were dead. I remember watching a few case breaks at a local shop and seeing a Mantle cut and a Dimaggio cut come out of consecutive cases, along with a whole lot of other cool cards. Basically it was the checklist that drove the product, capped with autographs that actually made the boxes worth while.

In 2007, the product returned, not only at the same insane price point, but with a crappier checklist and sticker autos. At this point the product became more of a one hit Triple Threads box with no retina-torching foilboard and the chance of getting a jersey letter at one per case. Collectors inexplicably bought THAT much more of this product, and it was cemented as Topps’ highest end product available for the next two years.

Well, its coming back AGAIN for 2010, and there is seemingly zero improvement to the horrid concepts that this product embraces. I have always said that the golden rule of Topps states that no product over 100 bucks should ever be bought, and it was mostly due to the complete crap that Sterling brought to the table. Although you now get more hits for the worst price point product available on the market, it still lacks in just about every category.

I think its safe to say that Strasburg will end up in this product along with a bunch of other guys that move away from the original intent of the set, and it may include a few on card signatures to boot. However, its still going to be stuffed full of weird stats and stupid sayings spelled out in lame die cut swatch windows, and booklet cards for the sake of booklet cards. I would normally be much more worked up about the audacity of Topps to try and skate through on the coattails of a set produced almost 5 years ago, but im just tired of the general viewpoint around the hobby in general.

As the popularity of products like this show, people don’t care about how a card looks as long as every inch of it is covered with swatch windows and jersey pieces. No matter that the cards look hideous, and that the foil stickers become the focus of the cards instead of the players, people don’t give a fuck about it. That’s what I am the most tired of, and it’s the reason why the people like me who care about design and layout are bored out of our skulls with products made by companies that don’t try anymore.

Topps Continues To Prove That Finest is a Dead Brand

Back in the late 1990s, Topps Finest was just that. However, since the recent switch to the current format, it has been nothing but stale, boring and absolutely ugly. This year’s incarnation of the brand seems to be further evidence of this troubling trend for a key product for the company. After seeing the previews for Topps Platinum earlier last month, I think you will understand why I am so underwhelmed by this preview – its basically the same product.

Not only that, but Topps returned to old disgusting habits once again, and the result is less than stellar. First, the main problem with each of these cards is the way they make the sticker the focus of the design. For every product not named Topps Chrome or Bowman Chrome, the designers have this stupid idea that they need to border every sticker so that you have no choice but to look right at it. Rather than hiding the sticker in a design that is built around the player, we instead get a cardboard tetris screen with each element seemingly one long log away from a completed line. The jerseys have borders, the sticker has a border, and meanwhile the player is stuffed away in a corner trapped by the falling blocks. HEY TOPPS – BORDERS DONT WORK ON INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS PRESENT ON FULL BLEED CARDS. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
The worst card in this preview is the Bradford, as it looks almost identical to the ridiculously bad swatch autos out of last year’s Bowman Chrome. The swatch covers up so much of the picture that I cant believe someone actually looked at this mock up and thought that it worked. It looks horrid, cluttered, and draws your focus away from a design that really isnt terrible, minus all the other elements that shouldnt be there. Its funny, I actually think that the person who designed this took photoshop and put the swatch window at the EXACT center of the card. I mean, where else could it go right?
On top of all of that crap, Topps is bringing back the Atomic refractor for a sport that has never really been big on gimmicky parallels. Football never had the baseball late 90s, and yet, Topps doesnt seem to get it. The result is a crazy example of when something just doesnt work, and I cant help but feel like they arent trying anymore. Yeah, you would think they would bring the heat with a newly revived license, but they havent shown much from their mid end calendar to this point. I assume once we get the same ole triple threads as before, its only going to get worse.
Most importantly, when you compare this snoozefest to Platinum, the similarities are undeniable, and that should not be happening with so few products on the calendar. The fact that the biggest company in the industry cant design two separate products and get on card autos really makes me question the commitment Topps has to anything other than churning out cookies from their cookie cutter.

When it comes down to it, the golden rule of Topps continues to be a factor with every release. If the product costs more than 100 bucks, stay away. I may have to lower that limit if things continue to head down this path. Wow.

First Look: 2010 Topps Platinum Football

Previews for Topps Platinum hit the web while I was out, and I am a little shocked by what I see. Although the design does look a lot better than last year, it still has a lot of the same flaws as 2009 Platinum, including some I was not hoping to see.

First off, I have been told for the last few months that Topps Platinum would be this year’s answer to the loss of a licensed SPA product. On card autographs, great design, and huge content in the box for a great price. Obviously that is not the case as the stickers are still built into the design, and your eye is drawn to the fact that some of the box will again cover up the player. I have never understood Topps’ reason for making the sticker the focus of the product, especially considering that stickers were invented to hide the fact that the cards werent handled by the atheletes.

Secondly, the way the players are silhouetted on the cards doesn’t lend very well to the chrome style stock. I mentioned last year that the cards themselves looked weird because of the solid silver, black, or red background. The reason the Chromes are so successful is because of how great the field pictures look on a chrome stock. It has always been an industry success story of how great chrome is, and when you take one of the elements out of it, things don’t look right. Its why foilboard always looks ridiculous, straight pics with no scenery don’t work. If it were flat stock it would be different a la SPA, National Treasures and Exquisite, but this doesn’t work.

Lastly, I do think this set looks better than last year, as some of the cards make last year’s look like they were designed by an amateur. However, this set is far from the level it should be at, despite the fact that it is a welcome January level product in September. I think Topps will no doubt have lots of success with it.

Topps Wants Feedback, So Im Going To Give It To Them

Over on the Topps Blog, they are holding a “contest” where collectors can answer five questions and win a box of Triple Threads or Topps Football (*gasp!*). These five questions are pretty soft, and I want a shot at answering them with a little more punch.

1. What products from our previous Topps football lines would you like to see us continue or bring back?

Obviously, people are going to want to see the return of the Chromes and products like Mayo or base Topps for the set collectors. The problem is that so many of their products are absolutely terrible. Mayo was god awful last year, especially with a lack of on card signatures. The design was boring, the checklist was ridiculously weak, and I fell asleep watching people open boxes of it. Because set collectors have such a small place in every sport but baseball, they are forced to settle for junk like Mayo. Then when you move into sets like Triple Threads, Sterling, and other high end releases, collectors are again forced to settle for less than poor. Topps created Platinum specifically to compete with SP Authentic, but how can a higher end version of Chrome with sticker autos compare to hard signed cards that look better than any other release from Topps’ entire calendar? Triple Threads is even worse, especially because Topps expects people to spend up to 170 dollars for a sticker scrub auto and a jersey card. I can spend 80 bucks on Ultimate and get cards that look that much better with hard signed signatures. Hell, even Limited cut triple threads a new asshole this year. 100 bucks and you get as many as two autos a box, three hits total. You want to know what products to bring back? How about focusing on creating products that give us something new and fresh, rather than just putting out the same sets with the same content year after year.
2. What new products or ideas would you like to see?
Oh man, where to start. I think its almost essential to focus on revamping the calendar as said above. I have already gotten word that Topps is not producing Bowman Chrome this year, despite the fact that it is one of the more popular sets that they put out. Instead of ditching products that add nothing to the calendar, a la Sterling, they continue to wonder why they cannot compete with the juggernauts that Upper Deck and Donruss put out each year. This has to do with two elements in their mid to high end products, Sticker autos and design. Starting with the stickers, it would be one thing if Topps used them effectively. When you consider how Panini and Upper Deck use their stickers, they try to camouflage them into the cards so that they do not distract from the card. Topps, on the other hand, either builds them into the design with a cutout, or draws attention to the sticker so that your eye immediately notices that its there. On cards like Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome, this is not a problem, but when moving into high end, its practically an expectation.
Secondly, with design, Topps low end sets are always top notch. Always. Then when you look at the products on their late release calendar, its one fail after another. Triple Threads, with all its rainbow neon foilboard glory, hasnt had a new concept since 2006. Whether its the terrible idea of spelling out things in die cut windows, or the fact that all of the cards have player pictures the size of a penny, one begins to wonder where the focus is. Is it stuffing as many relics onto a card as possible, or is it trying to actually make good looking cards.
3. Which 2010 NFL Rookies would you like to see us sign to autograph deals?
The great thing about the NFL is that there hasnt been any exclusive contracts. If they are referring to exclusive contracts with this question, I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of a terrible precedent. Exclusivity breeds boredom and blandness, so I will definitely be fucking angry if Topps thinks that this is a new opportunity to start a war.
4. Regarding our pr
oducts calendar, which releases would you like to see early in the season, late, etc?
I would like to see them move Chrome to a late release to get on card signatures, but really, I just want them to produce higher end products that appeal to those with the gift of sight. As it stands right now, their entire late calendar is below the bottom of the barrel. I would much rather support a Panini release with floating swatches than some of the fucking crap that Topps puts out with no inspiration. I know I sound like a broken record here, but I hear from trusted sources that Topps absolutely LOVES their late releases. If you have read this blog for any period of time, you know why that makes me feel cheated, especially when so many people start pulling out their hair with each preview that is released. Last year, Topps actually tried the first tri-fold card in a product. Yes, instead of actually designing something that fit on to one or two cards, they actually made one that exploded on to three. Why? With all that space, there wasnt even one redeeming factor other than the “rozduckulous” patches they tried to pull off. Yeah, I get that the patches were nice, but the card consisted of thin borders and no design elements. So fucking stupid.
5. Are there any NFL-related themes, anniversaries, celebrations, etc. you’d like to see featured in our 2010 products?
No, just make good looking cards. Keep Chrome the way it is. Revamp Triple Threads. Use stickers in a normal way. Thats all I fucking want from you.

How Not To Do A Cut Auto, Volume 1,000,000

Topps has a record of doing terrible things to cut auto cards, and in all honesty, they arent even the only one to do it industry wide. Either way, this card was brought to my attention, mainly because of how terrible the card looks. As usual, Topps didnt even try to make this card look good, and did even a worse job cutting the sigs. Cosigners has always been one of the worst looking products on the market, so this definitely doesnt surprise me.

Bascially, Cut autos have jumped the shark, and this one from 2007 was a good example of it. Collectors still clamor for any cut they can get their hands on for some reason, but this should show a little bit of why its important to think twice before emptying the bank account. For this price, one could easily obtain a Mantle Signed ball, a Dimaggio signed ball, an Arod ball, and a case to display them.
With that in mind, why even let the thought cross your mind to buy this junk?