2014 Topps Tier One – Is It Time For a Change?

Ill start by saying I really like the way Tier One looks, but that hasnt changed over the last few years. Tier One has always looked good, and hasnt changed much during its run. My biggest reason for not wanting to buy into this product has everything to do with the fact that we continue to get the same product over and over again for the whole calendar.

Here are some of the top hits listed so far, for reference:

2014 Tier One Miguel Cabrera Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Tier One Mariano Rivera / Jorge Posada Dual Auto

2014 Tier One Rickey Henderson Logo Patch Auto

2014 Tier One Mark McGwire Acetate Auto

Without a large class of rookies to reinvigorate a product line each year, high end baseball tends to get pretty stale. That's not saying there arent huge hits among the product line, it just seems like we are due for some new and unique content. Although the looks of the products under Topps’ umbrella has always been relatively the top of the mountain, the products dont seem fresh. Im not 100% sure as to why I feel this way, but from the way things are selling on eBay, it looks like there are quite a few others that feel the same way.

Now, lets say for a minute that Masahiro Tanaka had decided to sign an autograph contract, and George Springer was up much earlier with the red hot Astros. Combine with a sprinkle of Oscar Taveras and a few other guys, then sure, things might be a bit different. However, we are left with a lot of the same checklist, plus the main addition of hot rookie Jose Abreu, and expected not to notice that not much has changed since 2013 Tier One.

The addition of more Booklet cards and autographed Bat Knobs, in combination with all the hard signed cards in the product, and some of the singles are going to be really nice. Making more acetate cards with on card signatures are also really cool, but I just cant get past the fact that I think Tier One has reached its full potential a few years ago.

Maybe I am just not seeing what others are seeing.

2014 MLB Draft – Top Picks Have Lots of Hobby Potential

I have always loved any type of pro draft, with the NFL draft being one of my biggest obsessions of the year. One of the drafts that has since started to grow on me considerably is the MLB draft, which will be taking place over this weekend. Although the first and second rounds will be the focus, players selected in later rounds have as much of a chance of making and impact in the big leagues as anyone. Much different than other sports. Here are some of the top players and cards they have available on the market already.

Brady Aiken – LHP, High Schooler from CA

Aiken is widely projected as the number one pick, but as we saw with Carlos Correa a few years ago, the Astros dont always go the way we all think they will. As part of the USA team a while back, he has some cards on the market already.

2013 Panini USA Brady Aiken Auto XRC

2013 Leaf Brady Aiken Jumbo Patch Auto Red /5

2013 Panini Elite Extra Edition USA Brady Aiken Auto

Carlos Rodon – LHP, North Carolina State

Great college pitchers are a premium commodity in the draft, especially someone with the talent like Rodon. He is one of four pitchers at the top of the first round that could all be taken in the first few picks.

2012 Prime Cuts Carlos Rodon USA Auto Relic

2013 Panini USA Carlos Rodon Auto

Tyler Kolek – RHP, High Schooler from TX

When it comes to high school arms, many teams can be wary of getting in deep, but Kolek has some nice stuff for a guy in his position. Although he is still developing, many teams consider him among the best pitcher prospects in the draft.

2013 Leaf Perfect Game Tyler Kolek Auto

2013 Leaf Perfect Game Tyler Kolek Jumbo Patch Auto

Nick Gordon – SS, High Schooler from FL

My Twins are picking high in this draft (as they have been for the last few years), and are actually slotted in some mock drafts to go after Gordon. I dont know much about the talent he brings, but middle infielders are always valuable.

2013 Bowman Perfect Game Nick Gordon Auto

Nick Gordon Custom RC Auto – PSA Slabbed

Alex Jackson – OF, High Schooler from CA

Big outfield prospects are hard to pass up, and Jackson has a lot of upside as a five tool type player from CA. Because of all the pitchers in the draft, he has kind of fallen to the side, but he could end up going much higher if a team falls in love.

2013 Bowman Perfect Game Alex Jackson Auto

2013 Leaf Perfect Game Alex Jackson Jumbo Patch Auto

This may not be a star studded draft like we have had in previous years, but many of the prospect products later this year are going to focus on guys of this caliber. There will be some surprises for sure.

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.