On the Radar: More 2015 Contenders Previews

When we first got a look at the Contenders design for 2015 a week or two ago, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it looked. It resembled a ticket (unlike last year's garbage), it was simple (unlike most other years), and should be hard signed (unlike most of Panini's calendar this year). That only left the rest of the preview, which I knew had some potential for being typical Panini. We were not disappointed.

Funny enough, this is actually the second Contenders product released this year, which as I said prior was a HORRIBLE idea. The previous version was a stickered college product that rehashed a terrible 2014 design, and once you see what is going down in 2015 Contenders, it will only bring about more questions.

Here is what I mean:

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Marcus Mariota Bowl Ticket Auto /99

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Jameis Winston Cracked Ice Auto /23

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Andrew Luck Old School Colors Auto

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Tom Brady Alumni Ink Auto

I have mentioned many, many times before that Panini has horribly overpaid for pretty much every single exclusive license they own. Nothing more glaring than their recent exclusive with the NFLPA, but a close second is their college exclusive. This license is one that most people in the industry seem to think is a way to burn a ton of extra cash with no discernible advantage to the bottom line. There are even claims that the license was not profitable the whole time UD had it. Panini, knowing this is the case, has tried to inject college content into products that are pro-branded. 2015 Contenders will be no different, despite the fact that they already blew their college wad earlier this year on a dud set with trashy stickers and an old design.

I will say that the on card autographs and decidedly better look to this version is much more of a great thing, but it doesnt say much about the previous releases. Even more than that, someone on a forum made a good point of blending products like this without considering the audience. Im not sure that you gain anything by adding college content to a product that already has a loyal fan base as it is. If anything it dilutes the concept of the set, much like it used to do when college cards were inserted prior to 2010.

As for the rest of the preview, its stocked full of designs with laughably huge text, more stickers, and the typical stuff Contenders usually contains. In the long run, these things will matter not, as they rarely get any attention outside of the people who must have every card.

In considering the product as a whole, the design is great for the main hits, which means that the product should do pretty well. The wild card is always the rookie class, which has already been on a yo-yo through the first two weeks. I guess we will have to wait and see.

2014 Rookie Class Shines to Start 2015 NFL Season

Going into 2014, things looked really, REALLY bright. Not only did the rookie class feature four QBs with promising futures, but a slew of other contributing skill players that were going to likely be impact players from day one. The class was riding high for the first products of the year, but when the season started and people got a look at the class in action, the market softened considerably. That trend never really righted itself either.

On a few occasions in talking with people at my local shop, we all kind of agreed that the Manziel hangover was palpable in the way the market responded. He was on the bench for a number of games, and that left collectors feeling anxious about their enormous investments made in him prior to the start of the year. Additionally, Derek Carr was the only rookie to start from day one, and his team wasnt winning. Bortles started shortly after, and we all know what eventually happened. Bridgewater got going after Matt Cassel broke a bone in his foot, but like the others, struggled to find a groove until the last few weeks of the season.

Around that same time, Odell Beckham started to climb back into the lineup with New York, and the rest is history. The issue is that even with Beckham (and his cards) going off the charts, the market on 2014 products never really rebounded the way it should have. When February rolled around, Beckham, Bridgewater, Carr, Evans, Benjamin, and others all had really solid rookie seasons. Solid enough that it should have floated the softened value points to a level of sustainability. In reality, the market continued to sink before bouncing back just before the start of the 2015 pre-season. It might have had to do with the fact that none of them made or did anything in the playoffs other than Benjamin.

Now that the class is getting some field time in the new year, many of the players who were a focus of 2014 are now playing quite well – especially last week.

Johnny Manziel

The most “famous” of any rookie since Tebow, he has finally showcased some of the creativity and production that got him drafted in the first round to begin with. His cards have come back considerably since McCown went down last week, leaving collectors to finally question if its time to start buying again.

Here is where he is sitting now:

2014 National Treasures Johnny Manziel Notable Nickname Auto

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel Camo Auto /99

2014 Topps Five Star Johnny Manziel Golden Graphs Auto /15

Odell Beckham Jr

After a slow start in week one, Beckham showed that the previous game was just him getting warmed up, putting up a TD and a bunch of receiving yards. Eli Manning continues to be the wild card with Beckham, and considering he just got a big extension, that isnt going to change anytime soon. Beckham as a WR shouldnt be able to get to the top echelon of hobby value, but he has already proven that theory wrong.

Still at the top of the class for now:

2014 Topps Five Star Odell Beckham Jr Auto Jumbo Patch

2014 Topps Platinum Odell Beckham Auto RC BGS 9.5

2015 Topps Odell Beckham Jr Auto Relic SSP

Teddy Bridgewater

After a ROUGH week on national TV to open the year, Bridgewater played very well on Sunday notching two TDs and a nice game in a convincing win over a division rival. Its arguable that the initial game was more a result of terrible line play, and that was evident. As long as Peterson continues to play well, Bridgewater will too. His cards have been hot as the Vikings have been expected to make a playoff run, and this could be the beginning of a good stretch for Teddy.

Collectors are still high on his potential:

2014 Immaculate Teddy Bridgewater Auto Patch /10

2015 Topps Chrome Mini Teddy Bridgewater Auto Red Refractor /5

2014 Topps Strata Teddy Bridgewater Rivet Patch Auto /5

Derek Carr

After injuring his hand in Week 1, Carr returned with vigor in a close win against a tough Ravens team. He passed for 3 TDs and over 350 yards, including a great looking long TD pass to Amari Cooper. To throw the ball 46 times is a tough task for a second year QB to execute without mistakes, and I think that it showed he really has the goods. Collectors have a tough time buying into a guy with a terrible signature, but this might end up being the exception.

His stuff seems to fluctuate up and down lately:

2014 National Treasures Derek Carr Auto Rookie Patch /25

2014 Inception Derek Carr Gold Inscription Auto /10

2014 Contenders Derek Carr Rookie Ticket Auto

Blake Bortles

As the third pick in the 2014 draft, Bortles might end up being the third or even fourth best QB of the class. Jacksonville has a terrible team, but Bortles found a way. He put up 2 scores and 250+ yards without a pick. As a guy who plays for one of the least collected teams in the league, his cards have always struggled to keep up. This could be a shot in the arm.

Lets hope he can turn the Jacksonville collecting stigma around:

2014 Topps Platinum Blake Bortles NFL Shield Logo Auto 1/1

2014 Black Gold Blake Bortles NFL Shield Sizeable Signatures Logo 1/1

2014 National Treasures Blake Bortles Logo Patch Auto Rookie /99

Although Kelvin Benjamin is out for the year, and Mike Evans is still hurt, the rest of the class remains looking strong as 2015 gets off to the races. Nothing would make me happier than seeing all these guys kill it, as its been a long time since we have had a class where so many people have the chance to be awesome collecting targets.

2015 Triple Threads Relic Die Cuts – Best of the Worst

Every year, the Topps team is tasked with coming up with relic die cuts to use for the triple threads set. Back when the set was first done, they used some pretty obvious ones like team names and prominent stats. After 10 years, however, its clear that there are only so many things that you can carve into the front of a trading card. Of course, rather than ditch the idea, like it should have been years ago, they borderline troll people with how stupid the lame plays on words can be.

Every year, one of my favorite posts to write is the one that gets to gawk at the stupidity they come up with. Here are the best of the worst for 2015.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Bryce Harper Triple Relic Auto 1/1 – Easily the worst of this year. I am guessing that it is because he is young and hits a lot of home runs, but I have no fucking clue.

2015 Triple Threads Prince Fielder Triple Relic – What the hell is this about? Is he always complaining about being a victim or something? Good god.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Cliff Floyd Auto Triple Relic – I get that Floyd was a big dude, but still, not the thing I would use to commemorate this player’s career.

2015 Triple Threads Daniel Nava Triple Relic Auto – Oh no I dont what? Buy this card? Buy this product? Hit more than .230 in any major league season? All of the above.

2015 Triple Threads Buster Posey Triple Relic Auto – These lame puns are beyond terrible. Each year they seem to get worse.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Wily Peralta Triple Relic Auto – Why are they making a card of this guy if the only adjective to describe him is “Quality.” Its almost an insult.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Luis Gonzalez Triple Relic Auto – Isnt it Louie, Louie? Either way its a terrible play on his name.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Robin Yount Triple Relic – Of all the things one can say about Yount, this is one that I would probably not use.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Craig Kimbrel Triple Relic – Oh good god this is bad. Why is he the new K-Rod? Francisco Rodriguez has nothing to do with Kimbrel from what I can see. Maybe they both were save leaders?

2015 Topps Triple Threads Chris Sale Auto Triple Relic – Terrible play on his name, only outdone by…

2015 Topps Triple Threads Matt Holiday Triple Relic – Of all the awful puns, this is the most obvious. Yup they went there.

2015 Topps Triple Threads Clay Buccholz Triple Relic – WTF? I dont even have an inkling of what this means.

Guys, even if you can figure some of these out by googling them, or just by looking up “dad joke” on Urban Dictionary, it has been years since the last time these were even creative, and even longer since they were cool. I have never bought a box of Triple Threads, and stupid shit like this is one of the main reasons.

On the Radar: 2015 Immaculate Football

Over the last few years, I dont think Panini Football has done even close to a mediocre job of producing good looking products. It seems like at every turn, they release garbage sets that incite more laughs than oohs and ahhs. Immaculate has turned out to be one of the only products that really had no typical Panini design fails. The majority of the product looked amazing, even though it inexplicably had some sticker content.

Check out these beauties:

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Jr Auto Jumbo Patch

2014 Immaculate Dan Marino Auto Jumbo Logo

2014 Immaculate Emmitt Smith Immaculate Moments

2014 Immaculate Andrew Luck Auto Patch /25

2014 Immaculate Jamaal Charles Auto NFL Logo 1/1

Moving into 2015, Panini has had a DISASTROUS year of disgusting visual diarrhea products, coupled with extreme over saturation of sticker autographs from players that would normally be on card. Immaculate is the first product that looks to be far removed, likely because the football team had little to do with is concept, design or themes.

This preview showcases exactly what the product has to offer, after we got a look at some of the cards during the last few weeks. I love the design, I love the themes, and I love that it doesnt look to have stickers. The MVP, Draft and Signature Moves all look awesome, and I think there is a big reason to expect that they will be highly coveted by collectors. This is a super premium hit or miss product, as we have come to know, especially if points will continue to replace hits. We can only hope points are excluded.

I also dont see any of those horrible signed scraps of black construction paper in this preview, which have been an immaculate staple since their demon birth a few years ago.

Either way, Im excited for Immaculate, and I am excited to see if it turns out as well as it looks. Panini finds a way to fuck everything up some how some way, so we will have to see what goes down when boxes finally hit shelves. Also worth mentioning that Panini should be ASHAMED that it took them this fucking long to preview a set without rookie stickers.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Topps Triple Threads Baseball

There is no more polarizing Topps product that exists. Triple Threads baseball is it. Arguably, it has even been lapped by its football sister product in recent years, and why this has happened is completely beyond my understanding. I hate Triple Threads baseball with every fiber of my being, and though I dont think 2015 looks as bad as 2014 and 2013, it is still really fucking terrible. Even with Ichiro autographed content, im not even close to ready to say anything good about this product as a whole.

Here are some of the hits that have been posted. Notice the format, notice the design, notice what these cards are all about:

2015 Triple Threads Frank Thomas Auto Triple Relic – I dont get it.

2015 Triple Threads Reggie Jackson Auto Triple Relic – I dont get it.

2015 Triple Threads Jorge Soler Triple Relic – I get it, but its not really that clever.

2015 Triple Threads Hunter Pence Triple Relic – Most people wont get it.

2015 Triple Threads Kole Calhoun Auto Triple Relic – I dont get it.

2015 Triple Threads Bryce Harper Auto Triple Relic – Still waiting for them to do “Clown Question.” (

EDIT: looks like they did already. (H/T @yanksandbeans)

These are less about the gimmick and more about creating a super premium card. Albeit in a mildly successful way:

2015 Triple Threads Evan Longoria Lettermen Booklet

2015 Triple Threads Tim Hudson Full All Star Logo Triple Booklet 1/1

I love a lot of what Topps does. Putting focus on on card autographs, great looking design work, and even taking risks is something that they do very well. A set like Triple Threads is something I put on Panini’s level, as each part of the baseball product seems to get worse with age. It has now been around for a decade, and its a decade Topps should all beg us to forget.

You know, the product year over year is so similar, I can literally just copy and paste my review from the last few years and it would apply in 2015. In fact, lets take a look.

“The worst part about this set is the fact that it literally caters to the lowest common denominator of the hobby. Oversized relics, sticker autos, and terrible design.””

Yup, sounds about right for 2015.

“Regardless of the situations that Triple Threads never seems to fix, these cards just tend to get dumber by the moment. Really take a second to read through some of the die cut words on the card. If you have to google it to understand what the fuck is going on, the line has already been crossed.”

Seems to be right on par.

All of what was said above is back for what seems like the 508th year, and I doubt that it will be changing any time soon. This is also one of the only Topps products served up in an insane 18 box master case, which for a premium product, should spell certain death. Of course, it just adds fuel to the fire to chase the ever popular 1/1s that have spread like a virus over the hobby as a whole. Back in 2006, 1/1s were novel and special, but thanks to the need to add contrived scarcity, they are relatively common these days.

Going back to the monotony of the yearly release of this set, its clear that someone at Topps DOES NOT want this product to change at all. Where Football has made some changes to make the set a bit more interesting, it seems like Baseball has lagged FAAAAR behind. I get that there is an overpopulation of products, but high end in baseball doesnt necessarily fall into the same boat. I have never seen a product so full of stickers and junk become so popular, just because some lame ass play on words is haphazardly carved into the card’s front.

Carry on, I am fully aware that my ranting does nothing to curb the thirst people have for this product, including the desire to fight to the death against anyone that doesnt like it.