On the Radar: 2015 Topps Chrome Football

I am sad. I am sad because this will be the last time I get to talk about a Topps Chrome football preview.

With Panini taking over the NFL license next year, Topps Chrome will likely unable to be made in the same capacity as it will be this year, thus forcing 2015 to be the brand’s farewell tour. Chrome has always been a product I go nuts over more than any other product, save Five Star maybe, and its frustrating that it will be gone next year. Exclusives fucking blow, and now my favorite set of the year will be a casualty of that new deal. Wonderful.

Knowing that this is such a cheap break, its insane what comes out of the boxes:

2014 Topps Chrome Odell Beckham Superfractor 1/1

2014 Topps Chrome Kelvin Benjamin Auto Superfractor 1/1

2014 Topps Chrome Peyton Manning Base Auto Variation SSP BGS 9.5

2014 Topps Chrome Teddy Bridgewater Black Refractor Auto BGS 10

2014 Topps Chrome Andrew Luck Base Auto Variation SSP BGS 9.5

I think that this version of Topps Chrome is going to have a lot of questions, mainly stemming from the wax breaking train wreck of 2014’s edition. Because of a massively inflated production run, Chrome’s box breaks suffered to the Nth degree. It was close to impossible to pull anything of worth, and even harder to pull one of the better cards in the product. Although Topps Chrome Mini was significantly better in almost every way, it wont curb the collectors from questioning their stance on the product. It could have a lasting effect, as no one will want to buy in until they see the checklist and the odds, and I can guarantee that it may impact how 2015 Chrome goes into play.

Now, Chrome is still the undisputed king of football cards, regardless of wax issues in 2014, but at the same time, the cards could be the coolest design ever and it wouldnt matter. Wax breaks are just as important to the people that break this product, almost above and beyond design. Last year's product looked amazing, but because of how bad it performed on the breaks, the whole thing came apart at the seems. This year, I would have to guess we will get a run somewhere in between where it was last year and where it was in years prior. I dont think Topps wants to sit on closeout product from their last year in the game.

This could also serve as an opportunity to produce a larger veteran and retired autograph checklist, as they will want to clean out the stickers in the warehouse. Vet autographs have been a valuable part of the set over the last two years, and I would be interested to see how they play it out. This can be both good and bad, as a sticker dump may not be the best situation for a product with a knack for low performance in the box format. It could also be a cool way to finish out the run with some top autographs.

Either way, I love the 2015 design, and I love the way it looks to transfer to Chrome. The autographs will look stunning, as they always do, and the inserts look great too. I love the 1976 throwback cards, and to see the added content is pretty damn cool. There is a lot of dreariness and downtrodden feelings floating around football right now, as I dont see many people happy that Panini is going to be the only game in town. Seeing cards like this really does provide a momentary relief from that impending doom, but its just that – momentary.

Panini is going to fuck up the football hobby like never before, thanks to a number different reasons, and to see Topps and sets like Chrome disappear is nothing but disappointing. You hate to lose that history, and you hate to lose what Chrome brings to the table. Its not every day that one of cheapest boxes of the year delivers the top chase card of the year, and Panini still hasnt figured out how to make a similar concept work. The Superfractors are the cards that all the big buyers want, and pay more than Treasures and Flawless, sometimes combined. All of it will be gone in 2016, and that should be a testimony that things arent going in the right direction.

Its going to be a bitter goodbye for Chrome, and yet I still cant wait for it to come out.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Prizm Baseball

Over the last 3 years, Prizm and I havent really got along at all. I have always considered it to be a cheap knockoff of Chrome, so cheap that it almost isnt even worth talking about. In a lot of ways, I see Prizm as that “Spider-guy” action figure you can buy on the street in Hong Kong. For a brand identity, that is a pretty terrible space to occupythat is a pretty terrible space to occupy.

Trying to release a product like Prizm in a hobby where Bowman is one of the most iconic sets in the market? Not really a good idea unless you can do it up to that same standard of quality. What is even worse of an idea is trying to add prospects and rookies to the mix and expect it to measure up. Maybe Panini doesnt look at it that way, but they should. Prizm has an opportunity to function a bit differently than Bowman, using veteran and HOF players as the main fodder, but they chose to go the path that Topps had already carved out.

Here are some of the hits up so far, you will see what I mean:

2015 Prizm Kris Bryant Tie Dye Auto 17/50

2015 Prizm Joc Pederson Blue Refractor Auto /75

2015 Prizm Rusney Castillo Purple Refractor Auto /99

2015 Prizm Yasmany Tomas Blue Refractor Auto /75

2015 Prizm Paul Goldschmidt Die Cut Auto

Honestly, this is one of the better looking Prizm products that Panini has released. The design isnt all that bad, except in a few spots where the execution is well below poor, which I will get to in a second. I think that in terms of the base and the general look and feel, this pig has a few shades of lipstick on. That being said, its still a pig.

When it comes to the design of the most important cards in the product, the autograph design had a lot of potential. In typical Panini fashion, the execution was fucking horrendous. The prioritization of including huge text and larger product logos was obviously way too high, as many times, the player photos are squished up against the swooping border. They easily could have gone without the text, moving the player further towards the opposite edge, thus preventing the issue. In that same vein, it wouldnt be a Panini product without needlessly oversized text.

It also seems like Panini is going to run with this whole tie-dyed refractor situation for another few years, which makes me nauseous. I have affectionately deemed them “Hippie-fractors” and cannot understand the appeal of these gaudy inserts. For whatever reason, collectors will forgive the hideous appearance because the cards are shiny, but I cant help but wretch at the look. If I wanted a rainbow tie dye on my cards, I would collect something very different than sports.

Bottom line, Kris Bryant or no Kris Bryant, this product will drop like a rock in the same way every Panini baseball product has over the last few years. Prizm usually takes a larger fall than most, which means it is not in your best interest to buy in at this point. If you can wait, this will be less than dealer cost as soon as the MAPP wears off. Considering that Bowman is still fresh on the shelves, its a much better idea to go that direction.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Finest Football Preview

Over the last few years, Finest has been one of my favorite releases of the pre-season. It comes out right as things are getting hot with the new class, and the cards look great on the Chrome stock. It is also the first of the pro-uniform Superfractors of the year, and that creates a lot of collector interest. This year will be the last version of the set as it is structured currently, which is easily a bittersweet situation to be in. I am still very upset that we will not get licensed Topps sets in 2016 as it stands now.

Finest has always had some cool cards:

2012 Topps Finest Andrew Luck Die Cut Auto Red Refractor /25

2012 Topps Finest Russell Wilson Blue Refractor Patch Auto BGS 9.5

2008 Topps Finest Tom Brady Auto

2006 Topps Finest Emmitt Smith Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Topps Finest Jimmy Garoppolo Superfractor Auto Jumbo Logo Patch 1/1

This year’s design is very futuristic, something that Finest has always used as a theme. It has a combination of swooping lines and blocky modern patterns, all of which work very well. Last year’s design had a few issues with the way thick borders and elements conflicted with the main subject matter, all of which have been corrected in the 2015 preview. The only major complaint I have is on the Amari Cooper preview, where the design inexplicably features a stupid box around the sticker. Since Chrome mockups never do the cards justice, ill have to wait to see the final product. Either way, that box looks like poop, and hopefully it will be corrected.

Topps is also previewing autographs and retro Finest content from 1995, which is a Finest set that I collected the shit out of. It was the set that had a portion with that protective coating still on the cards, making it one of the more interesting of the run. As a kid, I immediately ripped all of that coating off, which was obviously a mistake. That year of Finest was definitely a fun one, and it only adds to the reason why I love this idea. Its unfortunate the autographs are stickers, but it is what it is.

Lastly, and most importantly, Finest looks to be going back to on card autographs on some of the non-relic rookie cards. I could not be more happy that this is the case. Last year’s versions were less attractive because they were stickers, something that I really was upset about. Glad they are going back to the way they were in 2013 and 2012.

Overall, as mentioned above, I am sad to say goodbye to a set that has been with me since I started in the hobby. I have always loved Finest’s cards, save a few of those awful “dead” years like 2008, and I wish that there was a way to keep it going. At least the product will be going out looking good.

Tom Brady Suspended – Jimmy Garoppolo Next Man Up?

In yet another display of suspension brute force, the NFL has brought down the hammer on Tom Brady and the Patriots after a long investigation. Considering his recent large role in the hobby after a Super Bowl win, this isnt great for business. Im not really going to add my scorching hot take to the mountainous pile of stale hot takes, but I do want to look at this from a hobby perspective and what it might mean in the hobby for both Tom Brady and others. Spoiler – he is still one of the best to ever play the game.

Tom Brady’s Hobby Legacy

I dont think this changes all that much in the long run. He might take a small hit in this new age of “what have you done for me lately” collecting, which is insane in its own right. As mentioned above, with the fact that he just won a Super Bowl, this should be one of his brightest hobby moments, regardless of the mob bearing torches and pitchforks in the over-sensitive media.

Here is an idea of what is going on right now:

2014 Topps Five Star Tom Brady Auto

2002 Topps Tom Brady Ring of Honor Auto PSA 10

2014 National Treasures Tom Brady Notable Nicknames Auto

2014 Museum Collection Tom Brady Gold Frame Gold Auto

It should also go without saying that Brady has had some really awesome cards for the first time in years. Both Topps and Panini have gotten in on some recent signings, which has led to cards from all sorts of high end products. If you are a Brady fan, this is your best time in almost a decade.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s NFL Starter Debut

As mentioned above, this is the one time where someone in Jimmy’s position can shine. He WILL play well, a la Matt Cassel, and that will make his cards go through the roof. You can almost bank on it. That wont change that Brady will be back and he will be better than ever after the first 2-4 games depending on appeals.

There are still some high prices on Jimmy out there, as well as some good buys:

2014 National Treasures Jimmy Garoppolo Auto Logo Patch RPA /99

2014 Finest Jimmy Garoppolo Auto Patch

2014 National Treasures Jimmy Garoppolo Colossal Auto Relic

Being that Tom is near the end of his career, he will eventually retire, but that doesnt mean Jimmy is a lock to take over the reigns. By then, Jimmy may be near the end of his rookie contract, which means he may be on his way out of Boston. New England loves to draft QBs and then trade them for value, but this situation IS a bit different than before. They really like Garoppolo, and they will likely want the time they have spent developing him to pay off. Maybe that's why his prices have been relatively steady for most of the year.

That means if you are planning to buy in, you had better be prepared to sell by week 3, or hold for a few years while Brady rides off into the sunset. Im not sure I would be willing to do that in this hobby environment.

Either way, I would actually advise against selling now, as the Pats system is just too good to expect Jimmy to fall on his face. He will win at least 2 of the 4 games, and that’s if he even plays 4. No guarantee Brady isnt back earlier, but it will spike his cards even if the appeal is granted.

As with any prospecting situation, you have to be ready to slow play things. Dont get trigger happy, or you could end up missing out like I have on so many different occasions.

On the Radar: Topps Adds Ichiro To Upcoming Products

The overseas market for trading cards is a wild card for most of the manufacturers, something I find to be a bit shocking. Considering how things can play, it seems like a no-brainer to bring cards frequently to that region. Topps has done special Asia only product lines in the last few years, many of which have been very interesting. I can see why they would want to chase Ichiro, as he is literally the biggest name in Japanese baseball to this day.

Here are some of his prices from prior products:

2004 Upper Deck SP Game Used Ichiro Auto Patch /10

2001 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ichiro Auto RC

2014 Leaf Immortals Ichiro Auto Jumbo Patch

2002 Sweet Spot Ichiro Auto Ball

In the past, Ichiro’s autograph price tag have limited the companies from getting on board at a level that would make him readily available for a large product run. During the first few years of his career, Upper Deck had him in a few products, sets that housed his most expensive cards.

Recently, Leaf had signed a deal with Ichiro that granted them access to his likeness and autographs for some of their biggest releases to date, including the first game used patch cards in a very long time.

Based on what we have seen with his cards in the past, Topps’ adding him to their stable is a very big deal. Not just because he has a valuable signature, but because of how many overseas collectors will want the cards and the products. There is no telling how much the deal is for, but you can bet it is a significant amount.

I would guess he will be a very limited autograph in any of the products he is used for, which means he will not be a card that many can afford to buy right out. Now that Topps has announced that Allen and Ginter will be the first cards, I would think that the price should go up as a result.

Again, this is big for 2015 products. Interested to see how it plays out.