How Big of a Deal is Mike Trout to Baseball Cards?

Over the last five years, we have had our fair share of superstar prospects come and go – some becoming huge deals, others settling into mediocrity. Just named again to the AL All Star team, Mike Trout is far and above the best to come out of the group, performing better than other players who received far more hype.

If you are out to buy a Trout for your collection, here is what I would chase:

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Auto RC – Crazy to think you could buy them for 50 bucks raw at release.

2011 Topps Finest Mike Trout Auto Refractor – These have become pretty iconic over the last few years.

2012 National Treasures Mike Trout Auto Rookie Patch – Never took off in baseball, but this is a nice looking card.

2012 Bowman Sterling Mike Trout Auto Refractor – more affordable and on card.

2010 Bowman Platinum Mike Trout Auto RC

If you remember back to 2012, when both Bryce Harper and Trout entered the big leagues full time, the headlines were dominated by Harper's potential to be one of the game's best hitters. He was supposed to be great in the field, great at the plate, five tool guy. A few years later now, and Trout is two seasons with a few votes from being AL MVP, and Harper is good but not great.

Its far too early to say that Trout will end up being a HOF caliber player, or that Harper wont come around to challenge him. What I am saying is that between these two guys, Puig, Abreu, and others like them, its rare to have a situation like this. Although its early to predict Trout’s final trajectory, its not too early to say he is one of the most valuable in the hobby and will be for a long time.

Because Baseball is a different animal than other sports, high end doesnt have the same following than it does in other parts of the hobby. Trout is one of the only high end players left, as his autograph may be one of the most valuable among active non-rookie players, save Derek Jeter. Since Jeter hasnt signed in a very long time for any company, Trout’s the guy. Miguel Cabrera has come on lately as a top value guy too, but he has never been all that popular with collectors for some reason – considering his accomplishments.

Not only is he now more valuable than his teammate in Albert Pujols, he is more valuable than current/Future HOFers like Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey, and company. That’s pretty exclusive company.

I am a huge Trout fan myself, as its hard not to be. The guy is a perfect representation of all that is good with Baseball. The question remains – can he keep it up? If the answer is yes, he will be in the HOF, and he will have a tremendous career that will go down in history. But, there is a lot that can happen between now and then. Lets just hope nothing goes wrong.

SCU All Access – Interview With Topps Digital’s Chris Vaccaro

When I reached out to Chris Vaccaro, Editor in Chief for Topps Digital Apps, I was hoping to get some time to walk through his thoughts on the 2014 season of Bunt and how much success has been had. Bunt has become bigger than ever over the course of the year, and from what he is saying, things should continue to expand.

If you havent been following along with Bunt, the app is available on iOS and Android devices, and combines digital card trading with fantasy.The app mirrors regular card collecting with Signature cards, and even favorites from the Topps sets that everyone has loved, only in digital form. Some of the cards, as expected can be quite valuable, if you can believe it.

2014 Topps Bunt Clayton Kershaw Signature Series

2014 Topps Bunt Albert Pujols / Adrian Gonzales Dual Signature Card

2014 Topps Bunt Russell Wilson Bowman Signature Series

2014 Topps Bunt Buster Posey Signature Series

He was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me, which has provided some great opportunities to see what is coming down the road for the app. To also get a peak behind the scenes is awesome, and I must say that I am that much more excited for the second half of the year now reading his answers.

A huge thank you to Chris for all the work he put into answering these questions.

SCUncensored: Chris, thanks for doing this for the readers of the site. Many of us are familiar with TOPPSIAN and TOPPSMIKE, talk to us a little bit about the scope of how you work with the Topps Digital App team?

Chris Vaccaro: I’m the Editor-in-Chief and Head of App Operations for Topps Digital. I oversee the daily operations of what’s happening in Topps BUNT, Topps HUDDLE and Topps KICK. While we really do work as a team and use a collective approach to ideas and operations, I handle daily planning and strategy and guide our team. I have a traditional journalism background, so my experience with content and creative are valuable for the workflow we operate with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. I’ve been with the company for more than two-and-a-half years now and have seen our apps grow from their launch to present day. In the app, you can see me as TOPPSCHRIS. I also write in the news feed almost daily, and especially when I travel or find myself in unique baseball situations.

SCU: Bunt has been relatively re-imagined to begin the 2014 season, what has surprised you the most about this year?

CV: We’re quite pleased with how the 2014 season has unfolded on Topps BUNT. Most of the things we envisioned in the off-season are coming to life more and more each week. We are constantly growing, learning and evolving. Everyday is a new day in digital and we’re fully committed to making the experience work for our fans and for our team. I don’t think there are any surprises for us. We are all working very hard to make this a wonderful experience for our users and we hope they’re enjoying the 2014 baseball season as much as we are.

SCU: What has been your favorite thing this year about the game? I see you ask the fan of the week each week what they love, but let’s turn this one around on you?

CV: One of my favorite aspects of our apps is the ability to print digital media almost in real time. As a team, we can react rapidly to produce cards, and other content immediately after a game or historic moment takes place. So the milestone cards are one of my favorite features of the app. You saw it with the Josh Beckett and Tim Lincecum no-hitters this season, or the Albert Pujols 500-home run, or even with Tony Gwynn’s passing, and all of the milestone cards we were able to create to honor their achievements and careers. Additionally, I grew up a big card collector and sports memorabilia fan. I still have every card I’ve ever purchased or owned from when I was a kid. I have a bobblehead collection that soars near 300-plus, I have countless autographs and other items in my collection. So for me, to work for Topps and represent a brand so ingrained in American sports culture, it’s both a privilege and a major responsibility. The specialness of releasing cards with the Topps logo and representing this company is very real for our team.

SCU: New rookies this year like Tanaka and Abreu have been a huge focus for the app, not to mention another huge year in the making for spokesperson Mike Trout – what has it been like to have them to play off of?

CV: Mike Trout is a super star. We’re so fortunate to have signed Mike to a deal and have him represent our app while being the face of baseball for years to come. It was a pleasure hanging out with him in Tempe, AZ this year to film our BUNT commercial during spring training. As far as the rookies you refer to, that’s just a product of special things happening in baseball every year and our Topps Digital staff reacting to what’s hot in the game. Tanaka and Abreu are doing very well this season, so you’re going to see more cards of them whenever it fits. The same can be said for players like Troy Tulowitzki, Dee Gordon or Nelson Cruz. If you’re hot, you’ll end up in BUNT in multiple ways. It’s unique because they’re earning their way into sets by being on top of their games. For many sets, we come up with the players just a week or two before they are actually released so we can utilize players who are doing very well at release time.

SCU: Where do you see Bunt going over the next few years? What would you like to see that could be on the horizon for all the digital apps?

CV: I see us progressing, getting bigger and better. I tell people often that we’re only in the early stages of what’s to come for Topps Digital. Our development team is top notch and giving us tools on a daily basis to make the experience that much better for our users. I hope that Topps BUNT becomes a major fabric of sports lifestyle in American sporting culture. Just as Topps is part of what baseball is today with physical cards, I’d expect that to be the same case digitally speaking for years to come. If you’re watching a game, have BUNT out on your device. If you’re at a game, check BUNT. Need to know something about baseball or a player? Check BUNT. What else would I like to see? More multimedia and new, cutting-edge cards that push the boundaries of the mobile experience.

SCU: I have always thought Bunt parallels real card collecting in almost every way, even down to the way signature cards are the most valuable to all the fans, was this something you guys aimed to do more with this year?

CV: Absolutely. The trading card experience is at the core of what we’re doing, only we’ve digitized the experience. Collectors crave certain sets, players, teams, rarities or whatever suits their specific needs. We release cards in packs that combine to make sets and offer a chase just as you can get with our physical product for so many years.

SCU: Sets like Ginter and Gypsy Queen have always been favorites of collectors, and to see them come to the app is a really amazing concept – are we going to see more of the marriage between digital and real cards?

CV: Hopefully. We’re Topps and between the physical cards that are released and the growth in digital we’d expect to see more similarities to benefit the fans and the overall trading card experience.

SCU: The community has always been Bunt’s biggest strength. To say they have been expertly engaged this year is an understatement. What do you take away from their rabid fandom and how that may also lead to challenges when things go down that not everyone is a fan of?

CV: First and foremost we’re VERY thankful for each and every one of our fans. The community is what helps all of our apps come alive. The conversation is real, the trading is real, and the back-and-forth talk about issues that are important to the fans is very important to us. The more rabid fans we have the better job we’re doing. It means people care about the product and want to see it grow.

SCU: Through my Bunt blog site, I have tried to provide a huge resource to the thousands of new Bunters this year, only because the game can have some lead time to get into the nuance and become a competitor. What are you all looking to do to provide a more easy onboarding process for the new users?

CV: We’re always talking internally about onboarding and trying to evolve that process as much as possible with our development team. It’s come along way and we’ll continue to make adjustments from app-to-app and season-to-season.

SCU: With the All Star game coming up in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota, what are some of the double secret plans you can give us some hints about? This is the midsummer classic and lots of events are going to be going down! Lots of us are extremely excited to see what Bunt has in store.

CV: I’ll be in Minnesota covering the event and helping to bring the action live to our fans. Without giving too much away, keep a look out for All-Star cards of both modern stars and legends. Sticking with the roots of baseball history that we try and bring into the app as much as possible, there will also be odes to the 1965 and 1985 All-Star games that were held in Minnesota.

SCU: I am a huge fan of things like the VIP program, Fan of the Week and Friendly Fan Awards that tend to recognize the users that really go to big lengths to keep the app going strong. Do you have plans to build around some of the other areas of the community that do similar things for Bunters?

CV: Without getting too specific, yes. As I’ve said before we are constantly involving, and that means in EVERY area of the app experience. We have thrown around ideas to bring in awards and programs for various activities; some you’ve seen, others we’re still developing and thinking about. Stay tuned and check in everyday!

SCU: If there is one thing in the app we should all be excited about for the second half of the season – what would you say it is?

CV: More cards, more inserts, more sets, more chases … and most will be new to BUNT or new to Topps. You never know what’s going to be released or become available in our apps!

SCU: Thanks again for taking the time to talk to me, it’s always a great thing to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Anything else you would like to say that I haven’t covered?

CV: Thanks again to our fans! We’re working extremely hard to make sure this experience stays true to the Topps name and brand, and create a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else.

With Allen & Ginter Looming, Goodwin Champions and Golden Age are Live

Retro based products have become a staple in the calendars of every single sport over the last few years, especially as many collectors like to relive the nostalgia of the past. Sets like Allen and Ginter led the way, bringing diverse subjects and themes to a very monotone release schedule that had taken hold in the mid 2000s. Since that time, each company has tried to model a product after Ginter, with Goodwin Champions from UD and Golden Age from Panini trying to capture the glory had by one of baseball's biggest products.

However, without a license, its almost impossible to make the sets on a comparable level. In the case of both of these copy cat versions of Ginter, they just look incomplete for the most part:

2014 Goodwin Champions WWI Relic Card Germans

2014 Goodwin Champions Tiger Woods Dual Logo Patch Relic

2014 Goodwin Champions LeBron James Auto

2014 Goodwin Champions Wayne Gretzky Auto

Here are the ones from Golden Age:

2014 Golden Age Jackie Kennedy Relic

2014 Golden Age Jake LaMotta Auto

2014 Golden Age George Gervin Auto

Goodwin Champions does have its moments, with unique relics and memorabilia to make the set worth checking out. Added content in Art and Sketch cards are also pretty nice, but will only appeal to select people. However, rather than using their CLC license to produce autographs and player content, we are left with confusion and ugliness.

Golden age from Panini is just bad from top to bottom, and has been each time it is released. Full of odd color schemes and poorly conceived design work, the cards have never measured up to the big boys. Not only do I not like the themes of each non-sport subset, but they look like they were designed by amateurs. Not a good way to match up against the best mixed genre modern set of all time from Topps.

I have to give it to Upper Deck, as they are definitely trying to exist minus a league license in three of the biggest sports out there. Some of the cards from Goodwin have been surprisingly valuable, which speaks to their creativity in the face of some of the adversity they have faced. Panini on the other hand has some issues that I just dont understand. Hopefully they can see the disgust that most of us have felt for a long time.

2014 Prestige Football – Is The Joke On US?

Just when you think Panini cant make any more stupid decision, we get a gallery like we did today for Prestige. Although the set has become at least part of the conversation since 2012 when they started using NFL jersey pics, this year’s makes me wonder if someone is asleep at the wheel.

First let me start off by saying that I am disgusted by the fact that we have to endure another set that has these stupid airbrushed sideline pictures from Score.

Here is 2014 Score:

2014 Score Sammy Watkins RC Auto

2014 Score Mike Evans RC Auto

2014 Score Jadeveon Clowney Auto RC

Here is 2014 Prestige:

Score series 2 is bad enough, as the examples from the QC gallery look awful. Just plain awful. I now know why they havent previewed it until a week before. Then, to see that they were able to use NFL Rookie Premiere shots for a good portion of the set, only serves to make me question what the fuck they were thinking with Prestige this year? If you can use the premiere shots with actual NFL photography, why use the Score shit again?

Did they honestly believe that we would be okay with their lazy decision to use the Score pics again? If they used the retouched NFL uniform pics instead, that would be one thing, but instead we get the barf worthy geek shots they chose for two of the worst products of the year? Cmon. Great move for your first post-premiere set, right? With Elite coming two weeks after this, there is literally ZERO reason for Prestige to exist in this form. Its insulting.

Now, that being said, there are some really cool looking cards in this set. The on card stuff from the premiere looks about as improved as it can get over the ones from 2013. I like the design and I like the way they turned out.

I also love the Draft Picks rights cards, as they remind me of the 2012 Tools of the Trade set that was one of my favorite for Panini all year.

If decisions are going to be made, I sincerely hope they consider that cutting corners for the sake of cost is not worth the lack of quality we get. I know sales reflect that for the end user, otherwise programs like Father’s Day wouldnt need to exist to clear stock from the shelves of Distributors drowning in unsold Panini horse crap. People always ask me why I hate Panini, its because of shit they pull like this. Just a complete joke.

Here are the rest of the preview:

2014 Topps Rookie Premiere Preview is Quite Underwhelming

Every once in a while, a company comes out with a product that makes you scratch your head. Either the product line doesnt seem to be that interesting, or the design is just completely awful. Recent football cards have been all over the place, to tell you all the truth. Although Panini tends to be very familiar with this market space of poorly conceived sets, its rare that Topps’ football team enters this territory. NFL Rookie Premiere is not one of those products.

Topps has had rookie premiere autographs for over a decade in their flagship product, but never a full set:

2007 Topps Adrian Peterson Rookie Premiere Auto

2008 Topps Joe Flacco Rookie Premiere Auto

2012 Topps Nick Foles Rookie Premiere Auto Red Ink /10

2010 Topps Sam Bradford Rookie Premiere Auto

The rookie premiere was so popular, it was even extended out to the NBA and NHL as well:

2008 Topps Russell Westbrook Rookie Premiere Auto

Im sure there are people out there who dont even know what the Rookie Premiere is, which Ill do my best to explain. Each year, the NFLPA gathers the rookies in Los Angeles to take pictures for the first time with their uniforms on. 35-40 top rookies come each year, and it is a VERY big deal. Over the last 10-12 years, it has also become about signing a shit ton of autographs and having the rookies wear hundreds of jerseys to be cut up over the course of the card year. Both companies participate and both companies do it relatively the same way. This set is celebrating that event, which ill get to in a second.

After seeing the preview today, Im pretty baffled by the choice to put this set out. Although, I know the 20th anniversary of the photo shoot was this year, I dont know how many collectors will identify with the photo shoot theme for a product. They may be familiar with the result of the premiere spread across all sets for the year, but not the event itself. This set may have been better suited as a deliverable right around the time inception comes out, especially as a photo shoot themed release. Instead, we are getting this in November, which doesnt seem to really fit much of anything. Even worse is that it looks to be all sticker autos, which means we all have even less of a reason to buy it.

Do the cards look all that awful? Not really, they arent that bad. However, the product itself isnt unique or special in any way, and though a lower price point exists for it, I see it more of a poor choice of themes than anything else. By November, we will have already had some really nice sets from Topps, and this just doesnt fit right.

Topps is not going to like how this product performs, just from the reaction I am seeing. A lot of people just dont know what to do with it.