Topps Chrome and the Quest for the Best

My love affair with Topps Chrome has been well documented on this site. Aside from my yearly boxes of SP Authentic and a few sporadic boxes here and there, it was the only product I spent a considerable amount of money on. With recent previews showing a new and improved product, I am confident that Topps Chrome will once again contend for product of the year, and here are the reasons why I think it will.

Product Additions

In terms of content versus price, Chrome has always led the way in most respects, mainly because of how much collectors value the hits and non-hit cards. This year, with the addition of Bowman Chrome, Dual Rookie Autos, Red Zone Rookie Autos, and the Flashback Signature cards, Topps Chrome has added a considerable amount of content to a product that was already at the forefront of the game. Its like adding the hellfire conversion kit to a grenade launcher – it just adds that much more awesome.

Although the addition of Bowman Chrome is great for this particular product, I think it detracts from the overall calendar that Topps puts out. Despite the similarities between the two products, Topps low end never disappoints, and I will say that adding more products like Platinum and Finest, takes away from the overall feel of what makes Topps, well, Topps.

Lack of Relevant Competition

With Upper Deck not producing licensed products, Topps was able to reenter the football market again. Yay for us, no joke. Because SPA, Ultimate, and Exquisite will not function in the same capacity again (if at all), Topps has the opportunity to hit it so far out of the park that it should land in the street. Because the availability of hard signed veteran signature cards has dropped from a whole calendar’s worth with Upper Deck to nothing with Panini and Topps, the second age of sticker autographs has been crowned. Therefore, products like Topps Chrome and Bowman Chrome, as well as Topps Flagship no longer look like they are behind the times. Though people like us, who are very on top of the way the general calendar shakes out, the general collector probably wont be able to recognize the shift – at least consciously. Topps Chrome will be more visually appealing as any foilboard riddled set from Panini, and that registers with even the Joe-est of Joe Collectors, even if they don’t understand why. Its because when you compare a rookie focused set like Elite and Classics to a rookie focused set like Chrome, its like comparing a Kia to a BMW. I would even go so far as to say that Limited and National Treasures are the only products remaining on the ENTIRE calendar from Panini that have a chance at living up to what Chrome is going to provide for the money. Now, Upper Deck isnt completely out of the game, and we have yet to see the direction of where they are heading. SP Authentic, even with a focus on NCAA stuff, could still rake, and at that point, all bets are off.

Refractors

If Topps ever had a trump card, it’s the refractor. Refractors are like crack to most people, and even someone like me who HATES rainbow foil, loves what they bring. It has to do with the stock and the way the cards themselves are printed, and when it comes to the “chromium” tech that Topps made famous in 1993, accept no subsitutes. I think that fact is even more evident when you hold up a parallel from any Panini foilboard product next to a refractor. Again, there is no comparison.

Then when you factor in that refractors have the ability to maintain a great premium price despite a lack of autographs or jerseys, and it only furthers the point that they are at the pinnacle of low end collecting.

Price

I don’t think there is a better price point for any product in any sport than Chrome in football. When it comes to value in cards outside of the box hit, Chrome is in territory all by itself due to the content of the base and base parallel cards. This is just as much a result of consistency and follow through each and every year of release, as well as collector loyalty to the brand as a direct correlation. The autos, when they are of good rookies, are some of the most valuable low end cards in existence, and that only adds to the allure of the miniscule price tag. When a box of Elite (more of a mid-end product) costs 60-70 dollars more for cards that aren’t worth half as much, things start to come into focus. With Topps adding further content this year, it only makes more of case for why Chrome remains a collector favorite.

Photography

With the exception of 2008, Topps photography for their base set and Chrome tends to be amazing. Dynamic rookie poses (the sell sheet cards are mock ups, not finals), great design, and awesome game shots lead to display worthy low-end cards. How often does that happen? Rarely ever.

Notoriety

Even my mom knows what Topps Chrome is, and its because its been the best for the longest. For most people, due to the basic human characteristic of vanity, building a collection has as much to do with gaining notoriety among your peers as it does with loving the cards. You can deny it all you want, but being able to display your rainbow is pretty awesome when you see the oooo’s and ahhhh’s from the peanut gallery. Topps Chrome carries that through with each new year, and it has been pretty evident when you see the sales trends in the hobby going in the wrong direction for everything except cards like that.

When it comes down to it, buying a box of Chrome is a great time. Building the set is fun, and displaying your top singles is great. Then to find out that doing so is very inexpensive in most cases, makes it that much more appealing.

My name is Adam Gellman, and I am an addict of the worst kind.

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