2013 Fleer Retro Football is LIVE!

We are now in year two of the Fleer Retro phenomenon in football, and its interesting to see what Upper Deck chooses each time they release this product. It has gone from sport to sport after its original release in basketball, and collectors are in love with the nostalgic aspect of the product each time it is released.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2013 Fleer Retro Andrew Luck Blue Precious Metal Gems /50

2013 Fleer Retro John Elway Blue Precious Metal Gems /50

2013 Fleer Retro Eddie Lacy Ultra Auto

2013 Fleer Retro Barry Sanders Die Cut Under Pressure Insert

2013 Fleer Retro Montee Ball Red Precious Metal Gems /100

Here is my thing. I am an autograph collector, and I am a bit perturbed by the fact that there is only a few on card autographs in this product. Upper Deck has the ULTIMATE pass to really get going on this product VERY early in the season, and that gives them no excuses to not get the cards signed immediately. I do realize that this product’s focus is the retro inserts, but that doesn’t make stickers right. If you have a college based product, for which you can easily build in May after the draft, it gives very little slack in not getting all the cards hard signed.

The ones that are hard signed range from blah to awesome, especially the greats of the game autos that I have always loved. I am thankful that these cards are in the set, as the results are pretty impressive. Others are very much like 2012, including the 1960 cards which I don’t find all that interesting.

I was also disappointed this year to see that the Precious Metal Gems look exactly the same as before for the rookies, where in the other sports, they have changed year to year. Although the other veteran PMG inserts have changed, I sense there was a fear of losing more value in an already value-less class by changing the favorite design. Let me reiterate – I HATE THIS DESIGN. I HATE 1990s FOIL LADEN INSERTS. They are both gaudy and busy, and I see no appeal to continue collecting them. I get why they are popular (collectors are obsessed with shiny things), but I hate them.

That being said, I absolutely love the addition of the rookie sensations and 1991 Ultra cards. Those sets were the best of the best when I was a kid, and I think they are done very well. The problem is that this is a high end set that would DESTROY the market in the pre-season, and yet here we are in April and it is being released. This is not a product for April. When NT is struggling to keep up with the market, and Upper Deck has the gall to try a product like this, we have problems.

Im guessing Exquisite will still be out in May or June, months too late to be as effective as it could be in February. We are moving on now to 2014, and I am concerned for Five Star, let alone a product filled with sticker autos, college jerseys, and nostalgic inserts. Too little too late. If the class was stronger, sure, take a bit more time, but a HUUUUUUGE opportunity was missed by pushing it to a late year product.

2014 Inception Football Adds to a Growing Legacy

I am a big fan of inception. I think its a high end style product that is available early enough in the season that the cards matter more than any other product. It has been popular enough to make the crossover to baseball, but I still remain pumped each year it comes out regardless. Collectors often latch on because of the on card content mixed with some pretty incredible big hits. Last year’s class may have sucked, but the product introduced cards that were simply stunning. I hope to see that again with a strong 2014 class.

Base Cards

Inception has employed a painted style filter on each of the cards for the last three years, and this year, they are coming back with a design that closely mirrors the other versions. I think we are in need of a bit of a fresh take by now, although its clear that its a popular product. I always say its okay to repeat a design if it looks good (a la CR Silhouettes), but we are getting a bit past that point now.

Last Year:

2013 Inception Andre Johnson Base

2013 Inception Troy Polamalu Base

This Year:

14TIFB_1068_VETBASE_MCCOY

Base Autos

As the base cards are, the base autos usually follow, and this year is no exception. I really hope we get more of the elements cards, as well as some of the other subsets, but I think these cards are some of the best of the early half of the year. My biggest worry this year is that the later draft and timeframe in between the rookie premiere will mean more “00″ numbers on the players, but you never know. I hope Topps chooses more photos that dont directly show the numbers head on so that isnt as much of a problem, but we know they still do it.

Last Year:

2013 Inception Tavon Austin Auto

2013 Inception Geno Smith Auto

This Year:

14TIFB_2001_RKAUTO_LEE14TIFB_2001_RKAUTO_COOKS

Inscription Autos

I LOVED the addition of inscriptions in 2013, and it looks like they have upped the game this year. When you consider how few opportunities collectors have for these types of cards, its obvious you have to jump on them. Any time we get more inscriptions is a good thing, and the playbook style works very well.

Last Year:

2013 Inception Geno Smith Inscription Auto

2013 Inception EJ Manuel Inscription Auto

This Year:

14TIFB_2101_GOLD-PLAYBOOK_METTENBERGER

Jumbo Patch Autos

These were a highlight of the set last year, which is odd considering that they are stickers in a set full of on card. This year I think they look just as good, improving on a lot of the things that they missed on last year. I like the embellishments around the swatch, and I think it will make a big difference in the parallel structure.

Last Year:

2013 Inception Keenan Allen Jumbo Patch Auto

2013 Inception Eddie Lacy Jumbo Patch Auto

This Year:

14TIFB_3011_AUTOJUMBO_Clowney

Booklets

In 2013, these were the rage, with low numbered examples with on card autographs. If you think about it, there are VERY few on card books available during the year, and to see how nice these are again makes me very happy. VERY nice job – the vertical looks great.

Last Year:

2013 Inception Cordarrelle Patterson Booklet Auto Jumbo Patch

2013 Inception Giovani Bernard Booklet Auto Laundry Tag

This Year:

14TIFB_3409_AUTO-NFL-SHIELD-BOOK_Sankey-copy

Other items

A few things we should all take note of that incites a feeling of panic. One, Johnny Manziel is noticeably absent from this preview. I sincerely hope it is by accident and not by force, as he NEEDS to be in every set. Secondly, Im still wondering why more veteran autographs arent included. Inception is a time where vets would shine, even as redemptions. I hope we get some this or next year, even though its been popular in the past without.

2014 Opening Day – Hobby Stories to Watch This Season

Last year was a big year for baseball, especially when it comes to the hobby. Not only did you have the emergence of new stars across the board, but arguably one of the most popular teams won the world series. I am not a huge baseball fan, but I definitely know a bit about baseball cards, and here are a few things I would watch this season. Of course, there are a lot of stories to be had, but these ones are big news.

Yasiel Puig – Can He Follow Up His Rookie Campaign?

Its rare that a young player like Puig starts off with as much fire as he did in 2013, and this always begs the question of whether or not it can be followed up with something better. Puig trailed off as the season came to a close, even though his card values really never did. Now that he is back for his sophomore run, many collectors who invested big bucks for him are asking if they will make good on their investment. I think he has a good season, but nothing like 2013. Sorry Folks!

2013 Topps Five Star Yasiel Puig Auto Rainbow

2014 Topps Yasiel Puig Auto Patch – Postseason Set

2013 Topps Chrome Yasiel Puig Auto RC

Masahiro Tanaka – Import Dream or Just Another Pitcher?

There was not a bigger story this offseason than Tanaka signing with the Yankees, especially when you consider that imports from Japan ALWAYS sell well. Tanaka looks to be one of those pitchers that can change the face of a season, but its unclear what his true hobby impact will be until he gets some cards in a Yankees uniform. So far, his cards from the WBC have been selling through the roof, but his first autographs will be insane. I hope he does well, even though I hate the Yankees.

2013 Topps WBC Tribute Masahiro Tanaka RC

2009 Bowman Chrome Masahiro Tanaka WBC RC

Mike Trout – Will He Make A Third Run at MVP?

Trout recently signed a humongous contract to make up for the two years of playing out of his mind in Anaheim. The guy is a generational talent from all accounts, and deserves every penny he got. That being said, he has been the top guy in the hobby for that span as well, and its going to be clear that his cards will continue to be the best until he falls off. Considering that day may never come, it’s a very good thing for the hobby. I say he wins this year.

2013 Topps Five Star Mike Trout Silver Signatures

2013 National Treasures Mike Trout Auto Patch

Miguel Cabrera – Is He Worth the Money?

When I saw what the Tigers did, its clear they wanted Cabrera for the rest of his career. The problem is, he is already past the point in his career where a 10 year contract makes sense. Its obvious that he is one of the best players in baseball, but to lock him up past his 40th birthday rarely ever pans out. For some reason, Cabrera was never worth all that much in the hobby, which is odd with the seasons he has put up. He has won world titles, and a triple crown, and yet Trout outsells him frequently. This year I cant see him playing the way he did over 2012 and 2013, but he will still do amazing things barring an injury.

2012 Topps Tier One Miguel Cabrera Auto

2013 Topps Five Star Miguel Cabrera Auto

Bryce Harper – Can He Break Through for an MVP Caliber Season?

To say he has been on a bit of a roller coaster since his debut is an understatement. Harper has had more ups and downs than anyone of his stature, but many still remain confident that he will be the type of player that Mike Trout has turned out to be. His attitude and performance continue to be a question, but people in the hobby still love the hell out of him. Topps recently signed him to an exclusive deal, and I think it will be worth the price. I say he has a great year.

2013 Topps Finest Bryce Harper Orange Refractor Auto Patch

2012 Topps Archives Bryce Harper Retro On Card Auto

Opening day is still a fun time for me, good luck to everyone this season.

2013 National Treasures: Breaking Down the Main Attractions of the Product

National Treasures continues to truck along, and we are finally getting some of the bigger pulls online now that the group breaker’s customers are getting their cards in the mail. There is also a lot of people opening boxes, despite an almost sure thing of losing 50%-60% on each box that is opened. That is pretty crazy, but people continue to love this product. They should, as it is really getting some nice cards for people to chase.

Notable Nickame Autos

These are arguably my favorite cards of the product, as they feature inscriptions of player nicknames on some of the cards. Its awesome, and I am always a fan of added autograph content at every turn. Many of these have been previewed already, and some of the names they chose are a bit confusing, but many of these cards are incredible.

2013 National Treasures Drew Brees Nickname Inscription Auto

2013 National Treasures Gale Sayers Nickname Inscription Auto

2013 National Treasures Peyton Manning Nickname Inscription Auto

Century Jumbo Logo Patch Autos

I really like the Century auto patches, as the design is simple and showcases everything I like about a card. The major issue is that they are all stickers, which is BEYOND unfortunate. We have all said many times that stickers like this dont belong in NT, and though the checklist is deep, I would gladly trade a shallow checklist for on card. There cant be THAT many Nate Washington collectors out there.

2013 National Treasures Tyrann Mathieu Auto Nike Logo 1/1

Jumbo Logo Patch Auto Booklets

This is where I start questioning some design elements, as this is the PERFECT opportunity to get the collar in there with the new NFL logo patches. For whatever reason, Panini decided to die cut the patches, which means they were likely from Pants or someplace else. As we see with the Nike Logo books, they are much more extended out to see the whole patch. Its really too bad, because these are all on card, and look tremendous.

2013 National Treasures Peyton Manning Auto NFL Logo Booklet 1/1

2013 National Treasures Mike Glennon Auto Logo Booklet 1/1

Colossal Logos and Logo Autos

As we see EVERY year, the colossal autos tend to look great. They have had their hideous years of poor design like every Panini set, but these look AMAZING this year. I am a huge fan, and cant wait to see more of the logos to show up with ON CARD autos. Right now, only the rookies are showing up, but dont worry – the non-RCs will show up eventually.

2013 National Treasures Eddie Lacy Colossal Auto Logo

2013 National Treasures Cordarrelle Patterson Colossal Auto Logo

2013 National Treasures Andre Ellington Colossal Auto Logo

Rookie Auto Logo 1/1s

These are slated to be among the top cards for a 2013 rookie beneath the Chrome Super Autos, and to see the way they turned out is disappointing on the NFL Logo front. Instead of reducing the outline to fit snugly around the logo, they just filled in the existing swatch window with foil. It looks awful. The brand logos look a million times better, and hopefully people will see that they can pay a lot less and come out with a much better looking card.

2013 National Treasures Tavon Austin Auto NFL Logo 1/1 With Inscription

2013 National Treasures Zach Ertz Auto NFL Logo

HOF and Jumbo Logo Patches

When Panini first previewed these cards on their blog, I think we all collectively gasped at the quality of the patches they used in the cards. Logos galore, and tons of crazy patches we all can appreciate. These would be awesome with autographs, but the cards may not have looked as nice. Its good either way.

2013 National Treasures Robert Griffin III HOF Logo Patch

2013 National Treasures Chris Johnson Titans Anniversary Logo Patch

Dual Brand Logos

This is a cool idea, but I still have no clue why they wouldnt do these as booklets with autographs for each player. I also dislike the tiny pictures, as it would have been much more good looking with the logos stacked and full pics on either side. These will sell well regardless, but potential for greatness was missed.

2013 National Treasures Jamaal Charles / Alex Smith Dual Logo 1/1

2013 National Treasures Matt Ryan / Tony Gonzales Dual Logo 1/1

For 2013, Treasures has been beautiful with the exception of a few horrendous cards that we usually expect from Panini. If only the rest of the product carried the value that was needed for people to actually come out ahead when they pull a nice card. That’s not really their fault, as the rookie class is so fucking awful. Hopefully the progression continues next year.

2013 National Treasures is Looking Great, But Design Doesnt Pay the Bills

We are all in awe of many of the big hits out of National Treasures, as previewed by Panini and pulled over the recent breaks. As I have said over the last few weeks, 2013 NT is easily the best looking set of the run, and its not even a competition. With the exception of a hideous card design here and there, I am liking Treasures top to bottom this year. Its clean, stunning, and stays true to the original concept of the product released back in 2006. All that being said, is this the most worthless version of NT as well?

Here are some of the big hits so far:

2013 National Treasures Peyton Manning On Card Auto Colossal Patch

2013 National Treasures Tom Brady Century Auto

2013 National Treasures Jerry Rice Auto Patch HOF Anniversary

2013 National Treasures Andy Dalton Jumbo Nike Swoosh On Card Auto Booklet

The reason I ask, is because that collectors are almost guaranteed to take a bath with each box they open, as the top rookies in the class wont cover half of the box price, unlike previous years. With 2012, its clear that after the ridiculous price increases due to scarcity of unopened boxes, its also tough to break even. This is much different as the 2013 class is completely unable to support any type of value in this market. Panini made the right call in pushing for more veteran content, including a bunch of on card autographs. But, as we have seen so far, those cards dont pop up enough to save the non-group breakers from disaster. Add in that there is an inexcusable amount of stickers in this product, and it makes you question what could have been done to make this more like Five Star and Exquisite with all on card.

I actually like the fact that the group breakers exist, as it is MUCH easier to stomach a 100 dollar loss when buying a team you collect for a case than suffering a 450 dollar loss on a whole box. So far, I have bought two Adrian Peterson autographs, and an 80 dollar slot in a group break, and still not hit the price of a single box. THAT is saying something. This isnt really Panini’s doing either, its just the way things are. Topps is going to go through the exact same thing with Five Star on April 25th, and though that product also looks amazing, its not going to do much good with such a shitty class.

Please do not take this as a commentary on High End products as a part of the hobby these days, as so much of my collection is made up of the cards from crazy boxes. I love high end, almost to a fault, as I have been practically spoiled by the tremendous autographs and patches you can pull from Five Star, Exquisite and Treasures. That doesnt mean its for everyone, especially when you get up into the range of Panini Flawless, which I see as the most expensive average product ever created. If 1250 dollars MSRP is what it takes to get a box with autographs that arent scrubs, we need to reevaluate our strategy. Dont get me wrong, Flawless’ cards really did look cool, but they werent anything unique. The price tag was only reflective of the CONTENT in the packs, which shouldnt really happen. It was almost like Panini sold a product JUST because it was expensive. We all want an AMEX black card right? Same concept.

We all know that the football market is soft, but the market is derivative of the people who want to buy, and player collectors get their stuff way too early to sustain a product past 1 week from release. Once the guys get their card, things drop by 35-50%. Not a good thing, because it just goes to show that less and less people are buying because they like to collect. Its also not a direct correlation to the hobby dying, but its likely that the hobby is getting more focused and compact. Dont give me this crap about kids and stuff like that, because in all honesty, we need some help now – not 10 years from now.

When you look at the grand scheme of things, its easy to see that rookies drive the NFL, and without a good class, all boats sink. 2012 is a great beacon of hope for the hobby, and it shows that cards still matter in football when there is a big story. I hate Johnny Manziel, but hot damn do I want him to play well. I want him to break every record in the book and do it in the first game. I then want Jadeveon Clowney to play up to his talent and for both Bortles and Bridgewater to knock it out of the park. The more a rookie explodes the more attention the hobby gets. Maybe we were setting unrealistic expectations after one of the biggest years ever. If you remember back, 2006 was a similar feeling until we realized that Leinart, Young and Bush all were mediocre at best. Those years come along, but its all about what happens in between.

Panini has already announced that both Flawless and Immaculate will be coming to football, and I am very interested to see how they turn out. Lets just hope there is enough gas in the tank to make them worth the time to produce.