The National Convention – An Experience Worthy of Your Hobby Bucket List

If you have never experienced a National Convention, you are missing out. You are missing out on a gathering of collectors that rarely happens but a few times a year, and definitely without this type of fanfare. This one will be more important than usual because of recent news surrounding Cleveland's sports teams, but there are also other things at work that will definitely make a huge impact on the hobby moving forward. Trust me on that.

However, those things arent why the National Convention is important, and they never will be. These types of cards may be amazing, but not a good reason to book your travel:

2010 Upper Deck National Set – Michael Jordan Auto /23

2013 Panini National Set – Kyrie Irving Auto Relic 1/1

2013 Topps National Set – Yasiel Puig Gypsy Queen Exclusive

2012 Leaf National Set – Rod Carew Auto Plate 1/1

2013 Panini National Set – Kobe Bryant Auto

As a collector, its important to go and experience everything that show has to offer, whether its the massive amounts of giveaways that will be happening, or the opportunity to catch up with your buddies who have only existed as a username prior to the show. Its a way to connect with cards in a way that isnt available online or in a shop, and to also be a part of the hobby’s fabric that is slowly thinning at the edges.

Its not the only opportunity to do this over the course of the year, as there are lots of similar sized ways to do a lot of the same things you can do at the national. Unlike the National, those opportunities arent as visible. They also dont have the same level consideration from the general populace as the central gathering of collectors each year. Places like All Star Fan Fest, the Super Bowl NFL Experience, and various other huge collector shows all have a ton of guests that rival the type of things you can find each convention, but nothing gets people going like heading to see what is happening on the floor in each NSCC.

The convention started over 30 years ago in Los Angeles, grew to epic proportions during the collecting boom, dropped when the bubble burst, and is now slowly gaining steam all over again. A lot of it has to do with the way the industry treats it, with many entities offering their best faces to interact directly with the collector base. In recent years, Panini has treated it as a grand spectacle, offering extravagant givewaways and parties for their best customers and the like. Topps has taken the opportunity to offer forums for questions and communication, but has chosen to keep things more scaled back in what they offer. Both approaches have been louded and criticized, but both serve a bigger question. How important is this show to everyone involved? The answer is very important to each company, even if they have different ways of showing it. Sales teams, marketing teams, and everyone in between pile onto the convention floor, with just as much action behind the scenes as there is up front.

A lot of people see wrapper redemptions as a showcase of how much a company wants to invest in basically bribing customers to open their product, but in reality, its more about the people that truly benefit from pack sales. I have said numerous times that poor products usually have poor sales, and that the manufacturers arent usually the people that have to deal with it on a P&L basis. Some of the most important people at the show arent collectors at all, but rather the dealers who come to the national to unload some of their stock. If a product sucks, the wrapper redemptions will likely be built for the dealers, not for the collectors. Of course, we dont see it that way, which only serves the manufacturers to bring more flash and flare to their show floor. God forbid that kind of money be saved to be put back into the products, right? No, that wouldnt fly these days.

So, regardless of my complaining about true motives, you guys are the veritable stars of the show, and its up to you to take advantage of it. You have the hobby elite around you for an entire weekend, and it falls on your lap to make your voice heard. Dont be a dick about it, and definitely dont be combative. Provide your voice in a way that suggests the solution that you would like to see. As much as I have wanted to come swinging with fists of rage in the past, that isnt the way to get things done. Tell them what solutions you are looking for, and how you would make the changes. Dont just go there to tell people what is wrong and expect them to take you seriously. That’s not how any industry works, but people seem to think cards are different. Its not – you can always affect change more through building up to a tipping point, instead of demanding the tipping point being brought to you.

Outside of just the interactions with the companies themselves, interact with the collectors too. Group breaks will be on display this year in Cleveland for a reason, as certain companies have taken it upon themselves to roll out the red carpet and weave them into the foundation of the show. They have become an integral part of the hobby economy, and I will be interested to see how far they can take it this time around. There are a lot of reasons why group breaks are one of the best things to happen to the hobby, but we all know what happens whenever something good is discovered. Currently there are over 100 group breakers that host case breaks online, and I still wonder how that is possible to this day. Maybe this is the commentary people need to see that show how little value there is in many hobby boxes.

Im going to end with a story, and I hope it illustrates why I am sad that I cannot attend this year after going the last two times in Chicago.

The best time I had at any national show did not have anything to with the giveaways or the stuff one can buy while walking the floor. It was the time a bunch of guys from the online community went out to dinner and had a night of food and fun. We talked about everything from cards to life, and everyone had a blast. It wasnt about the politics, more about just  hanging out and drinking some beers while eating some dinner. That was what the national is all about. Connecting with the hobby in a way that can give you a reason to stick around for another year. Its tough these days to find disposable income to spend on cards, but you dont want to be that person around the table next year without a story to tell. You want to have those battle scars to tell to the collector sitting next to you at dinner. Because, guys, ill be the first to tell you – we all have friends, but this is a different thing.

None of my friends collect cards, and not many understand why I do. The feeling when you are sitting at a table full of people that all get you the way you understand yourself, its an unequaled sense of belonging. Can you get that at your local shop? Of course. Can you get that online? Yes. In the same dose as the national convention? Nope. And that’s why you need to go.

Should We Be Excited for 2014 Elite Football?

Yes, yes we all know that Elite is coming. But should we care? Were the last few years of Elite so bad that we should just give up all hope now? At this point, after another QC gallery posted by Panini, im not sure its that simple. There are some reasons why this Elite might in fact be one of the best in recent memory. However, there are lingering reasons why it will be disappointing as well.

Rookie Base Autographs and Parallels

If there is one hugely redeeming part of 2014 Elite, its the addition of on card autographs for the RPS guys on their base rookies. Although we have yet to see any information on print runs, we can assume there will be a lot based on the boxes Panini broke. This alone is a big win, but to also include sticker autos with the updated Premiere shots instead of “00″ airbrush seems like a good thing at this point. When you look at the extreme die cutting of the parallels, I get a little scared how those will come out of the packs, but its not awful. Definitely not as bad as some years.

Previous Years:

2012 Elite Andrew Luck Auto Base RC

2013 Elite Cordarrelle Patterson Base Auto RC

2012 Elite Ryan Tannehill Die Cut Gold Auto

2013 Elite EJ Manuel Die Cut Black Auto 1/1

This Year:

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 8.04.29 PM Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 8.04.38 PM

Verdict: Big Upgrade

New Breed Auto Relics

Although I really like the design of this series more than last year, the picture series they chose is horrendous. Like worse than horrendous. Panini has had a habit of bringing the rookies indoors during the beautiful conditions at the rookie premiere to take these stupid pictures, and I cannot understand why they would waste that time. Action shots are plentiful, or at least could be more plentiful if these poor decisions werent continually made. 2012 was obviously the best year for this set, but Panini never knows when they have something going well. Trash now.

Previous Years:

2012 Elite Russell Wilson New Breed Auto Relic

2013 Elite Geno Smith New Breed Auto Relic

This Year:

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 8.04.21 PM panini-america-2014-elite-football-qc-97

Verdict: Enormous Downgrade

Passing the Torch Dual Autos

Here is what I dont understand. Why do companies make dual sided cards? It makes them impossible to appreciate when on display, and hides 50% of the content. Not cool. However, the design of these cards is nice, even though they will be the toughest pulls in the product. I know the big names will garner huge prices on the secondary market as always, but someone needs to let them know that the past should not dictate today. They may have been dual sided before, but it shouldnt be the case.

Previous Years:

2012 Elite Peyton Manning / Andrew Luck Dual Passing the Torch Auto

2013 Elite Patrick Peterson / Devin Hester Dual Passing the Torch Auto

This Year:

BsghrjUCYAANUpG BsghriGCcAAqHqw

Verdict: Upgrade

Down and Distance Relics

Cool idea for a card, as I have said before, but they chose to resurrect a set that celebrates the most unimportant part of football. Sure, down and distance has an effect on the real game, but does it need to be celebrated? Fuck no. Its like creating a card series celebrating pitch counts in baseball. The twirling relics are gimmicky but cool, too bad they couldnt figure out a better way to use them.

Previous Years:

2012 Elite Hakeem Nicks Down and Distance Auto

2013 Elite Drew Brees Down and Distance Spinning Relic

This Year:

panini-america-2014-elite-football-qc-104 panini-america-2014-elite-football-qc-102

Verdict: Slight Upgrade?

Acetate Cards

If there is one thing that Panini excels at, its acetate cards. They do them very well, and this year is no different. I think some of the series are definitely better than others, but overall they look really nice. I didnt see many (if any) of the acetate on card autographs in these boxes which scares the hell out of me, but box breaking was never a strong suit for Panini products at or around 100 bucks.

Previous Years:

2012 Elite Robert Griffin III Auto Acetate

2013 Elite Eddie Lacy Inscriptions Auto

This Year:

panini-america-2014-elite-football-qc-52 panini-america-2014-elite-football-qc-111

Verdict: Upgrade

Am I going to be busting a few boxes of Elite? Yeah, ill probably try a box because I am a sucker for on card – but I am likely going to wait until I see some of the breaks first. Its improved, no doubt, but still so many questions about decision making on some of these things.

Underrated Talent On Display at the 2014 Home Run Derby

I rarely got into following baseball until this year, mainly because I am so caught up in the Topps Bunt app. After watching the games all year, and the power hitters on display last night, I couldnt help but feel that many of these young stars are pretty under appreciated. So much in baseball value is determined by age and team the players represent, that it is almost prohibitive to buy anyone who isnt a superstar.

Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

Last night, he easily hit the ball further than anyone has ever hit in Target field. The shot was an estimated 500+ feet, and looked like it might leave the park. Sure, its bascially BP, but its a national stage, and Stanton has done nothing but mash the ball this year. His cards are pretty easy to come by because of how much he has signed, but playing in Miami doesnt help. Unless you are Dan Marino or play for the Miami Heat, florida collecting is pretty much a black hole of despair.

2012 Topps Five Star Giancarlo Stanton Inscription Auto

2010 Topps Chrome Giancarlo Stanton Auto RC

2009 Bowman Chrome Giancarlo Stanton Auto RC

Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland A’s

Another player signed directly into the Minor leagues from Cuba, Cespedes has been a huge addition to a dominant As team over the last few years. His cards should be pretty expensive by standards set by other sports, but like Stanton, he has flown well below that situation.

2012 Topps Chrome Yoenis Cespedes Gold Refractor Auto RC

2012 Topps Finest Yoenis Cespedes Jumbo Relic Auto

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

Another team with not many collectors, Tulo has been one of the best NL shortstops over the last five years. Power, speed and fielding are all in his wheelhouse, and he is frequently overlooked because he plays for a team that hasnt been around that long. He has been one of the only players that can be truly recognized as the face of this team other than Todd Helton.

2007 Exquisite Troy Tulowitzki / Derek Jeter Dual Auto

2014 Topps Tier One Troy Tulowitzki Jumbo Patch Auto

Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles

Since being called up for good, Jones has been great by just about every standard. Great in the field, great at the plate, power numbers through the roof, all around talent. All that being said, he has been relatively overlooked in favor of guys like Manny Machado, who seem to have the same level of talent. Surprised people havent caught on.

2003 Upper Deck Prospect Adam Jones RC Auto

2013 Topps Five Star Adam Jones Auto Patch

Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies

This is a homer write-up, I know, as Morneau was the MVP of the AL for the Twins back in the mid 2000s. Due to a concussion, he fell off in production sharply over the last few years, leading the Twins to trade him to the Pirates, before he signed with Colorado in the offseason. He has had no value in the hobby since the start, and that is even with his unlikely MVP win. Joe Mauer has always been the guy in MN, and Morneau has always played second fiddle.

2001 Bowman Justin Morneau Auto RC

2001 Finest Justin Morneau Auto RC

Again, let me frame this in terms of other sports, as Baseball is practically a different world. Potential dictates value in combination with Team and College affiliation, where in Baseball, you literally have to be an MVP to have any high end value on a consistent basis. Maybe that’s why I have moved so far away from this and into a more high end friendly sport like Football. I just dont get it.

Detailing the Few Bright Spots in 2014 Prestige Football

Now that Prestige has been out for a weekend plus, we are starting to get a better look at the subsets that comprise the product. Although it has its small moments, I have yet to change my attitude about this crapfest that has further soured Panini's opening to the 2014 season. With a dud like Hot Rookies and Prestige leading off, Elite is going to need that much more oomph to get Panini off the schneid.

Road to the NFL Autos

I actually like these cards a lot, and the on card stuff always tends to make up for some of the design’s shortcomings. Although there is a small space to sign for many of these, the card still looks great.

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel Road to the NFL Auto

2014 Prestige Jadeveon Clowney Road to the NFL Auto

2014 Prestige Tre Mason Road to the NFL Auto

Big Board Autos

Another set that uses the airbrushed NFL shots from the Hot Rookies Score Subset, but at this point we cant fault them considering the late draft. At least its not the abysmal sideline shit we got at other points of this set.

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel Big Board Auto RC

2014 Prestige Teddy Bridgewater Big Board Auto RC

2014 Prestige Bishop Sankey Big Board Auto RC

Draft Pick Rights Autos

This would be my favorite subset if they were on card, but we couldnt do the RPS photos with on card at this point in the year. Another reason to wait to release NFL stuff? You betcha.

2014 Prestige Sammy Watkins Draft Pick Rights Auto

2014 Prestige Derek Carr Draft Pick Rights Auto

First Impressions Autos

Simple design with more RPS shots and stickers. I like these cards, but overall they are going to be just another sticker auto come four weeks from now.

2014 Prestige Blake Bortles First Impressions Auto

Again, Prestige is one of the worst this product has seen in a while, and that is saying something when going against 2011 and 2013 train wrecks. I would stay far away, but if you have to buy, these are the ones to chase.

Hobby All Stars: Topps Takes Big Advantage of Baseball’s Midsummer Classic

I have never been a fan of All Star games in sports, with the exception of one – the MLB all star game. Even before Selig assigned the asinine rule of World Series home field advantage to the winner, the game still mattered to many of the players. Not only did they take it as a sense of pride, and played hard, but the fans loved it too. This week, with the All Star game in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN, we are getting another dose of the fun times that surround this event. It is a very big deal for the hobby as well, as there are many collectibles that are created for the Fan Fest that happens during the whole week.

Here are some of the higher end all star cards from this year’s festivities:

2014 MLB All Star Fan Fest Derek Jeter Commemorative Patch /150

2014 MLB All Star Fan Fest Miguel Cabrera Foil Exclusive

2014 MLB All Star Fan Fest Mike Trout Wrapper Redemption

Here are some of the ways Topps will use the All Star game in upcoming sets:

2014 Topps Mike Trout All Star Logo Jumbo Patch Auto

2011 Topps Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Logo Patch Booklet

2012 Bowman Chrome Manny Machado Futures Game Auto Patch

Although I despise the fan voting and the odd choices that casual baseball fans make, its always a great experience to watch your favorite team’s players compete in both the game and the Home Run derby. Topps has issued cards for anything and everything all star game over the last few years, some good some completely awful. Yet, because collectors value the circumstantial nature of the game only happening once per year, it provides a big spark whenever Topps chooses to celebrate it.

Its funny, because most of the jerseys that are used for cards commemorating the game are not used during play – rather in events and warm-ups all week long. Because many of the casual fans out there really dont realize this fact, there is a sense of inflated value for me. However, I know that some collectors would buy regardless if it were another event used card, as they love the game just as much as I do.

Added to the other cards that are given out at the fan fest itself, and its easy to see why there is so much money to be made. This is actually the start of a big few weeks with the national collectors convention coming in late July. Being that there are so many Minnesota themed items to collect, Im getting a bit overwhelmed in my player collection. Pay very close attention, as many of the players in this game will populate checklist for most of next year.