SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Fire Football

If you remember back a few months ago when Topps first solicited this new product, I had a pretty negative reaction to the look and theme. I was likely not the only one that felt that way, as Topps immediately launched a campaign to drum up pre-orders for Fire at hobby shops around the country. It was clear that no one really had much confidence in the viability of this new concept, and it was actually pretty sad that the campaign was launched the way it was.

Here are some of the hits up so far:

2014 Topps Fire Odell Beckham Auto Patch RC

2014 Topps Fire Derek Carr Auto Patch RC /50

2014 Topps Fire Sammy Watkins Wood Base RC /25

2014 Topps Fire Kelvin Benjamin Green Parallel Auto

Fire is another set in the vein of Valor, with a hint of Inception mixed in, and one would expect that would actually result in a pretty nice looking product. However, because of the performance of recent duds in Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome, collector confidence has dropped significantly. Another point worth mentioning is that previous concept set Valor also had major issues upon trlrsdr in 2012, with a strong rookie class to back it. Fire doesnt have the on card autos, and it doesnt have as nice a design, but it does have a cheap box price. That is really the only good part of this whole thing. You wont lose your ass if you come up short. Valor had a resurgence with a reduction in price and more focused content, and Fire is just a re-imagining of that with a lesser concept and a far poorer design.

Where Valor focused on battle and armory, Fire focuses on space and combustion. You can see where one motif may fit with football and the other does not. Similarly, releasing a sticker autograph product this late in the year is only going to appeal to a limited number of collectors, especially when more robust concepts in Museum Collection, Supreme and Five Star are still on the way.

Topps has already cancelled another dog set in 2014 Rookie Premiere Football, which would have performed even lower than Fire. Im beginning to get to the point where Im ready to say less is more – especially with Panini churning out as many terrible products as they have recently. Conservation may not be as much of an option as we think, especially with the cost of hitting minimum licensing guarantees along the way. Topps and Panini almost have to do what they do, or they will have the league to answer to.

The problem is that sets like Fire are just too much of a risk at this point. Topps obviously has less to lose now that 2015 will be their last year, but they still have to make SOME money. Fire was a bold concept that just wasnt executed in a way that is attractive to most people who comprise the target market. I know I am not going to buy singles or boxes.

Im going to go out on a limb here and say that a sticker dump product like Topps Magic may have been a better choice to release in this spot, even if it hasnt performed to standards in the past. Magic at least has a following, and Topps has rarely used its retro chops at all this year, minus a few inserts.

Curious to see what happens coming up, as the meat of Topps’ late calendar has been a favorite of mine for the last 4 years. I am praying that things can turn around, and I am confident that they will find a way to get out of this funk.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Topps Baseball

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training less than a month from now, that only means one thing – 2015 Topps Series 1 Baseball is on the way. Even though I rarely buy packs of Baseball cards anymore, the release of the new Topps set is always fun. Seeing that this release ALSO crosses over to the amazing digital apps that are my new favorite past time, Im more invested than ever, even if its not in a traditional manner.

This year’s design is a relative departure from the last few years of the set, but its one that I rather enjoy. Its not so modern that it takes away from the history of the set, but its not so boring that it doesnt feel fresh. The only thing I dont think will work as well stems from the transition of colored borders in all the parallels.

Here are some of the first hits up so far:

2015 Topps Miguel Cabrera Auto Relic Gallery of Greats

2015 Topps Mike Trout Career High Auto SSP

2015 Topps Bo Jackson Coin and Stamp Relic

2015 Topps Jacob Degrom Auto Career High

2015 Topps Clayton Kershaw SSP Photo Variation

We dont know much about the surprises that are definitely in store for the variations or other quirks of the set, but I am excited to see what that turns out to be. Breaks should start showing up tonight, as Topps has planned some pre-release parties with major retailers for the first time I can remember.

The first pitch celebrity cards are generating a lot of buzz among collectors, as they feature some really cool subjects that threw out ceremonial first pitches during last year. The set is selling for some really nice money, and it is a cool idea for an insert.

Topps Series 1 also brings out the set collectors from the woodwork each year, as this is really one of the main products that caters to that kind of hobby participant. Even though I am not a set collector by any definition of the word, its always funny to see people pick it apart with what they like and dont like.

I also like a lot of the designs for the inserts and autographs for the first time in a while, as I feel they have come up drastically short over the last few years. My three favorite parts of the set in the acetate parallels, framed cards and Strata signature relics are all back, and I will definitely try to pick up a few from the guys I chase. I still think the framed cards play after a few years, which is cool.

For whatever reason, card collectors can be some of the most anal OCD individuals about certain things, many of which I dont agree with or understand. There was some annoying controversy around including Derek Jeter as the first card in the set, as people have cited that retired players shouldnt be included in the base set. Although Paul Konerko also has a commemorative card in the base set, Jeter took most of the heat. Im going to say this again, as I said it in Twitter – Really? I mean Really? This is what we are getting mad about? The most iconic player in the game retires and people are pissed at Topps for giving him one last major sendoff? Cmon people. Really? If you think the backup shortstop on the Royals deserves a card more than Jeter in this set, even I will tell you that you have made the wrong cause your banner.

Either way, Series 1 should be a fun rip for Baseball enthusiasts as they prepare for the year, and I hope that will never change. Ill be keeping an eye out to see any of the cards I might want, and hopefully this year, I can find a better excuse to get back into collecting baseball cards. With all the time I spend on Topps BUNT, that shouldnt be hard.

On the Radar: 2014 National Treasures Football Sneak Peak

Over the last few years, Treasures has undergone a transformation that has made it much more of a high end product for the money. Previous years have been spotty at best, and I continue to have no clue why it was given a pass to be the top valued set of the year. After starting the run with a bunch of sticker autos and cards that wouldnt be out of place in their lower end brands, Panini has made an effort to get more higher end content for the set. It has paid off, even though they continue to fail with some terrible designs and concepts each time it is released.

Here are past designs from 2012, where the set first started to go in the right direction. I hated the rookie patch auto design, but the overall look was great:

2012 National Treasures Tom Brady Virtuoso Auto

2012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Rookie Patch Auto

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

2012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

In 2013, the set continued to improve, even though the product tanked thanks to the rookie class being so bad:

2013 National Treasures Colin Kaepernick Auto Colossal

2013 National Treasures Michael Irvin Inscription Auto Nicknames

2013 National Treasures LeSean McCoy Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

This year, lets hope the trend continues.

We got our first preview yesterday and I found myself praying that this is the design for the main Rookie cards of the set. The last few years has gone from awful to not great but not bad, and this design would be a nice change with some great looking cards. It cant be worse than 2012, so I have that going for me.

Im still disappointed that they are going to be using shots from late May, taken at the rookie photo shoot. We have seen with other examples that game photos are easily obtained and used for a set released as late as treasures will be released, yet they opted out in 2013 as well. But, the design is pretty enough that I dont think that will matter all that much.

My only concern will be that they will try to poop out another horrible design for the main rookie patch autos, and these will be an insert. At least I will have a card to chase, as these are easily worth the price of admission. Simplicity and Panini are usually a recipe that doesnt mix well, but it seems like they embraced it for these cards. The results are great.

Last year’s design wasnt actually bad at all, and the majority of the set was pretty damn good in the way it looked. I hope that Panini continues to use Treasures as an opportunity to produce simple cards with great photos and nice patches. It really doesnt need to be anything more than that. This is a great start. A great start indeed.

Breaking Down the New Panini Super Bowl Promo Boxes

Over the last few years, Panini has rightly used the Super Bowl as a platform to clear out the shelves of their online store. The Super Bowl promo provides an encased autograph card in a one pack box when you buy one of the products they have on sale for the game. Its all the usual suspects of crap, products selling at full price despite being offered at less than dealer cost at many other outlets. The kicker is that you get one of these special boxes with each purchase, and the boxes DO have some nice hits in them.

Here are some examples from previous years:

2014 Panini Private Signings Super Bowl Rod Woodson Auto

2014 Panini Private Signings Super Bowl Jim Plunkett Auto

2014 Panini Private Signings Super Bowl Eddie George Auto

Here are this year’s cards:

2015 Panini Super Bowl Private Signings Peyton Manning Auto 1/5

2015 Panini Super Bowl Private Signings Emmitt Smith Auto 1/1

2015 Panini Super Bowl Private Signings Russell Wilson Auto 1/1

2014 Panini Super Bowl Private Signings Marshawn Lynch Auto /5

2015 Panini Super Bowl Johnny Manziel Rookie Patch Auto

Now, as they have been in previous years, the cards are all stickers, some of good players, with some huge duds mixed in. Either way, the 2015 version of these cards are pretty nice, and like last year will command some nice prices INITIALLY. Like many of the Panini promo cards, it is only going to be valuable as long as people are aware to look for them, and that only lasts for a certain amount of time. Once that time expires, the cards will drop significantly. If you are in the market for singles, wait. JUST WAIT.

As for buying boxes, the packs do add a level of allure to purchasing what I will refer to as dead product. Products that even if you pull a great card wont cover even close to the cost of the box. More importantly, if you buy any of the boxes that are still left in the promo, you are definitely going to be left behind in terms of what you are going to pull. Buying Elite at 120 bucks is going to be a bloodbath, even though it was nicer when it was released. These products are just too far past shelf life. When collectors can buy Contenders or National Treasures with this, then ill change my tune. However, with many Panini promos, its about clearing shelves, not helping collectors.

Unlike other promos though, these packs guarantee an autograph, and some of the autographs are really nice. With the National convention packs, and the Fathers day packs, you are more likely to pull shit rather than anything nice. Very much like we should expect, when Panini needs to clear their own shelves, they offer nicer stuff, rather than clearing dealer shelves on a mass scale with the Black Friday promo and the like. Because there is less product to clear, they can offer better stuff.

The 120 bucks you will spend on this, you need to hit a nice card in the promo pack or you will lose. Its pretty simple. Its not that bad of a situation though, and if you were early enough to get other boxes, it might be a better deal. I would maybe buy a box on ebay loose just to check out what you can pull. It wont be a total loss as the cards have been selling nicely. They will calm down though, so get to buying if you are thinking about it. The longer you wait, the more the cards will drop.

Handicapping the Contenders for 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year

If there is one award that means a ton to football cards, its the offensive rookie of the year. Because so many products are rookie focused, collectors have been following along all year, and this is the culmination in a lot of ways. When the award is finally announced on Saturday night, im curious what the value reaction will be. There are a few rookies who have run to the front of the pack as finalists for the award, and I want to handicap some of the potential that they could win.

Odell Beckham Jr

Handicap: Close to a sure thing
Hobby Value: Extreme

I literally cannot remember a time where a WR commanded as much attention as Beckham commands so far in 2014. He is easily the top valued rookie in the class, and it is a direct result of his ability to make spectacular plays. His catch remains the best play of the year, and catapulted him onto the national stage where he excelled among many of the collectors’ fancy this year. Beckham is about as close to a sure thing as possible, and his card values reflect it. To think he did what he did and didnt even play a whole season? Im speechless.

Cards to chase:

2014 Contenders Odell Beckham Jr Championship Ticket Auto RC

2014 Chrome Odell Beckham Jr Auto RC

Odell Beckham Game Used 2014 Gloves – Steiner Cert

Teddy Bridgewater

Handicap: Middle of the road
Hobby Value: GOOD

I dont think many people expected Bridgewater to be the top QB in the class, especially with Johnny Manziel on the marquee when the draft started back at the beginning of the year. He posted some promising games at the end of the season, leading an embattled Vikings team steeped in controversy to a respectable 7-9 record in a tough division. Hobby wise, his value has climbed since the end of the year, with people realizing what he is all about.

Cards to chase:

2014 Contenders Teddy Bridgewater Rookie Ink Auto

2014 Topps Prime Teddy Bridgewater Auto Six Piece Booklet

2014 SP Authentic Teddy Bridgewater Auto 3 Color Patch

Mike Evans

Handicap: Top Tier
Hobby Value: GOOD

To have 1 WR be the main guy in the class is one thing. To have two WR play at a top level and maintain hobby value these days is insane in this age. Evans played for a terrible team at a devalued position, which means that his value suffered through no fault of his own. If Beckham didnt rule the last 8 weeks of the season, Evans would have a real shot at this award.

Cards to Chase:

2014 Topps Finest Mike Evans Auto RC Refractor /35

2014 Topps Chrome Mike Evans Auto RC

2013 Exquisite Mike Evans Auto XRC /99

Jeremy Hill

Handicap: Longshot
Hobby Value: BELOW AVERAGE

I really like what Jeremy Hill did for the Bengals this year. As a later round pick, he was a main reason why the Bengals had success in an offense that had its challenges. Gio Bernard struggled to get his footing late in the year, and Hill ran wild in his place. It was fun to watch, but collectors really dont care about RBs anymore. I cant tell you how much that makes me sad. Hill also has a terrible autograph, which further disinterests people.

Cards to Chase:

2014 Topps Platinum Jeremy Hill On Card Auto RC

2014 Topps Valor Jeremy Hill Auto Patch /25

2014 Topps Strata Jeremy Hill Clear Cut Auto Logo 1/1

Sammy Watkins

Handicap: Longshot
Hobby Value: GOOD

I put him on here because in the eyes of the hobby he deserves to be a finalist. Watkins was the top receiver drafted, but was arguably the fourth best of the class behind ODB, Evans and Benjamin. People have a lot more faith in him because of his college career and his potential, which will develop over the next few years. Its rare that WR have success in year one, and I dont think anyone is ready to give up on him. Even Dez Bryant didnt come on until his third year.

Cards to chase:

2014 Chrome Sammy Watkins Black Refractor Auto RC /25

2014 Contenders Sammy Watkins Championship Ticket Auto

2014 Flawless Sammy Watkins Jumbo Patch Auto