2015 NFL Hobby Preview: Players to Watch

With the 2015 NFL season a month away, the soft market for football cards should start to pick up. People will get excited and in transit, the value in many of the cards that have dropped over the offseason will return to their normal state. More visibility for the NFL will mean more casual collectors looking to get back into the hobby. With that, here are some players I will be watching this year, outside of the normal crop of top picks in the draft.

Odell Beckham Jr – WR GIANTS

I have never seen a WR take the hobby by storm the way Beckham did in 2014. Funny thing is, he didnt even have a full season and still blew away every other rookie. His fabled catch on national TV catapulted him into the drivers seat with collectors, which is one of the first time a WR has done so in the QB era of the last five years. He has two main issues that are going to plague him in the hobby this year, both of which are significant. The first is how many of his cards remain unfulfilled redemptions, and whether or not they will be signed anytime soon. From all rumors around the mill, the answer is no. The second is whether or not he can live up to expectations which have been draped around his neck. Big question mark with Eli Manning as your QB.

His values have been high for a long time:

2014 Topps Five Star Odell Beckham Jr Auto RC

2014 Flawless Odell Beckham Jr Auto RC BGS 9.5

Teddy Bridgewater – QB VIKINGS

As a huge Teddy fan, he is obviously someone I want to see succeed. Interestingly, the success of his year might be impacted more by how well Adrian Peterson returns to form, rather than his potential growth over the offseason. If AD is the old monster he was in 2012 and 2013, look for Teddy to have a breakout performance. He will be facing man coverage all year with 8 and 9 guys in the box, and that should open things up considerably. His completion percentage was already crazy high with no one to throw to, going to be interesting to see what happens with Mike Wallace joining his corps. Behind Beckham, he was the other top guy in the class, and with Panini so brutally fucking up the NT release, his cards were only more valuable. Going to be interesting to see if collectors take him seriously.

Here are some nice ones to check out:

2014 Topps Five Star Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2014 Immaculate Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Strata Teddy Bridgewater Shadowbox Auto /50

Cam Newton – QB Panthers

I have never been a Cam Newton fan, but I can definitely see where he has the raw talent to be a great QB. He has never been able to put it together for a sustained period of time that allowed for the Panthers to go anywhere meaningful, but this could be a year where he can determine how his legacy will be formed. Collectors love loudmouthed showboats, which I must say I usually like too. People who are outspoken usually get more media coverage, which means more people want to collect their cards. Cam will get plenty of attention, however its yet to be determined if its good or bad. The hobby is just about on the verge of making a final decision on him, so this could end up being a make or break year.

He can still be had for good money if you are looking to stock up:

2013 National Treasures Cam Newton Jumbo Booklet Patch Auto

2014 National Treasures Cam Newton Notable Nicknames

Demarco Murray – RB Eagles

Here is the thing. RBs have no value in the hobby anymore unless your name is Adrian Peterson or Marshawn Lynch. Even then, value is fleeting. Murray put up a TREMENDOUS year last year, but the knock was that it was more the offensive line. Moving out of Big D could be a huge mistake for him, as he might have set records had he stayed for less money. This could have a signficant impact on his hobby value as well, as any dropoff in production could damage value irreparably. Running backs are as disposable in the hobby as they are in the NFL.

Murray’s cards are up and down, but he has some nice ones as of late:

2014 Flawless Demarco Murray Auto Jumbo Patch

2015 Clear Vision DeMarco Murray Eagles Acetate Scrap Auto

Andrew Luck – QB Colts

There is a very specific reason I am going to be paying close attention to Luck this year, and it might not be the reason why everyone else is. If you take a look at the trajectory of Luck’s value, it has literally taken a path straight up. Collectors are enamored with his potential. His cards are so expensive, that they are starting to outperform Brady and Manning, which is territory that should not be taken lightly. Luck has already reached the playoffs in each year since 2012, and he is looking poised for another deep run with a Colts team getting stronger with each draft. Im paying attention to see if he can live up to the hype. I cant remember hype like he has. It hasnt happened maybe since Reggie Bush coming out of college. We all know how that turned out, even though I dont think that is the ending we will have here. Not even close. Can you imagine what might happen to his stuff with a Super Bowl berth? What about a win? Good god.

Insane prices at the moment:

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Rookie Auto Patch

2012 Contenders Andrew Luck Auto Ticket BGS 9.5

2014 Museum Collection Andrew Luck Framed Auto BGS 9.5

Russell Wilson QB – Seahawks

Well, he got his deal. He is now among the top paid QBs in the league, which only means one thing for the Seahawks – they gotta trim the fat to pay for it. Its clear that they have depth up the wazoo, but they will need guys to step up if they are going to continue their run. Russell Wilson is actually a pretty polarizing player, as some collectors dont really buy that he is as good as he looks. A great defense, a great running game and other factors provide a lot of cushion for his stats. Its going to be interesting to see how this plays out, and whether he can add to his already impressive resume.

2012 Topps Finest Russell Wilson Auto Relic Red Refractor BGS 9.5

2012 Contenders Russell Wilson Playoff Ticket Auto /99

This is going to be a VERY fun season. There is a deep rookie class with a lot of top talent at skill positions. I cannot wait to see how the hobby responds after a surprisingly lackluster year in 2014.

Does Topps Chrome Baseball Still Have Clout?

Right now, Topps Chrome rules the football market. The high end chase cards for Football remain the top cards of the year, much like Bowman does for Baseball. When you consider the place of a set like Topps Chrome Baseball, its a bit different. Its just not the same, mainly because many of the rookie players in the set have had cards for many years.

Retail 2015 Chrome has already starting hitting, here are some of the cards:

2015 Topps Chrome Joc Pederson Purple Refractor RC Auto

2015 Topps Chrome Edwin Escobar Gold Refractor Auto RC

2015 Topps Chrome Kris Bryant RC

2015 Topps Chrome Yasmany Tomas Sepia Refractor RC

Dont get me wrong, Topps Chrome still has value. Not only does it have value, but the Superfractors still carry a ton of weight. The issue is that everything that isnt a low numbered autograph, really doesnt matter as much as it used to. When I was growing up, Topps Chrome and Topps Finest were the high end products you saved your allowance for. I still remember trying to get cards of all my favorite players.

These days, players like Pederson, Bryant and Buxton all have had cards in Topps products for literally years, and its crazy to believe that their TC rookie cards dont carry the same weight in the hobby anymore. Because a player cant appear in Topps Chrome until they hit the 25 man roster, it limits the ability Topps has to make the set relevant as a rookie release with Bowman using them well before.

The only time when Chrome means something, is when a player storms onto the scene during the course of one year. Yasiel Puig was a great example of this, as was Jose Abreu. They both had Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome autos in the same year, thus negating the situation we are encountering with Bryant and Buxton.

There are also large gaps on the rookie checklist this year, likely due to timing of call ups for some, but others like Correa and Sano are a bit of a mystery. Both were called up generally around the same time as Buxton, and somehow, they didnt even make it into the set as a base card from what it looks like.

It creates a hole in the checklist that might limit the success of the product, even more so when guys like Matz, Conforto and Schwarber are doing so well since hitting the bigs.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for Chrome, and I always will. Curious to see how it goes this year with Bryant cooling off at the plate and the checklist only reflecting a portion of the major rookie crop that might be one of the best of this generation.

2015 National Sports Collector Convention: Kris Bryant Superfractor Surfaces

If you werent aware of Prospect Rush and their purchase of the 2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Superfractor Auto, and subsequent product/drawing built around it – it all came to a close at the convention. Basically, the company built a repack product around the card, which is definitely an insanely valuable card, and raffled it off to ticket holders pulled from that set.

The card is now on ebay, and it is still a candidate that another repack product company may want to purchase it for another go around:

2013 Bowman Chrome Kris Bryant Superfractor Auto 1/1 BGS 9.5

You can see the price tag is about as high as one can put on this card without generating laughter from the peanut gallery, and with how crazy his cards have been selling, its going to sell north of 10k. The question remains, are there any collectors out there who might be willing to outbid a company that is going to buy the card for their use? Those days might be over.

This type of thing all started back in 2011 and 2012, when Leaf purchased the Stephen Strasburg superfractor to be sold in a special repack product. Cards that sell for over the modern ceiling of 10k are big targets. The trend continued with many other chase hits that had been pulled and listed for sale from other Chrome products. Mike Trout, Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Luck and others have all had chase hits sold to companies looking for a tent pole to their products. However, other sellers have resisted going that route on their chase hits, especially on cards that are not flavor of the month.

Personally, I dont actually think this is a bad thing, as long as the way the card is redistributed isnt shady. Running blind raffle ticket drawings definitely casts a bit of doubt, and isnt the way I like to see these types of things done. Although it guarantees the card will come out of the product, and not stay sealed in a box, it can be scammed in more ways than one would think. Doesnt look like this was the case with Bryant, but the possibilities are there.

The reason I actually think repack products do more good than harm, stems from the added buyers it adds to a soft market. Card values are down almost across the board, especially as more collectors become flippers rather than people who actually keep things they rip. With more sellers than buyers, things tend to get very difficult to profit from, and repack companies will help this a bit. By no means are they the answer, but any little bit helps.

That being said, its very difficult to profit off repack products unless the owners have channels by which the cards can be purchased at a steep discount – therefore almost negating what was said above. Some of this situation can be offset by a crazy tentpole card for the product, but once its pulled, the boxes are dead. Raffle tickets will stretch it out, especially if very little value exists in the rest of the product. You literally want people ripping for the sole purpose of getting tickets at that point.

I wish I had more information about the process by which repack companies are able to do what they do, but it seems pretty simple. Buy gradeable raw cards in bulk and grade with hopes of preferential results. So many people put extra value in graded cards, that its a formula that adds value without adding a ton of cost.

With Beckett RARELY grading a chase hit below 9.5, its almost a sure thing.

As anything with this hobby goes, doubt is not in short supply. There are skeptics everywhere, and rightfully so. You never know what you are going to get with something new until you actually get what you get. That tends to be a contract many are not willing to sign.

2015 National Sports Collectors Convention: Wrap Up and Commentary

Another year, another show, another very interesting week. The NSCC rarely disappoints, and this year was no exception. I think this was definitely one of the more unique versions of the convention over the years, especially with such a greater focus on newer elements of the hobby taking center stage. Being that this was the first based Chicago show I havent attended in the last 5, it was bittersweet to see how much fun everyone seemed to have.

Panini’s Show Presence

It seems like Panini exists at the national show solely to make themselves look they throw money around just because they have a bunch of it. They had a bunch of packs to give away, they had a crazy expensive VIP party at Soldier Field, and they made it look like they were on top of the mountain. The problem is, this image only exists during the NSCC, even to spite the success of many of their products during the course of the year.

Although their Italian sugar daddy has a ton of money to throw around, it would be naive to think that Panini has an unlimited budget. That means that all that money they spend on their presence at the National Convention has to come out of somewhere. The rumors around the show floor was that product content was sacrificed so that these things could happen, only further impacting the reason these giveaways and parties exist in the first place.

The cost of running a program like this alone is very expensive:

2015 Panini NSCC VIP Marcus Mariota Auto 1/1

2015 Panini NSCC VIP Karl Anthony-Towns Red Auto

2015 Panini NSCC VIP Andrew Wiggins Red Auto

2015 Panini NSCC VIP Kris Bryant Red Auto

One could argue that Panini’s lack of product quality is responsible for a need to do these types of things to help their distributors and group breakers sell their stock. In fact, from what everyone was saying, the people at the VIP party were predominantly from those groups of people. Fewer and fewer collectors are attending the events, especially as the product content continues to be below Panini’s competition. To think that the NSCC’s cost possibly contributes to this getting worse, is just inexcusable to me. I guess we will never know, as there is no way Panini would ever come out and say “Yes, Clear Vision had one auto per case, because we chose to fund VIP instead.”

From what I heard from the people who opened the Panini packs, they said the silver packs were “Meh” at best. Content was watered down, autograph content was reduced, and the injection of NCAA cards into every facet of the program prevented more return from being generated. Panini seems hellbent on forcing their new NCAA exclusive down our throats, which is only going to sour people in this respect. Because they overpaid dearly, taking a relaxed approach may not be available. Really too bad, as UD really seemed to have this down pat during their turn at the wheel. Sad.

I actually didnt hear as much about the fabled VIP party this year as in years past. The roster of attendees seemed lackluster at best, with the top draw being Mike Tyson and Jabari Parker. Considering many bought $7500-$10000 worth of crappy product to get in, not having a current huge name is a miss. One of my followers suggested the show take place in March so that there is no sports in progress, and more signers can attend. Not a bad idea at all.

Panini should be scared that product releases werent the story of their 2015 NSCC. National Treasures Basketball remains late/unreleased and did not hit shelves in time for the show. Adding insult to injury, people (rightfully) forgot that Prestige even came out right before the show opened. They deserve a big F for this effort, as I am sure that many of the people who previously used National Treasures to get to their VIP status were pretty unhappy that they had to settle for what was already out.

Remember, this is the company that may end up being the last one standing. Great future there.

NOTE: ALL PANINI NSCC PACKS ARE EASILY SEARCHABLE. You can feel the relic and stickers through the back of the packs to find out if you got a hit or not. Only buy packs from people you trust, as its clear that eBay sellers can take advantage of this when getting their packs. There are decoy base cards with thick packs, which can look like hits but are actually not. Keep this in mind.

Another interesting note – anyone remember that its been almost 1 year since Panini announced their NFLPA exclusive? No mention of an NFL properties exclusive to match yet. Hmmm.

Topps’ Show Presence

It was clear that 2013 and 2014 were kind of rough for Topps, especially as their customer service and redemption fulfillment took a hit thanks to a few different situations. During the 2014 show, it really seemed like the Topps booth might need some extra staff to ensure that the angry customer base got their chance to vent.

Since this time last year, its almost like a complete 180 has been achieved, with more positivity surrounding their presence than the previous two years combined. One of the main reasons for the turnaround focuses on their levels of communication through social media, the launch of a new Topps Blog, and redemption fulfillment / customer service taking big steps to head in the right direction. It might even be worth mentioning that Panini has taken a number of steps back in all those departments, save social media through their adver-blog, and that doesnt hurt either.

Topps’ booth was also a lot more active thanks to a few very important components. The first was Topps Digital’s presence, which from what everyone was saying on social media, was one of the better manufacturer interactions one could have at the show.

The team was said to be very helpful and willing to answer questions, and giveaways were great. This makes me incredibly happy, as using digital as a way to reach out to new collectors is a big deal. Topps’ apps have an active user base of over 100,000 users daily, something the current industry would go bonkers over.

If I am Topps, I am taking every opportunity to try and make the digital portfolio as close to business as usual as possible. The fan base is more rabidly passionate than the hobby has been in decades, and the growth is off the charts. Physical card collectors still have a negative stigma that they apply to the games, and they need work on overcoming that situation as quickly as possible. The crossover program in Topps Series 2 is a way to start that, but it needs to be bigger in the future.

Another contributing factor for Topps’ success this year was giveaways being more attractive and events taking place that hadnt ever happened at a Topps NSCC booth before. Videos of the daily pack wars were insane, as it looked like hundreds of people were showing up to participate. Topps’ giveaways were also a bit more attractive as well, with the Ginter die cuts looking great and selling very well.

The social media presence for Topps outdid Panini at the show the second time since the Rookie Premiere, with live coverage, breaking and content delivered through the weekend. It even looks like the Topps Q and A went well, with collectors seemingly asking a bunch of more universal questions about licensing and redemptions.

Topps said on a few occasions that they would still be producing football cards next year, and its going to be very interesting to see how that works out. Although they wouldnt be able to use current players, they COULD still be able to use logos and retired players to make some products. 2016 Topps Chrome NFL Legends does sound pretty awesome.

Group Breaking

After all the hype last year to not much fanfare, the group breaking was definitely a focus at the show this year. Over 40 breakers attended, and many spent the entire weekend selling through their entire roster of breaks. Because of the need to hit the cap for VIP, more Panini product was broken than anything, although I did double the Topps and Upper Deck breaks than I expected to see.

The biggest story of the weekend was that one of the group breakers pulled the 1/1 Odell Beckham National Treasures NFL Shield RPA on stage, which led to rampant speculation that the fix was on. Im of the group of people that says nothing is a coincidence in this hobby anymore, especially on the biggest stage there is. Considering the shit ton of problems that Panini had with Treasures collation this year, pulling the biggest card in the product while on stage at the NSCC isnt a stretch of the imagination.

Either way, one thing was becoming more and more clear, and that is the group breakers becoming the new ambassadors to the hobby’s population. Love them or hate them, they are reaching more people through their sites than a hobby shop could dream of at this point. Even some of the smaller group breakers opening a case online can attract over 100 viewers, something that just doesnt happen live in shops anymore. Smaller shops are in dingy strip malls in flyover states, where group breakers are in everyone’s house at the push of a button. The world is getting smaller by the day, which doesnt spell as fruitful of a future for the hobby shop as once thought.

Remember when Panini spent all that time dedicating attention to hobby shops back in 2013? Yeah, all of that has switched over to group breakers.

Show Size

Although the actual floor of the show and amount of dealers was said to be down from 2013’s Chicago national convention, the traffic from show goers was reported as much higher. There are a few guesses as to why this might be the case, but its still a positive sign that things might not be doom and gloom as much as we thought.

Personally, the actual “show” part of the convention seems to become more and more obsolete with each passing year, especially as eBay and other online sites continue to dominate the way collectors buy cards. Why travel any distance to pay to attend a show where every dealer has their stuff on eBay 24/7? The manufacturer presence is a helpful way to drive traffic, as are autograph signers, but the actual show floor is more of a museum than anything.

If I am the show organizers, its time to consider ways to entice people to attend, other than just having a bunch of people setting up tables trying to sell singles. There needs to be more collector interaction involved, whether that is panel discussions on a grander scale, a bigger social media involvement, and more live coverage.

I have often wanted to set up a lot of this stuff independent of the show, but with attendance becoming more and more costly thanks to travel and accommodations, setting concrete plans is a huge risk. Nothing would make me happier than for all the card bloggers to get together next year in Atlantic City and blow it out. We need to have more content that isnt based on buying things. More content that is focused on furthering the education and interest level of the hobby. Pipe dream, I know.

There is a lot up in the air for next year’s show being at a new location, but I am definitely trying to figure out a way to go. I think this is still the biggest and most accessible card event of the year, and hopefully it continues to grow. You never can predict, unfortunately.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Museum Collection Football

When Museum Collection was brought over from Baseball in 2013, the set contained a lot of the cool high end cards that made it so popular with collectors. Although the 2013 rookie class was a dud, and the product tanked as a result, it set the stage for 2014, which was one of the better products of the entire 2014 calendar. The combination of non-rookie hard signed cards and cool designs were great. Its back for year 3, hoping to continue the tradition.

The set offered on card autographs and the trademarked framed cards as well, which have been highly sought after by people looking to collect the set. They are literally some of my favorite cards that Topps makes, and I dont think I am alone in that feeling. This year, it looks like they will be back, along with many other on card autographs as well. If they add inscriptions as depicted on the sell sheet, I might have to take some time off work to chase the set. Here are some examples from 2014 to give you an idea of the finished product.

2014 Museum Collection Teddy Bridgewater Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2014 Museum Collection Dan Marino Framed Auto /25

2014 Museum Collection Odell Beckham Triple Patch Auto

2014 Museum Collection Peyton Manning Framed Auto /25

Im not a huge fan of how busy some of the designs are this year, especially the John Elway card, which is absolutely hideous. With so much border work and other embellishments, the distraction is too great to appreciate the true subject and content of the card. The sticker makes it worse, as it looks like Topps had to take a shoe horn to fit it in among the other parts of the design. With how many on card autos were in the product last year, this should be on card too.

Im also not a big fan of the Mariota card, although it might be an oversized example that is hard to judge in sell sheet format. It looks like it includes the entire bill of the hat, which obviously cannot be displayed in a regular sized card. I would have liked to see Mariota much more prominently displayed, but its all relative to card size.

The rest of the cards look very much like 2015 Topps Five Star Baseball, which has its ups and down. The framed cards remain the main draw of this product, but the approach on the other cards looks mediocre compared to what Topps has put out in previews to this point. They have done some GREAT work in their sets so far, maybe this is just one of those dips. Not previewed are the jumbo patch autos, which will be on card for the rookies, one of the nicer parts of the 2014 set.