When Topps first announced 2014 Chrome Mini, I was skeptical but intrigued. For me, as long as we get more on card Chrome autographs, im on board. However after we saw box after box of 2014 Regular Chrome fall flat due to vast over production, things have gotten dicey with collectors. People were so turned off by what Chrome delivered on a box and case level, that it will surely impact how Mini sells. Being that it was already a relative niche product, im not sure what is going to happen.
I will say this. From the breaks I have watched, Chrome mini looks to be the set we were all hoping for in terms of regular Chrome. It has a reduced autograph checklist and lower print run, and is look to run 3-5 lower number color autos per case from what I have seen. That is what we needed to see before. The number of autographs from top tier rookies is still yet to be determined, but even that should be easier considering the run is shorter.
Overall, Chrome Mini is not going to get much love because of what happened earlier in the year, but I think it deserves some credit. The cards look as good as ever, and the box break improvement should be a huge improvement overall. Because fewer boxes will be broken, the rare hits are really going to sell higher than I would guess people are going to expect. I have already seen some collectors trolling the boards trying to get a head start on rainbows and sets. That is a good thing on a short run product.
Triple Threads has always been for the type of collector that values nothing but the name on the card, and the content of the relic that card contains. They dont care about the ugly design(s), they dont care about tired theme, and they are not people I would associate myself with. I have a generalized profile of these types of collectors in my mind, and though I know its bad, I cant help but despise what they reinforce with the manufacturers as acceptable card production methods.
Although I do give Topps credit for using the silhouette style in their trifold relic booklets, instead of horrendous looking junk like this, everything else is pretty much exactly the same. It has been identical every year for the last 10 years, no joke. The only difference is in the players that are featured, and even then its not much different. They may have come up with these deca-threads books, which feature 10 relics, but I just dont see the appeal that it has. This is like the follow up to their 36 piece booklet, which was so terrible looking, they could be deemed the worst of the run.
Adding more single color swatches to a card SHOULD not help in this day and age, even if they might be patches. The card itself may look okay, but this is where the concept just doesnt work for me. I just dont care about a 10 player swatch booklet. I would much rather they focus their efforts somewhere else.
Topps Baseball has definitely created some interesting products over the years, but this is not one of them. I just hope that someday the production team will give more license to tweak baseball the way they have in football, and see what they can do. Until then, my fire breathing hatred will continue.
There is no denying that Panini has really taken high end very seriously this year, albeit with some very mixed results. Some of their stuff has been quite impressive, while other stuff has been far from mediocre in the way it looks. But, without a doubt, their two biggest high end sets of the year have been Flawless and Immaculate, and its time to break down who did what better. Because both sets are a direct port from Basketball, it shouldnt be too hard to see how they made the transition. I have often said that Flawless lacked the punch that Immaculate had, and I guess this is the opportunity to compare side by side.
Base RPS Rookie Autos
Im not really interested in comparing scrub vs scrub, because Flawless really didnt have any of the non photo shoot guys. However, they did have relatively the same slate of rookies when you get higher up, so we should go that direction.
The rarity of Flawless’ base autographs for the rookies should be taken into consideration, but it doesnt matter enough to sway my vote. So many cards are rare these days that it is no longer the attractive situation it used to be.
Verdict: Immaculate 1, Flawless 0
Rookie Insert Autos
Flawless and Immaculate really have a lot of insert sets for rookies, and I think they did a really nice job in both sets making the cards look really good. Immaculate does have an advantage in some ways because of how many swatches they used, but that doesnt always mean its going to be a runaway victory.
Flawless again went with as clean a design as possible, and for the most part, it worked out very well. Immaculate has a few sets though that look better above and beyond, and its kind of insane that they were able to make Flawless almost look boring.
Immaculate has more focus on relics, and copying from Exquisite’s design archive makes the cards look pretty damn good. I think that in many of the examples, Immaculate made better use of the autographs and swatches to make the cards look better and more interesting.
Verdict: Immaculate 2, Flawless 0
Veteran Auto Content
Because the sets had different focuses it seems, this could be quite the contested category between the two sets. Both had a plethora of autographed veteran content, but I think its pretty clear which sets had the main advantage.
Immaculate was hugely disappointing in seeing that some of the vets were sticker autographs, almost a complete taboo for a product that costs as much as Immaculate does. Though the jumbo patch autographs in Immaculate look better than Flawless’ design, the stickers just kill it. Most were on card, but Immaculate should have had the same attention as Flawless did with hard signed cards.
Verdict: Immaculate 2, Flawless 1
Here is the thing. Flawless had a shorter run than Immaculate, so there wont be as many subsets to create more boxes of the product. This is where it has a distinct disadvantage just in quantity over quality. Either way, its worth talking about it.
Here are some of the top patch cards from Flawless:
Let me start off by saying that Flawless’ run of patch cards is more simple, but looks better than 95% of the patch cards in Immaculate solely because of the design. I know that isnt what collectors think about for some stupid reason, but I definitely bring it in for consideration.
However, that’s where the advantages end, as Immaculate has some crazy shit in it. Just insane patches all over the place, and they are not all rookies either, which is only more intriguing. The problem is that they just slapped a border on many of the cards, which I think is lazy and cheap. They should have done booklets, regardless of cost, instead of trying to pack the product with Nate Washington and Anthony Fasano crap.
The checklist for Immaculate is so diluted on the patch stuff, . Flawless is significantly more compact, and the checklist reflects that.
Also, the stupid content of hats, jackets, and locker name plates for rookies is just dumb. Stick to the stuff they play in – gloves, shoes and helmets. Lucky for Panini, those all turned out nice.
You just cant argue with Immaculate’s chase appeal to the general collector base, so it gets the point. It also goes without saying that the fiasco surrounding the authenticity of game used material used in Flawless should never be understated. Just a completely disgraceful situation that Immaculate has YET to face. Yet being the key word, right?
Verdict: Immaculate 3, Flawless 1
Both products decided to keep base cards in the mix, and I am actually surprised by how much people actually want these. To me, base cards in a high end product seems to be a dumb way to add more cards to the box, but they sell well, so whatever.
Personally, I understand why they wanted to go with base cards that had gems in them. Flawless illicit that type of context. However, that doesnt excuse how asinine of an idea it is to put diamond chips in cards. Adding in that the authenticity of the diamonds has been questioned on the forums, and diamond melee is REALLY cheap, I dont understand the appeal.
Immaculate’s base cards look awesome. Simple and dynamic just like the rest of the set. I almost dont need to say anything else because they look that good.
Verdict: Immaculate 4, Flawless 1
This was always my main complaint. How do you put out a box that costs as much as Flawless does and not have any chase content. I mean, no shields, very few logos, and no multi-signed cards at all. It makes no sense.
When you bust a box of Flawless, you almost are paying for a better checklist, which is about as bad as it gets. Its sad that we have gotten to a point where you have to pay three times as much to get a better chance at a good hit. Content has really become an issue.
Immaculate has some insane chase cards. Logo patches, quad shields, shield autographs, logo 1/1s, the craziness is everywhere you look. Every other set has some really ridiculous cards in it, and people are going gaga over them.
It should be mentioned that watering the chase down with so many cards is an issue, but that’s why people buy high end. Im all about it.
Verdict: Immaculate 5, Flawless 1
This is where it gets really dicey, as I think both products have a horrific box breaking format. You either pay through the nose and get SOMETHING or you pay less and get burned about 75% of the time, and come out poorly another 20% of the time.
Flawless has one of the worst MSRPs to ever been put on a product, but it delivers more times than Immaculate could in five times the cases. Even though some of the encased main hits were so bad that it made me want to barf, it came through with nice stuff frequently. Immaculate has points cards in it, which is a such a fucking slap in the face that it should be disqualified from even being considered for a point in this category.
Add in that when you bust a box of Immaculate, and one of your cards could be a 400 point card, your autos could be 2 scrubs, and you are still only going to get 2 other cards in the break, and its over. Flawless wins, and I cannot believe I am saying that.
Verdict: Immaculate 5, Flawless 2
Im not saying that Flawless is a bad set in any way here, even though it had some huge issues. Flawless does have some really nice looking cards, but in the end, Immaculate has the more attractive cards that will inevitably outsell anything Flawless has to offer. The chase element HAS to exist in a high end set, and when you take that away in the name of a smaller checklist, that is bad for business. I shouldnt have to pay 1500 dollars to ensure I get a good card. Flawless should have the insane content that Immaculate has, and that is the deciding factor in many ways for me. If you cant give me something special for 1500, im not touching it.
All in all, both products have enormous holes that I dont expect Panini to have the intelligence to recognize or the willingness to fix. That’s the biggest price to pay, and I remain petrified for 2016 as a result.
I think its funny to compare these all side by side. They are almost direct copies, but Im actually good with copying as long as you do it well. So, the question becomes, who did it better – Upper Deck or Panini? You might be surprised as to who I side with!
2006 Ultimate Collection vs 2014 Immaculate:
I like the immaculate version except for the fact that the player looks so confined in the top part of the card. Upper Deck found a way to make the player seem more whole, although the cropped shield looks really weird.
2007 Exquisite vs 2014 Immaculate:
Again, Immaculate’s look good with the player extending down to the bottom of the card. Upper Deck did better with the swatch making the window fit right in line with the design. Almost a variation, but the whiter look is more high end to me.
Exquisite Notable Nameplates vs 2014 Immaculate:
I like both, but the Immaculate designs are nice take on this design. The Upper Deck version is a bit nicer in the way the full card looks, but the weird picture border is off putting on the Exquisite card.
2009 Exquisite vs 2014 Immaculate:
I like the Exquisite better because they didnt separate the signature area with that horrendous bar of gold. But save that, Immaculate looks nicer. UD with the cropped shields again!
2009 Ultimate Collection vs 2014 Immaculate
I like the Immaculate better. Pretty simple here. The gold foil works nicer, and though its a sticker, that’s not what I am judging here. Both should have avoided the separated area for the signature, but Panini’s looks nicer.
Immaculate has some nice cards, and I think everyone is going to have different opinions. Like I mentioned before, if you are going to rip something off, at least do it well.
If you have been reading this site, you know how much I love autographs. You also probably know how much I love inscriptions on said autographs. When I heard Upper Deck was coming out with a product that prominently featured both of my favorite categories of cards, my ears perked up. Now that we see some examples, its going to be quite an interesting product indeed.
This will likely be one of the last products before Panini takes over the CLC license exclusive that granted Upper Deck the opportunity to produce licensed college cards. There has already been speculation that they will continue to produce unlicensed sets after it kicks in, but we have yet to hear any details. As a fan of Upper Deck’s sets and design style, I hope that happens.
Leaf Trinity will be a direct competitor here, and its all going to come down to who can deliver more. Hell, there is no reason they both cant be successful. I like the design of this set A LOT, and Leaf has usually been around the same level. We will see how it all shakes out soon.