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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.