On the Radar: 2015 Rookies & Stars Football

We all know that Rookies and Stars is rarely ever worth paying attention to. The set hardly even lives up to its horrible name most years. Even so, its rare that a product is released that is done so without the typical sell sheet and pre-sale info that goes out to every distributor. 2015 Rookies and Stars looks to be the first football product in years that seems to have gone that direction, although it might be because the set ends up as retail only. Its probably better that as few people as possible are subjected to it from the looks of the way it turned out.

Over the last few years, and really since the product’s inception, Rookies and Stars has been the Ford Pinto of the trading card world. So bad that it is a punch line. Not a good brand identity, but Panini keeps on using the paddles to shock another few beats into its heart. I dont think I have bought a pack of this product, ever. That’s how bad it is.

This set has been inexcusably bad for almost a decade:

2014 Rookies and Stars Odell Beckham Patch Auto

2011 Rookies and Stars Tom Brady Auto Relic

2012 Rookies and Stars Andrew Luck Auto Patch RC

2011 Rookies and Stars Colin Kaepernick Auto Manupatch RC

This year’s product is so boring looking that it might not even be worth talking about. If you saw these cards in a large search on eBay, you wouldnt even notice them. It has always been a forgettable set, but this year is an exception to how bad it gets. Not even going into the horrid looking die cut cards, and even more stupid content than one could imagine. It even has manupatch cards – ones that dont feature a team logo or even anything worth making a manupatch of. It has the set logo as a manupatch. I cant even make this shit up. Of course, this is the set that originated those awful signed pieces of scrap cloth that Panini loved for so many years, so maybe its destiny?

It makes you wonder if this is like those movies they dont screen for critics because they know how bad they are. That’s definitely 2015 Rookies and Stars, a set that is about as worthwhile as making another Mummy movie. 2015 Rookies and Stars: The Mummy Attacks! This is what we have come to. Remember, there had to be someone who looked at this set and said – YES! PRINT IT! I loathe that person.

Before I show the pictures, here is a running list of Panini products that will hit shelves before the first set with any significant on card rookie autograph content. Yes TEN FUCKING PRODUCTS:

  • 2015 Prizm Draft
  • 2015 Contenders Draft
  • 2015 Prestige (1 set of same day cards)
  • 2015 Clear Vision
  • 2015 Spectra (1 set of HOF)
  • 2015 Certified
  • 2015 Rookies and Stars
  • 2015 Donruss
  • 2015 Panini Playbook
  • 2015 Gridiron Kings

Wow, someone needs an award made up. Holy shit.

On the Radar: 2014-15 Flawless Basketball

I dont spend a lot of time talking about Basketball here, mainly because it really isnt my sport to collect. A main reason is that Panini’s exclusive has huge ups and downs of the way the cards eventually turn out set by set, and it takes away from any interest I have. I think if Upper Deck was still involved, with Jordan and Lebron, I would have more interest in covering the day to day, but their departure in 2009 has been a huge loss for the sport.

Panini has tried to reclaim some of what left with the creation of Flawless, which has been somewhat successful in creating an ultra high end market. Last year’s version wasnt all that successful after the inagural set the ball in motion, but this year looks different with Wiggins and Parker to carry the set. Adding in USA Basketball is a similarly good idea, and its going to be interesting to see if collectors react well to it.

Since its release, it has had some very clean and simple designs that look really good:

2012-13 Flawless Kyrie Irving Auto Patch RC BGS 9.5

2013-14 Flawless Stephen Curry Jumbo Patch Auto BGS 9.5

2012-13 Flawless Kobe Bryant Dual Patch Auto

2013-14 Flawless LeBron James Jumbo Patch Gold

I want to pay close attention to the set, because the potential that some of these designs end up in Football is a really good thing. They look clean and sleek, and though there are some really confusing cards that look horrendous, the sell sheet looks damn good. Im still not convinced that Panini will get off their ass to actually produce a good football set this year, especially after the set under-performed in 2014. Maybe this year, the distributors wont try to jack up the MSRP well above where it was supposed to be, like they did last year.

I really like the base autos, and the jumbo patch autos also look really good. I am a huge fan of white background and minimal embellishments, letting the player stand out against the card front with a big bold signature. I also like when the patch is 1×2 instead of a square, as it gives a lot more space to play with. All of these things look to be in play for this set.

As for the multi signed cards, I dont get why Panini seems to haphazardly place players on in the places they do. It looks to confuse everyone as to where they should look, including the players themselves when signing the cards. The designs get cluttered, as we saw in Immaculate, which had some of the most terrible multisigned cards I have seen in a while.

Personally, I dont really like the ridiculous price tag that graces the boxes of Flawless out there. Without Jordan and without Lebron, it seems like those holes create enormous gaps in what could be done with a product like this. Taking out logos and other insane cards that could be possible is an even worse idea, making Immaculate look like the far superior product. To date, Flaweless has rarely offered any type of unique content that wasnt available other places, and that should NEVER fucking happen when a box costs more than 1000 per. There needs to be some crazy chase cards, and flawless rarely delivers that. Sure the cards look nice, but its basically everything you find in NT or other sets, but at 5-6x the box price.

Just thinking about what Exquisite would have delivered with this kind of budget is really a crazy thought, and I resent Panini for doing it this way instead. Shame on them.

On the Radar: 2015 Panini Playbook Football

Panini keeps trotting out products that have literally bombed every year they have been around. Like Spectra, sets like Playbook have almost never been successful in any way, with 2014 likely being the worst year of the entire run. For whatever delusional reason they have in their head, Playbook is back for another year, despite all the issues it has had in the past.

Now, in 2012 and 2013, I actually thought it was an interesting and cool product, if not only because there was plenty of other sets that Panini was offering that had true on card content:

2012 Playbook Andrew Luck Auto Patch Booklet RC

2013 Playbook Adrian Peterson Auto Patch Booklet

2013 Playbook Peyton Manning Nike Logo Booklet Patch

2014 Playbook Colin Kaepernick NFL Logo Shield Booklet

The design of the booklets was always pretty cool, using the silhouette style technology to showcase the rookies and vets. All of that basically went away in 2014, and the product was at half of dealer cost almost immediately. I mean, who doesnt love buying a box of cards when the auto hit is a hideous orange parallel from one of the worst sets of all time?

The biggest laugh of 2015 has to be that Panini already put out Clear Vision, which is basically a set of those horrible cards from 2014 Playbook. The signed acetate scrap game is large in both of these sets, and I just dont see the appeal when its done the way Panini is doing it. It also presents ANOTHER set without true hard signed rookie content. I dont know what the fuck is going on in Texas, but it seems like they have given up on getting actual cards signed by the rookie class. By the time this comes out, we will have had Bowman, Inception, Topps Flagship, Platinum, Finest, Hi Tek and more from Topps, all of which feature great looking on card rookie autographs. Nothing from Panini. Great job guys. Slow clap for the people on the short bus.

From the way the previews look for the main box hits, they may be introducing a new shape of booklet, which actually doesnt look all that horrible, except for the way the player is inexplicably down so far on the right side of the card. I dont think the faded player shot is as necessary when it makes the design look that unbalanced.

The down and dirty cards are back, which is one of the only consistently awesome part of this set over the last few years. However they are so freaking tough to pull its almost a non factor. I also liked them a lot more in white, but then it would just be the same design as the previous years.

As for the jumbo logo, I think they had a unique opportunity to create a booklet that had silhouettes on both sides similar to the Game of Inches cards that were so cool before, and yet, here we are with half a Funchess instead of bunches of Funchess (Sorry, had to do it). Just looks weird, like he has half a body. Missed a big splash with these cards as a result.

When you see the base cards for this products are booklets, all I could think was that this was an unnecessary cost to add to a product that already has an unnecessary existence. There are so many decisions like this that Panini makes on a regular basis that makes me question how much they actually know about football cards. More importantly, when you see what Panini does in Basketball, both in terms of content and on card autographs, it really makes Football seem even trashier than it already is for Panini.

What a fucking disgrace.

SCU Go Live Report: 2015 Topps Inception Football

I think the creation of Inception changed the game for products that are released this early in the year. By using the design, format and signing process that Topps has done for this product since 2011, it has made on card autographs and super high end content available very early on in the year. I could not be more happy. Lucky for us, 2015 Inception looks like it might be the best version of the set to date, and it comes with zero redemptions. Here are some of my favorite elements.

Black Matte Cards – Inscription, Gold and Silver Autos

Im going to be honest here and say that these are one of the main reasons that I buy Inception year after year. The way the black matte cards are done is amazing to see in person, as the player and signature seem to pop off the card. Adding in special inscriptions and drawn plays, and these become chase cards even at a level reserved for sets later in the year. If you cant see from scans, the player is a glossy cut out against the matte stock, which adds to the visual appeal. They are just awesome cards in every sense.

2015 Topps Inception Jameis Winston Auto Inscription /10

2015 Topps Inception Todd Gurley Inscription Auto 1/1

2015 Topps Inception Kevin White Inscription Auto /10

Booklet Cards

Normally, you cannot get relics with on card autographs done in time for a release this early on in the season. It takes too long to get the cards printed and built, and then arrange the signing to have them completed by the athlete. This is why on card relic autos dont usually pop up until December en masse.

2015 Topps Inception Marcus Mariota Booklet Laundry Tag Auto 5/5

2015 Topps Inception Jameis Winston Auto Booklet Jumbo Patch 4/5

Topps found a way to do it with Inception that allows them to get the book signed before it is actually a book. The results are stunning, and include the first NFL Shield high end hits of the year. The Mariota was recently pulled and shown off, and it looks absolutely incredible.


Relic Autos

If you are looking for more readily available relic autos, the ones in this year’s set look tremendous. My only complaint is is the odd mixture of color parallels that dont always work. Brand logos, team logos, crazy glove patches and more are all back again, and when they are pulled, they are really disgusting cards. If I had unlimited funds, these cards would be in my collection over a lot of the other sticker auto relics coming in the next few months.

2015 Topps Inception Jameis Winston Nike Logo Auto Patch 1/1

2015 Topps Inception Amari Cooper Auto Patch Pink Parallel /50

2015 Topps Inception Melvin Gordon Auto Patch Pink Parallel /50

On Card Content in General

Panini should be ashamed of themselves. They have yet to preview a set with on card rookie autographs in any of the products so far shown on their adverblog. When you see the sheer volume of on card content in Inception, it makes you wonder what the fuck they were thinking. I guess they thought it was more important to have the rookies sign acetate scraps and sketch cards than sign actual cards that look even close to what Inception delivers every pack.

2015 Topps Inception 6 Auto Booklet – Mariota, Winston, Gordon, Gurley, Parker, Cooper


People will complain about the 00 jerseys on some of the players. I literally couldnt give a flying fart in fucksville about that. Zero fucks given. On card autograph content is worth the trade, especially when you see that the only rookies who really have the 00 are ones who dont have top billing. Mariota, Gordon, Winston, Cooper, and others are all non-00. Amari is an odd situation with the 19 over 89, only because his number changed well after the print deadline had passed. Either way, the cards look great regardless.

The 00 is in place due to the NFLPA and frustration over using college numbers to fill gaps for teams who are slow at getting numbers assigned. To have cards ready by the Rookie Premiere, where almost all the cards are signed for Inception, they have to be submitted for print likely a week or two after the draft. Some teams dont have the numbers done by that point. Happy trade for me to get hard signed. Any day of the week.

If the rookie you collect has a 00 on their hard signed cards, chances are they will have their correct number for any card not done at the premiere. Amari shows 89, Gurley shows 30, and so on and so forth. Either way, this is Inception’s last year in its current format anyways, so any suggestions for next time are moot regardless of how you feel.

Inception is just a fun product, and its even more exciting to see someone rip through a bunch of boxes live. The chance for some fireworks in every pack is a cool thing to watch this early in the year, as that feeling is usually reserved for the big bopper products later on after the season is already done. Too bad this is not going to happen again this way, maybe ever again.

2016 Topps Baseball Design Revealed!

If you collect modern baseball cards, the reveal of the new Topps Baseball design is always something to check out. Even if you arent a fan of the way things are done now, the way the cards look is always of interest. Yesterday, Topps revealed their first glimpse at 2016 baseball, and they are taking a VASTLY different approach than they ever really have.


Gone are the borders and the usual construction of their typical base design, replaced by dynamic full bleed photos and a sleek and modern nameplate. The overall design is very simple in its initial impression, but further study reveals there is more to the card that might serve to replace old constructs. In fact, Stadium Club's popularity may have played a big part in choosing this version, if I had to guess.

Either way, I cant help but love the new look of the set, including how it might transfer into the digital world with its transition to Bunt. I think the Topps editors will have their work cut out for them, as they will desperately need to choose some incredible photography to reach the potential this design has. The more action oriented the photos are, the more attractive the set will be.

For as long as I can remember the Borders have been the focus of the design, whether Topps wants to admit that or not. The bordered design also serves as a vehicle for Chrome and other subsets, which will be very interesting to see how they work through the changes.

With 2016 being the first time that Baseball is the only Topps fully integrated sport with both league and player licenses, it is imperative that Topps hit all the high notes. This is looking like they might be willing to take some risks to ensure that the loyal customers have something fresh to chase, and some of the other people who have left might come back just to see what things are all about.

It might work better than people think, especially if the product has more surprises in store that have yet to be revealed.