2012 Topps Finest is Back With Big Improvements

Finest has been live now for a few days, and we are starting to see some of the bigger hits pop up on eBay. This year, much to my surprise delivers some nice content on top of a tremendous look to the cards. I really do think that this year’s product improves on many aspects of last year’s product, including many of the elements that could have even been considered failure.

Here are some of the bigger cards:

2012 Finest Andrew Luck Red Atomic Refractor Auto

2012 Finest Andrew Luck Pulsar Refractor Patch Auto

2012 Finest Trent Richardson Red Refractor Auto

2012 Finest Robert Griffin III Jumbo Relic Auto Red Refractor

My favorite cards have to be the on card autographs that made their debut in 2011’s set, and are back with a vengeance this year. Additionally, with this year’s design more friendly to signatures, they just look that much better. The curved minimalist approach with team colored borders adds a ton to the aesthetics of the design, only made that much more appealing by great photo choices.

Moving onto the patch autos and the jumbo relics, both improved greatly this year thanks to better planning of the card’s spaces. They both fit the overall theme of the set a lot better, and the team color composition does wonders for cards that may have otherwise been awkward. The patch autos have the best improvement over 2011, most impressively with the change to more distant photographs. Last year’s were close up and somewhat goofy, where these are much more sleek and understated.

I also think that the atomic refractor, with the on card signatures look really good, especially compared to the disastrous ones from last year. The design is a lot more sympathetic to what I thought the cards should look like, especially with moving away from crazy die-cutting that takes away from the appeal.

As for the drawbacks, the numbering on a lot of the cards is WAY to high to still be included. When cards are numbered higher than 500, its better to just let the mystery stay a mystery. Numbering cards to over 1200 is like calling attention to the fact that the pull you just had is not at all special.

I have similar feelings about some of the new refractors, as they can be distracting in a lot of the examples I have seen. Its one thing to have colors and chrome style reflection points, but to use this pulsar texturing is well past the point of potentially causing seizures. That’s bad.

My finest box was a blast to open, and I was really impressed with the way it turned out. As I said before, even the Finest Moments cards are cooler looking this time around, and that is a victory in itself. I pulled a Brock Osweiler Patch Auto Gold Refractor /75, and a Jarius Wright Jumbo Auto numbered to eleventy billion or $texas depending on which way you look at it. I watched a few other breaks, and saw a lot of reasons that the SP list will damage this product’s capabilities to sustain value. If Luck, RGIII and Richardson were numbered higher, and the others were numbered lower, I think more people would pay 120 bucks a box instead of 105, and still be satisfied.

Regardless, Topps has to be satisfied with the way this turned out, and as someone without a rookie to collect this year, I am too.

This Card Shows That Collectors Still Love Tiger

When 2009-10 Exquisite rolled out, it was less than a few months after the previous year’s release had hit shelves. That didn’t stop Upper Deck from inserting a few of the most ridiculous cards in the history of the brand into the boxes. The biggest of the big hits were the dual autos that featured Tiger Woods with either LeBron James or Michael Jordan, with much of of the print runs featuring great patches from all three players.

The cards were so low numbered that it was expected that they may outsell the EXTREMELY scarce Tiger Woods Exquisite Patch autos from 2008 Exquisite Football. The first of the cards from this run hit eBay a while ago, with LeBron James and Tiger on the card and sold for over $20,000. Now, another one has surfaced, and it is already fetching the price of a car, despite the scandals Woods has faced. Crazy. Sure helps that one of the patches features a logo from Wood’s polo shirt.

I would assume that this will be the last card of its kind ever to be produced, but with Exquisite Football supposedly making a comeback this year after reports of its demise, who knows. Either way, no card will ever be able to touch the star power of Jordan and Woods, and that is exactly why this may be a once in a lifetime situation.

Beware Fake Sticker Autos

I have discussed problems with the use of sticker autos many times before, and the particular problem stemming from affixing fake stickers to cards is not new. For a period of about 3 months last year, eBay was flooded with sticker autographs that had been stuck to cards that werent meant to be autos. In most cases, the autographs were so blatantly fake that it was laughable, however, some still garnered very high bids. It went away after this site and a few others, along with the message boards, posted numerous accounts of how easy it was to create.

Im not going to go into how to do it, but basically, cheap auto stickers are wiped, peeled off the original cards, re-signed and affixed to better cards. Chrome was a favorite target because the base rookie auto cards have few differences from the actual legit signed ones. Well, at least one seller has found out what to do and is bringing these cards back.

Here is the example Adrian Peterson that was just pulled from the block.  For your reference, here is a legit autographed 2007 Peterson Bowman Chrome. You know this isnt the auto version of the card because it doesn’t have the line above the sticker auto where the brightness of the photo changes to accommodate the signature. As if that wasn’t enough, you can even see the peel marks on the bottom right hand corner where he took it off the other card.

Guys, just because a sticker is on a card, doesn’t mean it is real. Keep in mind that if there is money to be made in any part of this industry, someone will find a way to take advantage of it.

Can Ultimate Hold Up Without the NFL?

Upper Deck posted a first look at 2010 Ultimate football on their facebook page, the first higher end set they will release without the aid of an NFL license. Like Ultimate last year, the product looks to feature quite a few hard signed cards, as well as a few surprises. Over the last few years, UD has built Ultimate into an autograph hunter’s dream set with more inscriptions than you can shake a stick at, and from the looks of it, that will continue this year too. The question is, will collectors embrace a set like this when their favorite rookies and veteran players are pictured in their college uniforms instead of their NFL ones?

My stance on Upper Deck has always been that they deliver the most visually appealing cards in the game. Its the sole reason I never hesitate to buy into their product lines. No matter what set they put out, the cards always look great, and for 2010 Ultimate, that has not changed. The cards look amazing, especially the rookie signature cards and the shout out signature cards. Although not all of the cards were in the right format, once I inverted the color schemes on the messed up photos, even they looked great. Its actually scary to me how far ahead of Panini and Topps they are in terms of design appeal, and it continues to prove that a company can have a seat at the table, even without an NFL license.

Like many collectors, I will probably sit this one out because of a lack of NFL jerseys, but for those people who dont care, this product will not fall short in delivering some of the best looking cards of the year.

Target Field Impresses On Every Level

As I said in my previous post, my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to have some great seats for yesterday’s Twins/Rangers game. Ever since the stadium bill passed a few years ago, I have been absolutely longing to go to an outdoor baseball game in Minnesota. Luckily for me, we got to see a good team and a Twins win, as well as experience everything that Target field has to offer.

We got to the stadium around 7pm for a 7:40 first pitch, but it was already packed because of the 50 greatest Twins ceremony they were doing before the game. We walked around and checked out some of the features of the new stadium, especially the Kirby Puckett artwork that was displayed in the front of the building. Every part, from the stone work to the grass on the field was impressive, and I really couldnt believe how distant of a memory the Metrodome had become.

Our seats were equally impressive, five rows from the field on the first base side. As we were arriving to our spots, both Danny Valencia (the new 3B) and JJ Hardy were signing for a few fans that had gathered at the gate to the grass. I didnt realize how close we actually were until I looked over and saw Orlando Hudson and Michael Cuddyer warming up. Because of the way Target Field is set up, you feel like you are right in the field of play, and it translated even more so once the game actually started.

The game itself was great, despite the cold temperature, and both my wife and I had a great time taking in all the sites and sounds. I would love to come back for a playoff game, as I would expect the atmosphere to be electric, mainly because it was electric last night with a rookie pitcher on the mound.

Here are some of the pictures we took:

Mauer going to the dugout before the game

From the Concourse Concessions

View from our seats

I love me some Target Field

Before the 1st Pitch

Mauer at the dish

One of my favorite parts of the new field

Mauer after the game