SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Topps Stadium Club Baseball

When I was young, Stadium Club was seriously the best set that you could buy. Although Finest eventually introduced Chrome technology into the hobby, I lived for 1991 Stadium Club. In the years after, it was still one of my favorite packs to buy with my saved allowance, and I was rarely disappointed. Topps is trying to go back to those roots a bit with the look of this year’s set.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2014 Topps Stadium Club Jose Abreu Auto Gold

2014 Topps Stadium Club Mike Trout Auto

2014 Topps Stadium Club Clayton Kershaw Auto

2014 Topps Stadium Club Juan Gonzales Auto Silver

2014 Topps Stadium Club Randy Johnson / Steve Carlton Co-Signers Dual Auto

To see that Topps has brought back the brand after a few years off, I am in favor. The last time around, the idea wasnt executed even close to the way it should have been, but this time looks better. Adding in on card autographs, and other cool inserts makes it better, although redemptions and checklist strength may make autographs less of a focus.

My favorite cards in this set are the Beam Team cards, which were some of my favorite inserts growing up. Although the cards are awfully busy and shiny foil like, I cant help but feel the nostalgia tugging at my interest. As rarer case hits, and seeing the way people react to them, im pretty sure these will end up being the reason the product makes it back next year too.

The addition of signed buybacks from 1991 and other stadium club sets is huge, and I think that though rare, are some of the bigger chase cards of the product. The checklist looks pretty good on these cards from my favorite Stadium Club set, and I already know a few people chasing them like mad.

Here is the main thing with these sets – you have to give collectors a reason to recall that nostalgia, or it cant be successful. The interesting photography and die cut interest provide some of that element, but the addition of some of the other content really does a good job of bringing it home. Bottom line, the set looks REALLY good. If you cant make it look good, then everything will fall flat.

Topps has tried their hand at resurrecting older designs, especially in sets like Archives and the like. Most of the time they have been extremely successful in doing so. History is the one advantage that no other existing company can compete with Topps, and they need to figure out a way to use it more often.

Retro is big, not only in cards but in every aspect of retail life, and Stadium Club is a great way to capture that feeling. Scary to think that this is now considered “Retro,” but I digress. I really like the design, as it focuses its main content around the photos, which has always been a strength of this brand. There are some really incredible images in the base set, and I expect that it might make up for some of the lesser names on the auto checklist.

I also hope Stadium Club does well enough that it can inspire and motivate Topps to go this direction more often.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2013-14 Flawless Basketball

With the release of Flawless Basketball today, we are getting a continued commitment to the new genre of wax breaks that go beyond the previous high end. These Ultra High End Boxes, which Panini is the first licensed company to break into, should offer collectors something that they cant find anywhere else. However, as I have repeated constantly, despite the nice cards Flawless really isnt anything special. Its more quantity of good players in a box, than QUALITY of those big hits when you pull them.

Here are some of the nicer cards that have already been listed:

2014 Flawless Allen Iverson Auto Patch 5/5

2014 Flawless Carmelo Anthony Dual Jumbo Patch Auto /10

2014 Flawless Kyrie Irving Auto Encased 1/1

2014 Flawless Michael Carter Williams Auto Inscription 1/1

2014 Flawless Kevin Durant Dual Jumbo Patch Auto

After watching about 5 cases opened online, I wouldnt even be sure that the quantity of the big hits is where it used to be last year. Dont get me wrong, there are some nice additions to the checklist that will sell very well domestically and internationally, but can the market continue to sustain Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis cards as if they are top tier? Im not sure, ESPECIALLY if the cards dont offer something high end besides being encased.

The scariest thing about opening a box of Flawless is what happens when you dont pull Durant, Kobe, or Kyrie. Add in others like Michael Carter-Williams, and Shaq, and there might be some relief, but from what I have seen, its not always a slam dunk.

Flawless banks on contrived scarcity and player quality to float it's ridiculous box price, and seeing that no box will have Jordan autos and no box would have Lebron autos, Im not sure the luster is returning the way it started last year. I dont collect basketball enough to recognize trends, but Im not seeing the value the way I saw the first time around.

Are there nice cards in the product? Of course, the design is definitely some of the better looking cards that Panini makes. However, with on card autos and jumbo patches being the main draw, havent we gotten more out of other products that cost 1/3rd the price? Yes. Yes we have.

One former Upper Deck employee gaffed at what Panini put in Flawless the first time around, wondering what Exquisite would have been like with a box price over 1000 bucks. I am of that same crowd, as even with this price tag, none of the cards are even close to the level we saw come out of Upper Deck’s flagship products.

Panini does have the right idea, however, as High End is more in demand for Basketball than any other sport. Although they were pressured into creating the product the first time around, they may have fallen ass backwards into a set that has legs under very specific circumstances.

If Panini can find a way to either buy out UD, or get UD to license Jordan and Lebron for these products, get out of the way. Rumble of running collectors will cause earthquakes around shops that get Flawless on the shelves.

In all seriousness, if you arent a group breaker, or someone that can waste this kind of cash, Im wondering why you are buying boxes of this year’s edition. Last year’s softened considerably as the release passed along, and I would expect that to be doubly so with 2014’s version. Think of this like a rookie card and a second year card. The rookie card can remain hot, while the next card drops significantly. This should end up being a similar situation.

Be careful, that’s my advice.

2014 Prizm Football Continues to Represent Panini’s Knockoff Strategy

I have never had as much disdain for a set than I do for Prizm. Although its not the set that I think is the ugliest, or even has the worst content, its the one I have come to despise more than anything. I think the main reason is the fact that it is SUCH a blatant rip off of Chrome, and executed so poorly. Its not even worthy of being called Diet Chrome, or anything in between. Its exactly what Panini stands for, and that says a lot about the brand they have tried to build within the hobby.

Here is where Prizm started – 2012 Football:

2012 Prizm Andrew Luck Auto RC BGS 9.5

2012 Prizm Russell Wilson Auto RC

Here is the next version, which continued to be awful – 2013 Football:

2013 Prizm Nick Foles Auto SSP – PSA 10

2013 Prizm Giovani Bernard Auto Refractor /99

2013 Prizm Cordarrelle Patterson "Auto" RC

Ever since the DLP takeover, it seems like the plan has been to produce knockoff versions of every product made successfully by competitors, and throw a hype train behind it. Its not a bad marketing strategy, no doubt about it, but collectors have fallen for this charade for so long that it makes me nauseous. Prizm is the epitome of this, taking the most popular product of the year and trying to copy cat the entire run down to the Blue Wave refractors. If it was done well, and done with a different tone, then maybe it wouldnt look like the Foakley Sunglasses you can buy on the streets of New York in comparison to the real thing.

Instead, we are left with 14 different parallels based almost 100 percent on ones that Topps has done well over the last few years. These are coupled with some of the worst insert sets I have ever seen in a product since Leaf Initial Steps. Sprinkle in some stickers with giant defined white spaces behind them, and that’s PRIZM! YAY!

What I have come to understand is that Collectors sometimes mirror a personality of a small baby. They love shiny things. If its shiny with color – get out of the way to avoid the stampede. Topps has found a way to appease this fancy, but not leave behind the design element of it either. Its one of the main reasons that Chrome is still one of the most popular products of the year.

Panini just thinks they can die cut their way through it – fake it till you make it. Add in more shiny, more stickers, more oddly shaped cards, and collectors will come running. Instead, things tend to soften faster than ever, once people start to realize how horrendous the product usually is.

Ill be the first to say the base design is better than the previous two years. I will also say that the way they have chosen to do the autos is better than the last two years. However, despite the improvements, its still a cheap knockoff. Just like National Treasures is a cheap knockoff of Exquisite, and so on and so forth. If they can find a way to improve the quality along the way, maybe ill consider changing my viewpoint.

2014 NFL Rookies Shine in the First Quarter of the Season

Who knew I would be writing this article at the quarter pole and not have any game tape about Johnny Manziel? That is pretty nuts. That being said, so many other rookies have performed well above expectations, and I am excited to see how 2014 closes out.

Teddy Bridgewater

The Vikings are a hot mess this year, thanks to Adrian Peterson’s legal troubles, and injuries to top offensive guys and defense too. In his game and a half of play, Teddy has been stellar, with a 92.7 QB rating, 467 yards and 1 TD. He has yet to throw an interception either, which usually plague rookie QBs. His ankle injury may be of some concern, but he has earned the value he is getting from collectors.

2014 Topps Teddy Bridgewater Photo Variation Auto SP

2014 Elite Teddy Bridgewater On Card Auto RC

2014 Topps Prime Teddy Bridgewater Triple Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

Allen Hurns

The Jaguars really found a diamond in the rough with Hurns, who is currently sitting at 12 receptions, 254 yards and 3 TDs. On a horrible team with Chad Henne as your QB during the first 3 games, that is pretty impressive. It shouldnt be surprising that Kelvin Benjamin, a first rounder, is leading the rookies in many categories, but it is shocking that number two is Hurns. Collectors have been trying to find the minimal amount of cards that are available for him, and as a result, the value has been through the roof for someone who wasnt drafted.

2014 Bowman Allen Hurns RC Orange Refractor /299

2014 SAGE Hit Allen Hurns Rookie Auto

2014 Bowman Allen Hurns Mini SP

Kelvin Benjamin

Although the Panthers are struggling, he is having quite the start to the season. Newton has been hurt, and that has put the team in a hole, but KB is still doing well. Tied with Hurns for the rookie lead in TDs, his 329 yards leads all rookie receivers. Only Brandin Cooks has more receptions at 23, but he has far fewer yards. Benjamin has shown to be quite the red zone threat, which is a drastic need for the Panthers with no other good receivers on the roster.

2014 Topps Prime Kelvin Benjamin Quad Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Kelvin Benjamin Rookie Patch Auto

Blake Bortles

Similar to Hurns, Bortles has jumped from the frying pan and into the fire. The Jaguars are terrible for the umpteenth year in a row, and that hasnt stopped him from playing well above expectations. He has 3 TDs and 476 yards in a game and a half of work, and like Bridgewater, has made the most of what he has been given. He does have 4 picks, but that might be more of a measure of the situations he is in and the quality of his receivers than anything. Collectors are on board regardless, and his future looks bright despite playing for a team in the black hole of hobby value.

2014 Topps Inception Blake Bortles Silver Signatures Auto

2014 Flair Showcase Blake Bortles Auto Patch RC

2014 Topps Prime Blake Bortles Auto Quad Patch

Derek Carr

The only Rookie QB to start from the beginning, Carr has struggled on another terrible team. His QB rating may only be 75.2, but he has put his team in a position to win a few times. Because he has more stats on paper, he is easier to judge, but he will be out for the next few weeks with knee and ankle sprains likely. Collectors have cooled a bit on his cards, but they are still above expectations overall.

2014 Topps Finest Derek Carr Blue Refractor Auto Patch /99

2014 Panini VIP Party Derek Card Prism Refractor Auto

Terrance West

I dont think anyone thought that West would be the rookie we are talking about at this point in the season. He has put up some solid numbers as part of the Browns RB by committee, including 2 TDs. Now that Ben Tate is likely to return, his role could be diminished, but he is worth a shot with the cheap prices out there.

2014 Topps Finest Terrance West Auto Patch Refractor RC

Sammy Watkins

I think Watkins was one of the prospects I have been most excited to watch over the season, as he is prone to making exciting plays look easy. He has 200 yards and 2 TDs, which is a bit below where I think we were expecting, but his upside remains tremendous. That is where collectors are continuing to latch on, as its clear that Sammy has the talent to be great in this league.

2014 Topps Finest Sammy Watkins XFractor Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Panini Certified Sammy Watkins Auto Patch RC

Johnny Manziel

Okay, I cant resist talking about Manziel a little bit, even if he has barely played. I think that he is still the most valuable RC in the class, but his prices have come down a bit. Hoyer is still the top QB on the roster until he isnt, and that might be longer than anyone expected. Manziel will play, dont get me wrong, but I think his impact will be decreased as the season rolls on without him as the starter.

2014 Topps Inception Johnny Manziel Auto Inscription /10

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Auto Red Refractor

It is crazy how time flies, and I am actually sad that 25% of the NFL season is already over. When all is said and done, one of these guys will be ROY, and its still not clear who that might be. Going to be a lot of fun to see how this shakes out.

Will Redemption Issues Kill Topps Prime?

I am a fan of the design of Topps Prime this year, as I think it is one of the better looking versions of the set that I have seen in a long time. In its run, the cards have all taken relatively the same formula, and Im glad that they are switching it up a bit this year. It looks really good. The issue that is really clear is that Topps Prime should have never been released with THIS many redemptions. There are an absolute ton.

Like mentioned above, there are a lot of really cool cards that may be overlooked due to this problem:

2014 Topps Prime Jadeveon Clowney Auto Booklet Six Piece /10

2014 Topps Prime Brett Favre Auto SSP

2014 Topps Prime Kelvin Benjamin Quad Patch Auto

2014 Topps Prime Giovani Bernard Quad Patch Auto

2014 Topps Prime Jimmy Garropolo Five Piece Booklet Auto Patch

Its worth mentioning that Topps has had relatively no issues with redemptions so far this year, which is a big win in itself. There have been scattered players with cards unsigned in other products, but now that the stickers signed at the Rookie Premiere and the Draft are running out, its beginning to look a bit bleak. More than 10 players are redemptions for Prime.

There is no doubt that Topps is NOT the only one to blame here, as there is no doubt that the players have culpability just like they always do. They have a responsibility through their contracts and the PA to get their shit signed on time. That being said, I doubt Johnny Manziel gives a crap about signing cards at this point, especially when Panini has made it very worth his while to sign more with a focus on their stuff.  Contract or no contract.

My biggest gripe with this whole situation is that there are a lot of reasons to push back the product to wait for some of the stickers to come back, as that would give more completeness to the set. I opened about 4 boxes and ended up with six, you heard that right, SIX redemptions. That should never happen.

Now, Topps has historically had issues with customer service, and if this continues to be as big a problem, its likely those challenges will get worse. Even though they are exiting football (for lack of a better explanation) in 2016, they still need to make money NOW. That doesnt change. That means they have a reason to perform well, and this is not anywhere close to that standard.

So far here is a list of players who have redemptions in Prime:

  • Johnny Manziel
  • Paul Richardson
  • Michael Sam
  • Odell Beckham
  • Le’Veon Bell
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Dri Archer
  • Derek Carr
  • David Fales
  • Logan Thomas
  • Josh Huff
  • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Donte Moncreif
  • Tre Mason
  • Khalil Mack
  • Julio Jones
  • Marqise Lee
  • Marshawn Lynch
  • Earl Thomas

Although some of these players also have live content, but there are a ton of the redemptions floating around because of how many autos these players are scheduled to sign. Lets just hope this is not an issue that continues because it is going to be a VERY long year for Topps if that is the case. It will also wipe out a lot of the great work they are doing in producing some really awesome looking cards.