Which Stands Above – 2014 Valor or 2014 Playbook?

Although I am not a fan of Friday releases, we are getting not one, but two product releases this week. Valor has been available through retail for a while, and we have seen that the cards do look as nice as they did in 2012. Playbook is back for its 4th year, and there are reasons to get excited. The question remains, are either worth your time?

2014 Valor Football

As I have talked about prior, I think Valor was the first of the concept products that have led to others like Topps Fire, scheduled to be released later this year. Like I expect Fire to turn out, 2012 Valor tanked due to an unsustainable price point for cards that collectors never really saw as something worth picking up. It did have great looking cards with on card autos, but overall failed to strike a chord with the target market.

Here are some of the cool looking hits that have already surfaced from retail:

2014 Valor Eagles Quad Auto – Foles, McCoy, Matthews and Ertz

2014 Valor Teddy Bridgewater Auto Patch RC

2014 Valor Sammy Watkins Auto Patch RC Green Parallel

2014 Valor Marshawn Lynch Auto SSP

After being axed for 2013, its back this year with a different format and much lower price point. Its funny, because both Valor and Playbook are featuring huge cuts in wax MSRP, despite having content equal to what was featured in previous years. Funny how that works, right?

Like 2012, the new edition looks really well designed, and the beefed up box content should make it less of a jagged pill to swallow. The main issue is that the on card autos are gone (cant do them this early on), but that shouldnt cripple the product. The concept and motif are still going to be a challenge for the straight laced type of market that cards can have, but I think its still worth a look just for the design alone.

Similar issues will arise from going up against a product like Playbook, which has been a DOG and then some for Panini, but with a cheaper box price may perform better. It also has continuity which matters more than it should, and we all know how collectors prefer large patches to cards that actually look good. Valor has a tough road ahead, but definitely worth taking a look.

2014 Playbook Football

Though the box breaks have been cost prohibitive since day one on Playbook, the product has had its fair share of great looking cards with a cool theme. On the other hand, outside of the main booklet cards, this product has been about as big of a murder scene as can exist. Poor design, horrible value and dumb themes have been a death blow to the non-box hits, which in turn have left unopened boxes of Playbook rotting on shelves.

For 2014, the 90 dollar price point is a great adjustment to the configuration, although we dont know yet if there will still be the same content in each box as there used to be. I dont think anyone would care if the second jersey booklet card went away from each box, but if there is not one booklet in each break, things are going to get hairy.

Even with the adjusted configuration, I still think the overall booklet design is a complete downgrade over previous years's white silhouette infused awesomeness. Using those studio style head shots as an embellishment is a travesty, and I hope people dont support that by buying into this. The darker border along the booklets does not do the card any favors, especially with the awkward transition from color to color as you move from top to bottom. I cannot believe Panini doesnt have some sort of sports editor that can spot these issues.

They have also decided to include single acetate style autograph cards, but the design continues to be a visual assault on the eyes all around. You cant do an acetate window like that without using some sort of element to blend it with the rest of the card. As it stands right now, the cards just look like they are halfway done. Barf.

As in previous years, the down and dirty and other vet focused patch programs in Playbook look amazing. Its also quite clear that the diving player booklets are easily shaping up to be the most coveted cards in the product. Panini has staked their reputation around creating cards where the relics are more important than presentation of the design, but these look great.

Which product is worth your time? To be honest, its likely best to stick to singles on both of them. I would be thoroughly shocked if the secondary market value from either will have any staying power – especially if previous years have been any indicator.

The Final Four: The Only Sure Bets in the NFL Today

When you are looking to get into cards, the first thing that always comes up is investments. I know a lot of people out there, still view cards as a worthwhile venture to place a marker, regardless of what the trends say. Although I dont believe that cards are worth staying into for the money, there are a few players that I think are a safe bet. The only issue is that many of them are near the ceiling of their potential.

Andrew Luck – QB,┬áColts

When the 2012 draft was approaching, I had never heard so much hype surrounding one guy. Luck was described as a generational talent, and one of those cant miss type of guys. The “cant miss” tag had been applied to a number of busts in the past, but everyone, including collectors thought he was the guy. So far, they have been right, with Luck showing that he has the skill and talent to be one of the elite guys. The problem is, its no secret, which means his value is sky high.

Here are some of his better cards:

2012 Topps Chrome Andew Luck Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2012 Contenders Andrew Luck Auto Rookie Ticket

2012 Exquisite Andrew Luck Auto RC

Aaron Rodgers – QB, Packers

No matter how big the vaccuum of talent around him remains, he always finds a way to make his guys look like rock stars. He is easily one of the best in the league, if not THE best, and is on his way to a HOF career with a Super Bowl win under his belt. There are a few limiting factors though, mainly stemming from his lack of autographed cards in recent years. Because he doesnt sign much, his cards are sky high.

Here are the few choices, and you can see the numbers:

2005 SP Authentic Aaron Rodgers Auto Patch /99 BGS 9.5

2012 Topps Aaron Rodgers Ring of Honor Auto On Card

2005 Contenders Aaron Rodgers Auto Rookie Ticket

Tom Brady – QB, Patriots

There are very few individuals in the NFL with more than one super bowl ring, and even fewer with 3. Although Tom Brady hasnt exactly been incredible in the last year or two, he is a first ballot hall of famer who plays for a team that has a humongous fan base. Like Rodgers he has very few signatures in packs as of late, which means his top cards are going to cost huge money as a result.

Brady will be in the new Flawless set, interesting to see where they sell in comparison:

2000 Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket Auto

2013 National Treasures Tom Brady Auto /5

2002 Topps Tom Brady Ring of Honor Auto On Card

Peyton Manning – QB,┬áBroncos

After the game tonight is complete, a record might fall that was once deemed “unbreakable” by a few people. Manning could pass Favre tonight, and barring a significant injury, will break it shortly if it isnt today. Unlike a lot of the other guys on this list, Manning signs a ton, and his autograph is easily one of the most affordable if you are looking to pick up one of those once in a lifetime type of players.

Manning’s cards may spike after the record is broken:

1998 Bowman Peyton Manning Auto RC

2013 National Treasures Peyton Manning Auto Patch Booklet

2013 Topps Supreme Peyton Manning Auto Patch

It should be painfully obvious right now that Quarterbacks are the only worthwhile players dumping money into, especially if they are rookies. The scary thing is, you used to have guys like Adrian Peterson who were well on their way to defining a generation of Running Backs, but we have found out that no one deserves to be put on a pedestal until its all said and done. His cards still sell, just not what they used to sell for.

This goes doubly so for rookies, as guys like Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater have shown that it takes a lot of time to figure things out in the NFL. The cards just arent where they would have been years earlier. ther skill players that are having good years almost dont matter, because once the new rookie class comes in, the previous one is all but forgotten. Rookie classes like 2012 may be the best in recent memory, but they have also spoiled the collectors into thinking that every rookie needs to make the playoffs in their first year or its time to move on. Scary thought indeed.

I remain curious to find out how the football hobby will change in 2016 with Panini taking the reigns, as we have seen a diminished collecting base already take effect on card values.

On the Radar: 2014 Crown Royale Football

Crown Royale has had its ups and downs over the years, but for the most part it has been a pretty solid product for Panini. The main reason why I say it has been solid and not a horrific gore-fest of a car accident is because of the Silhouettes. These cards are one of, if not THE best cards Panini makes, with huge success in all but one year.

Here are some of my favorite cards from previous years:

2013 Crown Royale Colin Kaepernick Auto Silhouette

2013 Crown Royale Drew Brees Auto Silhouette 1/1

2013 Crown Royale Andrew Luck On Card Auto 1/1

2011 Crown Royale Peyton Manning Kings of the NFL Auto Patch

2011 Crown Royale Ladanian Tomlinson Auto Silhouette

This year’s Crown looks good. The silhouettes look to bring their normal cool factor to the product, with more on card autographs to make them extra awesome. The rest of the cards that arent silhouette based are pretty much the standard ugly crap that comes in every Panini box, and I am not kidding when I say that it doesnt matter all that much. No card in this product will matter unless it is a silhouette.

Funny that these cards (which were created in 2010 football) have transitioned to both Basketball and Hockey and become that much more successful. This is really Panini’s Strata, where the box hits are really the only cards that matter. Just like with the Silhouettes here, the Strata shadowbox cards and clear cut autographs are all that matter.

Sadly, in 2012, the year that Crown needed its usual flair, was the year with such a turd of a design. This disgusting design was so bad, it took away the majesty and made it a watery pile of crap. I think they learned their lesson, and instead went back to making variations on the one style everyone loves. Prices on those 2012 cards reflect this and then some. Im not crazy about the giant metal thing that cuts the card in half this year, but ill live.

For the first time in 2013, we saw Veteran silhouette on card autos make their debut. They were stickers in the past, and Panini took a risk with a rookie class that couldnt hold their own weight. All of them were redemptions, with some still unfulfilled, but the ones that got done were as good as expected. I hope we get that again this year with more live cards. Thanks to the need to get cards done for Flawless, it might happen.

Although I wouldnt be sad if they folded the Crown Silhouettes into another higher end set, Ill make due with what it is right now.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Update Baseball

Believe it or not, the Topps Update type of set goes back a very long way. Its also pretty important from what we have seen, because it can house some of the more important rookie cards of the year. Whether its the Trout RC from 2011, or this year’s Jacob deGrom RC, there is a lot of reason to buy this set if you are a baseball collector. Its also one of the last sets before we move onto 2015.

Here are some of the big hits so far:

2014 Topps Update Jacob deGrom Base Variation Auto /5

2014 Topps Update Jose Abreu Future is Now Auto

2014 Topps Update Jose Bautista ASG Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Update Dale Murphy Strata Shadowbox Auto

2014 Topps Update John Smoltz Fond Farewells Auto Patch

I am EXTREMELY happy to see the continuation of a few subsets that have done very well in previous releases of the base set, most importantly the Topps Strata shadowbox style autographs. These cards are absolutely some of the best cards in any sport, and seeing them with on card autos in Update continues to be awesome. After making a name for themselves in the football product, baseball is taking up the banner and running with it.

The framed reprint cards are back as well, this time with a focus on Jeter's topps cards from over his career. These cards have been selling VERY well, and I would expect them to continue. The metal frame is still a nice touch, as it adds a level of collectability to cards that may not be very collectable as a simple reprint. Jeter is one of the more iconic players in baseball history, so this is cool to see even though I am not a Jeter fan.

The acetate parallels are also continued in Update, and the continue to be the coolest parallel that Topps offers in any base product. They are crazy low numbered at just 10 copies, and sell like crazy for the big name players. I would expect players like deGrom to have huge numbers on this card.

We also get our first dose of All Star cards from the 2014 game in Minnesota, which include some base variations of players that were at the game. These are pretty nice, but really arent a huge focus of the set. The auto relics are really cool looking, and I really like the Minnesota limestone motif in all the cards. Using it as a background really works very well.

There are some cards I really dont like, including the more common Trajectory autos, and the manurelic autos, which do not look very nice with use of that horrifying big white box. They are just pretty boring cards. Add in that some of the non-auto manurelics are REDEMPTIONS is completely fucking ridiculous. I dont know how that happens, and is a complete failure on Topps’ part.

Overall, this was a fun enough product for me to bust a box at the shop today and it was a good time. The SP variations and sparkles make for a great chase, and I can see why this is selling on the secondary market like it is.

MLB Playoffs: Hobby Winners and Losers

This post season has been a lot of fun, which includes quite a few surprises from teams that you never knew could perform the way they did. The playoffs always have a big effect on card values, so its only fitting that we discuss a few of the winners and losers.

Lorenzo Cain – WINNER

There might not be a team that has had a better post season than the Royals have so far. Maybe ever. Coming in as a Wild Card team, they have done nothing but win and win some more. Lorenzo Cain was recently named ALCS MVP and that has a big impact on the few cards he has available. The guy played like a maniac, and deserves all the credit he gets. One of those guys like David Freese and Allen Craig that goes from the common box to the big time overnight.

2011 Topps Lorenzo Cain 60th Anniversary Auto

2006 Bowman Lorenzo Cain RC Orange Refractor /25

2008 Elite Extra Edition Lorenzo Cain Auto Status /5

Clayton Kershaw – LOSER

Hard to apply this tag to Kershaw, because he is a clear cut leader for MVP in the National League after a historic season. However, his record in the playoffs this year curtailed a lot of the hobby success he was enjoying, as collectors never like to see someone bottom out after playing so well.

2006 Bowman Chrome Clayton Kershaw Blue Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2008 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Clayton Kershaw Jumbo Relic Auto

2014 Museum Collection Clayton Kershaw Framed Auto

Madison Bumgarner – WINNER

After a nice season with the Giants, Mad Bum is well on his way to a potential World Series berth. If they can finish off the Cardinals and have a nice performance in the Series, the big bump he has gotten could go further.

2008 Bowman Chrome Madison Bumgarner Auto Xfractor RC

2013 Topps Madison Bumgarner World Series Auto Relic

Mike Trout – PUSH

I cant say Trout has lost value in the Hobby after losing to the Royals, but he definitely didnt gain any more momentum after an MVP caliber season this year. He remains the face of the hobby, and after an exclusive deal signed with Topps today, will be the face for a long time.

2009 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Immaculate Mike Trout Auto Relic

Mike Moustakas – WINNER

I could really write about the entire Royals team as a winner, but Moose was relatively considered to be a bust after being drafted high with a lot of hype behind him. His stats have been average, but he turned it on late in the season and hit some big bombs in the playoffs to elevate his status.

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Moustakas Auto RC

2013 Topps Tribute Mike Moustakas Auto

Yasiel Puig – LOSER

There was no hotter player in baseball last year, and though he had a nice season in LA after a rough start, he was benched in the playoffs. His immaturity is well documented, and it might start to seep into his hobby potential if the confidence in his skills continues to falter.

2013 Bowman Chrome Yasiel Puig Auto RC

2013 Bowman Inception Yasiel Puig Orange Auto /50

I am ready for the World Series to start, and I cannot wait to see how it works out. Even though I am oddly shocked by the Royals making it as far as they have, I kind of want them to win despite their presence in the AL central against my Twins. Its just too good a story.