Tim Duncan – One of the Greatest Steps Away

CaptureAs someone who has lived in San Antonio for the last 6 years, there is nothing bigger than the Spurs. Its one of the only major cities that has a huge population among the top 10, but only one sports team in the major sports. Its clear that while the Spurs have won title after title during the last 15 years, one player has been so vital to their success that he is the biggest celebrity in the city. Today Tim Duncan announced his retirement. His cards are infrequent, but the big ones are now more in demand than they have been in the last few years.

Check out some of the prices his cards with the recent announcement:

1997 Topps Chrome Tim Duncan RC Refractor BGS 9.5

2001 Topps Stadium Club Tim Duncan / Shaquille Oneal Dual Auto

2004-05 Luxury Box Tim Duncan Auto

1997-98 Fleer Metal PMG Red Tim Duncan BGS 9.5

This is pretty significant for the NBA, because he might be the best power forward in the history of the game. Not only that, but he has also rarely participated in autographing trading cards for the card companies, something that is almost unheard of in today’s “everyone has a signature card x100000” environment. The best part about Duncan is not just that he was such a dominating force on the court, but also because his cards are so under appreciated for his level of production.

His Chrome RC goes for a ton, as does his Fleer Metal stuff, but in a time where cards were over produced, a top RC like his might be undervalued. You cant get a 9.5 for a bargain rate, especially with how much attention his retirement is getting. Outside of that, the cards just dont have the traction because they arent signed.

For someone as good as Tim Duncan was, you would think his cards should be among the top cards in the game. Some of them highly sought after, but without supply, the examples of 10k card sales just arent there the way they are for Lebron and others. I met Tim a few years ago at a work event, and he was probably the nicest guy I have met in sports. He also made it very clear that he wasnt around for the accolades and the personal achievement. He was there to be a part of the winning culture that the Spurs had built. Personally, I dont buy into “the guy is just a winner” bullshit, as intangibles rarely make a difference unless talent is already in play. Its just something nice a commentator can say to make themselves seem like they are worthy of trust from the viewers.

Duncan was a winner, not because of his intangibles, but because of his results. Results that no other NBA power forward has had in decades. Coupling that with his year over performance should get him more credibility than it does with collectors. People like the razzle dazzle, and they like big personalities. Duncan was never someone who subscribed to any of that, so its no surprise he really never got in big with any of the card companies. Someone with his resume has likely been on everyone’s radar for years, but Tim’s personality must not lend itself to a big deal like that.

I dont follow the NBA very much, but I will say that the Spurs have made me into a fan. Duncan was my guy, and I am sad he has decided to retire. That being said, there is still a pretty bright future in San Antonio, and though I have since moved back to Minnesota, I will forever be a fan.

What Happened to the 2015 Master Class of Rookies?

There might not have been a better year for baseball rookies than 2015, a situation that was so good, the hobby flourished for the first time in years. Now that we are coming up on the all star break for 2016, there have been more flame outs than expected, even if that isnt the final endpoint for many of these guys.

Kris Bryant – 2015 ROY

Of all the guys in the class, Bryant is still at the top and deserves it. Although Correa looked like as good a bet last year, Bryant has since shown everyone that he deserves the top billing. The Cubs are one of the best teams in the league, and Bryant might be well on his way to leading them to the promised land. His 25 HR is just a crazy total for someone his age, and I would say that its a good thing for the hobby he is holding strong.

Check out his cards right now:

2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Auto RC BGS 9.5

2016 Stadium Club Kris Bryant Beam Team Auto /5

2015 Heritage Kris Bryant Auto RC SSP

Carlos Correa – 2015 ROY

Unlike 2015, where you literally could not get him out, this year has been rough for both him and the Astros. Their cinderella story last year didnt translate to a fast start to the year, and Correa’s batting stats didnt get him a nod to the all star roster. Although that is FAR from the definitive measure of a player, its telling that he hasnt quite matched his potential from last year. He isnt playing anywhere close to bad, but he isnt the superstar player he was last year, either.

Here are his cards right now:

2013 Bowman Chrome Carlos Correa Auto BGS 9.5

2013 Bowman Inception Carlos Correa Auto RC

Kyle Schwarber

He stormed onto the scene last year, and played exceptionally well through the whole season. This year’s campaign was cut short early on, and these types of injuries are never great. However, with the way people have been able to recover, Schwarber could come back good as new. We will have to wait and see for 2017, and that hurts hobby value a bit.

Miguel Sano

The Twins are fucking terrible, and it sucks that they fell so far after being a few games back of the playoffs last year. Like Houston, they dragged off to a horrid start in April, and Sano really had a lot of reason to do with it. The team’s acquisition of Byung Ho Park pushed Sano out of the DH spot, and for some god forsaken reason, they put him in RF. This led to some pretty hilarious bloopers, of which none are good for his hobby value. Now that he has settled in at 3rd with an injury to Trevor Plouffe, he has shown that it was the team making dumb plays putting him in RF, instead of his own lack of skill. He should end up hitting 30 HR, but because he has signed so much, his cards have never had a huge amount of value.

2016 Museum Collection Miguel Sano Framed Auto

Byron Buxton

Last year was a struggle for Buxton at the plate, but he flourished in the field. His speed is top notch, and he needs to develop more before a final judgement can be made. That being said, his stats are not great, and that’s what collectors like. Since he is still so young, its far from a time to give up on him.

Jung Ho Kang

Before he got injured last year, he was playing very well to the point that he was in the ROY discussion. Since then, he has fallen back to earth, and has been accused of sexual assault. Even if the charges are dropped, the blemish is there. Kang just isnt the guy I am looking to put money into at this point.

Francisco Lindor

Like Bryant, Lindor has reclaimed the magic on a surging Indians team. He has great hitting stats, and has played well in the field. It led to an all star appearance for him, and we could see his value skyrocket in the playoffs if Cleveland continues to play out of their mind. Lindor plays a value position, so its going to be interesting if the hobby reacts. His stuff was relatively cheap last year, and they havent picked up too much this year.

2011 Bowman Chrome Francisco Lindor Auto RC BGS 9.5

Joc Pederson

Like his second half last year, Pederson hasnt really matched his torrid pace to start 2015. He has struggled at the plate to get any real traction, and the Dodgers recently placed him on the DL with a shoulder injury. Not a good way to close out the first half. Going to be interesting if he can grow at the dish, because he really has some great skills.

Again, as said before, baseball prospecting can be as much of a crap shoot as football. I dont think the final verdict is in for most of these guys, but the window might be closing to get any real hobby value built up. Bryant still rules the roost, but a season and a half does not a career make. Keep that in mind.

2016 Bowman Inception is Turning Heads With Top Hits

In terms of brand names in the card industry, there arent many product lines I like better than Inception. When Topps brought the brand to the Bowman line a few years ago, I was ecstatic, if not only because it meant more exposure for the product in other sports. Now that football is gone, save the Panini Origins ripoff, I am glad that the name and theme can be carried on. This year's set plays off of successful examples from previous editions, and that means this is going to be another fun year of this set.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2016 Bowman Inception Bryce Harper Inceptionized RC Auto

2016 Bowman Inception Kenta Maeda Auto Purple RC

2016 Bowman Inception Yoan Moncada Auto RC

2016 Bowman Inception Dansby Swanson Auto RC

Although the appeal of Inception on the baseball side isnt what it is on the Football side, its more a result of how many rookie cards exist for each player than the brand itself. In football, these were some of the first cards in pro uniforms for the rookies, and hard signed autographs are much more of a treat. That doesnt mean baseball is any less attractive, its just not as novel. It has led to the product being more of an add on than a staple, and that can be sort of a bummer.

That being said, the cards look absolutely tremendous, as they always do. The “Inceptionized” Bowman cards are back again, this time with some veteran firepower, and boy are they as cool as ever. This year’s version of Bowman was great looking, and it transitions exceptionally well to this format. Similarly, the rest of the subset autos look just as good, with a lot of great looking designs that are plays off of the main theme. Silver signatures have always been one of my favorites, and this year is no exception.

Before you go diving head first into boxes, this set is very hit and miss, especially if you dont pull one of the bigger names. 5 autos per box is a good clip to take a shot, but it isnt as much of a sure thing as people think. I do believe its a fun rip if you buy a number of boxes, and usually there will be a bigger name a lot more frequently than in football.

Again, if you are a prospect focused collector, you will not be disappointed at all. Even though Maeda and Bregman are redemptions, there are a lot of nice names on this list to get some big hits.

Picture Perfect: Why 2016 Topps Stadium Club is a Must See Set

There is one element of card “design” that I feel makes or breaks a look, and it has become a lost art in my opinion. Player photography has been a main reason why I will over pay to get a card, but it can also be a reason why I want to avoid a product completely. Companies like Panini have shown time and time again that they have no fucking clue how important a player photo is to a card. Its also one of the main reasons I hate their products as much as I do. When you fall on your face in choosing player photos as much as they do, its hard to be a fan.

Enter Topps and their reimagined Stadium Club brand. Over the last few years, Topps has put a premium on great photos for the set, choosing to let the pictures be the design, and keeping everything else at a minimum. After seeing some of the results for the 2016 edition of the set, all I can say is that the time and effort that Topps put into the product to choose the photos was well worth it. The cards look absolutely awesome in their presentation, with a focus on the fun side and visual side of baseball.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

2016 Stadium Club Clayton Kershaw Auto Gold /25

2016 Stadium Club Mike Trout Photo Variation

2016 Stadium Club Robinson Cano Auto Orange 1/1

2016 Stadium Club Adam Jones Base /10

2016 Stadium Club Willie Mays Base Foil /25

2016 Stadium Club Mike Trout Base Orange B&W

Instead of choosing photos that capture the usual parts of the game, they instead looked for other ways to showcase what baseball is all about. Sometimes the result is funny, sometimes its intense. Because it works so well both ways, the set benefits as a whole. That isnt saying it doesnt have some of the more traditional approaches to photos, but that’s not why people buy Stadium Club. People have started to buy the set to appreciate the parts of the game that they identify with, not the normal fielding and batting pictures that are all over every other set.

Add in the hard signed autographs and it only gets better. Finding a way to incorporate the autograph content and still be able to showcase what makes the cards great is a true accomplishment. So many times we are left with autographs despite the overall visual appeal of the set, and thats when things get more into what Panini thinks is the best way to approach a design.

I havent even gotten into the co-signers cards, beam team cards, or Lone Star Signatures – all of which are throwback to the versions of the set that I loved in my youth. Stadium Club was a high end set back in the day, and cards like Beam Team were prized possessions.

If you havent decided on a box to break or just want to enjoy opening packs of great looking cards, this is the product for you. Not too expensive, not too much going on, but a lot of great cards to gaze upon as you rip through the wax. There are some bigger hits in the set, dont get me wrong, but that isnt the way to truly appreciate Stadium Club.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Panini Elite Football Product Review

Elite is an interesting product, if not only because of its place in the hobby, measured against the lack of true changes to anything regarding the set in many years. It has been around forever, going back to the previous eras of modern cards, and in football, the same is true. The problem is that in many cases, the product isnt really as relevant any longer because of the shift towards higher end releases in recent years. This year's set is the same configuration as it was prior to its disappearance in 2015.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2016 Panini Elite Jared Goff Auto RC /25

2016 Panini Elite Derek Henry On Card Auto

2016 Panini Elite Joey Bosa/Braxton Miller/Cardale Jones Triple Auto

2016 Panini Elite Bo Jackson Gold Tire Track Pattern 1/1

I dont actually mind the base design all that much, but it seems like Panini is trying to rebrand the look of the set without really putting much effort into it. It has always looked more along the lines of what we saw with other pre-season sets and less about crazy patterns and stuff. The low numbered cards and parallels have always been a fun part of the set, and with a few major exceptions, Elite has been nice. The die cuts that have become synonymous with the set are even tasteful and not gimmicky.

My one complaint here is that there is a college element AGAIN with this set. Stickers and college jerseys are becoming the Panini M.O. and it is fucking annoying. We have premiere photos in the set, so I know Mini camp stuff and retouched action shots with pro uniforms are available. Im not seeing a lot of it.

The main box hits are the Pen Pals this year, and they literally make me want to claw at my eyes to make the pain disappear. Its retouched NFL profile pics, and the players look about as goofy as ever. They are borderline mug shots, and it is complete fucking garbage. Considering how good some of the on card stuff has been in the past for Elite, this is a giant slap in the face.

Overall, Elite will be forgotten by the time things really get going and Panini should be ashamed of themselves for that reason. Elite is a big brand for them and thanks to poor planning and product positioning, its a joke. Really too bad, because I was excited when I heard it was coming back. Then again, all products are coming back, including the shitty ones, as Panini needs all the help they can get to make their exclusive work.