SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Gypsy Queen Baseball

I like Gypsy Queen a lot, especially because of the retro themed nature of the product. Its all on card autographs, with a retro design and that painted type HDR filter that I really have come to like more and more over the years. Although there are always some major duds on the autograph checklist, as a whole, the set looks really nice this year, as it always does.

Here are some of the bigger hits so far:

2016 Gypsy Queen Kenta Maeda Green Parallel Auto /99

2016 Gypsy Queen Jeff Bagwell Framed Mini Auto MVP

2016 Gypsy Queen Kyle Schwarber Auto SP

2016 Gypsy Queen Frank Thomas Mini Auto Book

The biggest news for Gypsy queen this year is the inclusion of the first Kenta Maeda autographs, who figures to be a big draw all year. Another import from Asia, much like Darvish and Tanaka, Maeda’s value will be high until his performance shows his true potential. At that point, its a skyrocket or a plummet, and hopefully he does well.

This is designed as a more involved amalgamation of a set builder’s product and a hit chaser product, with lots of fun inserts and base cards along side high end content with autographs and patches.

My favorites are the mini autographs that come in the included SP Mini pack with each box, as I think they just look really cool. Although the cards are smaller, the pictures and autographs still look really different and interesting. They have a different photo than the normal autos in most cases, which is also a cool change. There are also framed mini autos of some players, but those are exceptionally rare.

The autographs range from the base variety all the way up to autograph mini patch booklets and a bunch of others. There are also SSP photo variations and SP base that make the set a bit more fun in the main base area of the box.

Overall, GQ is a pretty underrated product as a whole, mainly because Topps has made on card autographs such a standard occurrence over the last few years. I really like the look above and beyond most of their main products, and will definitely be busting a few boxes if I have the chance.

Some Thoughts on Topps NOW

Over the last few days, Topps has been teasing their new online exclusive product called Topps Now, which is an on demand printed set commemorating daily moments from the previous day’s MLB action. This is really the first time a physical product has been branded around timely printing of recent results from Baseball, and it could be very interesting to see how it plays out.

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Being that Topps Now has the ability to print cards that celebrate items as they happen, it could be a very interesting way to special content onto the market as quickly as possible. If you think back, players like Yasiel Puig and company stormed onto the scene, and had very few cards to support the enormous demand of their production on the field.

To counter this situation, Topps is pledging to print the cards within 3-5 business days and ship quickly, which could ensure that extra value is maintained for cards of players who dont have any on the market, or do something huge on the field. If Clayton Kershaw pitches a perfect game, the card that is made for the event could end up being valuable above the $9.99 Topps is charging.

The only thing is that certain cards are going to be higher run, as there seems to be no limit on how many are printed with each release. Topps has said they are going to announce the runs as they have them, which could mean that a low count version can have some added success on the secondary market.

To be honest, this type of content has been available for years in a digital format, and some of the cards have quite high prices on eBay. Since Topps has had such huge success with Bunt, its not surprising that they want to get these built on a physical side of things as well.

The only piece of this that is still in question has to do with awareness. How many people are going to know about the set, care about the set, or even want the set. Same question can be asked about individual pieces. I think that Topps just wants to make sure that Topps Now remains somewhat of a collectors item, even if the final product eventually gets stale. Going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out.

I have to say, for me, its worth a look right now.

Odd Things Afoot with 2012 Contenders Russell Wilson Autographs

I have talked about issues with Panini and autograph authenticity at length in previous posts. Even as recently as 2015 National Treasures, they have used autographs that look close but not similar to player autographs used in other products. On Blowout, a user has brought up a new question surrounding the Russell Wilson autographs from 2012 Contenders, a set that has already had many questionable situations with Robert Griffin III.

Here is a few of the Russell Wilsons I would gather to be authentic based on previous signatures:

2012 Panini Contenders Russell Wilson Rookie Ticket Auto Variation

2012 Panini Contenders Russell Wilson Rookie Ticket Auto BGS 9.5

Here are the ones in question:

2012 Panini Contenders Russell Wilson Rookie Ticket "Auto"

2012 Panini Contenders Russell Wilson Rookie Ticket "Auto"

Now, Wilson has a give up signature to begin with, so you would think it wouldnt be hard to fake. However, the slant, signing direction, letter shape and flow of the questionable versions dont match any known example in the slightest. This was the same thing that occurred with RGIII's problematic examples.

Its also worth mentioning that the Russell Wilson variation has a Panini stated print run of 25, despite 64 graded copies being tallied by Beckett and quite a few more by PSA. Considering its possible that someone cracked open a few cases here and there, and resubmitted, you never know. That would mean the entire run has been pulled, redeemed and graded, which doesnt really make sense.

Clearly something is going on, and it might not be something that Panini is on the hook for. One scenario I could think of was that Panini sent Wilson all the cards, plus some “overs” to ensure that they would have enough for the run, plus a few extra in case of damage or returns.

The overs some how made it into the hands of a guy who decided it was worth his time to crank out some fraudulent autographs, knowing that they sell for a considerable amount. Because the cards are “real” no one is going to question the autographs also being real.

This scenario has basically destroyed the market for the infamous 2007 Topps Rookie Premiere autographs, and its looking like its rearing its ugly head again. I am curious if anyone can get an answer out of Panini, because obviously this doesnt look good.

SCU Go Live Report: 2015 Topps Diamond Football

Here it is, the final product that Topps will produce under its NFL license. After 60 years of producing sets, Diamond football is the period at the end of the brand’s sentence. As I mentioned yesterday, this is not something I think is a good situation for the hobby, and I do give them credit for going out with a big bang. The cards look nice, and the set features some amazing looking examples.

Here are some of the nicer hits posted so far;

2015 Topps Diamond Aaron Rodgers Auto /10

2015 Topps Diamond Jameis Winston Jumbo Patch Auto RC /50

2015 Topps Diamond Amari Cooper / Kevin White Dual Patch Auto Booklet

2015 Topps Diamond Jerome Bettis Jumbo Patch Auto

What I like about Diamond is more about the cards without the autographs signed on them. I like the design, I like the monochrome look, I like the way they chose to model this set. Its a very different take on a super premium set, and I think for a one time thing, its really nicely executed.

Boxes are VERY hit and miss. At 275 bucks, its not like Supreme where it can afford to be hit and miss. Its a 3 card pack, all cards are autographed, and one is almost always a redemption. Obviously that hurts considerably, but its not like they can push the product back, right? We have already seen that Topps is continuing to get the signings done, as many of the redemptions from Definitive look to be coming along nicely. Either way, you need to have nice cards in all the slots to get close to a favorable ROI.

I dont like that they used the crazy paint pen colors to sign the cards. Although they arent even close to the shitty examples we saw in Spectra, its hard to see them as a viable option for signing cards. That being said, gold and silver signed cards arent really special anymore, so I get why they wanted to try something different. The design helps the pen color stand out, and for the most part, its something I can overlook.

Is Diamond as good as Definitive was? I think that is comparing apples and oranges in a lot of ways. Definitive was more of a traditional looking product, where this is like the concept car on the show floor. Its there just to show that its possible to make something in that manner.

Topps ending its run with as many on card products as they did was beyond awesome. It showed that a calendar with a slew of hard signed sets at affordable prices is possible, and that is where I think we are going to see a HUGE dropoff next year. Panini loves stickers, and they love holding back on card for their super premium lines. Its a shitty thing for product quality, and I think we will continue to come back to products like Tek, Museum, Diamond, and Definitive when Panini goes on their sticker frenzy in 2016.

RIP Topps Football, things wont be the same without you.

Rest in Peace Topps Football, You Will Be Missed

This hobby has been my life for almost 30 years. For some people, that 30 years is child’s play, as collecting cards usually has a place with people for a long time. To put it into the context of my life, Topps has been in football twice as long as I have been a part of this hobby, and almost 25 years past the beginning of my life. Today, that comes to an end.

Starting tomorrow, Panini will seize control of the NFL after offering so much money for the exclusive deal that it would have been stupid for the league to turn a blind eye. Topps couldnt compete, and even if they wanted to, im not sure they were dumb enough to get for as much money as Panini threw at both the PA and the league. Its just an insane amount of money. Personally, I believe that it was done in the name of trying to push Topps out of business, but that is about as shortsighted a move as possible.

The legacy Topps has built in the top sport in the US is one that will stand LONG past the demise of their brands. The iconic cards from even the recent years will cast long shadows over the stuff Panini is going to have to churn out of their assembly line. The older cards, ones that I grew up longing to have in my collection, will forever be looked upon with nostalgia and happiness, as well as a latent curiosity of why the current state cant measure up.

Personally, since Upper Deck’s departure from the NFL in 2010, no one has made better looking cards than Topps. Their design team rarely had issues, and when mistakes were made, they werent made twice. They made their cards look so good, that I honestly was appalled at how far the gap was between them and Panini. Over the last few years, sets like Chrome, Five Star and others have set the standard for quality in visual appeal. Other sets like Definitive Collection might be some of the best made in this era.

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With Topps, the cards rarely looked anything but amazing, and that is what drew me to their brands. To me, design and look is the one thing I dont look past. If the card looks like garbage, I dont even put a second thought into other considerations of the set. Thanks to the way they built their products, I rarely had to scoff at the sets like I always do with Panini.

Losing a brand or brands from a sport loses more than just the history. It loses another take. It loses perspective. Panini has a completely different way they approach building a product, and even if I hate their formula, the variety the exclusive deal prevents is scary. In the next 10 years we are going to get nothing but one take on football cards, from one design team, 31 times a year. Its going to be brutal. Its going to be so brutal that Im not sure I can continue to buy new football cards in box form.

I have commented numerous times on how negatively I think the Panini exclusive will impact football cards, and I havent wavered from that. Even if they made  the best products in the world (they dont), the minimum guarantees owed to the PA and league are so high, that quantity will be more important than quality. Considering that Panini already has an ENORMOUS issue in creating good looking quality products, its going to get really bad.

Sadly, we are also losing the one brand in Football that people outside of collecting really know. Say Panini to anyone on the street, and its a grilled sandwich, not a trading card. Topps has brand power that expands past the normal collecting base.

Thankfully, Topps Digital will continue to show the world what Topps Football was and continues to be. The Huddle app will not be part of the exclusive, so they can continue to operate as normal. This is not just important in continuing the rich history of the brands, but also reminding people that the mind-numbingly awful products that are on the way werent always the only option.

Now that both Topps and Upper Deck, the best and second best cards in the hobby are both out of the majority of the four sports, we should all be pretty sad that things have been reduced to this lowest common denominator. Historic modern brands like Exquisite, Chrome, SP Authentic, and Finest are now one sport products, if that. Topps Flagship, the most popular set in the hobby has gone from a 4 sport set to a 3 sport set, to a 2 sport set and now its just baseball. Tides have shifted things in the wrong direction, and for 2 of the top sports, a company no one in the US really knows has taken over.

Its sad that the brands I grew up with in Football are pretty much gone. For the last 20 years, I have collected the top rookies from my favorite teams in Chrome and Finest. Every year, even when I wasnt collecting during my teen years. It was a tradition that transcended my personal preferences in entertainment. For the first time in that span, 2016 will no longer have that as an option for me in Football.

Rest in peace Topps Football, my childhood and adult experience with your products have brought immense joy to my life and my son’s life. The Topps cards in my collection will continue to be a treasured part of my memories, and I am making a promise to regularly go back and appreciate what your brands have accomplished over the years. I understand this sounds intensely personal, because for the last two decades, it has been. I love what Topps has done, and I am bitterly angry that they are no longer able to continue to be a part of the hobby I love. I doubt I will be the only one who feels this way.