SCU Go Live Report: 2014-15 Panini Flawless Basketball

I still find it baffling that Panini can succeed with this product without Jordan or Lebron Autos. I also find it baffling that people will pay the extra money JUST because the player quality in a box is much more increased over a product like National Treasures. Although there are logos for the first time this year in Flawless, and the design does look great, it seems overpriced for content that is available in other products. To this day, no Flawless set has offered anything that is so unique that it makes up for the price tag. I guess a better collation rate of big names is worth paying the extra money to a lot of people. I dont get it personally.

Even with all my reservations, this is definitely “one of those products” that is more of an event each year:

14-15 Flawless Andrew Wiggins Rookie Auto Patch Red /15

14-15 Flawless Andrew Wiggins Momentous Patch Auto /20

14-15 Flawless Steph Curry Jumbo Logo Patch Auto /5

14-15 Flawless Wilt Chamberlain Dual Patch /5

Now, at 1650 per box, you would expect that hitting a Wiggins patch auto would net you more money than hitting one out of Treasures, especially considering it A) Looks a million times better, and B) is lower numbered on the base parallel. That isnt the way it looks to be working out, especially once the initial release bump cools off. Similarly, if you dont hit one of the nicer rookies in your box, its going to be more and more likely you will take greater than a 40% loss overall. That isnt terrible for a high end product in the least, but again, basketball is just a crazy sport.

NOTE: I havent seen Jabari Parker with any listed autographs yet. That is concerning to me if he is not on the checklist.

Similarly, there are some really questionable names on this checklist, something that Panini has made a name for themselves on with sets of this cost. Although the overall collation provides better hits at a much better rate than a box of treasures, man some of these non-RC players are shitty as hell. They definitely do not belong on this checklist and I would argue that even having them as part of NT would be a slap in the face.

My favorite cards in the whole product are the momentous auto patches, which like NT feature a horizontal orientation and a 1×2 patch. The cards are easily some of the better looking cards I have seen come out of a Panini product this year. The issue is that they look almost identical to ones you can pull out of NT, which again seems odd to me. Although the ones in NT are rookies /10, Flawless should offer something unique. It should offer something that isnt available anywhere else. I feel so strongly about this, even though as said before, the cards look really fucking cool. If I am going to spend the money, I feel like I should get something that is special – more than just a better chance of getting the Durants and Shaqs. If Jordan or Lebron were to make their debut, we would have a different story, but that isnt the case.

I have said over and over again, that I know people love this product. I know people will PAY for this product, so I cant fault Panini for trotting it out year after year. That being said, I dont think we have seen anywhere close to what COULD have been done with it. If Upper Deck ever gets a license back, there will be some serious fireworks if they decide to try their hand. Obviously, that isnt in the cards at the moment.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Topps Five Star Baseball

When Topps launched Five Star in football back in 2010, I was literally floored by how beautiful the cards were. Not only was it the only NFL licensed football product that had all on card autos, but every single one of the cards looked as premium as it should. Topps eventually ported the set over to baseball, mostly with diminished results. High end in baseball rarely works, unless you die cut lame crap into the card and slap a Triple Threads logo on it. I know, I know, I dont get it either.

Here are some of the big hits up so far:

2015 Topps Five Star Kris Bryant Auto RC

2015 Topps Five Star Sandy Koufax Auto Green /5

2015 Topps Five Star Francisco Lindor Auto RC

Thus, Five Star Baseball continues to look awesome, but has never really lived up to the hype. It has been plagued by checklist issues, content issues, and paled in comparison to recent hit products like Dynasty, which seemed to offer more of what high end baseball collectors wanted. In the same vein, there is still a legit argument that super premium products in baseball rarely work without a significant push for crazy content.

This year’s Five Star is retooled to be a 2 card box in a very different format. Instead of 3 boxes per case with 6 cards per box, its now 8 boxes per case. I actually like this format change a lot, even though it isnt the same potential wow factor “ooooh gotta slide to the next card” type of experience when opening a box. At the same time, its not as much of a kick in the nuts to strike out on a 150 dollar box versus a 500 dollar box. There may be more duds, but the positive perception of opening a cheaper box is much different.

The product remains all on card, and has some LARGE cards to pull from the set. The jumbo patch autos alone should fetch some nice money, and I have already seen some fun names on the checklist. The main problem is that Correa is not in this product from what I can tell, and that is going to pose some issues that can only be made up by other bigger names.

Players like Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard Francisco Lindor, and of course Kris Bryant will definitely pick up some of the slack along side the usual big names. Trout, Kershaw, Ichiro, Aaron, Koufax and Ripken all have cards, and that will be great, and the logo patch cards with cut signatures will be cool too.

My favorite cards in the inscriptions are gone for a second year, and that makes me incredibly sad, even though it does continue to make the older versions more desirable. I do like that they have continued with the gold and silver signings, but those inscription cards are what made Five Star what it is. They ditched them in Football too, only to see the entire product likely replaced by Definitive Collection, which seems to be quite the bombshell set in itself.

I cant help but feel like Five Star is turning into a higher premium Topps Supreme product with all on card autographs, and I am also not sure if that is a bad thing. We will see how this year’s set performs, and this might be one last trot around the bases before something else gets a look in this part of the calendar. If Five Star goes away in 2016, I am still going to miss it regardless.

Carlos Correa – My Pick for 2015 MLB Hobby ROY/MVP

When a player blasts off, its fun to watch. Its also kind of a bittersweet moment, when you see how much could have been made had you invested at the right time. Carlos Correa is doing Mike Trout things this year, much like Puig did a few years ago. Nothing in the hobby is as white hot as he is currently, and that is a very good thing. Before we crown him, lets take a walk down memory lane…

2013 Hobby ROY/MVP – Yasiel Puig

As hot as Correa is right now, Puig was just as hot in 2013. He hit a barrage of dingers, batted .319, and was all around awesome. Unlike Correa, however, Puig was known for being a bit unpredictable and immature, which led to some unfavorable situations with his manager. As a whole, he hasnt really replicated his success, as injuries and cold streaks have taken their toll. Still pretty valuable for a young guy with lots of years left.

Here is where his cards are right now:

2013 Bowman Chrome Yasiel Puig Auto RC BGS 10

2014 Topps Supreme Yasiel Puig / Mike Trout Dual Auto Patch Book

2013 Topps Chrome Yasiel Puig Topps Chrome Auto Gold Refractor PSA 10

2014 Hobby ROY/MVP – Jose Abreu

Another Cuban import, Abreu had a great 2014 season, slugging 34 HR and batting over .300 along the way. The issue is that the White Sox are terrible, and Abreu was lost in that mediocrity once the season came to a close. His cards were hot, but were relatively overshadowed once Kris Bryant’s stuff started to get into the mix. This was kind of an odd year, but Abreu was the hot guy through most of 2014.

Here is where Abreu is today:

2014 Bowman Chrome Jose Abreu Auto RC

2014 Topps Chrome Jose Abreu Auto RC BGS 10

2015 Triple Threads Jose Abreu Jumbo Bat Auto

2015 Hobby ROY/MVP runner up – Kris Bryant

I cant believe he isnt a no brainer here to be the winner in my mind, but I just dont see it. There is an argument to be made that Bryant is the guy, and to be honest, this is kind of 1 and 1a in a lot of ways. Bryant’s cards are and were hot all year long, even though he has been eclipsed by Correa as the year has gone on. Bryant playing for one of the most popular teams in the league helps a lot, and he still has a chance to hit 30 HR in an incomplete season. Pretty impressive to say the least.

Bryant remains on fire in the hobby, which is why I am hesitant in not naming him at the top spot:

2014 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Auto RC BGS 10

2015 Topps Finest Kris Bryant Gold Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Auto XRC BGS 9.5

and, without further adieu….

2015 Hobby ROY/MVP – Carlos Correa

The Astros have had a miracle season after finishing with over 90 losses for each of the last 5 years. Correa has put up such impressive numbers at a tough position, making his value that much more worthy to a fickle collector base who loves seeing players rake at the plate. His 2 HR game over the weekend was a cherry on top of the sundae, as his values continue to be without a ceiling. Topps recently made him their poster boy for the foreseeable future, and rightfully so. Even his digital cards are doing well, selling for more than most of the other cards in the game.

Its worth talking about the potential future that Correa has, which is why I think he is worth the top spot for the year. Its clear he is at a position of need for the Astros and the hobby in general, and that makes him more of a commodity for me. He seems to be a well liked guy, who plays with the same fervor we dont see with guys like Puig or Harper. The bottom line is that everyone is too late in putting money into his top end stuff, and much like Trout, the ceiling can get higher, but not without a significant sum of money to throw in the pool. We have seen Trout become the face of the league in a matter of a few short years, and like Correa, seems to be a guy that is WORTH putting some money into.

All of that really doesnt speak to why I think he is the one player who shined the most during 2015 so far – especially over a guy like Bryant. Its one thing to start high and maintain value by doing enough to show people their money isnt going to waste. Its a completely different story to start where Correa did and end up finishing with values in the same league. That is where my decision was made. He is not even in the same conversation as Trout in 2011, but that might change eventually.

Being that Correa has only had just over half a year to show what he has, its possible he will cool off as pitchers continue to adjust to his weaknesses. Great players, like Trout will take advantage of these changes, and retool to become even better than before. Bryant and Correa will need to show they can come back and do it again next year, but both look to be very bright stars in the making, something that the hobby needs now more than ever.

SCU Go Live Report: 2015 Topps Heritage High Numbers

Last week’s and this week’s releases definitely present a very large gap in the two types of products that hit shelves. Triple Threads is a hyper-modernization of today’s built around sticker autos and under-designed cards that only exist to deliver relic content in the most annoying possible way. Heritage High Number (second of the Heritage sets released this year), is completely on the other side of the spectrum. It is aimed at delivering tribute content to a set from the Topps catalog that is meant to trigger nostalgic feelings for the people that open it.

Here are some of the cards from the new set:

2015 Heritage High Numbers Kris Bryant Chrome Gold Refractor /5

2015 Heritage High Numbers Noah Syndergaard Real One Red Auto

2015 Heritage High Numbers Clayton Kershaw Red Ink Real One Auto

2015 Heritage High Numbers Carlos Correa Auto Real One

2015 Heritage High Numbers Byron Buxton Red Ink Real One Auto

Last year, High Number was not a wide release, and as a result, didnt even come close to the budget that this year’s set obviously had. Just in looking at the autograph content alone, the boxes are much more attractive to open. All that being said, the non-Real One autograph and Relic content is still horrendously ugly, and for someone like me, the set itself really isnt a reason to buy.

There are some SPs and photo variations that provide a lot of reason to dive deep into cases of this product, and that isnt even talking about the Chrome and Chrome parallels that can sell just as high. If you are lucky enough to pull a Black or Gold, you are pretty much set to gain back the cost of your box. This is one of those times where non-autograph content is almost more attractive than autograph content, and that is always a treat for people who love sets like Heritage. The SSP photo variations can fetch a SHIT TON of money, and its going to be a race for the master collectors to chase them all down.

On top of that, the on card Real One autographs are some of the most widely collected autographs in Topps baseball. Up until this point, they are usually consisting of subjects from the year that the set was commemorating, and rarely have the big name checklist we are seeing here. Not only do Buxton and Bryant have cards in the set, but newly signed Topps exclusive Carlos Correa has autographs in there too. HOFers and stars are in there too, including ones that were part of the original set.

Im not usually someone that goes nuts over sets like this, but its hard to stay away when you see all the cool content that is delivered. Even though I fucking hate the look of the punch cards and clubhouse collection, the rest of the set is calling my name.

On the Radar: More 2015 Contenders Previews

When we first got a look at the Contenders design for 2015 a week or two ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it looked. It resembled a ticket (unlike last year's garbage), it was simple (unlike most other years), and should be hard signed (unlike most of Panini's calendar this year). That only left the rest of the preview, which I knew had some potential for being typical Panini. We were not disappointed.

Funny enough, this is actually the second Contenders product released this year, which as I said prior was a HORRIBLE idea. The previous version was a stickered college product that rehashed a terrible 2014 design, and once you see what is going down in 2015 Contenders, it will only bring about more questions.

Here is what I mean:

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Marcus Mariota Bowl Ticket Auto /99

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Jameis Winston Cracked Ice Auto /23

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Andrew Luck Old School Colors Auto

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Tom Brady Alumni Ink Auto

I have mentioned many, many times before that Panini has horribly overpaid for pretty much every single exclusive license they own. Nothing more glaring than their recent exclusive with the NFLPA, but a close second is their college exclusive. This license is one that most people in the industry seem to think is a way to burn a ton of extra cash with no discernible advantage to the bottom line. There are even claims that the license was not profitable the whole time UD had it. Panini, knowing this is the case, has tried to inject college content into products that are pro-branded. 2015 Contenders will be no different, despite the fact that they already blew their college wad earlier this year on a dud set with trashy stickers and an old design.

I will say that the on card autographs and decidedly better look to this version is much more of a great thing, but it doesnt say much about the previous releases. Even more than that, someone on a forum made a good point of blending products like this without considering the audience. Im not sure that you gain anything by adding college content to a product that already has a loyal fan base as it is. If anything it dilutes the concept of the set, much like it used to do when college cards were inserted prior to 2010.

As for the rest of the preview, its stocked full of designs with laughably huge text, more stickers, and the typical stuff Contenders usually contains. In the long run, these things will matter not, as they rarely get any attention outside of the people who must have every card.

In considering the product as a whole, the design is great for the main hits, which means that the product should do pretty well. The wild card is always the rookie class, which has already been on a yo-yo through the first two weeks. I guess we will have to wait and see.