SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps High Tek Baseball

I like simplicity. Simplicity is one of the more underrated concepts in the hobby when it comes to design, and it bothers me. That being said, there were a lot of collectors who came into the peak of their collecting years during the late 1990s who will disagree with me.

They like things shiny and busy. Topps has taken this to heart in creating a few product concepts this year, and this week’s release of Topps High Tek is one of them. Im just not a fan.

2014 Topps High Tek Mike Trout On Card Red Auto /10

2014 Topps High Tek Jose Abreu On Card Auto RC

2014 Topps High Tek Jose Canseco Black Auto 1/1

2014 Topps High Tek Nolan Ryan B&W Auto /15

Usually, whenever a set has acetate cards, Ill take a look. If the acetate cards are hard signed, I will usually be all over it. For whatever reason, High Tek (another awful 1990s name) is one of those sets that breaks from my normal affinity for the combination. The cards are shiny, full of patterns, and look like they are straight out of 1997.

I understand why Topps is going to this well again, as collectors seem to be like babies in that sense. If the design is busy and shiny, they are happy regardless of how horrible the design looks. Its almost like a set of keys for an infant. Shiny and noisy! All things considered, though, there will be a lot of people who will love every last card that is populating this returning beast.

On the other hand, this is a pretty low cost box for the checklist and on card autos that it houses. I was pretty surprised to hear this comes in at under 100 bucks a box, which I believe will appeal to many of those individuals who made the 1990s their wheelhouse.

I guess I should become more accustomed to the “retro nostalgic but not vintage” feel that we are likely going to be seeing more often if this set finishes as well as it looks like it will.

Hobby Win: Has the Johnny Manziel Era Finally Been Given the Green Light?

This past Sunday was a big day for the hobby, believe it or not. For the first time this year, Johnny Manziel finally got some legitimate playing time when the Browns got down 17 points versus the Bills. The current situation in Cleveland is murky for the first time all year, with Brian Hoyer experiencing setbacks in throwing interceptions and losing games. This means, for the first time as well, Manziel's increased playing time and hobby super-stardom is also becoming closer to a reality.

Since Sunday, you can see that collectors are a bit more back on board with Manziel. It will climb as he is named starter:

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel Auto Patch

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel Auto Money Manziel Inscription

2014 Flawless Johnny Manziel Auto RC 1/1

2014 Crown Royale Johnny Manziel Silhouette Auto Patch

Let’s face it, despite having very little playing time to his name this year, Manziel is still the top rookie in the class. His rare combination of fame and potential is a hobby formula for success even if he doesnt play well at first. Although his prices have dropped significantly he is still the rookie that everyone wants to pull from their box. He is either someone you want to keep for your PC, or sell to someone who is one of his many fans.

The other issue is that the other QB targets this year havent exactly had stellar breakout seasons so far. From the top to the bottom it hasnt been all that wonderful. The Jury on Blake Bortles is still out, despite being near the top of every category a rookie QB does not want to be at. He is having major issues with turnovers on a terrible team, and it doesnt look like things are going to be looking up so far, even with a great comeback win against the Giants. Collectors are buying, but not the way they were before the season started. Bortles still has a lot of hobby ground to make up.

Teddy Bridgewater has managed four wins and a TD pass in each of his last six games, but he isnt lighting it up the way Luck and Griffin did in 2012. As a result, his value isnt likely where his potential dictates, but he is on his way to being the class’ top QB so far. With the controversy surrounding Adrian Peterson likely coming to a close this week, his team may get some help in either putting the situation behind them, or welcoming Peterson back to a team whose running game is hurting badly. Teddy is hobby friendly in playing for a widely collected team, but he is going to need to perform to really win a place in many PCs.

Derek Carr is also having his own struggles, as the 1 win Raiders continually show they are not ready for prime time. Carr has shown flashes this year, including a 4 TD game, and has come far with collectors since being named starter before week 1. The only major issue I see with his hobby value is that if the Raiders end up with the number one pick, does that mean that Carr is going to be a thing of the past? The team is not invested in his contract at all thanks to the rookie wage scale, and his time in Oakland may be spent playing behind a new draftee like Mariota or Winston. Not good.

Manziel may end up being in the best situation when the season is over, as Hoyer is not going to be brought back. He also has a great wide out in Josh Gordon to throw to, and if he can pull it together, the Browns may end up being a team to watch. The issue is that his off the field issues continue to be a public spectacle, and the AFC north is nothing to shake a stick at. The hobby is still behind him, and that isnt a surprise considering how he came into the season with a hype train like we hadnt seen forever.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Crown Royale Football

Before I start anything regarding this review, I think we should all be completely honest. Putting this product up against Chrome, head to head, is like sending a Honda Accord onto a NASCAR track and expecting it to perform. That being said, there is only one type of card in this entire freaking product that is even worth a damn. Outside of that, it might have better not existed. I honestly believe you could do Crown as a one pack product, and the pack can either be a blank dummy card or a silhouette patch auto. That’s about how shitty of a brand this product really is, silhouette or absolutely nothing at all.

Here are the best cards up so far:

2014 Crown Royale Johnny Manziel Silhouette Auto Patch /25

2014 Crown Royale Mike Evans Silhouette Auto Patch

2014 Crown Royale Teddy Bridgewater Silhouette Auto Patch

2014 Crown Royale Jamaal Charles Die Cut Auto /5

Lets start with the Silhouettes, because like I mentioned above, the rest of this product is horrendous. They are REALLY nice this year, and continue to be on card autographs, which I am fully in support of. Even though they separated out the card design again with a bar across the middle, I still think the cards worked. I would like to go back to the player in the middle of the patch instead of off to the side (like these were in 2010), but its a nit picky complaint that isnt too big of a deal.

As for the rest of the cards, this product is a huge fucking dog. The silhouettes are literally the only cards worth anyone’s time at all. This product is stuffed to the brim with crappy sticker autographs, most of which are so ugly that it doesnt matter they exist at all. I dont get the metal bolt motif either, espcially with the different types of foil that are used behind the player. Its almost like they had two designs for the silhouettes, and the ones they used for the base autographs was the reject. Instead of putting jersey swatches behind the player, you now have crazy foil patterns. I dont get it. Im not even going to start talking about the separated area for the sticker for the millionth time. Some of these cards are so bad, I dont even have words for them. I cannot fathom how a design team could sit around and plan this set out, and someone not raise their hand to talk about how horrid the cards look.

Here is the bottom line. Panini is almost starting to build entire products without consideration for the majority of the set. There is no equity left in many of their brands, and that is a scary thought for what they are doing with their exclusive license. Crown will be in closeout faster than Chrome, and there are 4000 too many cases of Chrome out there. That’s not a good thing.

2014 Panini Black Friday – Should We REALLY Be Excited for These?

Well, Black Friday is upon us, and with it another edition of the Panini set that is put out every year. Although I feel like free stuff is good as long as the price is what its, then there is a positive situation to this program. However at the same time, there is so many horrible back end things going on with Black Friday, which I also feel would probably be pretty negative if collectors had a real understanding of it.

Here are some of the bigger cards that have already been posted:

2014 Panini Black Friday Johnny Manziel Cracked Ice Auto Patch

2014 Panini Black Friday Drew Brees Auto Manupatch

2014 Panini Black Friday Andrew Wiggins Auto

2014 Panini Black Friday Jabari Parker Auto Patch Cracked Ice

2014 Panini Black Friday Russell Wilson Auto

2014 Panini Black Friday Teddy Bridgewater Auto Patch

In terms of the way the cards look, many of the base and base autos look pretty cool. I mean, they dont look awful like they have in the past. The autos and auto relics are a pretty simple design, and I am always a fan of simplicity. I even think the sideways stickers on some of the cards are a nice change.

However, there are also a ton of cards that I could easily say are some of the worst ones I have seen from Panini all year. These are all highlighted by new “Black Friday” Manufactured patch cards, which not only are not autographed, but are the ugliest design I have seen in any of these packs. Seriously, someone at Panini approved a manupatch card where their stupid piece of cloth is more important than how the card looks. Just fucking ridiculous.

I also hate all these stupid Santa hat cards and towel cards, as I have for years. Not only are they kitschy as shit, but they dont even do it in a fun way. Just players standing around looking crazy and goofy. That’s Panini for you.

The cards arent even the worst part of all this. Its the way Panini forces the local shops into a position that is borderline entrapment. Because so many of the dealers have the Panini products collecting dust on their shelves, they created a program to help their most important customers clear their shelves. If you are a shop that can afford to take on EVEN more of the product than you already have, then you are in luck. But, if you follow the program as intended, your CUSTOMERS now have to buy these boxes too. Its the products that are so bad that no one would even think about touching them without a free pack attached. BAD FOR EVERYONE BUT THE DISTROS.

Panini runs their business like a strip club, and it is beyond frustrating. It would be one thing if it meant they could produce better stuff, but they just end up sitting on the debt because they have so much money they can throw around. If you are a VIP customer, you get the VIP treatment – and I am not talking about favorite shops. Those are the people who end up footing this bill. Sad, because collectors just think this program is all about them. It isnt. Its making up for seasons worth of crap that Panini’s important “partners” cant get rid of.

Diving Deeper Into 2014 Topps Chrome Autos

As I mentioned yesterday, Chrome is easily one of my favorite products of the year. Not only does it deliver a ton of fun for a very inexpensive break, but it also can pack a punch with some huge hits. I think that although the production run is increased significantly this year, it only adds more of a chase for the top cards. Here are some of my favorites so far.

Rookie Autos and Refractor Autos

I liked the design when I first saw it back at the beginning of this year. Seeing how it translates to the Chrome version is better, as the autographs fit very well into the layout. Adding in the way they changed the refractor borders to just be the sides of the card, and it adds a pop of color that isnt too overwhelming. I like it a lot. The big rookie autos are super SP this year, a la 2012 with Luck and Griffin, although that only increases the value of the pull when you do find one. With the 2014 class sinking other than the WRs, this will help the secondary value significantly.

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel Auto Inscription RC

2014 Topps Chrome Teddy Bridgewater Auto RC

2014 Topps Chrome Derek Carr Auto Refractor RC /150

2014 Topps Chrome Sammy Watkins Auto RC

2014 Topps Chrome John Brown Gold Refractor Auto /10

1985 Autos /15

I really love these cards. When they used the 1985 design in the flagship with inception style retouched photos, I chased a few of them. Now that they have updated photos with on card autos, Im fawning over them. The 1985 Topps set was iconic for a lot of reasons, but the design is really why so many people love them. I cannot be more excited for these cards, and if previous years are any indication, these will be highly sought after.

2014 Topps Chrome Austin Sefarian Jenkins 1985 Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Tre Mason 1985 Auto

Rookie Auto Patches /50

Does it suck balls that they arent on card? Yes. It does. Are the cards still awesome regardless of the sticker? Yes they are. This design reminds me of the set from 2006 Exquisite with the swooping lines and autograph placement, and that is a very good thing. Because I really hate the base rookie relic design, these look that much better in the long run.

2014 Topps Chrome Jonny Manziel Auto Patch /50

2014 Topps Chrome Brandin Cooks Auto Patch /50

Die Cut Rookie Autos

I think that of all the die cut designs for these cards over the years, the 2014 is the best version. The spiky pattern of the diecuts hearken back to the 2012 Platinum ones, and I absolutely loved those too. Although, like the 1985 autos, these are extremely rare, they are boss looking cards that many collectors will chase. I believe there are superfractor versions as well.

2014 Topps Chrome Sammy Watkins Die Cut Auto /15

2014 Topps Chrome Jeremy Hill Die Cut Auto /15

Veteran Autos

I really like that they brought these back for a second year, and I only wish they had enough time in their licensing to make these on card eventually. Either way, they are a huge plus for any player collectors, and I expect that they will be quite rare. The checklist is nicer than last year, too – only making things better overall.

2014 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck Veteran Auto /10

2014 Topps Chrome Alfred Morris Veteran Auto /10

As we get further into the set, Im sure there will be more surprises, but things are looking good so far.