On the Radar: Topps Adds Ichiro To Upcoming Products

The overseas market for trading cards is a wild card for most of the manufacturers, something I find to be a bit shocking. Considering how things can play, it seems like a no-brainer to bring cards frequently to that region. Topps has done special Asia only product lines in the last few years, many of which have been very interesting. I can see why they would want to chase Ichiro, as he is literally the biggest name in Japanese baseball to this day.

Here are some of his prices from prior products:

2004 Upper Deck SP Game Used Ichiro Auto Patch /10

2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Auto RC

2014 Leaf Immortals Ichiro Auto Jumbo Patch

2002 Sweet Spot Ichiro Auto Ball

In the past, Ichiro’s autograph price tag have limited the companies from getting on board at a level that would make him readily available for a large product run. During the first few years of his career, Upper Deck had him in a few products, sets that housed his most expensive cards.

Recently, Leaf had signed a deal with Ichiro that granted them access to his likeness and autographs for some of their biggest releases to date, including the first game used patch cards in a very long time.

Based on what we have seen with his cards in the past, Topps’ adding him to their stable is a very big deal. Not just because he has a valuable signature, but because of how many overseas collectors will want the cards and the products. There is no telling how much the deal is for, but you can bet it is a significant amount.

I would guess he will be a very limited autograph in any of the products he is used for, which means he will not be a card that many can afford to buy right out. Now that Topps has announced that Allen and Ginter will be the first cards, I would think that the price should go up as a result.

Again, this is big for 2015 products. Interested to see how it plays out.

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Is This The Beginning of the Bryce Harper Era?

Back in 2010, Bryce Harper was the second biggest prospect of the year, with USA cards in a Bowman product where Stephen Strasburg took top billing. In 2011, pending his call up to the Majors, Harper became the top prospect in the set. Over the next few years, he had his ups and downs, but never really lived up to the hype. That has all changed this year, as his play in recent weeks has been some of the most productive games in MLB history.

Check out some of his recent prices:

2011 Bowman Chrome Bryce Harper Blue Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2015 Topps Gallery of Greats Bryce Harper Jersey Auto

2011 Bowman Bryce Harper Auto RC BG 9.5

2015 Topps Museum Collection Bryce Harper Auto Quad Patch Booklet Gold

If you thought Kris Bryant was big this year, Harper was that big too. The hobby tends to get obsessed with potential, even more so than production. The thing is, Harper is still incredibly young, and has a long career ahead of him. There is a lot of time for him to develop, and there are many people who want him to be the biggest attraction in the game.

Since his time began, he has always lived in the shadow of Mike Trout, who has already notched an MVP and a few second place finishes to boot. Coming up at around the same time, Trout has become the hobby's biggest star, where Harper has found himself on the downturn of his value spike that happened over the last few years. His recent production has brought a lot of value back to the cards, but he has yet to convince the majority that he is ready to take the next step in his career.

Three weeks does not a career make, yet Harper seems to be a bit different than guys like Bryant and company, as his talent has been at the forefront of our consciousness since he socked some towering dingers back before entering Junior College the year before the draft. Now that those home runs are coming back in bunches, some collectors are finally seeing the return they have been waiting on year over year.

The question always remains, is the potential ever going to measure up to the production? If the answer is yes, that’s where we start to see all that value that Trout has achieved. If the answer is no, the player becomes on of the hundreds of players who never really made the impact they were supposed to.

Update: 2015 Contenders Draft Picks Previews

I thought that there was a huge opportunity to do some major damage in draft sets for Panini, especially with Upper Deck being forced out of the college game. Its an exclusive that may not make them a bunch of money, but it could bring more people to their products if used correctly. Instead of using retouched photos like their competition will have to use, they get the full breadth of the spectrum, including non-rookie players. Now that we are getting more of a clear look at their flagship product, its safe to say that they fucked up big time.

We knew early on that Prizm was going to be stickers. Its par for the course with that set anyways. We also knew that Contenders was going to have stickers for the older players – which has always been the way Upper Deck approached this part of the year as well.

To this point, in order to compete with other companies, they needed to match the success of these on card examples:

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Jameis Winston Auto RC

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Marcus Mariota Auto RC

2015 Leaf Ultimate Draft Amari Cooper Red Auto /5

2015 Leaf Metal Draft Melvin Gordon Red Refractor /5

Even though other smaller sets have featured some really nice cards, Panini did not change course on their publicity. They refused to address whether or not the rest of the rookie stuff would be on card to compete with the other companies who have already put out some pretty awesome stuff. Today, it looks like Contenders is going to be stickers as well as Prizm.

So, lets lay it out there:

  • New license
  • New opportunities
  • Old design?
  • Sticker autos?
  • Competition looks better?

How do you not put your best foot forward in this situation? How do you not want to start your brand off right? This is an exclusive license that could add some flavor to your products in the coming years and instead of going balls out, you want to use an old design and sticker autos? Cmon. Really?

I mean, Upper Deck's Inscriptions product will lay waste to this shit, and Leaf Trinity is going to make both look like inferior turds. It has been a great looking product for years. If your competitors and their tiny operations are going to make you look like bush league amateurs, that is not the way to start your line. If the license’s start date puts a limitation on the way your products can be built, adjust your calendar or dont risk the biggest brand in your arsenal. Horrible decision making.

Personally, I would say Elite Extra Edition is ripe for this territory. Its a new brand for football, it doesnt damage other brands if it tanks, and Elite Football can be pushed back to allow for a buffer zone. I dont get Panini’s plan here one single bit.

If you are looking for a draft product to buy, I would highly suggest Upper Deck Inscriptions or Leaf Ultimate Draft. Both have great looking cards with on card autographs. Dont waste your time and money on a set that offers nothing special. In less than 2 months, there will be pro products on the shelves, and college stuff will drop. If you have to open something, at least find a box that offers unique content. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will have THOUSANDS of sticker autos all year. These ones from Contenders and Prizm wont even make the top 100.

Topps Archives Bringing Will Ferrell Autographs to Collectors

Last year, Archives gained national attention with cards from the Major League cult classic film being added to the product. There were autographs, base cards, and a lot of fun, as many people wanted to complete the set to reclaim nostalgic feelings from their youth. The Charlie Sheen cards were the gems of the collection, as he was deeply ingrained in the national consciousness after a loud exit from his TV show.

Here are the Major League cards:

2014 Topps Archives Charlie Sheen Major League Auto 7/10 Parallel

2014 Topps Archives Tom Berenger Major League Auto

2014 Topps Archives Corbin Bernsen Major League Auto

2014 Topps Archives Chelcie Ross Major League Auto

This year, Archives is looking to take advantage of another situation, this time with Will Ferrell’s Spring Training escapade. Personally, I am more excited about Ferrell’s cards in Archives this year than I was about Major League in last year’s product. Obviously my sophomoric sense of humor plays very much into his comedic wheelhouse, with Talladega Nights and Anchorman being some of my favorite movies to watch on repeat.

From what Topps has said, there will be 10 autograph cards from each of the teams he played for during that day in spring training, and based on collector reaction, there are quite a few people who will be lining up to get one as soon as the product is released. Hell, I might be one of them.

If something like this will be happening in Archives each time the set comes out, Im on board. Celebrity content like this tends to bring people out of the woodwork, including National Focus if the card(s) are topical enough. Back when DLP was still making baseball, their "fans of the game" set was a huge draw for people who wanted to collect cards of their favorite celebrity baseball fans. If you remember back to 2009, Upper Deck actually had Kim Kardashian sign for a set named UD Icons during her relationship with Saints RB Reggie Bush. Much like Sheen, it got a lot of attention. This is right up that alley.

Bottom line, is that this is a really cool idea, and I am very interested to see how it plays out.

SCU Go Live Report: 2014-15 Immaculate Basketball

I have always liked what Immaculate has done in terms of the look and feel of the set. Although I HATE HATE HATE the name of it, the design and content has always been great. I have actually mentioned on a number of occasions that the set feels more complete than Flawless, especially considered the difference in price points. This year's set looks to be another in a line of nice products, and Im curious to see how things shake out.

Here are some of the big hits posted so far:

2014-15 Immaculate Kobe Bryant Jumbo Patch Auto

2014-15 Immaculate Andrew Wiggins Jumbo Patch Auto

Bearing in mind that Panini has had a ton of problems recently, im just as interested to see collector reaction to another high end product being released by a company who many have lost trust in. Being that this is a different sport, I dont think the impact will be as large, but they have had problems in basketball up until this point.

I also think it should be mentioned that few card shops were able to order this product alone. Many were forced to take on cases of previous crap that Panini or the distros could not sell. Although this has been done MANY times in the past, seems like kicking a bit harder when so many stores are already down.

Either way, the cards do look really nice. There are auto patches and autograph cards that I would love to have in Football. The jumbo patch autos are easily one of my favorite basketball cards I have seen Panini put out in a long time. The swooping lines and big patches are a concept that has been in Immaculate since the beginning, and this year's definitely looks better than any previous.

The acetate autos are also extremely nice, a card that has been a big part of the set’s success in the past. New shadow box acetate styles do a great job of making the player and autograph pop. I think that this type of card is quickly becoming a focus for Panini based on what we have seen in both of their main sports, but this is the first time I have really seen it be VERY successful. Previously, I have seen poor to moderate in the designs.

Aside from the cooler parts of the set, there is a new element to Immaculate that has made appearances as Panini’s new type of go to card design. The Black Paper autograph is all over this product, and much like its predecessors, it is more of a train wreck than ever. It has replaced the manu-patch autograph as Panini’s ugliest type of card, and I just cannot understand how or why it was created. Because they are pre-produced with a paper area for the player to sign on card, it makes little sense at all. Why not just have them sign the stock? There is ZERO fucking reason to add a swatch of black paper, when it is just as easy to do it with the regular signature area. Panini is fucking dumb like that.

Overall, Immaculate is still about the wow factor for Panini, and I think they have succeeded in many ways this year. However, with recent events at play, I cant help but feel like the dark cloud over their company remains. Deservedly, of course. I dont follow Basketball much, but I know that high end is where its at. Without good high end products, your basketball brand is even further into the red than it already is. Immaculate is good, but not great in that respect. It still feels like a modest rip off of Exquisite, and as long as that exists, Panini will always play second fiddle int the hearts of collectors.