SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Topps Transcendent Baseball

This is where it happens. This is where High End becomes Dubai End. Topps went and built a box of cards that costs more than a brand new Honda Accord, and its kind of interesting because they sure didnt have much issue selling the whole run. Although the buyers looked to be more group breakers than regular collectors, its worth mentioning that this product has quite the checklist, and the invitation to hang with Kris Bryant is pretty cool.

Here are some of the cards so far:

2016 Topps Transcendent Collection Kris Bryant Retro Auto 1/1

2016 Topps Transcendent Vin Scully Auto /52

2016 Topps Transcendent Derek Jeter Auto 1/25

2016 Topps Transcendent Mike Trout Auto Inscription /52

Seeing Transcendent in action is a good representation of how far the group break phenomenon has penetrated the mindset of the product teams, as 10 years ago, this idea would have been laughed out of the building by every distributor in the market.

So, here is what you get for more than the yearly salary of 50% of Americans. A framed base set, 50 framed autos, a jumbo framed cut 1/1, a 1/1 Kris Bryant auto, an invitation to the Topps Kris Bryant party, a 1/1 sketch, and a set of serially numbered sketch cards. The signer checklist has pretty much everyone who is anyone on Topps’ roster, including John Boyega and Daisy Ridley. Jeter looks to be the best on the baseball side, although guys like Trout and A-rod have signed inscriptions on all cards they signed. Including that with guys like Aaron, Koufax, Harper and Bryant, and it becomes quite a bit of content that makes a group break pretty cool to participate in.

I think that the cards all look really nice, but its a little concerning that there isnt a single set in the product that has relics, which is disappointing. For 25k, you would expect at least a shot at an MLB logo auto or something per box. Dynasty is a better break at that end.

Personally, there isnt really much in this product that hasnt been offered before in some capacity, and although the cards look nice, I feel like the wow factor on the card side of things is missing. I really love the Bryant 1/1 set, and I love that most of the cards are framed, save the sketch set. Adding in the party invitation is a great perk as well, but again, I just feel like some of the content choices needed to be flushed out a bit more.

Regardless of how I feel about the content, I dont think Topps is having any issue moving the boxes, and I would guess that the people participating in the breaks and getting their hands on some of these cards feel pretty good too. I cant help but look at this for the full product, not seeing that most of these cards are sold as 160 dollar slots and someone is walking away with a windfall in just about every instance.

I think its a bold move to even try something like this, and I do give Topps credit for having the balls to release this without fear. However, I think there is room to go up from here, and to think that is pretty scary.

SCU Go Live Report – 2016 Topps Dynasty Baseball

Im not going to sit here and say that anything in this release is more important than the first autographs from Derek Jeter since UD's last few baseball products back in 2009-2010. Considering that the baseball world was literally put on hold while Jeter retired last year, it was disappointing that he didnt have autograph cards when he was the topic of discussion for the entire nation.

Dynasty is literally one of my favorite products that Topps makes, and its not even close. The last two years of Dynasty were so incredible looking that watching group breaks became a second job just to see all the crazy hits come out. Now that Jeter was going to be involved, a lot of collectors really started to go nuts in tracking down cases and boxes to get a shot at what they believed would be the best product of the year.

Here are some of the cards that are garnering quite the buzz so far:

2016 Topps Dynasty Derek Jeter Tag Patch Auto 2/5

2016 Topps Dynasty Derek Jeter Patch Auto 10/10

2016 Topps Dynasty Ichiro Suzuki Auto Patch /10

2016 Topps Dynasty Kris Bryant Auto Patch Logo /5

2016 Topps Dynasty Mike Trout Auto Patch /10

Although I agree that it is still loaded from a card quality perspective, I am not a fan of the design, photos or look of the set at all this year. The closely cropped posed photos and bland design without ornate elements is really a detriment to the set, and I am shocked that Topps decided to go this direction. Although I like that they are taking card stock cues from Definitive Collection football, I dont think the design created as dynamic a look as it did in its football use.

As for the man himself, saying prices are insane right now is a bit of an understatement. Jeter is generating exactly the kind of attention that I would guess Topps was expecting from a set like this, and it will make your year if you can hit a nice one. Although there will be more of his cards on the way, this could end up being one of the best Jeter cards to own, solely because the game used relics are so big.

Im quite disappointed with the final result here, but I know I will be in the minority. I could have just wrote Jeter Jeter Jeter over and over again for this article, and it would be a perfect representation of what everyone is thinking. Sadly no one is going to give a shit about the design, and thats just the way it is.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Encased Football

If anyone wonders why I bash Panini like a pinata any chance I get, this set is prime example. Over the course of 2016, Panini has done absolutely nothing to show they deserve the NFL exclusive, and seeing this new product is even more evidence that they probably dont deserve to have any licenses. Their continued obsession with these goofy looking awkward posed photos is nauseating, and I am literally sitting here laughing that someone on their product team green lighted this disaster.

What is even more concerning is that they dont seem to see the writing on the wall when it comes to developing new brands. Shit like this product wont bring new innovation to the table, as it is literally the same garbage they put out regularly with a new name. Its one thing to put together a white dominated design, which can work if done right. Its another thing to use a super zoom photo of a player’s back that was already used in Prizm and looked terrible there too.

I hate this. I knew this is what the Panini exclusive would amount to, and the look on Jared Goff’s face is that of how I am taking this first year under the Panini banner. What should have been an absolutely incredible year is marred with overproduction, terrible designs, and new products that make 2012 Bowman Draft look like its a worthwhile product. I never believed that Panini would literally take a nose dive off the deep end, but here we are.

I could only imagine what would happen if Topps were still around to take Panini to task, as digital is showing that the brands we love would have been amazing in a physical world. Instead we are left with a visual that looks like the port-a-potty outside a tailgate. Yup, that’s how bad football is right now. Pretty horrible picture in your head, and that’s not even putting it close to the car accident that represents Panini’s attempt at a product calendar.

At first it was bitterness that the sport I love would be dominated by a company that literally does not know how to make good football cards. Now its despair that this is what we will be forced to endure for the next 10 years. My hatred can only be expressed in the 400 point font that they used for Will Fuller’s hideous card in this preview. Fuck us all.

2016 Best and Worst of Football Cards So Far

We are more than halfway through the football card year, and now that the regular season is starting to wrap up, I wanted to talk about some of the things I have really liked about football this year, and what hasnt worked as well. Its actually kind of interesting to look at the product listings on Blowout, as there is still A LOT of red slashes through prices, even though the Cowboys are creating a hobby perfect storm. Here are my thoughts so far.

Leaf Pre-Draft Products – Best

I was kind of scared coming into 2016, as Panini has a history of going off the deep end with their exclusives. As if on cue, Leaf made them look absolutely fucking goofy with Metal Draft and Trinity looking amazing with on card autos, and all of Panini’s products being sticker garbage. Leaf needs to be commended for what they were able to accomplish. Trinity’s inscriptions alone were worth the price of admission, and Tom Brady in the draft product was worth a box break and then some.

Here are some of my favorites:

206 Leaf Trinity Ezekiel Elliott Inscription Auto BGS 9.5

206 Leaf Trinity Dak Prescott Tag Logo Auto 2/5

206 Leaf Trinity Carson Wentz Auto RC BGS 10

Panini Inception Origins – Best

No surprise that Origins was good, it was literally a pound for pound rip off of Topps’ popular product, right down to the design and name. That being said, Panini needed to take note of both the stock and finish of the cards Topps used, because Origins looked cheap. Sadly, there were more 00 jerseys than Topps ever had, with only 5 or 6 players getting their actual jersey numbers. Topps usually waited until the last possible second to go to press, and Panini didnt seem to do that. Either way, since there wasnt a lot of good so far this year, im giving this a thumbs up. Kind of sucks to win by default, but that’s what we are categorizing as a victory.

Some of the better cards:

2016 Origins Ezekiel Elliott / Derrick Henry Dual Auto Booklet /5

2016 Origins Dak Prescott Gold Auto /25

2016 Origins 6 Auto QB Booklet /5

Panini Impeccable – Best

This was one of the only legit bright spots of the entire year. Impeccable is a great product from top to bottom, and looks like I would expect most super premium sets to look like. On card autos, great looking design, nice checklist, and only a few redemptions. I think that if I am building a new set, this is how I look to cultivate a brand. No stupid posed photos, no giant white boxes for the signatures, and overall flow to the set. I loved it.

Check these out:

2016 Impeccable Tom Brady Auto Patch /5

2016 Impeccable Brett Favre Jumbo Patch Auto /10

2016 Impeccable Marcus Mariota Auto Patch /25

All Other Panini New Products – WORST

I literally think the rest of the products Panini created this year are so fucking horrendous that I cant even put enough nasty adjectives in this sentence to describe the shit fest. Unparalleled and Infinity are so bad, that they are already below dealer cost in a year that every product should be selling like hot cakes. Phoenix is even worse, with one of the worst looking designs I have ever seen. I still dont understand why its called Phoenix either? Then lets talk about Gala, which isnt 100% new, but I fail to see why Panini even decided to port it over from Basketball. It tanked there too, and yet, here it is. As close to an F minus as something to get. If Rotten Tomatoes had a ranking for these products, they wouldnt even crack Gigli numbers.

Just the worst cards in a long long time:

2016 Unparalleled Carson Wentz Auto Patch RC /25

2016 Infinity Jared Goff Auto Metal /8

2016 Phoenix Michael Thomas Auto Patch

The Invasion of College Products – Worst

I understand that NCAA branded cards have a niche out there, but that niche cannot support a whole product line, let alone 8. Panini has diluted good brand names with some crazy shitty products, and I dont get why they even used something like Black Gold, which doesnt sell on the pro level. Bottom line, Panini is flooding the market with so many shitty products, that the shops cant even sell what they have before they are burdened with 3 more things on their shelf. This is a disaster made worse by a needless license they shouldnt have bought.

Panini’s Low End Offerings – Best

I was actually surprised by the way Panini used low end to create some good products. Donruss wasnt bad, and Playoff isnt actually horrible either. I liked Donruss better last year, but in comparison to the rest of the products you have to look hard to find good stuff.

Topps Digital Football – Best

Well, Topps is out of football, but Huddle is still around and creating some cards that are showcasing much better design than Panini could ever hope for. They just released the digital version of Inception last week, and it comes on the heels of an incredible thanksgiving campaign that really was quite impressive. While Panini’s digital app continues to shit the bed, Topps continues to showcase that they can be dangerous without a physical license.

The Cowboys’ Rookie Class – Best

Im pretty sure someone at Panini sacrificed something to the football gods, because the only reason they are even reasonably successful is because Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are having historic seasons. In a year where bad products out number good products 3:1, these rookies make everything much more bearable. If they can put it together and get to the Super Bowl, look out!

Football’s Future – Worst

Right now, its abundantly clear that Panini has done everything in their power to make us hate their products, only for the rookies to save their ass. If that isnt scary enough, I dont see much evidence that they are bringing that many more new people to the hobby. It looks like they are just getting more out of people who are already collectors. In order to make up the massive minimum guarantees they have made to the NFL, they are going to need something like Dak and Zeke to happen every year or they will be quite a bit in the red. Considering most sports fans think Panini is a sandwich and not a card company, there is no national presence to build a new hobby around. Its bad, as Topps at least had a brand that so many of us recognized outside of the hobby. You need to expand the pie or this industry wont be sustainable. Shops are suffering because they cant make money on wax, and when another 2013 rolls around, its going to be a blood bath with 31 flavors of turd put out by Panini NFL and NCAA. Im frightened.

As we get further into the year, Im wondering how the big products are going to shape up. They better be on point or Im going to lose my shit. That’s all I gotta say.

Are These the Worst NFL Trading Cards of the Year?

One of the main reasons I hate Panini’s product line as much as I do is their choice of photos. For whatever sick reason, Panini seems to want to paint athletes as different than the warriors they are on the field, using posed glamour shots taken inside as subject matter, instead of the insanely dynamic action photos that football is known for. Every last fucking product has some photo from the Rookie Premiere, where Panini thinks its attractive to ask Carson Wentz to stare blankly into a camera. They are the only ones in football to use this approach on a continual basis, and none of this is more evident than a recent set from Absolute. Ill warn you ahead of time, this is not a joke. These cards do exist.

Good god, the horror:

2016 Panini Absolute Eric Decker Men's Lifestyle Relic

2016 Panini Absolute Von Miller Relic

2016 Panini Absolute Charles Woodson Relic

Here is my thing. I hate posed photos as a whole. I understand that photos taken by pros on the sidelines cost money to obtain rights to. I also understand that the NFL probably wants sets like this to be used to highlight their brand. Regardless of this situation, I still cannot stop laughing. It also brings about fits of anger, because the rookie garbage that Panini has used for years (Initial Steps anyone?) has showcased a long storied past of making absolutely horrid photo choices across the product calendar. So much so that Panini seemingly seeks out new ways to get the rookies off the field and into their studio.

Historically, trading cards have featured posed photos on the baseball side, some of which I would guess has to do with licensing and technology available. In the era of high speed cameras and digital photography, along side massive trading card budgets, the excuse is gone. There is no more reason to use a photo of Kris Bryant sniffing his fucking bat like a goon.

Football is war. If you are a fan of the game, its likely because of the constant action and absolute brutality that is involved in the game. Although sports figures have likely become more and more focused on creating brands, only a small handful know how to and want to participate in that side of the game. For 99% of the league, the brand the players create is in uniform with full warpaint. If you saw some of these guys walking down the street, they would stick out, but for so much of the league, they would not be recognizable by name. This is different in almost every other sport, and Panini just doesnt get how to properly present football players. I blame the product team and the design team for going at it from this angle, and I will never support a product that uses this awkward garbage.

I have started to see trends on the secondary market as well, where brands that feature this type of picture dont seem to perform as well. There are a lot of factors that go into what sells and what doesnt, but this is starting to swing more and more against Panini’s use of posed photography center stage. Maybe collectors are voicing opinion with their wallet, that pictures of Ezekiel Elliot fake running arent as cool as Elliot ACTUALLY running on the field during the premiere. Hell, Panini owns both of those shots.

Bottom line, these stupid Men's style cards are ripe for parody, much like the time Beckett tried to employ love and relationship advice for collectors. Panini’s brands are worse off as a result of these choices, and for the sake of football, I hope they pull their head out of their ass. Once another 2013 comes around, there wont be Dak or Zeke to save them from themselves.