In the midst of a bunch of pre-NFL rookie products showing players in college uniforms (with or without airbrushed helmets) and practice gear, Leaf has taken prospecting to the next level: pre-college cards! Roughly following the template of the first Leaf product since Brian Gray bought the rights to the legendary brand, 2011 Leaf US Army All American contains nothing but autographed cards. The biggest difference however is that this entire set is composed of high school players.
Hobby boxes come as a single 12-card pack. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $90, which translates into a clean $7.50/card ratio. That isn’t nearly as high as 2011 Leaf Metal Draft, but there is also a significantly higher prospecting aspect to this product. Can a handful of autographs from high school stars make a box of this calibur worth while? To answer that question, let’s take a look at the cards themselves:
Base Autos: 6
Selection Tour (on-card): 3
Young Guns (#/50): 1
Selection Tour (#/20): 1
Base Parallel (#/10): 1
FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: The design of this set is pretty solid. There are no over-the-top gimmicks or unnecessarily-flashy graphical elements. The photography is clean and I like how the player is in full color while the rest of the background is faded to grayscale. The use of a black and yellow color scheme and the ever present star borders nicely tie in the US Army set theme. I will say, however, that the cards eventually all look alike because there are no team colors or logos. That is one of the caveats of having a set built around high school players under one program umbrella. The card backs are also more or less a throw away since every single one congratulates the collector on obtaining an authentic autograph of the featured player. Somehow the congratulatory language loses its appeal when its on every card of a box. But overall, I thought these cards were well designed.
2nd Down, Inserts: I suppose you could argue all of the cards were inserts since they were all autographed, but there are distinct sub-sets in 2011 Leaf US Army All American. The Selection Tour features “studio” shots of the athletes in front of a US Army backdrop, rather than game-action photography. More importantly, these cards also feature on-card autographs, compared to the auto stickers on the “base” cards. I also pulled a Young Guns (all QBs), and a base and Selection Tour parallels, all of which are serial numbered. Unlike 2011 Leaf Metal where there was some rainbow refractor technology going on, I wasn’t sure what the difference was for the parallels, other than the serial numbering. To me, it’s cool to pull a low numbered card, but if that’s the only difference from the base, it’s just not that special. I did like the Young Guns insert I pulled. Not a drastically different design from the base, but different enough to notice. But overall, even though there were inserts, I didn’t really feel like I was pulling any inserts. Fortunately for this product, that is because each card feels like an insert.
3rd Down, Collation: There are 12 cards in a box. Every single one is autographed. Can collation possibly play a deciding factor in reviewing this product? I don’t think it can. I didn’t get any duplicates, so that’s always good. My box was also 50% insert or parallel cards. Perhaps if I busted cases and cases of this stuff, I could speak on the collation of the product, but one 12-card box just isn’t enough.
4th Down, Overall Value: I’ll be honest. When I saw this product on the release calendar, I didn’t think there would be any way I’d purchase it, even to review. But then I started looking on eBay and was pleasantly surprised. Not only are a lot of listings selling, they are selling for decent money. Now I’m not saying every card is a $50 gem, but it seems very plausible that you could recoup your money from buying a box. For every card that sells for $2-5, you’ll probably have one that sells for $10-15. I also like that every single card in the box has buyer appeal on some level. Normally, I bust a box and only bother listing 1-2% of the cards. I like that I could list 100% of these cards and not feel like I was wasting my time or listing fees. This set probably won’t produce the greatest cards of the year and it may not be the absolute best value for your dollar, but it would seem to be a pretty solid purchase.
RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL I’m not saying every single Leaf product is going to get a field goal this year, but the first two have. Once again Leaf shows that it can produce an overall classy set with suitable, if not substantial, value. The hang up for this set is its focus. Obviously there are collectors interested in prospecting high schoolers and I’m sure college fans are getting into the fray looking for autographs of the latest commitments to their favorite school, but I just don’t see the overall football collecting community appeal. Depending what happens with the NFL and NFLPA agreements in the near future and if the NCAA realizes an Upper Deck exclusive is a bad idea, Leaf could be a brand to watch moving forward. The licensing and overall Hobby appeal may not be there, but the design and value definitely are.
NEXT UP: 2011 Press Pass Legends (?)