There Is A Perfect Strasburg Storm A Comin’…

Topps is plowing through their late 2010 release calendar, and most of the products that populate that calendar are ones that I would love to see burned as a sacrifice to the almighty cardboard deities. The recently re-released Topps Tribute, Topps Sterling and Topps Triple Threads form the unholy trinity of Topps High end that I talk about as what to avoid, and I stand by that regardless of the gimmicks they use. This is mainly because the products focus more on packing cheap relics onto the cards than making cards that actually look good or have unique concepts. Topps Tribute may be a newer product than the old and stale Sterling and Triple Threads, but it is already falling into the familiar pattern of a design that doesn’t change, retina burning neon foil board, and stickers that are built into the design to draw your eye. Sounds like I have heard that one before, I wonder where?

Regardless of my feelings on these terrible excuses for products, there is one card that I believe could make more waves than people are expecting. Well, with all the parallels, its probably closer to 9000 cards. Of course, I am talking about the Triple Threads Stephen Strasburg Triple Relic Auto (OMGZ STRAS-JO!!11!!!!). Because Topps is actually taking the step to get some hard signed cards into the product for once in their life, this particular card should be one of those instances. Now, think about how perfect this storm is turning out to be. The people who pay 800 dollars for those Strasburg autos are probably the same people who buy four cases of Triple Threads each year. I see a distinct correlation between the two. I say this because it takes a certain type of person to buy Strasburg cards when they are selling as high as they are, and it also takes a certain type of person to love what Triple Threads brings the table each year. I think you catch my drift. When you combine the two, things could get ridiculous.

Even though the Stras cards from Triple Threads could end up being redemptions as a result of the timeframe needed to produce and sign the cards, it wont matter. Those people, you know which ones I am talking about, will go nucking futs when one is posted on eBay. Hell, they may even send it to Beckett and get it graded first, because after all, that group of people also overlaps this venn diagram from hell. Of course, this is after they post a card by card break on a message board, and combine it with a recap from their latest mail day. Yup, that’s about right.

The cards from Triple Threads will also be some of the first to have MLB Strasburg relics in them, something that will drive the prices even higher than they already would be. Yeah, see what I am saying? Its going to be like that movie with Jake Gyllenhaal, a hobby apocalypse, and I am going to be stuck shivering in the New York Public Library while the Triple Threaders are going to be making snow angels in the piles of two dollar hits they will get from their boxes outside.

Don’t get me wrong, Topps is doing everything right in this case. They have a player they can exploit like a sweatshop worker, and they have shown that they will plaster his face on any possible thing to sell more cards. Funny enough, collectors sure are responding like it’s a new concept. They don’t care if Topps puts out blowup Strasburg dolls that they can use in the privacy of their own home, they just want them and they will pay through the nose to get them. Its that crazy right now.

I still stand by the frame of reference of how popular a Nationals pitcher can become when someone like Tim Lincecum has already won 2 Cy Young Awards. Lincecum’s cards arent worth half of what Strasburg’s are right now, and he plays for a much more popular team. When was the last time you met a Nationals fan outside of Washington? Im pretty sure they don’t exist actually. So, if Strasburg goes on to win 2 Cy Youngs, like Lincecum already has, where does that put his value? Lincecum’s has already peaked and it isnt anywhere close to the value of a Bowman Strasburg auto. What does that say for future prospects of value? Its NOT likely that Strasburg will accomplish anything close to what Timmy Longhairs already has, and its actually more likely that he wont last more than a few years if fireballer history lives up to its name.

In all reality, I am going to sit back with a cold beer and watch the fireworks when Triple Threads hits shelves. Its like watching that kid open his Nintendo 64 on Christmas. Triple Threads collectors have very similar reactions in most cases, and it is equally hilarious. Even more so when this Christmas is Stras-mas too.

Triple Threads = Ratings

Topps released pictures from my absolute favorite set of the year today, and I think you will see why its my favorite each and every year it comes out. With what we saw from the 2010 set in the preview, it brought nothing but everything we expect from a Triple Threads set. Horribly designed cards with stickers built into the layout, so that they draw the eye away from the train wreck below. Cards printed on eye obliterating bright neon foilboard with more parallels than Panini could shake a stick at. Fold out booklet cards that are more concerned with spelling out obscure accomplishments in confusing die cut windows than actually making the card something to collect. A 180 dollar price point for two hits, one of which does not have an autograph. It makes me feel dumber knowing that I associate with collectors in this hobby that think this is ALWAYS the product of the year.

See that paragraph above? I wrote that two days after the release of the preview for the 2009 set. Almost 365 days ago. This set is so utterly predictable, that I could write an intro without even knowing what the 2010 cards would look like. In fact, these cards are so much more like 2009, 2008, and 2007, that there is not a visible difference other than the players on the card. I guess thats what you get with Topps High End. Overpriced boxes with ugly cards that only appeal to the people who dont consider what the actual product looks like, as long as it is stuffed full with “OMG MOJOZ!!!!111!” cards stuffed with 280 jersey pieces and five billion 1/1s.

I dont even think I need to say anything more about it. Its all been said before. Here is the preview, have fun. Im out.

Updates on the Fake Babe Ruth Cut From 2009 Triple Threads

Fake cut signature cards have been a huge issue for everyone involved since the time card companies started using deceased players as a chase for their higher end products. In 2008, Upper Deck received a ton of criticism and negative press for releasing a quad cut signature card with fake cuts in the card. It was featured on HBO and eventually the owner received some cards as a repayment that many collectors would kill for, including a replacement for the actual cuts themselves.

More recently, Topps has had a very similar problem with a card out of my all time favorite set, Triple Threads. In the 2009 product, a dual cut of Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig made the rounds as a card that was featured as THE chase for the product. It was pulled by a collector and immediately posted on eBay, as expected. Within a few days, rumors were running rampant that not only was the Ruth cut featured in the card not real, but that Topps knew ahead of time and still released the card. The auction was pulled and the card was submitted to a number of grading services to determine authenticity of both cuts, with mostly negative results. Although the Gherig was determined to be likely genuine, the Ruth received “no comment” or “not likely genuine” across the board.

After all of this took place, the collector placed the card on eBay AGAIN with wording that commented on the authenticity of the card according to Topps, not any of the services that had returned their opinions. It was pulled again, and the collector was left with a pretty large problem. Keep the card knowing it contained a fake signature, or sell the card under false or truthful pretenses. From the explanation given by the collector, Topps eventually produced the original COAs, and forced the collector to send in the card for further investigation. After a number of days, they have made good on their promise to replace the fraudulent signature, and the collector has a new card.

Personally, the way this was handled by both the collector and the company was terrible. The collector should not have relisted the card after getting bad news from all those services, and Topps should have made good immediately instead of dragging out the process.

When it comes down to it, cut signatures will always be a venture into trust. You have to trust the company that made the card, you have to trust the service that originally authenticated it, and you have to trust that the opinions of those people are correct. I do not have that trust under most circumstances, especially those of services like PSA, JSA, and company. I get that they cant always be perfect, but people treat them as such. PSA seems to have just as many problems as JSA, and a lot of collectors have sworn off authenticated autographs simply because of their past experiences. I only own one piece authenticated by either service, and I still question it to this day. It seems to me that PSA and JSA (especially JSA due to their partnership with Beckett) are only out to make money rather than performing a needed service for collectors. In the end, it will always come down your eye versus theirs, your level of expertise versus theirs and both your and their abilities to outsmart the douchebags out there that live off of selling fakes.

Watch your ass.

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.