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 Football – More Images

I just got an email with a bunch of images from 2010 Topps football, and I must say, this could be one of the best looking flagship Topps sets I have seen in a long time. Not only do the Rookie Premiere autographs look like they could be a great looking part of this product, they are finally SERIALLY NUMBERED!!! YES!!

In addition to a new draft focused subset, it also seems like they may do a new on card rookie auto set for this product as well, something that joins the Rookie Premieres in the cool looking designs for this year. All of this makes me feel pretty bad that the Vikings wont have a top rookie this year to collect, because their cards would look great in this design. Oh well, I have already adopted Toby Gerhart as my target, and Im sure I will add others like Eric Decker as the year goes on. Both are scheduled to be at the premiere.
Lastly, this just goes to show you how great low end Topps stuff is. Low end Topps always looks cool, has great structure to the products, and rarely misses the mark when living up to the hype. WHY CANT THEY TRANSFER THAT TO HIGH END?!?
Here are the images, lets hope the final product is as awesome as these look.

What 2010 Bowman Says About Exclusive Licenses

I think we have finally found a way that an exclusive license can be good. 2010 Bowman is the most hyped set since 2009 Ultimate Collection Baseball, and prices have been above ridiculous – getting ridiculous(er). One of the main reasons is because 2010 Bowman will be one of the only baseball sets released between now and September, and because the set has always been so widely collected. Because of the exclusive license, secondary market card prices have been higher than expected, as there is no hype building around any other product release. There just arent any other products out there to look at, so people are buying into this one full steam.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a great prospect class, as well as great rookies to drive the product, but that is only a slice of the pie. Really, Topps has shown that the cards they put out on the low end of things are going to be as good as they have ever been, despite not having anyone to compete with. At the same time, we are still getting a pretty good idea of why the exclusive continues to suck absolute donkey balls, as Triple Threads looks as boring and uninspired as ever. However, with Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome on the horizon, both looking to contain on card autographs from Stephen Strasburg and Jason Heyward, low end Topps may be the reason why collectors will forget that an exclusive even exists.

Personally, I hate exclusives all around, and I definitely believe that 2010 Bowman would have been as good as it is regardless of whether there were competing products. However, I feel a little better knowing that Topps did not take their foot off the gas for their staple sets. They easily could have avoided putting Strasburg in this set, or giving Heyward his third chrome card, but they still went after the jugular in trying to give fans what they want.

I also hope their gusto transfers into their football sets this year, as we are going to be getting a healthy dose of everything baseball. Topps Chrome, one of my favorite sets of the year, is back, and I hope that they give it as good of a treatment as they look to be giving everything else in their low end portfolio. Yet, I cant help but feel cheated, as they have done nothing but prove that they can only build on the existing rather than create new stuff. Last year’s calendar from Topps was filled with low end greatness and shitty attempts at producting higher end popularity. I sincerely hope that they take some notes from past successes and transfer them to a better idea for a new set. Hell, Platinum could be the equivalent of Topps Chrome and SPA’s love child if they did it right, and I am crossing my fingers that it turns out that way. Last year it wasnt. Mayo could be the football version of Allen and Ginter, like it was designed to be, but for some reason they just cant get the same sort of awesomeness packed into the product. Maybe this year will be different.

In all seriousness, I am extremely happy that 2010 Bowman did as well as it did despite a baseball exclusive. It shows that maybe there is still some hope for the industry side of a hobby that is focused on what is coming next.

My LEAST Favorite Day of the Year – 2010 Triple Threads Baseball

I fucking hate Triple Threads. Other than maybe moments and milestones or Topps Sterling, it is the worst product ever. Its stale, its boring, and most of all its got sticker autos, slapped on ridiculously stupid cut outs, printed on rainbow neon foil, with a million parallels. I dont know how there could be a worse product out there. On top of all that, it costs a shitload per box, and you only get one auto and one jersey card.

If Triple Threads were a car, it would be a Hummer. Big expensive car with no other purpose than for idiots to show off that they have one. The Hummer hasnt changed much since its release, and neither has Triple Threads. The cards look exactly the same as they did last year, the cutout swatch windows are some how harder to follow than last year, and the only improvement they can boast is that the Rising Stars cards you get 8 per case of are signed on card. Yippee. Glad they finally determined that the crappiest part of the product is the only part that is going to be on card. Other than that, its foil sticker autos that are BUILT into the fucking design. Yup, its just as ugly as ever.
Not only that, but they are bringing back all terrible booklet cards, even expanding some to stickers as well as the jersey patches and bat barrels. Yes, because the only thing those cards needed is a foil sticker that covers half the player. Nice fucking job. Hell, even the worst cards in the entire fucking hobby are back with their 24 weirdly placed relics on a booklet card. Im so happy that I can now have a card that confusingly spells out entire sentences!
You know what the saddest part is? This product costs more than just about any other product that comes out during the year. At $150-170 a box, you are guaranteed an auto and a jersey, but the quality and design of the cards are so poor that they hardly ever live up to value. Then when you think you have a special card, you realize there are five million just like it with different ugly neon colors in the background. When just about every product at or below 100 dollars offers better cards with hard signed signatures, this price tag seems ridiculous. Ill give you an example. Ultimate Baseball had an MSRP originally below 100 bucks a box. It offered better looking cards, hard signed signatures, and similar ridiculous patches. Not only that, but there was no foil board, and there was no stupid fucking swatch window cutouts.
Even worse than that, Topps fucking loves this product. Their brass thinks this product is the best thing on the fucking planet, and I hope they wise up to their horrible fucking viewpoint. They need to figure out that instead of re-releasing the same god damned product every single year with the same ugly design, they need to revamp this whole bitch and hire a design team that actually has the power of sight.
I talk bad about a lot of products, but nothing gets me fired up like High End Topps sets. They are just that bad. When you look at how good their low end stuff is, it really makes you wonder how they could fail so badly at their expensive stuff. The gap between the two ends of the spectrum is even worse in football, and yet people still give them a pass most of the time. Triple Threads personifies that drift, with so many people either loving it or hating it. I have noticed that since SCU began its personal vendetta against this product, there are a lot more people that are wising up to the worst product of the year. Im in no way meaning to insinuate that I had anything to do with it, I just think that more and more people each year start to get that vomit taste in their mouth whenever they see this preview.

Topps posted a ton of pictures, you can see the rest here.

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.