2014 MLB Opening Week Stories Keeping it Interesting

Even though I am not a huge baseball fan, the first part of the season is always a fun time for me. Football season is over and the draft is still a month away, which means that I have a lot of interest in a sport that I normally dont. It sure helps that there are some interesting story lines playing out.

Mike Trout Off to Torrid Start

If more players modeled themselves after Trout’s game, there would be a ton of superstars in the making. To have his game plus his ridiculous talent, and you have a winning combo that I will tune in to watch. Trout has been lighting it up for the last week, proving that he came into this season looking to be back in the running for the MVP. He is the top thing in the hobby right now, across most of the four major sports, and his cards are only getting hotter.

2011 Topps FInest Mike Trout Auto Refractor On Card

2013 Gypsy Queen Mike Trout Auto On Card

2013 Five Star Mike Trout Gold Ink On Card Auto

Derek Jeter’s Farewell Tour Underway

I hate the Yankees so much, and I love when they play horribly. However, I do respect the fact that Jeter has been the face of the team for so long. All that being said, I doubt he would have the fanfare if he played in Milwaukee his whole career, but maybe that’s the allure of the whole thing. He played the whole time under the brightest of lights and really never gave an inch. His cards have been up since the announcement of his retirement after the season, and I am curious to see what happens if he actually plays well.

2008 Ultimate Collection Derek Jeter Auto Dual Relic

2005 Reflections Derek Jeter / Cal Ripken Jr Dual Patch Auto

Puig Benched

Lack of maturity will scare collectors away, as it will speak to long term success in the game. Puig has had his share of off the field minor issues, and its starting to be a question of when the first major thing will occur. After being benched for late arrival to the stadium, there are questions surrounding his professionalism. He recently held a team meeting to ask how he could be a better teammate, which screams desperation, but his talent is nothing to balk at. Its clear his cards wont ever be worthless as long as he plays, but some of the corners of his values are getting dinged a bit.

2013 Topps Chrome Yasiel Puig Silver Signings Auto /25

2013 Inception Yasiel Puig Auto On Card

Is Pujols Done?

It hasnt been a great start in Anaheim for Albert Pujols. After multiple MVP seasons in St Louis and a monster contract, he has yet to return to form. With major drops in all the main categories, its time to ask the question of whether or not he has become just another player. He is only a few HR shy of 500, which will make some news as it happens, but lots of disappointment surrounds this former hobby superstar.

2001 SPX Albert Pujols Auto RC – I remember how much these used to go for.

2007 Ultimate Collection Albert Pujols Auto Relic

Thanks to these stories, im interested in the season so far. Maybe this will be the year that I can hold out for the whole season. You never know!

Opening Week Blitz: Jose Abreu Off to Blazing Start

With Opening Week trucking along, there has been a lot of unexpected hot starts that have made some news. One hotter start that isn’t as unexpected is that of Jose Abreu, the most recent player to come over from Latin America and tear it up. Although no one really expects the White Sox to be all that good this year, there are HIGH expectations for his prospects in the league.

Check out his prices:

2013 Leaf Trinity Jose Abreu Auto Inscription /30

2013 Leaf Memories Jose Abreu Auto – On Card

2013 Panini Elite Extra Edition Jose Abreu Die Cut Status Auto /50

2013 Panini Prizm Jose Abreu Refractor Auto

Many collectors are not waiting to get in on the action with Abreu either, as the torrid start of Yasiel Puig in 2013 is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Abreu is a similarly coveted signing, as Puig was as well, and his first few games are living up to the hype. He is batting a cool .455 with 5 RBI in 3 games, including quite the game changing three run triple against my Twins.

Although I am not someone that really buys into much of the hype, I know I am in the minority. Collectors usually function on previous precedent, of which Abreu will no doubt benefit from. People don’t want to be on the outside looking in when they could have bought in cheap, and that drive speculation through the roof.

Think about it.

You could have bought a Mike Trout Bowman Chrome auto for 25 bucks back before the boom. At a 9.5, good luck getting those these days at even close to a reasonable price. Other rookies and young players have had similar situations, and that will forever ensure that players like Puig, Abreu and others will sell so far above the best players in the league. That’s what prospecting is all about, even though this really isn’t a good example of the true practice.

Most prospectors will buy rookies in huge bulk, reserving their buys for the lower tier guys rather than the high visibility players like this. Then, when they flame on or flame out, they either pump or dump. Trout was likely a player like that for many prospectors out there, but we have come to understand he is a generational talent that rarely comes around.

Now, we all know that Abreu’s first licensed autograph will be released in 2014 Bowman, which hits stores shortly. Its going to be crazy to see where his prices start to materialize, as this hot start should shoot them into the stratosphere. All that being said, I would be VERY careful dropping the cash unless you are a huge fan. Unless he blows up in a way like we saw with Puig, the prices will likely come down to a reasonable range.

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.