Retail Mega Boxes Provide Early Peek At 2014 Topps Valor

Back in 2012, I thought Valor had a pretty unique concept, using the painted style as a theme for a set build around battle on the gridiron. It featured on card autos and a lot of nice looking cards, but also a ridiculous box price that didnt deliver on the content. As a result the product tanked and was axed until its return this year. With the recent release of new Mega Boxes, we are getting an early peek at the cards.

Here are some of the early retail hits:

2014 Topps Valor Sammy Watkins Auto Patch

2014 Topps Valor Blake Bortles Auto RC

2014 Topps Valor Tom Savage Auto Patch /75

2014 Topps Valor Brandin Cooks Auto Patch /99

2014 Topps Valor Teddy Bridgewater Silhouette Jumbo Patch

I think as a concept, Valor remains a very cool idea, and has some very nice looking cards. However, with these packs being included almost 3 weeks ahead of time, its a bit odd in practice. Retail is a different animal, and we all know that the redemption issue is going to factor in, so maybe this is a way to mitigate some of the problems.

Secondarily, with a product performing as poorly as it did in the past, one has to wonder if this is a way to drum up some hype around a set that didnt have very many pre-orders. Im guessing Valor is going to be pretty short of a print run, and even with this retail element, there wont be much of it floating around.

I will say that I am impressed with the improvements made to the cards, as many of them look a lot better than they did last year. The shield motif is fun, and though the autographs have gone from on card to stickers, they did make the most of the way it looks.

There is a very Braveheart style feel to the cards, and I expect that collectors will appreciate it much more than the similarly off the beaten path look to Topps Fire. A drop in box price on the hobby side, plus more content of relic autos will do this product well, but I am still not sure how successful it will be. Concept and motif laden sets like this have a propensity to tank, even though they usually look better than the simple cookie cutter sets that some of the companies churn out ad nauseum.

In terms of the relics, I absolutely love when the companies use the silhouette style approach, as I think it adds a very dynamic feel to the card that wouldnt normally be there. We first saw similar cards like this in 2012 and 2013 Topps Supreme, and I think it was a great idea to bring them back.

I guess we will have to wait to see how this year truly differs from 2012 once the cards start hitting shelves later this month.

Has Lack of Manziel on the Field Hurt the Potential for 2014 NFL Rookies?

Coming into 2014, the hype was all about Johnny Manziel. He was one of the first prospects to come out of college with both fame and talent to make it in the NFL, a recipe for success in the hobby as well. Bottom line, when you have the fame like Tim Tebow, you are going to be a darling among collectors regardless of play. Now that Hoyer has taken the starting job and doesnt look like he is ready to let go, Manziel’s stuff is sagging a bit. Can the rookie class survive without Manziel being at the forefront?

Check out the recent prices we are seeing from Manziel, these cards have been dropping frequently:

2014 Inception Johnny Manziel Auto Inscription /10

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Gold Refractor Auto Patch

2014 Topps Prime Johnny Manziel Auto Six Relic Booklet

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Auto Red Refractor /15

Its a curious question because there are a lot of rookies that have potential. Recent surges by Bortles and Bridgewater to take their teams' starting jobs have been great for the hobby, and their cards. Bridgewater missed a nationally televised game with an ankle injury that has been an issue for his short term value, but his cards will pick back up. Same thing goes for Bortles, whose Jaguars are really struggling to win and be productive. Bortles' card values are still strong because of his nice potential shown in his two starts. Both QBs have done very well all things considered, and in that case, Manziel hasnt been too big of an issue for the other RCs in the class.

Eventually All the rookies will need to perform for the box prices to not take a hit, but so far, there has been a great performance from the the other tiers in the rookies class to prevent a huge fall from Manziel not playing.

Other rookies like Odell Beckham and Mike Evans havent really been playing much to help the class ein their own right, but that will change with both rookies coming back from injuries. Other guys like Kelvin Benjamin and the other rookie receivers have made up for it, with Benjamin taking home rookie of the month. Eventually once the play of Bridgewater and Bortles settles into where we expect them to be, we will have a better idea of what the rookie class might be able to do if Manziel doesnt end up playing this year.

The question comes from this – if Manziel is benched for the entire season, how much does this hurt box prices and eventual other things that can be affected by his absence from the field. Can products like Flawless and Five Star still be as successful if he sits? No idea. But its worth talking about. Derek Carr hasnt exactly been lights out in Oakland, and Austin Davis doesnt look like he is anything more than TJ Yates version 2014. So, does this mean that guys like Terrance West and Andre Williams can make things more interesting?

Other big rookies like Sammy Watkins and Jadeveon Clowney have been relatively quiet all things considered, and that says a lot about what people were expecting coming into 2014. I think that we really have to see what happens as the season moves along, especially if none of the 2014 rookies have made the impact we are expecting.

Even though I dont like Manziel all that much, I do want him to succeed. I want the 2014 class to be one to remember. We need cards like this to sell regardless of how much he plays.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Prizm Football Remains a Joke

If you read the article earlier this week, you know how much I hate this set. After seeing the live box breaks and all the cards that are popping up on eBay so far, my rage fueled hate fire for this shit is getting stronger by the moment. It just never ceases to amaze me what collectors will buy, and yet, here we are year after year.

2014 Prizm Teddy Bridgewater Auto RC Refractor

2014 Prizm Johnny Manziel Auto RC Refractor /35

2014 Prizm Zac Stacy Panini-Fractor Auto Diecut

2014 Prizm Andy Dalton Panini-Fractor Auto Diecut

2014 Prizm Mike Evans Hippie-Fractor Auto RC

Now that I see they autographs, and all the parallels, I dont think the base non-autos are that bad. The autographs have actually served to make the base cards look better, which speaks volumes. Of course, for whatever reason I dont think they are as bad as last year, but that’s like saying my 1978 Gremlin coupe is not as bad as my 1977 Gremlin coupe. They are all bad.

The die cut insert sets range from interesting to "GOOD GOD WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?," and its actually funny how there wasnt one single voice in the room that said maybe some of them werent a good idea. Then again, Panini is laughably horrible with this anyways.

Secondly, the autographs in this product look awfully watered down, as any of the good players are on a very short SP list. One of the Manziel lower tier cards is numbered to just 35, so unless I am missing something, its going to be tough to pull something nice.

As I have said time and time again, its going to be close to impossible to continue buying cards come 2016 unless Panini figures out how to produce good looking cards that dont make me want to wretch. This set is going to end up being their flagship Chrome style set, and we should all be sick to our stomach that is going to happen. Yes, the set where they replaced the S in Prism with a Z, to be more hip is going to replace Chrome. Gross.

Prizm has such a poor track record that it deserves its own category of fail. Bravo guys. Bra-vo.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Stadium Club Baseball

When I was young, Stadium Club was seriously the best set that you could buy. Although Finest eventually introduced Chrome technology into the hobby, I lived for 1991 Stadium Club. In the years after, it was still one of my favorite packs to buy with my saved allowance, and I was rarely disappointed. Topps is trying to go back to those roots a bit with the look of this year’s set.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2014 Topps Stadium Club Jose Abreu Auto Gold

2014 Topps Stadium Club Mike Trout Auto

2014 Topps Stadium Club Clayton Kershaw Auto

2014 Topps Stadium Club Juan Gonzales Auto Silver

2014 Topps Stadium Club Randy Johnson / Steve Carlton Co-Signers Dual Auto

To see that Topps has brought back the brand after a few years off, I am in favor. The last time around, the idea wasnt executed even close to the way it should have been, but this time looks better. Adding in on card autographs, and other cool inserts makes it better, although redemptions and checklist strength may make autographs less of a focus.

My favorite cards in this set are the Beam Team cards, which were some of my favorite inserts growing up. Although the cards are awfully busy and shiny foil like, I cant help but feel the nostalgia tugging at my interest. As rarer case hits, and seeing the way people react to them, im pretty sure these will end up being the reason the product makes it back next year too.

The addition of signed buybacks from 1991 and other stadium club sets is huge, and I think that though rare, are some of the bigger chase cards of the product. The checklist looks pretty good on these cards from my favorite Stadium Club set, and I already know a few people chasing them like mad.

Here is the main thing with these sets – you have to give collectors a reason to recall that nostalgia, or it cant be successful. The interesting photography and die cut interest provide some of that element, but the addition of some of the other content really does a good job of bringing it home. Bottom line, the set looks REALLY good. If you cant make it look good, then everything will fall flat.

Topps has tried their hand at resurrecting older designs, especially in sets like Archives and the like. Most of the time they have been extremely successful in doing so. History is the one advantage that no other existing company can compete with Topps, and they need to figure out a way to use it more often.

Retro is big, not only in cards but in every aspect of retail life, and Stadium Club is a great way to capture that feeling. Scary to think that this is now considered “Retro,” but I digress. I really like the design, as it focuses its main content around the photos, which has always been a strength of this brand. There are some really incredible images in the base set, and I expect that it might make up for some of the lesser names on the auto checklist.

I also hope Stadium Club does well enough that it can inspire and motivate Topps to go this direction more often.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2013-14 Flawless Basketball

With the release of Flawless Basketball today, we are getting a continued commitment to the new genre of wax breaks that go beyond the previous high end. These Ultra High End Boxes, which Panini is the first licensed company to break into, should offer collectors something that they cant find anywhere else. However, as I have repeated constantly, despite the nice cards Flawless really isnt anything special. Its more quantity of good players in a box, than QUALITY of those big hits when you pull them.

Here are some of the nicer cards that have already been listed:

2014 Flawless Allen Iverson Auto Patch 5/5

2014 Flawless Carmelo Anthony Dual Jumbo Patch Auto /10

2014 Flawless Kyrie Irving Auto Encased 1/1

2014 Flawless Michael Carter Williams Auto Inscription 1/1

2014 Flawless Kevin Durant Dual Jumbo Patch Auto

After watching about 5 cases opened online, I wouldnt even be sure that the quantity of the big hits is where it used to be last year. Dont get me wrong, there are some nice additions to the checklist that will sell very well domestically and internationally, but can the market continue to sustain Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis cards as if they are top tier? Im not sure, ESPECIALLY if the cards dont offer something high end besides being encased.

The scariest thing about opening a box of Flawless is what happens when you dont pull Durant, Kobe, or Kyrie. Add in others like Michael Carter-Williams, and Shaq, and there might be some relief, but from what I have seen, its not always a slam dunk.

Flawless banks on contrived scarcity and player quality to float it's ridiculous box price, and seeing that no box will have Jordan autos and no box would have Lebron autos, Im not sure the luster is returning the way it started last year. I dont collect basketball enough to recognize trends, but Im not seeing the value the way I saw the first time around.

Are there nice cards in the product? Of course, the design is definitely some of the better looking cards that Panini makes. However, with on card autos and jumbo patches being the main draw, havent we gotten more out of other products that cost 1/3rd the price? Yes. Yes we have.

One former Upper Deck employee gaffed at what Panini put in Flawless the first time around, wondering what Exquisite would have been like with a box price over 1000 bucks. I am of that same crowd, as even with this price tag, none of the cards are even close to the level we saw come out of Upper Deck’s flagship products.

Panini does have the right idea, however, as High End is more in demand for Basketball than any other sport. Although they were pressured into creating the product the first time around, they may have fallen ass backwards into a set that has legs under very specific circumstances.

If Panini can find a way to either buy out UD, or get UD to license Jordan and Lebron for these products, get out of the way. Rumble of running collectors will cause earthquakes around shops that get Flawless on the shelves.

In all seriousness, if you arent a group breaker, or someone that can waste this kind of cash, Im wondering why you are buying boxes of this year’s edition. Last year’s softened considerably as the release passed along, and I would expect that to be doubly so with 2014’s version. Think of this like a rookie card and a second year card. The rookie card can remain hot, while the next card drops significantly. This should end up being a similar situation.

Be careful, that’s my advice.