On the Radar: 2017 Gypsy Queen Baseball

When it comes to delivering hard signed content, Topps’ retro slate of products rarely under delivers. Ginter has been a top product for more than a decade. Heritage is something that collectors rabidly chase year after year. Gypsy Queen has been under appreciated by collectors when you look at the other examples in this line of sets, but man, the cards have never looked better over the last few years. On card autos, great signed relics, and some really cool content all around. Its like Ginter with straight baseball. That might actually be the one thing that is holding this product back, it just isnt what the others have become.

Here are some of my favorites from Gypsy over the run:

2015 Gypsy Queen Mike Trout Red Auto BGS 9.5

2012 Gypsy Queen Sandy Koufax Auto

2015 Gypsy Queen Masahiro Tanaka Hand Painted Patch Card 1/1

2014 Gypsy Queen Bryce Harper Mini Auto 5/5

Unfortunately, I really dont like the look of the base and the autographs this year. There are some other cool cards in the preview, but the overly ornate artwork just doesnt do it for me like it has in years past. I really like that Posey laces autograph and the Syndegard tri book, but the rest look terrible. Considering this is more of a combo set collector product and high end hit chaser release, its kind of surprising they are rolling with the same format give or take.

I would actually be pretty curious to see what Gypsy would look like at either extreme of the spectrum, either going super premium or super low end, maybe incorporating a digital element similar to what we saw with the Bunt product from a few months ago. Bottom line, I really like what this set has been over its entire run, but it just hasnt lived up to what we are seeing on the fan base for its brothers and sisters.

Because Topps already has a stable of awesome products in this area, and Gypsy could be an opportunity to take some big risks to differentiate the offering. The cardinal sin of this hobby is overusing a particular idea or type of card, and I think we could be getting well past that point with the strategy that they are using for right now. Without being truly innovative, its hard for collectors to justify ANOTHER expense in this area, and this is a chance to make a retro splash.

Check out the goods:

2015-16 Flawless Basketball is Live

Panini wants to make Flawless into their version of brand immortality, similar to what Exquisite has become. Much to their chagrin, I would say that they are much further away from that than they expected, and they might not be alone in the NBA market if rumblings turn out to be true coming up. I have never been all that impressed with what Flawless brings to the table, other than a better checklist of players, and that hasnt really changed. All the cards available in the set are nothing that hasnt been done before, and I dont think that its fair to expect consumers to foot the bill when that is the case.

Here are some of the hits up so far:

2015-16 Flawless Kristaps Porzingis Auto Patch /15

2015-16 Flawless Stephen Curry Dual Patch Auto /5

2015-16 Flawless Karl Anthony Towns Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2015-16 Flawless Kyrie Irving Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2015-16 Flawless Lebron James Jumbo Patch /5

Although the checklist does offer better shots at Kobe and Steph Curry, the lack of Jordan and Lebron remains a detractor, above and beyond lack of insanely unique cards. I just dont see how this set in delivery is any different than Immaculate or National Treasures, and box break format isnt going to convince me its worth dropping a rent payment on a few cards. At least they have brought logos to the product, but Immaculate and Treasures have had them for years. I dont see multi signature or logo cards that measure up to the ridiculous price tag, and I have to believe that if collectors had other options in the ultra-premium space, they would see how little effort Panini puts into Flawless.

That’s the whole thing here – there are no other options, and collectors are forced to deal with what they have, so Flawless has buyers. It helps that Basketball is a highly premium sport, and Panini is definitely taking advantage. The question is what might happen if there were other sets? Ones that capitalize on the lack of unique content that Flawless has swung and missed on? Now we are talking!

As we saw with Flawless football last year, Panini expects us to look the other way when costly content is removed but the price still goes up. Big reason why Football doesnt look to have gotten much traffic from anywhere outside of group breaks. Box price alone cannot dictate secondary market value. You need special content.

I really do like some of the designs, but that shouldnt be the exception on this stuff. So much of the rest of the product is under designed and over foiled. Just look at the dual patch cards, absolutely boring and hideous. If collectors are forced to endure this configuration, at least do more design than a bunch of foil on a stark white background.

Basketball collectors and Panini apologists might disagree with my assessment, but you and I both know that if Upper Deck or Topps ever came back and really created some content in this space that was worth consideration, you know it would make this look like low effort garbage with gimmicky gems in the cards.

2016 Playbook Football is Looking Absolutely Terrible

You know, prior to 2014, I actually didnt mind the concept of Playbook, even with its absolutely stupid configuration. 2012 Playbook was good enough that I actually bought a few boxes chasing down the big hits, and the cards looked pretty good when you remove the typical Panini trash that wasnt the booklet cards. That's not saying there werent par for the course type of worthlessness, but it was offset by nice stuff other places in the set. In 2014, things went completely south, and only got worse in 2015. So bad that they started putting stickers on the main box hits instead of hard signed acetate scraps. If you think about it, they literally took a sticker replacement and added a sticker to it. Acetate scraps are signed prior to the card’s creation, which is why playbook can avoid sticker usage, and then to see them go that direction is fucking perfect. Just pure Panini.

Check out some of the nicer cards from this set over the years:

2011 Playbook AJ Green Booklet Auto Patch RC

2013 Playbook Down and Dirty Julio Jones Booklet Dual Patch

2012 Playbook Andrew Luck Booklet Auto Patch RC

Now look at what it has become as of a few years ago:

2015 Playbook Jarvis Landry Booklet Sticker Auto Patch

2015 Playbook Randall Cobb Relic Auto

This year’s playbook is right down the same path, with so many poorly designed and concieved cards, that it almost seems like a joke. Its like Panini is trolling us, just to see how low they can put the bar. At some point, even their most staunch supporters will nope the fuck out of every product they put out, and then all will be revealed. We should have already gotten to that point with Gala, Spectra and Unparalleled, but for whatever reason that didnt happen.

The worst part about 2016 Playbook is the terrible look to the main box hits, which are so fucking boring that even the players look bored in those horrendous head shots they are using on the left side. They literally arent even trying anymore.

Then, you see Slant Signatures. This is where things get downright comical. Panini decided it would dad joke the hell out of a set by putting the stickers on a slant and calling it “Slant Signatures” to refer to the way the card was designed. I cant make this up. I wish I was. At what point are you so strapped for ideas that you design a card like this, only hoping that people hear the implied “see what I did there?!?” type of garbage that makes this whole product as shitty as ever.

Right now, Im so busy that I havent had as much time to keep up with the site as I had wanted, but hot damn, I needed to roast this turd of a box before it ate me alive. This was the first time since eBay bucks started that I didnt accumulate any from buying physical football cards, and seeing set after set where Panini just squats and squeezes one out should be a clue as to why that is the case.

Only Panini folks, only Panini indeed. Check out the damage.

Your Yearly Best of the Worst Triple Threads Baseball Die Cuts

Ah yes, here we go again. For more than a decade, Topps has felt it necessary to release a Triple Threads set that basically looks the exact same as all of its previous brothers and sisters. That isnt a good thing either, as this is clearly the worst product Topps makes, and much like Spectra in football, has appeal for reasons I can only assume is the result of a deal with evil forces. Collectors have eaten this shit up, and for more than a decade, I am left dumbfounded as to why that is the case.

Im not going to say much more, because each year I say the same thing. Just feast your eyes on this garbage, and please tell me why anyone is going to be spending money on this junk.

2016 Triple Threads Ichiro Triple Relic – Ill start here as a control group, because this card is just dumb. 3G man is what it says, but it should be 3k man. Either way, this is just a reminder of how dumb it is to spell out goofy shit in die cut relic windows.

2016 Triple Threads Manny Machado Triple Relic Auto 1/1 – I see this card and just put my face straight into my palm. Good god.

2016 Triple Threads Garrett Richards Triple Relic Auto – Big Velo? Are they trying to say he throws fast? What the fuck?

2016 Triple Threads Buster Posey Triple Relic – Who gives a shit that he had the put out plus the assist? Is that really worth them commemorating it on a card? Thats worse than some of the Topps NOW commemorative junk.

2016 Triple Threads Madison Bumgarner Triple Relic – Remmeber when your grandma first called something the bomb? Same thing here with this stupid phrase.

2016 Triple Threads David Wright Triple Relic – Another worthless accomplishment to add to a card.

2016 Triple Threads Miguel Cabrera Triple Relic – Something my dad would say to use.

2016 Triple Threads David Wright Triple Relic #2 – Great way to basically say this guy is benched? I have no clue.

2016 Triple Threads Randy Johnson Triple Relic Auto 1/1 – I dont get it.

2016 Triple Threads Rollie Fingers Triple Relic Auto 1/1 – I feel like this is the last statement at the end of a CSI Miami Opening. You could say he had a “CY of Relief” WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Thank god I never have to experience Triple Threads in football ever again. I can only hope that Topps somehow just drops this product like the dud it is.

Death and Collecting – Is There a Good Way to Deal With the Worst Situation?

Each of the last two years, we have had horrible tragedies that have taken the life of a baseball player within the confines of the existing season. Not only are these tragedies national news, but they represent one of the worst situations that happens in sports. I would go so far as saying baseball has been impacted by these types of situations more times than any of the other sports that I can remember, going back to players like Roberto Clemente’s death in 1972.

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Last year, Oscar Taveras, a widely collected prospect and major league star for the Cardinals was killed in an auto accident, and this year, Jose Fernandez lost his life in a boating accident earlier this week. For both players it has left collectors with very tough choices to make in how to proceed with personal collections, especially because both players were so early in their careers. When Clemente died, his legacy was already cemented as a HOFer with over 3000 hits to his name. These two were far from cementing their careers as stars, but were beloved for their potential as futures of their respective franchises.

The question is what do you do when the player you collect passes away suddenly, even if they are no longer playing? I remember Sean Taylor in the NFL was a huge story because like Hernandez, his future was incredibly bright. Same thing could be said about Steve McNair on the other end of things, as his career was already relatively over when he was murdered. Both times, collectors were left with a choice, and I still dont know the right answer to this question. Do you sell off and profit from a TERRIBLE situation, or wait as the demand for their cards drop?

For some, like Reggie White and Walter Payton, their lives ended prematurely too, but well after their playing days were over. Health issues for football players are common, and both White and Payton died early because of sad circumstances from diseases out of their control. Yet like Clemente, their cards have only increased in value because they are no longer around to participate in the collecting game. Im curious if players like Fernandez and Taveras, who had massive but short lived success will have a similar approach, especially because they are both players whose heritage is part of what made them fan favorites. Taveras I would guess will be a stretch to hold any type of long term value, but Fernandez could be different. He was such a huge part of the Marlins’ organization, and as a Cuban player, many collectors gravitated towards his accomplishments as a parallel to their own nationality.

Bottom line, no one wants to deal with a time after a player has died, especially if its not anything related to drugs, alcohol or other self inflicted means. It can be heartbreaking, and for many people who have poured money into stashes of cards, it can be debilitating to one’s confidence of ever really getting back into the hobby the same way. Im not sure I could sell off cards just to profit off a situation like this, and sometimes eBay prevents it from happening like we saw with Junior Seau. At some point, the collection question will come up, and I do not envy anyone that has to go through it.

Hopefully peace has come to Jose Fernandez, as its clear his death is one that many will have a hard time moving on from.