On the Radar: 2016 Topps Transcendent Collection Baseball

There are a number of companies who have tried their hand at luxury level products, ones that are more expensive to break than even Flawless is at the Ultra Premium space. These breaks are usually repack products, but in cases like Eminence and Master Collection, they could be all original content. 2017 Topps Transcendent is a bit more than that, actually about 5 times more than any previous original product, with an MSRP set at about 25k per box.

Here are some of the cards we have seen in Luxury Level sets:

2014-15 Panini Eminence Stephen Curry Auto /5

2013 Upper Deck Tiger Woods Master Collection Auto Booklet /5

2013 Upper Deck Michael Jordan Master Collection Auto /50

The difference is that Topps is adding a TON of super high quality cards, a ridiculous checklist, and of course, a few surprises I gleaned from the sell sheet that I hope are coming. Bottom line, this product is not meant for the average collector, or even the collectors that are already opening packs on the level of what we have seen before. They are looking for 65 interested parties to engage in an offer that hasnt ever hit the market before.

Because the box and case count is so limited, its clear that they arent looking for widespread approval from us sitting here on the ground level. They know the prime target is group breakers who will be able to sell slots to a large group of individuals who can all share the tremendous burden of the product together.

My main objection as a whole, is that this is another in a long line of products SPECIFICALLY aimed at being group break friendly. Im not advocating that group breakers are doing anything wrong, just that its tiresome when all these high end products are rolling off the assembly line without a real strategy for delivering value to the single box breakers who are still out there.

Group breaking has grown the pie somewhat, that isnt really in dispute in any way. The dispute is how healthy it is to continue to cater to that setting, where the company is less and less interested in delivering value on a lower threshold. Transcendent is a bit different, because it is so high profile, that I dont think Topps can go half assed the way I have seen some recent Panini products take aim at high end.

Topps has succeeded in grabbing my attention, and many others, as the price tag alone brings in a flood of reactions. Do I think this product will sell out? Yes. Do I think this product will be sought after? No doubt. Is this a game changer or a defining moment in the hobby? Maybe – and it might not be in a good way either. Trying to attract lifelong baseball fans who have deep pockets isnt a terrible idea, as the hobby needs all of those we can get. Im curious if this just sends the wrong message, and to be honest, Topps might not care.

In terms of the look of the product, this is where I dont really see anything that really makes me go “MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE.” The design is kind of blah for me, and I hate hate hate those posed photographs. I know that Topps is trying to showcase a gilded set, but I wish the look was much more dynamic and less regal/traditional.

I think there is going to be some amazing content that comes out of this set, but for me, I think there are ways to be ultimately creative without slapping a ridiculous price tag on something, or using contrived scarcity to drive demand. Ill reserve judgement for now, but very interested to see how this turns out.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Limited Football is Back With a Classy Upgrade

Is this a dream? Am I asleep? Is Panini really coming out with a mid range product that looks good and might be worth buying? Holy shit, someone call down to Hell, because its likely they are getting some freezing temperatures down there right now. Prior to it being removed from the calendar last year, Limited suffered in a similar way to how both Absolute and Prestige are suffering. It was outdated, insanely ugly, and the format really didnt make sense. Most of all collectors wrote it off much the same way that they did with the other shitty mid range products that Panini makes.

Limited has had its fair share of horrid looking cards:

2014 Panini Limited Brandin Cooks Jumbo Patch Auto

2013 Panini Limited Geno Smith Jumbo Patch Auto

2011 Panini Limited Cam Newton Phenoms Auto Patch

2012 Panini Limited Sam Bradford Jumbo Patch Auto

This year, things look different, and that is good. The design is better, the autographs are finally on card again, and the product looks pretty classy overall. Im not sure if there is one dude in the office that designed Impeccable and Limited, but if there is a dude or a few dudes, they need to be responsible for EVERYTHING that Panini does for the rest of the year.

All in all, I think Panini has crippled the market with forgettable disturbingly unattractive sets, and its getting to the point were 9 out of 10 respondents to a impromptu poll on Blowout say they are buying 50% less football this year over last year. If you arent going to bring something good looking to the market, and its not innovative either, that’s a major issue. MAJOR.

Limited isnt really all that innovative at all, but at least it looks good. It feels like 2009 era Upper Deck more than anything, and that is a very good thing. You could honestly slap an SP Authentic logo on this stuff and I wouldnt be able to tell the difference. The fact that Panini seems to be stealing from the success playbook is really cool, because they are so absolutely terrible at building from scratch. I hope we get more and more stuff like this, but Im not holding my breath. Two products does not a calendar make.

Panini Does Something Right: Why Impeccable Works So Well

Its rare that Panini can release a set that doesnt literally make me wretch. There are just so many things that drive me up the fucking wall with them, and I wanted to make sure I detail exactly why Impeccable works. It still has A TON of issues, but this was the first product this year that I actually started watching eBay again for singles.

The Use of Action Photos With NO Posed Garbage

As far as I can see, there is ZERO use of the posed photos that plague Panini products like a virus. They chose nothing but action shots and it looks a million times better. What would you rather have? A rookie in action from the Rookie Premiere, or the one that looks like someone told them to stand there awkwardly while they get a few pics? Its not even close. Rookie Premiere action shots might not be real game photos, but its better than those horrid photos of a player gently cradling a football.

2016 Impeccable Dak Prescott Dual Relic Auto /75

2016 Impeccable Ezekiel Elliott Dual Relic Auto /75

2016 Impeccable Carson Wentz Dual Relic Auto /75

No Design With Separated Autograph/Relic AreasĀ 

Panini has an absolutely unhealthy obsession with separating every element to a card’s design and building boxes for autographs especially. The segmentation looks amateurish and awkward, and rarely works as well as just fading out an area for the player to sign. Some products, the big boxes are so bad, it covers a ton of the design. Obviously, this leaves little for the rest of the elements, so everything looks squished together.

These are much better:

2016 Impeccable Aaron Rodgers Auto Relic /5

2016 Impeccable Barry Sanders Auto 2/2

2016 Impeccable Joe Namath Auto /12

No Stupid Set Names

For the record, I think Impeccable is a dumb name for the overall set. Like Flawless, Immaculate, Unparalleled, and others, Panini thinks that presumptively speaking to the set quality with a name that simulates perfection is so, so fucking idiotic. Flawless has flaws. Immaculate is great, but its not perfect. Unparalleled has lots of parallels. Impeccable is quite nice, but I have to say that the name is a detriment. All that being said, it literally has a pretty uneventful subset naming convention, and that is fine by me. For a company that recently named a set "Slant Signatures" because the stickers were at a slant, you see what I mean. Impeccable Seasons, Elegance patch autos, all fine. Action Autographs in Gala football? Yeah, that’s more typical.

Organic Product Design and Format

The ONLY other set I have bought anything of this year is Origins, which by its very definition is Topps Inception with a different name. The only other products that Panini has done in the last few years that I have bought any of are all from their Basketball team. It has literally been YEARS since the Panini football team has created anything worth a damn. Pretty terrifying when you think about it, as the football team was in desperate need for a victory, and this is the first set that qualifies as one for me. It looks different than anything they have done for a while, and definitely makes a good use of the super premium space that this takes up on the calendar.

Mostly On Card Autographs

The fact that Panini still makes super premium products that still use stickers is horrifying. National Treasures has more stickers than any other product in its space. Even Immaculate has stickers. Flawless is the only 100% hard signed product Panini makes, and that is fucking ridiculous. Topps released a few completely hard signed products last year, and High Tek did it at less than 70 bucks a box. Stickers CANNOT be the exception, and Panini makes people pay crazy money for anyone who wants on card autos. Impeccable has a lot of hard signed cards, but the stickers are still a part of this set. Funny thing is, it has taken them until week 6 of the year to get ANYTHING hard signed from the rookies in NFL gear. Sad.

No Crazy Patterned Background Stock Designs

Look at Spectra (BARF), look at Unparalleled (DOUBLE BARF), look at so many other trashy sets that Panini literally ruins with the insane background stock patterns that would make the old Trapper Keeper designers a bit uneasy. This is straight up and simple, which is so much better than anything that can be accomplished with stupid looking lava waves or whatever the fuck that is called.

After Impeccable, we have Prizm, which actually doesnt look 100% terrible, despite the funny looking posed photo cards they previewed today. After that, its a lot of rough waters until Immaculate and Contenders. Panini has literally shit the bed on 2016 so far, but I cant take away much from what they were able to get out of Impeccable. I still find it absolutely depressing that I need to get this excited over a product that both Topps and Upper Deck would be considering as standard for their effort. For Panini, this is the cream, and they should be ashamed that they are in this position. Its no wonder that so many shop owners are down this year.

Go Live Report: 2016 Impeccable Football

2016-impeccable-football

Its rare that I am going to get on here and really give Panini something to smile about, especially for a product named fucking “Impeccable.” The name itself should doom this product to the depths of hell, but hot damn, even a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. Panini literally sucks at building new products, and this is the first time I have been impressed with something that is unique to football. Of course, its not an accessible product at all, because god forbid, they make a nice AND affordable product.

Here is what is on the market so far:

2016 Impeccable Football Carson Wentz Auto Relic /75

2016 Impeccable Football Jerry Rice Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2016 Impeccable Football Ezekiel Elliott Auto Dual Relic /75

2016 Impeccable Football Aaron Rodgers Auto Numbers

First off, despite the name, I love the design. It looks similar to Museum Collection in a lot of ways, and when Panini rips off Topps, things usually work out. Most of the autographs are hard signed, which is a big reason why I am on board, but the black background and lack of goofy ass posed photos is a big benefit here.

In terms of the layout, Panini is literally borrowing directly from the book of plays I love, and that is LOOOOOONG overdue. Big player photos, nicely laid out cards, and a lot of reason to get excited about buying singles. At five autographs a box, that isnt a bad configuration either, but honestly, its so difficult to support a product that should have been available at a much lower price point with less content. Panini is so entrenched in creating products for Group Breakers that its hard to really dive in on their wax at any level, and that is horrendously frustrating.

Either way, Impeccable is easily the best product Panini has made this year, and it is worth your time to check out singles, or buy into a group break or two. Outside of that, im still not sold on Panini high end anything as a breaker’s treat, unless you are working in a group setting. Even besides that, its worth looking into your player targets to get some good PC pieces that will make your collection stand out.

On the Radar: 2017 Gypsy Queen Baseball

When it comes to delivering hard signed content, Topps’ retro slate of products rarely under delivers. Ginter has been a top product for more than a decade. Heritage is something that collectors rabidly chase year after year. Gypsy Queen has been under appreciated by collectors when you look at the other examples in this line of sets, but man, the cards have never looked better over the last few years. On card autos, great signed relics, and some really cool content all around. Its like Ginter with straight baseball. That might actually be the one thing that is holding this product back, it just isnt what the others have become.

Here are some of my favorites from Gypsy over the run:

2015 Gypsy Queen Mike Trout Red Auto BGS 9.5

2012 Gypsy Queen Sandy Koufax Auto

2015 Gypsy Queen Masahiro Tanaka Hand Painted Patch Card 1/1

2014 Gypsy Queen Bryce Harper Mini Auto 5/5

Unfortunately, I really dont like the look of the base and the autographs this year. There are some other cool cards in the preview, but the overly ornate artwork just doesnt do it for me like it has in years past. I really like that Posey laces autograph and the Syndegard tri book, but the rest look terrible. Considering this is more of a combo set collector product and high end hit chaser release, its kind of surprising they are rolling with the same format give or take.

I would actually be pretty curious to see what Gypsy would look like at either extreme of the spectrum, either going super premium or super low end, maybe incorporating a digital element similar to what we saw with the Bunt product from a few months ago. Bottom line, I really like what this set has been over its entire run, but it just hasnt lived up to what we are seeing on the fan base for its brothers and sisters.

Because Topps already has a stable of awesome products in this area, and Gypsy could be an opportunity to take some big risks to differentiate the offering. The cardinal sin of this hobby is overusing a particular idea or type of card, and I think we could be getting well past that point with the strategy that they are using for right now. Without being truly innovative, its hard for collectors to justify ANOTHER expense in this area, and this is a chance to make a retro splash.

Check out the goods: