2014 Topps Archives – How Much Is Nostalgia Worth in the Hobby?

A weird thing happened this past week, with 2014 Topps Archives baseball getting national news attention for their inclusion of a Charlie Sheen autographed card. The card, which commemorates his appearance in the movie Major League, was inserted into packs along side a slew of other actors from the film. Of course, Sheen’s controversial nature made him a news story, but the product brings about a very interesting question. How much is Nostalgia worth when bulding a new or existing product?

Check out some of the cards from the set:

2014 Topps Archives Charlie Sheen "Ricky Vaughn" Major League Auto

2014 Topps Archives Tom Berenger Major League Auto

2014 Topps Archives Corbin Bernson "Roger Dorn" Major League Auto

The regular autos look cool too:

2014 Topps Archives Jose Abreu 1986 Auto SSP

2014 Topps Archives Paul Goldschmidt Mini Auto 1981

2014 Topps Archives Ivan Rodriguez 1990 Auto

Let me put it to you this way. Many companies have shifted focus away from creating a new brand to re-launch other brands that were previously axed. Score, Fleer Retro, Topps Tek, Stadium Club and Archives all are built around elements of past brands. Countless numbers of inserts from every product are throwbacks to other cards that have been used in past sets from long ago.

Even recent history has a place in our Nostalgic existence, as its clear that many products are successful ONLY because of the brand they represent. Sets like Chrome, Contenders, and Limited have ridiculous followings from years where they were the best game in town. That brand history has gained them a longer leash when things go drastically wrong. Then, when the anniversaries come around, the sets are brought back to life in iconic fashion.

My answer is this.

Card collecting is so rooted in Nostalgia, that to build without the element in mind could mean a destruction of potential for a product. Its funny, because collectors become enthralled with nostalgic elements by association, as many were not around in the hobby when the first go around was popular. How many people bought a recent incarnation of a Fleer Precious Metal Gem, despite not knowing it was a big deal in the late 1990s? Im guessing they just saw other people’s reaction and constructed their own personal value around that sentiment.

I have always loved buyback cards and retro autograph cards for Nostalgia alone – if not only because I think history can showcase what things may have like had our technology been available back in the day. Sure, I have gravitated toward retro themed cards from my youth as well, only further exacerbated by my hunger to collect now that I have more than an allowance to spend.

As much as we have come to accept retro content in products, some of it has reached a point of over saturation, and that is a problem. Companies have started bringing back products that were unsuccessful now, which only hurts the calendar to not have new content brought into the fold. A lot of people say its a matter of laziness, which I am inclined to agree with in some ways.

That being said – they will keep producing these sets as long as we keep buying, and I am not ready to say we are past the point of no return. That’s not to say it isnt approaching quickly, however.

2014 NFL Rookie Premiere – What Did We Learn?

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Now that the rookie premiere is over, its a long wait until the beginning of the season, especially now that we are coming up on a time where news tends to be a lot lighter along the way. I think we found out a lot of stuff about the 2014 card season this weekend, especially in regards to the rookies themselves. Here are my thoughts.

Johnny Manziel

Of all the celebrity draft picks that have come through the rookie premiere, Manziel’s signature easily has to be the best I have ever seen. If you arent familiar with the rookie premiere, they are required by the NFLPA to sign a minimum few thousand cards a piece over the course of the weekend. That’s a lot of autographs in a short period of time. Where most rookies chose to switch to a shortened signature that collectors cannot stand, Manziel reportedly signed all of his cards with his beautiful full signature. Amazing. Although he has a bad rap among the NFL draft crowd for being a diva, he can almost do anything he wants in my book as long as the sig stays the same. Great job.

Manziel is the top guy in the class, and every card was signed just like this:

2014 Leaf Trinity Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Upper Deck Johnny Manziel Auto Star Rookie

2014 Upper Deck Johnny Manziel Auto SP Authentics

Teddy Bridgewater

Yes, I am a homer. Yes, Teddy is a Viking so I will be collecting the hell out of him. However, I have to give him a ton of props for going back to a full sig after signing T- B- for all the pre season products. Altough this will be his third career signature, its a good one that he reportedly signed the whole premiere. When the two top picks are cooperating in that way for three to five thousand sigatures, that’s a victory for collectors.

Here is what his signature looked like prior to the premiere:

Leaf Army All American Auto – First Generation Auto

2014 Leaf Trinity Pure Glass Auto – Second Generation Auto

2014 Upper Deck 1994 Retro Auto – Second Generation Auto

Jadeveon Clowney

From all the pre-draft interviews, Clowney looked like a laid back kind of dude. However, one thing was missing over the course of the weekend, and that’s Clowney’s stuff getting signed. Considering he is easily the best defensive prospect to ever come to the premiere, he didnt have much that the companies focused on. Makes me wonder what his attitude will be like for the rest of the season if he wasnt all that in the mood to sign and be a part of the media blitz. Clowney was readily available in Leaf and other products, so he will sign sometime, but lets just hope we wont have a season full of redemptions.

He did sign some stuff because we already have one of his player issue cards on eBay:

2014 Topps Rookie Premiere Auto – Jadeveon Clowney Player Issue

Clowney had no trouble getting these cards done en masse:

2014 Leaf Trinity Jadeveon Clowney Auto Jumbo Patch

2014 Leaf Trinity Jadeveon Clowney Pure Glass Auto /5

Derek Carr

The reason I am talking about this is because Carr is an important part of the class with a clear path to a starting role. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Carr was unable to attend last minute, which means that he is going to be redemptions likely for a lot of the early products. Although the player worn relics can easily be obtained at a future signing, he will likely be without photos in uniform until Absolute is released mid year. Huge situation for the card companies to deal with, especially considering all the multi signed cards that he was surely needed on. Carr has a lot of signatures in previous unlicensed products, and from what all the industry guys have said prior to the draft, has a great attitude. That should fair well for getting his stuff done eventually. However, I cant remember a huge name like him not being able to make it in this way.

Here is some of Carr’s other stuff that you can still pick up:

2014 Upper Deck Derek Carr Star Rookie Auto

2014 Press Pass Derek Carr Auto /10

Overall Autograph Quality

From pictures tweeted out from the companies, PA, and players themselves, the new era of player autographs is well on its way. In the past, player signatures were intricate, visually appealing, and taken pride in, with few exception. For every Manziel in this class, there were 5-10 guys who signed with careless initials. Now, I understand WHY the initials were signed, as it is tedious and time consuming to sign your full name 3000 times in a sitting. However, when money is involved, why not take advantage of the forum you are given? For 85% of the players at the premiere, a second contract is as much of a long shot as Tebow coming back and being a starting QB. That means, I would sign as many autographs to pay the bills as possible. However, we all know that players refuse to let any doubt creep into their mind, and yet Football is a sport where your life can change in a matter of seconds. After seeing some of the autograph quality this week, the chances for players to pass their burden to a friend becomes more and more likely in getting autos signed at home done. Topps is one of the only companies that still has a group of people that go and get signings done in person, which always helps, but many of the others are done through other means and the honor system. You can see where that is a problem.

There has definitely been a history of poor signatures though:

Vernand Morency – Worst of the Worst

Chris Johnson – The First of Many Initials

Russell Wilson – The Big “R”

The premiere was always fun to watch unfold – especially in the age of twitter and social media. Cant wait for football to get going with a class that has huge potential.

2014 NFL Rookie Premiere – Day 3 Recap

As expected, the 2014 class is getting some serious buzz from this event, and so far, the companies have both brought their A game to the table to show us what is in store for the coming year. To see some of the cards in action has been nothing short of awesome, and here is my thoughts on what we got to see during day 3.

Topps

It was clear that day 3 was all about Manziel Mania, especially now that his arrival sparked some pics to start being posted on Twitter. Although Saturday is the big day for both companies, we really got a great idea of what his potential is all about. Topps started tweeting out pictures of the hand stamp autos for the class, as well as some of the 1985 autos that I was so excited about from solicitation back a month or two ago.

If you arent familiar with the hand stamp cards, they are oversized cards where the rookies will put on gloves to add a bit extra to the autograph they are signing. To see the new design being completed makes it clear that 2014′s version will far exceed that of any other example. They look great with the larger white area for the rookies to sign, and the gold pen really makes the signatures that much more good looking.

I am a huge fan of the 1985 design, even more so now that they are getting done with the retouched photos that Topps used for inception. Its clear that the late draft date has affected the number of photos that they were able to get done, as Topps used the same for the RPS autos, Inception and a few other programs to be released in upcoming products. Most of the retouch work is so well done that I cant complain.

Panini

I am loving that Manziel is signing all his cards with the full sig, instead of the shortened sig we were seeing on some of the other stuff. Although I am not a huge fan of his, his cards will come into the season as the top guy in the class. The clear acetate cards from Elite are really looking nice this year, as are a lot of what we are seeing in Prestige and other stuff.

Panini is also bringing back Pen Pals for another year from what it looks like, and that isnt necessarily a bad thing considering that most of the pairings and quads seem to be done in a way that keeps the top guys paired with top guys.

2014 NFL Rookie Premiere – Day Two Recap

Lots of stuff going down in LA, much of which should make collectors very happy. Not only do the cards from both companies look great, but a big product announcement as well. Here is what I was able to pick up from Twitter and the companies.

Topps

For the first time in over a decade, there will not be same day signatures from Topps, and that is a good thing. For as long as I have been a football collector, Topps has created cards from pictures taken at the premiere, and had them signed on Saturday on the field. From what I can see from solicitation and tweets, those are going to be replaced with a new retouched photo program that includes the same on card autographs we had prior. As we see from both companies, late arrivals and rotation schedules among the many events during the weekend prevent a rookie from necessarily taking the photos, in turn leading to an inconsistent set. This is a good call.

Here is what the cards used to all look like – same day photos:

2011 Topps Colin Kaepernick Rookie Premiere Auto

2009 Topps Matthew Stafford Rookie Premiere Auto

The photos have deteriorated to very inconsistent as of late due to scheduling:

2013 Topps Eddie Lacy Rookie Premiere Auto

2012 Topps Andrew Luck Rookie Premiere Auto

Similarly, Topps is bringing back hard signed mini cards again, which collectors usually go nuts trying build sets of. They should be heading into the flagship base set, as they have since 2012, although rarity is still yet to be determined. The good thing is that last year, many of the minis were done in high enough quantities that they werent hard to obtain. Its a hard line to toe between over availability and under production, however, I am always in favor of more on card autos in every product.

Here is what they looked like previously:

2012 Topps Russell Wilson Tallboy Mini Retro Auto

2013 Topps Mike Glennon Mini Retro Auto

You can see in this link a quick glimpse of a few of the cards:

Topps on Twitter – Vine from Rookie Premiere

As for Inception, it looks like another great year, despite similarities between all the different inception sets over the year. I have said before – if it aint broke, dont fix it, and some of the additions to the lineup have kept it fresh. Last year, Topps introduced inscription cards, which were some of my favorite rookie cards of the year. Im glad to see they are coming back from a few of the vine videos Topps posted on Twitter.

Panini

The biggest announcement from Panini didnt actually come from anything having to do with cards being signed, which is pretty shocking all things considered. During a presentation during the week, one of the attendees snapped a pic of Immaculate Football, a popular and great looking basketball product, which will be making its way to football this year. Although the set was announced before, we had not yet seen any card pictures. Not only does the set look very clean and well designed, but it looks to be featuring a lot of on card autographs from both rookies and veterans alike.

Here is Immaculate Basketball for reference – my favorite BKB product of 2013:

2013 Immaculate Basketball Kevin Durant Auto Jumbo Patch

2013 Immaculate Basketball Kyrie Irving Auto Patch

The preview cards are just mockups, obviously Rodgers wont be signing all cards:

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My biggest fear is how the points system will affect the release of the non-RC autos, as its clear Panini had difficulties obtaining on card content last year without issuing redemptions. Until we get to see a few more details of how reward points will work, and also see them in practice, its hard for many collectors to grasp how a product like immaculate can be a good break for them. I have been assured that big name players and star rookies will not be left by the curb in favor of points, but from the fact that my favorite player was redemption, the scenario makes me worried until I see how it works in real life packs.

NOTE: From what it looks like Johnny Manziel has not yet arrived to the premiere, but should be signing some of his first cards today. Considering he is the most popular player in the class, you can bet a lot of people are waiting with baited breath to see how his cards turn out.

More to come as the week progresses up to the big day tomorrow.

2014 Inception, Topps, Elite, and Prestige Taking Shape at the NFL Rookie Premiere

I cant believe its already time for the rookie premiere, and I could not be more excited. So many previews will be coming this week and we are already getting some of them now. Panini has been very active, as has Topps in showing some of the cards, most of which we have yet to see for the first time.

Panini

Let me put it this way – all the on card stuff for their sets was about as close to a disaster as it could come. Some of them were straight up horrendous. Prestige, Elite, and the on card sets for both were so bad that it almost prevented me from buying singles of the cards that actually looked good.

Last year’s Elite:

2013 Elite Inscriptions – EJ Manuel

2013 Elite Inscriptions – Eddie Lacy

2013 Elite Base Auto – Cordarrelle Patterson

Last year’s Prestige:

2013 Prestige Passports – Tavon Austin

2013 Prestige Road to the NFL – Geno Smith

2013 Prestige Draft Ticket – Le'Veon Bell

This year’s cards:

This year’s stuff looks freaking great. Although we are seeing the effect of a very late draft in all the double zero jersey numbers, the card design makes up for it. Even though we have yet to see a preview for any of the cards that Panini is getting signed, they seem to be keeping things much more open now that the premiere is going. Cant wait to see more.

Topps

So far, Topps has focused more on showing the players than anything. Although we are getting some of the cards, which from a distance look great as usual, im sure there will be many more pics to come. Inception is their top pre-premiere set so far, and from the first looks, they have had a lot more success getting the jersey numbers in there. More to come.

Inception’s design is one that I dont mind the fluent set look through the years. The look is so well done, I think it works extremely well each year. Because Topps’ retouch artists are so good at what they do, its worth buying a box or two just to see what they look like. The inscriptions are going to be back from what I hear, which makes me beyond happy.

Here are this year’s cards:

Ill have more coverage as its available all weekend – keep checking back!