The Battle Rages On: Five Star vs National Treasures

Now that both National Treasures and Five Star have been released, there seems to be a lot of debate over which product has the claim to the top product of the year. Although both products have put out their best showing in the history of the respective brands, the battle has sparked serious debate online and in the shops. Ill go through my opinions, and I am eager to hear yours. I very much like both products with a few exceptions on both sides, but I know its not necessarily cut and dry.

Value

This is about as lopsided as this debate can get, as National Treasures is obviously the more valuable of the two. Rookie patch autos in both sets are among the more valuable of the year for each of the brands, but National Treasures owns the best of the entire calendar in the worth of the base RCs. Similarly, the on card autographs of the veterans and HOF stars in NT tend to be 2-3x more valuable than in Five Star, which is completely baffling to me. It almost makes you wonder how people get to the individual valuations that these sets eventually come to, as I fail to see what makes one more valuable than the other. I would go so far as saying that Topps Five Star deserves to be more valuable, as I will get to in the later part of this discussion, but that isnt the case. I have heard theories, but to me its all because NT has been around longer, and Five Star hasnt recovered yet from 2011.

2012 Topps Five Star Andrew Luck Auto Jumbo Patch

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Auto Patch 2 Color /99

2012 Topps Five Star Brett Favre Auto /85

2012 National Treasures Brett Favre NFL Greatest Auto

Design

Both of the products feature some great looking cards, although I believe that Five Star has about as clear an edge as one can get on the look of their cards. Its been this way since the inception of the product. Not only does Five Star look more ornate and well put together, but the on card autos coupled with the clean look makes this set a juggernaut when facing any other product. Treasures’ rookie patch autos are an aesthetic nightmare to me, with the tiny player picture trapped in the corner for no apparent reason. Although they both have large spaces to sign, the Five Star cards look to be much more pleasing in the layout and picture composition. I still stand by my opinion that the Five Star jumbo rookie patch autos are the best looking cards of the year, and its not even a competition. National Treasures sticker autos just cant compete on this level of visual appeal.

Checklist

This is tough, and there is a reason why. National Treasures prides itself on having a large checklist, which is great for player collectors that buy singles. The issue is that many of the players on the checklist should not be included in a super high end product that is pushing 600 a box. With only 3 autos per, to pull one of these guys can be a box killer. Five Star has a solid checklist with few holes in it, although the overall value is lower in general. With so few of the scrub non-RPS autos included in the box, there is a much better chance of walking away with an auto that you actually might want. Considering that there are ZERO stickers in Five Star, those autographs of non-rookie players tend to be more likely to end up staying with one’s collection.

Packaging

I loved the tin strategy for Five Star over the last few years, and I think the new display is a novel idea. Its just not a good idea for a product like this. You need a tin or a wood box to complement the box price and I dont think there is a competition here. Treasures has its trademark Cigar box, and I think this is a clear win for Panini as it has been since Exquisite moved away from wood packaging in Exquisite.

Box Price

National Treasures’ box price has gone through the roof as people hoard boxes to trickle out through the distributors. This is where Five Star has a clear advantage, as there isnt as much risk going into a box. If you dont pull a Wilson, Luck or Griffin RPA, you are likely not going to make your money back on a box of Treasures, and this is where Topps has the SLIGHT advantage. Not that the cards are more valuable, just that when you have a dud, you lose less money at 450 a box instead of 600. Same amount of hits – less money needed to break even. Both products are overpriced at where they stand, but I still believe that Five Star is tracking well below where it should be on individual card sales.

Overall

I have said before that Five Star should be worth more than it is. I wholeheartedly believe that, as many of the individual sales I have seen defy common sense. Its almost like collectors are fixated on National Treasures’ perception with the herd. I have also mentioned that I feel as though we are not speaking according to the feedback I see posted everywhere. We complain constantly about sticker autos in high end products, yet when a product with all on card autos are released, its not worth more for the effort. I almost believe that collectors have lost trust in Topps’ ability to remain worthy of consumer trust in the wake of the Blue Wave and redemption issues, but that cant be all of it. Im going to put this into an analogy that I hope makes sense. National Treasures is like Justin Bieber – incredibly popular but manufactured to play to the masses in a way that preys on people who buy into the collective consciousness. Five Star is like Arcade Fire – everyone always tells you how great it is, but its the product that only the people in the know really appreciate.

In the end, both products are great showings. I love Five Star because it represents what I care about – autographs. If I were a relic collector, I might go with National Treasures. The products are so different, that I honestly believe there is room for both in this hobby. They play to two different types of people, and I hope that this year doesnt serve as discouragement to Topps to change the format. If anything, the fact that Panini had to include the on card stuff should only serve to show that they know how much power it has. They are getting tired of hearing “if Topps can do it, why cant it happen in Treasures too?” That is good. That is very good. These just go to show us that everyone won in 2012.

6 thoughts on “The Battle Rages On: Five Star vs National Treasures

  1. How jagged would you be in you bought s box of cards for $600 and one of the 3 autos was worth a buck. It’s truly amazing the industry can sustain itself.

  2. My customers and I love 2012 National Treasures Football. Prices for singles on eBay encourages box busters to continue to bust 2012 NT. EBay buyers are starting to notice the value in buying 2012 Five Star singles which is starting to drive up prices of 2012 Five Star Football boxes (up $10 to $20 from last week).

    With collectors and box busters shying away from the 2013 rookie class (until a rookie or two has a break-out game), box busters will continue to bust 2012 product. Boxes of 2012 Five Star Football has plenty of room to go up before price exceeds value. With all the production QC problems (chipping) of 2012 Topps Five Star Baseball, it is still selling for over $500 per box. With the best rookie class ever and NO PRODUCTION PROBLEMS, 2012 Topps Five Star Football singles will continue to go up in the next few weeks as collectors look for value. This will result in 2012 Five Star Football soon hitting $500 a box.

  3. Both have great attributes this year. I have built nearly the whole set of the NT ‘Greatest Signatures’ autograph set. It’s the first set with on card, HOFer and star, autos in a very long time. It’s been expensive but, since it’s been quite literally nearly a decade since something similar has been released, well worth it. I need about 5 more to finish out the set.

    Now, from a value perspective, as you mention, I did break a case of Five Star due to them having more on card autos. I pulled a Barry Sanders /25, a Dan Marino Patch/Auto redemption (should be to 85, I think) and an Andrew Luck quad patch auto RC booklet. I would think I should have broke even on that at what I paid for the case. If it were NT, I’d probably be up hundreds but, as you state, people just don’t appreciate Five Star for what it is.

    If we could just, somehow, combine the two. …. You’d have UD Exquisite….

  4. First of all, I’d just like to say how much I enjoy visiting the site. I like the information you provide, particularly when it comes to trying to spot counterfeit cards, and also enjoy reading your opinions and reviews of products and players and anything else you feel like writing about.

    Personally, I like the design of Five Star much more than National Treasures. Sure the value of the cards may be lower, but when I think about the cards that I’d like to own, it’s not just about how much they’re worth.

    I find the white background of National Treasures to be a little bland, and I also prefer how Five Star either have no borders or a distinct “frame” as opposed to how Panini just creates a simple lined “box” around the edges of the card. I also don’t like how in some of the National Treasures relic cards the players helmets get cut off. I’d rather the photo of the player be just a bit smaller and not have part of their helmet get cut off by the edge of the card, which is how Five Star does it. I don’t necessarily find National Treasures cards to be completely ugly, but I just think Topps’ Five Star design is much more appealing.

    I also love it when autographs are on card rather than on a sticker, and Five Star really comes though in a big way on that front. I’m much more interested in autographed cards than relic cards, so I like seeing more on card autographs when products are released. In addition to just looking better, on card autos give the player more room for their autographs instead of limiting them to just the tiny little rectangular sticker.

  5. I have to say, I do not like the framing that was used on Five Star. It is over bearing to the design of the card and draws your eyes right to it. If the framing wasn’t so think, the design would be better.

    On NT, i love the clean white design and the thin boarders. I could do without sticker autos.

  6. Nice one G-man, albeit a bit brief for my taste this time. I understand where the resale value consensus derives from the tightly restricted supply of NT this year, and on an aesthetic side, the minimalistic styling is in keeping with the current zeitgeist: where IMHO everything is so simple and clean, things seem to have a somewhat shadowy washed out flavor- still I cant argue that it doesnt look damn cool.
    Regardless, of the fact that I may tend to appreciate NT more, I hope 5 Star turns out a winner for the fans this year, and cross my fingers the trend for on card signatures continues!

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