Go Live Report: 2015 Topps Series 2 Baseball

Its rare that Series 2 is a set that means something to someone like me, a football collector that doesnt really buy many baseball cards. Thanks to some promotions and some cool cards in the set, I am definitely paying attention more than I ever have. As a set, its not all that different from Topps Series 1, but oh man, it has some surprises.

Check out some of the bigger hits so far:

2015 Topps Series 2 Kris Bryant Acetate Clear RC /10

2015 Topps Series 2 Kris Bryant Auto

2015 Topps Series 2 Rickey Henderson Auto Patch Highlight of the Year

2015 Topps Series 2 Bryce Harper Auto

As a set, Topps Series 2 continues to be pretty standard for what they have put out over the last few years. Base set, a few rookies that have been called up, photo variations, and sparkles. I think its a nice mix of cards that appeal to the set collectors out there, as well as some of the higher end collectors who give away all their base cards that they get in packs.

2015 Topps Bunt Promotions

If you havent played Topps Bunt yet, check out my other site digitalcardcentral.com to read up on some of the awesome things that Topps digital has brought to the game. Its really amazing how in depth it goes, and with the ability to print on demand, you get more up to date cards than waiting for Series 2 and Update. Watch out, its addicting.

For the first time, Bunt is all over a Topps product, and I could not be happier. They have cards that you can redeem for free coins in the game, which can be used to buy the digital packs of cards. They also have player boost cards that are RARE as hell, at 25 copies, which are selling for some crazy money right now:

2015 Topps Series 2 Felix Hernandez Bunt Player Redemption 5x Boost /25

2015 Topps Series 2 Giancarlo Stanton Bunt Player Redemption 5x Boost /25

Bunt is here to stay, and I would even go so far in saying its likely on a more positive trajectory than the physical card business at the moment. The cards will be back in Update, and I cant wait.

Framed Cards and Acetate Parallels

I like that Topps has made the parallels a bit more special by taking a different approach with them. Instead of just slapping another serial number on the cards, the parallels out of 10 and 20 are different technology. I love the silver frame, as I think it adds a display quality each time it is used. The acetate is something I am always a sucker for. It just looks cool.

2015 Topps Series 2 Alex Rodriguez Framed Parallel /20

2015 Topps Series 2 Joe Panik Acetate /10

Topps Strata

We got word at the industry summit that Strata is going to be its own product (FINALLY!). It has been a staple high end insert in the base series for a few years now, and its back again for Series 2. I absolutely LOVE these cards, and cannot wait to see what they do when they make this into its own product.

2015 Topps Series 2 Chipper Jones Strata Signature Relic

2015 Topps Series 2 Jacob deGrom Strata Signature Relic

Baseball Royalty Autos

Wanted to call your attention to these cards because I think the on card autos with the gold pen look really cool. For a set that is meant to be lower end in Series 2, these cards look VERY high end. Im pretty impressed with the way they look.

2015 Topps Series 2 John Smoltz Baseball Royalty Auto

2015 Topps Series 2 Ozzie Smith Baseball Royalty Auto

Overall, it looks like I am going to be breaking some series 2 for the first time in a long time.

SCU Go Live Report: 2015 Bowman Football

Over the last 3 years, Topps has made Bowman its primary driver for pre-premiere cards. Although this could even technically be called a pre-draft product, there are elements of rookies with NFL logos on base cards. The product has been relatively polarizing, mainly because of its presentation style, which means that many either love it or hate it.

Here are some of the first cards up so far:

2015 Bowman Chrome Marcus Mariota Orange Refractor Auto /50

2015 Bowman Chrome Bryce Petty Red Wave Refractor Auto /25

2015 Bowman Chrome Ameer Abdullah Gold Refractor Auto /75

2015 Bowman Chrome Shane Ray Blue Refractor Auto /99

2015 Bowman Breshad Perriman 1948 Mini Auto RC

Although I understand that generic pictures of the rookies in retouched college pictures isnt the ideal situation, I would buy singles and boxes of this before venturing into stickers that are comprising 100% of Panini’s product line so far for 2015. I love Chrome and I will tolerate the photograph situation so that we can have on card autographs, and that is that. On card is essential at this point in the year, as we have seen with releases for Leaf and Upper Deck. When stickers are used, it just kills all the appeal for the card, especially when there are on card examples available elsewhere.

In all honesty, I think the best solution is to wait for the NFL stuff to be ready, but that means forgoing most of the profit that can be gained from an early release. In fact, Bowman surprisingly remains valuable through the year, especially in high grade examples of the numbered refractors. Considering how much some people hate the pictures, many other people dont seem to care all that much.

The scariest thing is that Panini doesnt even value on card autographs enough to get many cards signed at the premiere, opting instead for rookies to sign scraps of paper, sketches, cloth or anything that can be used as a sticker replacement. Based on what we saw from Twitter and other social media, Topps got THOUSANDS of on card autographs signed a few weeks ago, and that 2015 looks to be the year of the hard signed card for them. I could not be happier. Considering that they were able to get Bowman done with no redemptions is pretty impressive. Lets hope the rest of their stuff turns out similarly. The only draw back is it seems that the signing of a late autograph deal means Melvin Gordon will only have base cards in the product.

I actually like this year’s design, and as mentioned above, think its whole-heartly a better approach than using stickers. I will definitely bust a few boxes as I do every year, and remain hopeful that this is potentially the only Topps football product that might be able to survive Panini’s sad acquisition of the NFLPA exclusive.

And so begins the last year that I will likely be fully invested in football cards. Thanks Panini and your shitty products. Cant wait for 2016.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Score Football

Back when I was a kid, Score was the brand you bought when you didnt have enough allowance left to buy Upper Deck or Topps. To me, it was an inferior brand back then, and its an inferior brand now. Doesnt help that some of the ugliest cards of the modern era have come from this set. That hasnt stopped Panini from trotting it out year after year, like its some event to have ugly cards with a brand name that should have been axed back in 2005.

Some of the cards are live already, potentially retail:

2015 Score Kevin White Red Zone Auto /20

2015 Score Duke Johnson Auto RC

2015 Score Ameer Abdullah Showcase Auto RC /50

2015 Score Sammy Coates Auto RC First Down /10

Nothing can touch last year’s awful format, which might have been the worst idea Panini has ever come up with. They released Score in a retail only format, and stamped foil onto the score cards (literally) for a new hobby set called Hot Rookies. I cant make this shit up. They took the score design, and literally printed foil on top of it with a new logo, except for the fact that you could still see that it was a re-purposed card. For reference, Hot Rookies is now selling at about 30% of dealer cost, and even that is a rip off.

This year, Score is back to being a hobby and retail release, and uses Panini's new NCAA exclusive to the fullest. In fact, this is about the best thing they could have done, as it actually serves the product well to have action shots from College instead of the HORRENDOUS airbrushed sideline shots from last year. This is where the NCAA exclusive actually pays off.

That doesnt change the fact that Score is still a piece of shit set. Panini once marketed the product as a way to get kids back in the game, which only further shows how delusional they are. Kids are long gone, and the money it would take to get them back isnt worth even thinking about spending. Using Score football as a half assed attempt to attract children back to the hobby is like trying to use tofu as a vehicle to get people to stop eating meat.

In terms of the design of the set, it isnt a horrible one. The base design isnt actually that bad, especially considering how bad it has been in the past. What is truly horrible are the inserts, which bear the signature Panini GIANT text in spades. Its laughable how bad these cards are. Im starting to believe there is a meeting where the people present designs, and someone at the table rates the design on how big the text is. If its not big, the design is rejected. That is literally the only explanation I can muster for cards of this sort.

I think that if you are going to spend the money on this crap, save it for later in the year when you can get boxes at half price. This will stand up about as well as a piece of paper in a light wind.

2015 MLB Rookie Class: Byron Buxton Adds Fuel To the Fire

Yesterday, we got the big news that two of the biggest prospects in baseball would be called up to join an already star studded crop for 2015. Byron Buxton of the Twins and Francisco Lindor of the Indians are set to join Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo and company in the bigs, making their MLB debut. Considering that guys like Carlos Correa, Addison Russell and a few others are already up with the clubs, this could end up being one of the best rookie classes in MLB history.

Here is what Buxton and Lindor are going for these days:

2013 Bowman Chrome Byron Buxton Blue Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2014 National Treasures Byron Buxton Silhouette Auto Twins Logo 1/25

2014 Bowman Platinum Byron Buxton Dirty Jumbo Patch Auto Red /25

2011 Bowman Chrome Francisco Lindor Red Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2011 Bowman Sterling Francisco Lindor Gold Refractor Auto RC

We have already seen the impact that rookies have had so far this year, with Bryant starting to pile on the home runs and RBIs just like he was projected to do. Collectors have been clamoring to get some of his cards squared away in their collections as a result. Others like Carlos Correa (drafted in the same year as Buxton) just got the call, and have already been doing very well. Buxton is rated as Baseball’s number 2 prospect, and many believe he could be a mainstay for the surprise Twins in their outfield for years. That would mean great things for his cards.

Buxton has been a GREAT signer for Topps over the years, as his cards have been readily available across all brands. Leaf and Panini have also had a big opportunity with him, as his autographs are well documented in the recent releases there as well. The question with prospects like we are seeing this year is whether or not they can live up to the hype. The rule of thumb is always to buy low and sell high, but doing so right around call up can be a very risky proposition.

Development is always a big part of success within the game, as it can take a few years for anyone to get to their true potential. Bryant may have been able to get going right out of the gates, but there are arguments to be made that this start might mean little in the grand scheme. Of course, that hasnt stopped everyone and their mothers from chasing down his autographs, as the rarer ones have sold for thousands more than even proven all stars and MVPs.

It used to be that everyone was trying to find the next Albert Pujols. A guy who rocketed out of the blocks, and has already won multiple MVPs, World Titles, and hit his 500th home run last year. His cards were the hottest thing in baseball for years. Since moving to the Angels a few years ago, things have cooled off. Now, its trying to find the next Mike Trout, as his potential ceiling seems to be even higher than Pujols, as long as he can continue playing at the way he is right now. Trout is the face of Baseball cards right now, with his autographs being more valuable than just about anyone. Both Pujols and Trout came about in a way very differently than Buxton, Bryce Harper or even Bryant, as both were lower picks in the first round instead of the top or second pick.

In all reality, this isnt the way to go about playing the prospecting game, as Pujols and Trout are generational in their talents. To pick that one guy out of THOUSANDS is like winning the lottery, and like the lottery, shouldnt be counted on. Baseball cards just arent investment worthy any more, and havent been for the last few decades. Cards should be used as the hobby and for fun, even though there are still people who can make money prospecting. The amount of work that goes into that kind of existence is ridiculous, and many people arent willing to put in that time. Most collectors dont understand how hard it is Prospect with the best, as they just think they can buy according to the hype and walk away winners. Doesnt work like that, except in very rare cases.

Taking all of that into consideration, ill still be watching intently as Buxton makes his debut, and will be among the people who will love it when he hopefully plays well. One can dream.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Platinum Football Preview

I am a big fan of Topps Platinum and have been since 2011. The years before that were a tad more suspect, but after 2011's changes stuck for the long term, Platinum has been a set to look forward to each year. Its the first set with on card autographs on non-retouched photos, and that has always prompted my excitement.

Last year was a combination of some really cool looking cards combined with a box hit patch auto design that really didnt work as well as I thought it would:

2014 Topps Platinum Odell Beckham Superfractor Patch Auto 1/1

2014 Topps Platinum Johnny Manziel Superfractor RC Auto 1/1

2014 Topps Platinum Blake Bortles Colossal Patch Auto /5

Previous years have had their fare share of sweet cards too:

2012 Topps Platinum Andrew Luck Die Cut Gold Refractor Auto On Card

This year’s Platinum design is a definite departure from previous years. Instead of the nameplate being the most interesting part of the card, the entire design is going pretty out there, with a feel that has me thinking of those cool outer limits universe pieces. Its kind of smoky, with a space like presentation, and it works really well in the base and the base autographs. Adding the team logo in the background is a really nice touch, especially when it isnt presented as a focal point.

As for the patch autos, there are some changes that I really like, and a few non-changes that linger from 2014. I really like that the player is much more up close in the design this year. Last year, they were too far zoomed out, which led to a pretty awkward look. I also like that they have incorporated a rectangular swatch for the patches to go along side the hexagonal or shield shaped swatch from previous years Рas we see on the Winston card. On the other hand, I really dont like that faded out area behind the sticker on the colored refractors. I think it just never looks right and draws the eye there immediately. The colors should be made light enough that it doesnt matter. Instead, we are going to get that white area for the second year in a row.

Overall, this year will continue to be dominated by the quality of the class, as I think there is a big bust potential in many of the rookies at the top of the draft. If the rookies light it up, you can assume that products like Platinum will be hot, especially with the Chrome stock. If not, we can see that the boxes will fall. The box break has always been tougher with Platinum because of the top player SP list that is always in place, so that could play a big part as well. For singles buyers, this looks like a fun product, for wax breakers, it can be a wait and see situation.

Either way, Im pretty excited to see how it turns out.