2013 Exquisite and 2014 Score Football Give First Real Look at New Class’ Hobby Value

With 2014 Exquisite and 2014 Score, we are getting the first cards of the new class in two categories – NFL branded and Super High end. So far, there has been only a few cards worth talking about in both capacities, but as expected, this new breed is getting some major attention before any pre-season snaps have been taken.

Exquisite

These cards should be the rookie auto patches to really get some great potential in the early season releases. At least they are autographed this year, which has led to higher prices than we normally have seen in the XRC cards from this product. Not only do the cards look good, but they give us a first look at how the class is going to perform. Not bad at all.

2014 Exquisite Johnny Manziel Auto XRC /49

2014 Exquisite Blake Bortles Gold Auto XRC /10

2014 Exquisite Sammy Watkins Auto XRC

2014 Exquisite Mike Evans Auto XRC

Score Retail

I think this product is about as deserving of the axe as any product, but like we see with both companies, they want to keep affordable options on the table for some reason. Its different this year, because Score is only retail, even though some hobby stores will likely have it. Aside from a nice base design, the sideline shots kill any appeal this product had in the first place. I would much rather have retouched action shots with on card sigs in Bowman later this month.

Here are some of the cards:

2014 Score Blake Bortles Hot Rookies Auto

2014 Score Johnny Manziel Auto RC – Boring and stupid sideline shots ruin a nice score design

2014 Score Teddy Bridgewater Auto RC – see above

Next week marks the release of Hot Rookies, a product that we know VERY little about, only further questioned by the fact that Panini seems to think the “Hot Rookies” set is one worth replicating multiple times as a label. Not only does that not make sense to me, as Score represents an inferior brand altogether, but it only shows how much stock they put in bad ideas. We will see how it works out, but I am not holding my breath. Hopefully we can be pleasantly surprised now that Karvin Cheung has taken over, a guy with UD in his background.

Here is to the beginning of the 2014 card season, welcome to the thunderdome.

2013 Exquisite Football Is Live – But Will It Exceed Expectations?

I wrote yesterday about how important of a brand Exquisite is to sports cards. There is likely not a brand name out there that carries the same amount of weight – even after the loss of all major league sports licenses.

The set is now live, and some of the cards have definitely been quite impressive:

2013 Exquisite Peyton Manning / Andrew Luck Dual Auto

2013 Exquisite Sammy Watkins XRC Auto Base

2013 Exquisite John Elway Shadowbox Auto /25

2013 Exquisite Drew Brees Legendary Signatures Auto

2013 Exquisite Eddie Lacy Rookie Auto Patch /125

Being jam packed with big hits is not the issue at hand here, its what happens when you dont pull a big card to make up the enormous box price that Exquisite has carried since day one. Base Lacy auto patches are already being listed at about half the cost of a box, which means you can pull the best rookie in the product and still have more than half of your box to make up with fees in play.

That is a scary thought.

More importantly, this might not be a product that is worth breaking in single boxes, which has been the case in many high end releases for years. A scenario that calls attention to lack of resale in one box is common among big price tag wax, even more so in a year like this. Im not trying to be a Exquisite apologist, its just the nature of high end in general.

All that being said about the quality of the product itself, this release date undermines so much of the quality of the cards, that nothing else really matters. Its just impossible to justify waiting this long to release college licensed cards that can be produced the second an NFL rookie signs with an agent.

I love Exquisite, dont get me wrong, but this year may not be the best release. It definitely is the best looking run in years, but there are just too many things wrong.

Reasons That 2013 Exquisite May or May Not Hit The High Notes

I have been a fan of Exquisite since inception. Even during my break from the hobby back in the early part of the 2000s, I still heard about the 500 dollar pack of cards when it was released during Lebron’s rookie year in 03-04. It truly is the granddaddy of all high end products we know today.

Over the years, the product has become synonymous with the best of the best in the hobby, thanks to cards like this:

2007 Exquisite Michael Jordan / LeBron James Auto Patch

2013 Tiger Woods Master Collection Exquisite Auto Rookie Patch

2005 Exquisite Aaron Rodgers Auto Rookie Dual Patch

2007 Exquisite Emmitt Smith / Barry Sanders / Landanian Tomlinson Triple Auto

Tomorrow 2013 Exquisite Football is released, and as I have said before, its about six months too late. Not only is the 2013 class about as cold as it can possibly get, but many collectors wont even give this stuff a look because they have already moved onto 2014 products. Hell, the 2014 rookie premiere was last week! Crazy it is taking this long – even though many 2014 rookies will have stuff in this product. Here are reasons why it will and wont sell.

The Name (PLUS)

The Exquisite name could be added to signed pieces of blank plastic and still generate value solely based on the brand loyalty from all the things Upper Deck did with the product in previous years. If they ever got the NBA license back, they could EASILY make Panini an afterthought in a matter of minutes. That’s how powerful this name really is. Its the most valuable brand name in sports cards, and I am not kidding about that.

Here is the power of Exquisite:

Kobe Bryant Exquisite Cards For Sale

vs

Kobe Bryant Flawless Cards For Sale

The Design (PLUS)

Even with the abundance of cheap bookstore jersey swatches, the cards look amazing – as they always have. Upper Deck has ALWAYS brought design excellence to their products, so much so that Topps and Panini have hired their former employees to run their departments. Upper Deck was as influential in the modern hobby as anyone, and that is why it will continue to be relevant, even without a major league sports licence.

Even with NCAA – the cards still look great:

2012 Exquisite Robert Griffin III Auto Patch

2012 Exquisite Russell Wilson Rookie Auto Shadowbox

2012 Exquisite Barry Sanders Auto

The Release DateĀ (ABOUT AS BIG A MINUS AS POSSIBLE)

The fact that Upper Deck is still releasing products for 2013, even after they themselves have released 2014 products is fucking bonkers. If the team got their shit together and actually got Exquisite put together for the year to lead off right after 2014 Base Football, this product would be insane. I mean, you could sell case after case of 2014 Exquisite at this point and not even think about it. I would buy a few myself, because there is LITERALLY nothing else on the market. Instead we are left with a stale 2013 class, which was already a dud littering our 500 dollar boxes with cards that wont sell for peanuts. If the class wasnt so horrible, it would be one thing, but this is bad.

2014 Rookie Autographs (HUGE PLUS)

These new rookies are hot, especially Senor Football himself. Having autographs from 2014 may be the only saving grace of this stuff, and im not over exaggerating. Although there are some really nice cards in the product as a chase, the 2013 class is going to weigh Exquisite down like a rock in a deep lake. Pulling a Manziel may get you the box cost back, but good luck on the rest of the case.

The Box / Case Price (MINUS)

Upper Deck may be able to guarantee all sorts of stuff, but I am going to easily say that if NT cant support its 450 dollar price tag, this stuff has no shot. You can pack it full of autographs galore, but without a major source of coinage from the main rookies, its a lost cause. Group breakers should still be able to get a ton of people to buy in, but they are the exception to the rule. I would DOUBT that any normal collector would even put a single thought into buying some. Even 2012 Exquisite is struggling to stay afloat with one of the best rookie classes in history. That should say something.

No one will ever be able to downplay what Exquisite brings to the table. Its just too big a deal overall to write off completely. But this is a unique exception where the focus isnt on the new players that came into the league during the timeframe on the box. That has NEVER happened before. Not a good situation to be in.

Here are some previews:

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Release of 2014 Score Football Comes With New Baggage

We are about 9 days away from the hobby release of 2014 Score Football, a set that many people have been curious about for a few different reasons. Of course, many of these reasons have very little to do with the cards in the product and more with the launch of the new Panini Rewards program, but I digress. 2014 cards are 2014 cards, and I am excited to get this new year underway, even if the set is about as unappealing as they come.

The first cards from the retail version of Score are already out, and many more will likely be coming as the week progresses:

2014 Score Tajh Boyd Auto Base RC

2014 Score Complete Base Set w/ Manziel

2014 Score Khalil Mack Hot Rookies RC

2014 Score Mike Evans Base RC

2014 Score David Carr + Raiders Team Lot

2014 Score Jadeveon Clowney Base RC

Bottom line, I encourage you to go on Panini’s blog and read up on the Rewards. My feelings on the potential of this program have been well documented, especially considering what it will mean for player collectors. I have already been assured that the big players in each sport will still have normal redemptions, but I dont think its that simple.

This program could have been amazing if the collectors were offered a choice instead of being forced into participation. My stance has always been that it should be up to us if we want to wait for the redemption of the player on the card, instead of ensuring we will need to fight over limited copies in the store if/when they eventually show up signed.

Score is already a terrible product for more reasons than I can count on one hand, but this does take away from the issues with it. Although I really like the design this year, the pictures on the cards are horrendous, thus ruining everything for me. Who doesnt love players doing their best “Herp Derpson” face, right? I really would have liked these draft day cards to be done 100% but obviously Panini thinks that collectors dont want dynamic photography on the first cards of the year.

These actually look pretty damn good:

2014 Score Johnny Manziel Draft Day Commemorative Set

2014 Score Blake Bortles Draft Day Commemorative Set

Secondly, I think its worth everyone’s time to peruse the rewards store. There are a lot of cards already loaded, none of which are attractive to most collectors. Although it is VERY early, this type of situation doesnt inspire confidence when a relic card of a crappy rookie from 2012 sells for 400 points. This had better mean that they are a bit more liquid with points in packs, or things are going to get ugly fast.

Again, let me stress that I understand this is the earliest stages of things, and that it will likely change dramatically. However, you would expect them to have their shit together enough to know not to load up on junk in the store the day of launch. I would have put some Panini authentic items in there from Luck, Durant and company, just to show that this is not a joke. Right now, im not operating with a lot of confidence – definitely not enough for me to go chasing down points cards when they start showing up on eBay.

With Johnny Manziel signing an exclusive autograph deal through Panini Authentic, lets hope there is some movement on more things being added to the fray. On the other hand, it may never happen too. There are so many questions right now that dont have answers that its relatively frightening. Panini is playing with thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of incoming goods from a base of people that are already unhappy with a lot of elements. To quell the storm, they are going to need a lot more than a few crappy cards.

Panini has A LOT to prove to people who understand that redemptions werent really the problem in the first place. The only problem with redemptions was what was going to happen when they were unfulfilled. Not a good initial impression.

Love Him or Hate Him – Basketball Collectors Are All About Lebron James

Few people in sports are as polarizing a figure as Lebron James. Ever since he took his talents to South Beach by giving a middle finger to Cleveland, he has become a person that you either love or hate. In the hobby, the thin line between the two sentiments is even less clear, as many people would KILL to have a top flight auto of the King.

He already is the poster boy for one of the most valuable modern cards ever made:

2003-4 Exquisite LeBron James Rookie Auto Patch

I would even go as far as saying that there are only a handful of regularly available autos that are worth more to collectors than James’ NBA cards are worth. Guys like Tiger Woods and obviously Michael Jordan still command the top value in the hobby all around, but LeBron is a guy that is easiItly close to both. That is pretty impressive considering how controversial he is.

The finals are here, and there is some major potential for him to get further in his value accomplishments:

2008 Exquisite Lebron James / Tony Parker Dual Auto – Almost too perfect a card for this week, huh?

2006 Chronology LeBron James Number Auto Patch

2008 Ultimate Collection Lebron James Auto

2003 SPX Lebron James Auto Relic RC BGS 10

The secret is a combination of international appeal and career accomplishments, as he has two titles and a handful of records that always contribute to a larger value in any hobby perspective. Basketball, as I have said for years, is about as close to strictly high end as you can find in any of the four major sports. This phenomenon exists, in part, because of how many fans live in and beyond the borders of the USA.

Now, to date, there has been ZERO examples of an autographed card of LeBron James in a Miami Heat uniform. Upper Deck has produced signed photographs and prints, but their lack of licensing has prevented them from getting anything out of their exclusive deal that has an NBA uniform on it. Prior to losing their license, they produced tons of his cards in a Cavs jersey, as well as a huge amount of cards in his high school uniform as well. None will sell as well as a Miami autograph would sell today.

If Panini ever gets their ducks in a row and gets a deal to have his cards in their product, there would be a mad scramble for his stuff. Through some rumblings in the distance, that may not be the pipe dream it used to be, but we are still a ways off. In the meantime, collectors will have to settle.

Living in San Antonio, I want the Spurs to win, there is no question there. However, it should be abundantly clear to everyone that it is much better for the hobby if Lebron gets his third ring.