Greatest Business Cards Ever?


In helping to build hype for the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention, Panini has been previewing items that will be available as part of their wrapper redemption program. Today’s sneak peek is an interesting one. Available exclusively via instant redemption cards are these “gems”:

That’s right, those are authentic Panini America emlpoyee autographed “work-worn” relic cards.

Not impressed? Well, consider these facts: 1) they are being offered as part of the wrapper redemption program exclusively at the National – they will not be inserted into packs of normal product, 2) they are free – Panini doesn’t OWE you anything for opening their product, this is just a freebie perk, so get over it, and 3) Panini itself is poking fun at the idea of having these cards produced. You can read the entire “reveal” blog post here.

At the very least, it gives collectors a chance to meet some of the top “insiders” at Panini America and serves as a conversation starter…a conversation which will no doubt lead to topics such as “What do you like about our cards?” or “How can we better serve your collecting interests?”

Most interesting, to me at least, is the video Panini posted of the making of. Obviously it focuses on these employee cards, but I assume this is pretty indicative of how all relic cards are producedand is pretty cool to watch.

Now, maybe I need to revisit my business card design…


Product Review: 2011 Topps Platinum


As the football season rolls on, the card machine really ramps up and starts cranking out sets. It makes keeping up with things a bit difficult at times, but it also is a huge help when I’m looking to post a review of a different product every day over the course of an entire week (especially given time and budget restraints). Today we take a look at 2011 Topps Platinum, a product that fared pretty well in last year’s 1&G Review.

2011 Topps Platinum box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $107, which translates into a $1.07/card ratio. It’s interesting to note that this year’s version of Platinum has fewer cards AND a considerably higher price tag (2010 featured 120-card boxes in the $70-75 arena). Do the cards warrant such a jump in price? Let’s take a look.

2011 Topps Platinum pack
This year’s packaging more closely resembles the actual cards than last year’s did

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 65 (0 duplicates)
   Rookie Cards: 11
   Xfractors: 5
   Green: 2
   Red: 1
   Gold: 19
      Gold Rookies (#/50): 1
   Platinum Die Cuts: 1
   Rookie Auto (#/2175): 1
   Rookie Auto Blue (#/99): 1
   Rookie Auto Patch (#/475): 1

2011 Topps Platinum2011 Topps Platinum
Click each image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: shiny. Rather than go with a basic silver sheen like last year, this year’s Platinum design features a rainbow foil look, which is all sorts of shiny. The base cards are generally well designed. The elements at the bottom may be a bit heavy, but they certainly do not distract from the player image. Plus, they also add some team colors and a logo to the card front, something which was glaringly absent last year. These base cards could be sweet inserts in most other products, so that is certainly a plus. One interesting note is that the rookies are distinguished again this year, more than the RC shield. They seem a tad “slicker” on front and have that dimpled texture that all of the Finest refractors had this year. The rookie card backs are also a bit darker than the veterans again this year. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a flaw, it’s just an observation.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: SHINY! Hopefully that gives you an idea of my view on this box. If the base cards were shiny, the inserts are super shiny. There are a few parallel levels of the base set, including an Xfractor that is essentially identical to the Finest Xfractors. There is also some die-cut goodness going on, so I’m really starting to feel a trip down the late 90s memory lane. To avoid any confusion, that is a good thing around these parts. Feel free to form your own opinion though. I do have a note on the serial numbering. I was surprised more of the parallels weren’t numbered as that seems to be all the rage these days. You’re just left to seeing how many of each parallel you pull from your box to figure out which ones are more rare. On the flip side, the autographs were obviously numbered. But when you have a basic rookie autograph that’s numbered to a whoping 2,175, why bother? Of course maybe Topps is just really driving home the late 90s theme…you know, when a card numbered out of 3,199 was super rare. I do LOVE that Topps got some of these cards hard signed. It is a shame though that the best auto in the box, the auto patch card, did have a sticker auto. At least it’s progress over last year where all of the autos were stickers.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: shiny. Okay, maybe that is pushing it too far. I apologize. The collation of this box was pretty solid. I did not pull any duplicates, had a fair number of parallels and inserts, and got all of my “guaranteed” hits. I would say it’s a big improvement from last year when I complained about pulling 1 duplicate out of 112 base cards. But when you nearly slash the base card count per box in half, getting rid of that lone duplicate isn’t such a big accomplishment.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: shiny. That’s right. I just hit for the shiny cycle. Woo! Actually, I would probably say the overall value is a bit shakey. The cards in and of themselves are great. I obviously would have liked to have had better luck with the autograph cards (I don’t think I’m ever going to pull an autograph from whomever is the top rookie in any given year), but these are decent. This was definitely a fun box to open and its linking, whether intential or not, to some of my favorite sets from the mid-to-late 90s was a bonus. The problem is I just don’t see an exceptional increase in value from last year, even though I paid considerably more this year (higher price AND fewer cards). I also see a bit of overlap between Platinum and Finest, especially when you’re featuring nearly identical technology and parallels in both. I can’t say which I would drop because I honestly do like both sets, but I also don’t see the need to be redundant. If I had to choose, I’d probably drop Platinum in favor of Finest, if only because Finest has been around much longer.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL I like this set. The cards are attractive and the inserts are solid. I’m just not sure we need two Finest products to be released within a week or so of each other. I’m also not terribly wild about the price tag. It’s not necessarily excessive, but the sudden increase over last year does sting a bit. And honestly, that is the ultimate reason 2011 Topps Platinum did not find paydirt. The card design was enough to light up the scoreboard, but just couldn’t overcome the cost difference. Again, it’s a solid product. I just wouldn’t go nuts buying tons of this AND Finest.

NEXT UP: 2011 Topps Prime

Product Review: 2011 Tristar Obak


Next up on our barnstorming tour of product reviews is a product that I’ve never reviewed before. That’s probably because it’s never been released before. 2011 Tristar Obak Football is a retro-themed product, a throwback to 1909’s Obak baseball set. Tristar recently renewed the Obak brand and continued its baseball heritage the past few years. This is the first time that the Obak name has been applied to a football card product. Is the result a winner or should Obak be baseball-excluisve? Let’s take a look:

2011 Tristar Obak box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 24 6-card packs for a total of 144 cards, plus an oversized cabinet box loader card. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $96, which translates into a $0.67/card ratio (not including the box loader). That price point puts Obak in the lower mid-shelf range, which is probably pretty appropriate given that Obak has never been tried in a football market, Tristar is a fairly small and certainly not a legendary company, and there will be no official NFL or NCAA branding any where in sight. Tristar is known for its autograph content though, so that is a promising factor in an otherwise mysterious premiere release.

2011 Tristar Obak pack
Gotta love the olde thyme cigarette ad guy…

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 110 (7 duplicates)
   Gray: 2
   Orange (#/75): 1
   Green (#/25): 1
   Orange (#/10): 1
   Base T212: 23
   Brown (#/75): 2
   Base Autograph (#/100): 1
   Orange Autograph (#/75): 1
   Brown Autograph (#/50): 1
   Green Cut Autograph (#/25): 1
Box Loader
   T4 Cabinet Card: 1

2011 Tristar Obak2011 Tristar Obak
Click each image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: vintage. Okay, that was a cop-out. But really, how else could you best describe Obak in a single word? Just looking at the first base card from the box will give you a pretty strong vintage sense. The (mostly) black and white photography, the very simplistic design scheme, and even the type font all scream vintage. I couldn’t help but think that even the card stock felt vintage, but I think that is because it is very similar to the stock used for Topps’ Allen & Ginter, the best recognized and universally loved modern vintage set on the market. On item that threw me for a loop was the choice of background images. At first I just assumed the original Obak sets must have had similar loud nature scenes in the background. Nope. If you look at images of some original 1909 Obak cards, they look like most other tobacco cards with their faux horizon and essentially just two-tone back drops. I’m not sure what inspired the modern backgrounds, but I don’t know that they work. It often distracted from the featured subject, especially with a black and white photograph.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: basic. The inserts were essentially just parallels of the base set. There are tobacco-sized mini parallels and autograph cards that just mimick the base card designs. The standard sized base set, the minis, and the autographed cards also have a bunch of various parallel levels, as noted by text color and serial numbering (see card back to help distinguish these). I’m not a huge fan of paralleling the crap out of a set, but I suppose this one was done fairly well. I do really like that all of the autographs are either signed on-card or are cut-signatures. I do not want to open the cut-auto can o’ worms, but I will say it is cool to pull an autograph of a football legend that has been playing on the Gridiron in the Sky for many years. At least the cut auto I pulled was not a Franken-cut and appears to just be a trimmed index card. I HATE when they crop photos or even older cards for these. The last insert of which to speak is the T4 cabinet cards, falling one per box (scan available here). I found the almost double-front design interesting and found the college tie-in between the two subjects to be effective. I’m just not a fan of over-sized cards, so this really did nothing for me.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: decent. Out of 110 base cards, I pulled 7 duplicates. If you’ve read any 1&G Reviews in the past, you know that I hate duplicates, especially if I don’t also pull the entire base set. So it is pretty needless to say that I was disappointed with my 7 dupes and no complete set. At the time, I also realize how incredibly difficult that would be to assure, unless every pack/box/case was completely hand collated, which would just blow any sort of respectable production budget/product price. I did pull a respectable number of parallels and pulled all of the hits I was supposed to, so that is a good sign of effective pack-out quality control.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: subjective. It all depends on why you are buying a box. If you’re looking flip a profit by pulling outstanding autographs of gridiron legends, you’re probably going to fail miserably. I could only find one autographed card that sold for more than the price of a box, and that was a very rare Bo Jackson parallel. If you’re looking for a great product to have some fun building a set, you won’t be totally lost here. If chasing down low numbered parallel sets is your thing, you’ve got several from which to select. But if you just want to complete the base set and proudly display it in a binder, you’re not going to have an exceptionally attractive set to show off. If you’re looking to collect a solid set that pays homage to the founders and legends of a great sport and learn more about the heritage of that sport, you’re on to something with Obak. The little bios on the card backs are like mini history books and there are a ton of big name and unsung heroes on the checklist. But there are also a LOT of deserving subjects left off the list and several who maybe didn’t quite earn the recognition (Icky Woods had some sweet dance moves, but is he really in the same category as Sammy Baugh or Walter Camp?). So it’s really tough to say what the overall value of this product is. But in reality, that’s why this is such a great hobby, because there are nearly as many opinions and types of collections as there are collectors.

RED ZONE RESULTS: PASSING INTERFERENCE ON THE DEFENSE, AUTOMATIC FIRST DOWN I’m going to give Obak a fresh set of downs to figure out if it’s worthy of finding paydirt or if it will just cough the ball up on the 1-yard line. This is the first time anyone has brought the Obak name into the football card market, so I don’t want to rush into decisions. There are definitely high points in the product like on-card autos and a legendary checklist. On the other hand, there may be just as many shortfalls like less-than-legendary card designs and a slightly too high price tag. I am excited to see what Tristar does with the concept in 2012. I don’t know if it will ever catch fire like Allen & Ginter has for baseball because vintage just doesn’t seem to work as well in football, but there is a lot of potential for it to become an annual must-buy.

NEXT UP: 2011 Topps Platinum

Product Review: 2011 Topps Finest


In another exercise of futility, we have a product that not only was released well over a month ago, but was even featured on this blog over a month ago. You may recall that we did a group case break of 2011 Topps Finest in early September. The results of that break can be viewed here. In order to do a product review that is comparable to most other 1&G Reviews, I opted to pull the first box from that case and treat it like its own box break for these purposes. So that’s why you won’t see every card from the case mentioned here. But now, without further unnecessary ado, here is the review:

2011 Topps Finest box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 2 mini boxes each holding 6 5-card packs for a total of 60 cards. As I mentioned, this box came from our group break case, which was purchased from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $800. That gives a $100/box ratio, which translates into a $1.67/card ratio. That once again firmly establishes Finest as a mid-shelf product, much as it has been in the past.

2011 Topps Finest Mini Box2011 Topps Finest Pack
Topps Finest must have a thing for hyped rookie QBs

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 46 (0 duplicates)
   Rookie Cards: 15 (included in base card total above)
Refractor Parallels: 7
   Refractors: 4
   XFractors (#/399): 1
   Black Refractor (#/99): 1
   Gold Refractor (#/50): 1
   Finest Moments: 2
   Finest Atomic Rookies: 2
   Auto Jumbo Relic (#/399): 1
   Rookie Auto Patch Gold Refractor (#/50): 1
   Finest Rookie Auto (#/10): 1

2011 Topps Finest2011 Topps Finest
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: In a word: awesome. I already professed my love for Topps Finest last year and I see no reason to change that opinion this year. It’s just a great looking set that really has that extra pizzazz. This year’s base design is very similar to last year’s, but actually improved. Normally I am all about symmetry, which was practically the definition of 2010’s Finest, but I really like the more off-balanced approach in 2011. Even the card back is similar but just seems more attractive for some reason. The team color schemes are bolder and the logo and player name plates locations seem more natural this year. Also, the type font is particularly cool. Topps effectively took a great design and tweaked it for the better in this case.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: undecided. And that more or less refers to its comparision to last year’s effort. The refractor technology always gets me. Those things are fantastic. I still don’t know if we need so many parallel refractors, but it’s hard to argue with great looking cards. I will say though I almost liked the refractors last year better. The Xfractors are nearly identical, but I thought the other high level parallels were more distinguished last year. I absolutely love the mosiac refractors though. I didn’t pull a base mosiac from this box (I did in others), but it is the same as the mosaic autograph I pulled. And I LOVE that there are rare chase cards that aren’t autos or relics. On that note, the rookie auto patch cards and auto/relic cards are much better than last year. I’m still not wild about the elements being bordered, but there is much more emphasis on the player photo this year, which is greatly appreciated. The Finest Moments are still a bit of a throw-away for me, but at least the concept is nice. The Atomic Rookie Refractors though are out of the park. These things look great scanned and look even better in person. I am a sucker for shiney and these cards are loaded with it. VERY attractive. And did someone say on-card autos?!? Not every autographed card is signed on-card, but the base parallels are, and that is great to see from Topps. They have definitely made long strides in that department in the past year or so across all products.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: inflated. That’s because I feel like I beat the odds with this box. First off, in 60 cards, there were no duplicates and 15 base RCs. That’s pretty solid. I also pulled an adequate number of parallels and the stated seedings for basic inserts. But I did pull a gold refractor rookie auto patch AND a bonus mosaic rookie auto, which was signed on-card. Granted, I guess I didn’t have a parallel atomic rookie refractor or an excessive number of low-numbered refractors, but I would still say this was a very solid box and possibly exceeded the average from across the entire product run.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: solid. A product like Topps Finest is going to deliver. Plain and simple. The Finest brand has been around longer than some companies exist and it is a name collectors know and appreciate. I’m not necessarily saying that buying a box is a sound investment for your retirement or that you’ll instantly reap huge profits, but you’re certainly not buying copper at gold prices. The higher end inserts and certainly the 1/1s can pull huge money on the secondary market while even the base rookie cards and complete sets carry respectable market value. I’m not quite ready to say Topps Finest is the Cadillac of sports cards, but it definitely commands recognition and respect amongst collectors.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT GOOD I love this product. There should be no mistaking that by now. Does personal bias affect this product review? I don’t doubt it. But that’s why this is considered an opinion piece. An editorial, if you will. After I busted this box, and even after I busted the entire case for the group break, I was still excited to rip into every pack and was disappointed when I finally ran out of wax. I don’t get that feeling very often any more, so that should say something about the overall appeal of 2011 Topps Finest. I didn’t feel comfortable giving it a two-point conversion because it didn’t completely blow me away, but I thought the end product deserved to find paydirt with a bonus point.

NEXT UP: 2011 Tristar Obak

Group Case Break Results


Unless youv’e been in a remote cave without electricity, you probably know that we’ve been barking up the group break tree again. This time it was for a case of 2011 Topps Finest football. After a mishap with pre-ordering and having to pay nearly $100 more than expected (my fault, not the vendor’s), the case arrived safe and sound on Friday.

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But it didn’t stay sealed for long…

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And just to make sure…

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Yep, there’s Cam Newton. We’ve got the right case and are good to go.

I didn’t want to take the time to scan or list every base card that was pulled. If you’re really interested in seeing some base cards, I am planning to use the first box from this case for a 1&G Product Review. There will be some base scans there. To review the base card policy for this break, the entire base stack was broken into team stacks. I then pulled off all duplicates so that no one was getting four or five copies of the same card. I then shuffled up the pile of duplicates and dispersed them evenly over all 32 team stacks so that every team lot had the same number of base cards (so teams that had 7 players in the base set got fewer “extra” cards from the duplicates stack than say a team that only had 3 players represented). All other duplicates were set aside until the end.

Next up were the “Finest Moments” insert cards. I did the same thing with the duplicates as I did with the base cards, but I believe there were only 2-3 duplicates here, so not everyone got one. Here is the scan:

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There were also 3 refractor Finest Moments cards. All of these (and all cards shown from here on) were dispersed to the proper teams:

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Next we have the base refractor cards. These aren’t the most sought after cards from the product, but they sure are sweet. There was a very large stack of basic refractor cards, so those didn’t get scanned either. There were not any duplicate refractors though, so all refractors went to the proper teams.

There were 17 X-Fractors pulled. These are numbered #/399:

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We also pulled four Black Refractors (#/99), three Gold Refractors (#/50), and two Mosiac Refractors (#/10). Interestingly enough, despite the two Mosiacs, we didn’t pull any red refractors (#/25) and we didn’t get any of the Printing Plates or Superfractors (both 1/1s). Here is the lump sum of our high refractors:

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Next up are the Finest Atomic Rookies. These fall one per mini box (16 per case). While technically not a “hit” by normal standards (there is no autograph, jersey swatch, or even a serial number), I figured these were rare enough, so even the duplicates went to the respective teams. We did manage to pull a Gold Superior (#/50) and a Mosiac Superior (#/10), so that was a nice touch.

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And now the moment everyone has been waiting for: the hits. According to the packaging, each mini box should contain a sequentially numbered autographed jumbo relic or an autographed rookie patch card. So that means we should be looking for 16 hits from this case.

First, here are six autographed jumbo relics. All of them are numbered #/589 except for the Von Miller (#/339) and the Ryan Williams (Red Refractor #/75).

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Next up are six autographed rookie patch cards. It is hard to tell from the scan and I forgot to write it down, but I believe these were also #/589. We did pull a Refractor (Marcell Dareus #/99), a Black Refractor (Andy Dalton #/75), and a Red Refractor (Colin Kaepernick #/50).

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Now, if you’re good at math, you may be saying to yourself, “Hey! That’s only 12 hits. I thought we were supposed to get 16. What the hell, man?!?” And you would be correct. And I would be correct. We were supposed to get 16 hits and I clearly only pulled 12. Well, unless you include these four redemption cards:

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Tom, the good news is that you got two Kyle Rudolph autographed rookie patch cards. The bad new is that you have to redeem both of them from Topps. Sorry about that.

So now we have 16 hits and all is settled and complete. Except, wait, what are these?

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Here are two ADDITIONAL rookie autographs! And they are autographed on-card to boot! Mr. Alex Green is a “basic” Rookie Autograph Refractor Variation card (#/150) and Mr. Jamie Harper is a Mosiac Rookie Autograph Refractor Variation card (a parallel of a parallel! #/10). So we didn’t pull the Superfractor auto of Cam Newton or Mark Ingram, but I doubt Mike or Joevison are complaining.

Once all of the inserts and hits were dispersed, I then went back through and again evened up the stacks so that everyone had an equal number of cards by spreading out the rest of the duplicate base cards. I think some of the base cards and even a few refractors from the “bank’s” teams (team slots that were not purchased and shall remain with me) got mixed in, but I’m not too worried about that. I just didn’t want someone to buy in and then walk away with three base cards of their chosen team.

On a side note, there were no multi-player cards, so there is no need to open up public polls to decide who gets what. All cards were able to go to the proper team slots and all duplicates were dispersed as evenly as possible, as promised in the group break details and as described above.

So there you have it. The group case break of 2011 Topps Finest is complete. A very special thank you to everyone who participated. Packages are already partially assembled and will hopefully go in the mail tomorrow.

These are always fun for me, although I’d like to get more participation so that I’m not keeping any of the cards. Be on the lookout for another group break in the somewhat near future (Topps Chrome, anyone?). As always, if you have any suggestions or requests, please let me know.


Product Review: 2011 Topps


In a hobby that seems to be constantly evolving, there are some things that remain the same. People like rookie cards. There should always be stats on the back. Topps makes a flagship set every year. It’s true. Well, at least it has been since 1956. 2011 Is the 56th consecutive year that Topps has produced a flagship football set (and for a long time that was the only set available from ANYONE). What does it have in store for us? Let’s find out:

2011 Topps Jumbo box
The Box – Click for Detail

I went the Jumbo box route for this review. Jumbo boxes come with 10 50-card packs for a total of 500 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $87, which translates into a $0.17/card ratio. Topps’ flagship set has always been on the lower end of the spectrum but it still quite popular for its base set size and its mix of fancy inserts and, more recently, hits. Also, after 56 years, there is obviously some brand recognition in play for Topps.

2011 Topps Jumbo pack
Interesting choice in Mark Sanchez…

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 423 (24 duplicates)
   Rookies: ? (somehow I forgot to count them separately…)
   Gold (#/2011)): 5
   Black (#/55): 0
   Toppstown (online codes): 10
   Super Bowl Legends: 10 (2 dupes)
   Game Day: 10
   Faces of the Franchise: 10
   1948 Bowman: 10
   Super Bowl Legends Giveaway (code cards): 10
   Super Bowl Legends Stamp (#/100): 1
   Base Card Auto: 1
   Rookie Relic Patch: 1
   Game Day Auto (Redemption): 1

2011 Topps2011 Topps
Click each image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: classic. Topps never seems to completely recycle designs in its base set from year to year, yet somehow every one just has that Topps “look” to it. For all of you baseball fans out there, this design should look familiar. As is often the case, Topps used the same design for its football set as it used for its baseball set of the same year. This year, there are no complaints. The design is pretty basic, but effective. The team logo is prominently placed and the name banner is team-colored, which is great. The card back is also straight outta the Topps text book with its multiple-year statistics, horizontal orientation, and even the positioning of the card number. This isn’t a set that I will sit around and “ooh” and “aah”, but it is solid for a low-end base set. With 440 cards in the set, it is obviously geared for set collectors and can stand as a sort of yearbook. This design will look great page after page in a binder, so that’s really as you can ask. And, for the record, I am not turning this into a Ravens-themed blog. I busted this box with a friend who is a huge B-More fan so I let him pick out all Ravens for the review scan.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: many. If there’s one thing Topps knows how to do, it’s producing a whole lot of cards. Along with the 440-card base set, there are a bunch of insert sets. The Toppstown cards are really just for fun and games online, but they actually look good as cards. I’m digging the shiny blue background, although it admittingly looks better with some team uniforms than others. The Game Day cards I suppose are common affair for a low-end insert set. Nothing flashy, but I do like that they are strongly team-oriented with colored backgrounds. The Faces of the Franchise cards toes the line of one of my least favorite subjects, multi-player cards, but does so safely. The card is strongly team branded so the theme works. The 1948 Bowman cards are a cool throwback. I love the original mini-card size and the painted look of the photos. This was actually a well done tribute card and will probably be the subject of a future “A Look Back” post. The Super Bowl legends cards are also a nice concept, although with base, rings, coins, and stamps (not to mention an entire Super Bowl-themed giveaway), it may be overdone. I have to wonder if maybe Topps shouldn’t have just put more time into the designs and had this be a seperate product. One final nice touch for the jumbo box was the rookie relics. Every Jumbo hobby box has a rookie relic PATCH, not just a plain jane swatch, which really adds value to the box as a whole.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: misleading. When I sorted through everything and had the entire box organized, I was shocked to find out that I had only pulled 24 duplicates out of nearly 500 cards (the relic packs didn’t have as many cards). I was also pleased when I figured out I only needed 41 out of 440 base cards to complete the set. That’s not too bad, I thought. But if you crunch the numbers, you find that the duplicate rate, either compared to just base cards or to the number of cards in the entire box, is actually only marginally better than that of 2011 Panini Rookies & Stars, which is ripped apart for having too many duplicates. So either my expectations have become unreasonable or this box wasn’t as well collated as I originally thought. I think maybe I need to re-evaluate my standards.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: expected. With Topps’ flagship set, you know what you’re getting. You know you’re going to get a ton of well designed base cards, a random smattering of inserts, and a few “hits” to boot. The value of any particular card is probably not going to astound you, but it also shouldn’t be rock bottom. My buddy got really excited about the Super Bowl Legends giveaway and ordered two cases of jumbo boxes in addition to this lone box. I am helping him to sell off all of his unwanted cards (basically anything that’s not purple and black), and the selling prices have been pretty decent. It’s not often that you sell simple parallels for $2, relics for $10, and autos for $15, especially out of a low-end product, so I have been pretty pleased. Again, that brand recognition may be playing a factor, but it’s a good brand to take for a spin.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT GOOD It’s Topps. What more can I say? It’s a brand and a concept that’s been working for 56 years. Sure, it’s not always something special and some sexy new things have come and gone in that time, but Topps does what Topps does year in and year out. And that’s produce a solid flagship that has appeal to collectors young and old, team/player and set, and simple and fancy. It’s impossible to have a single product that has everything, but 2011 Topps sure can give you a lot of bang for your buck.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score (Honestly, I’m getting to it…)

Product Review: 2011 Topps Inception


I don’t like deceiving people, so let’s get something out in the open. I haven’t purchased a box of 2011 Topps Inception. This will be the first product review I do without having purchased at least a retail box, though I usually shoot for the hobby variety. BUT this is not an unfounded review. A little while back, I tried to do a group case break of Inception. That attempt failed miserably. One person had signed up. Rather than refund his money or figure out a way to honor the “break” aspect, I decided to just buy a variety of Inception cards from his favorite team. With just $50 to spend, I came one autograph short of an entire hobby box. Not bad. So I have held and scanned all of the cards I’m reviewing. So while it’s technically not a standard product/box break review, at least it’s not based on someone else’s scans or Topps’ promotion images.

Whew. I’m glad I got that out of the way. Now, onto the review:

2011 Topps Inception box
I didn’t buy this – this is just for your reference

Hobby boxes come as a single 7-card pack. Each box promises two autographs, one memorabilia, two parallels, and two base cards. As mentioned above, I got one autograph, one memorabilia, two parallels, and two base cards for $50. Hobby boxes are currently selling for a bit over $100 for a per-card average of about $14-15. That isn’t quite super high end a la Exquisite, but is certainly not your granddad’s box of cards either.

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 2
   Blue (#/209): 1
   Black (#/109): 1
   Autographs (#/200): 1
   Jumbo Relics (#/75): 1

2011 Topps Inception
Click image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: awesome. For a long time, Upper Deck was essentially the undisputed king of high end. Topps and Donruss (now Panini) often tried and fell terribly short. I’m not a huge high-end buyer, so I can’t argue that I have the most experience or valid viewpoint, but Inception is legit. The base cards are all printed on 72-pt card stock. The card fronts have a fine matte finish that actually enhances the luxury feel of the cards while the cut-out player image is super slick and shiny. The ghostly fog background is understated and simple, which is great. There’s no need to design the crap out of these cards, and Topps nailed that. The card back is also solid. There is only one season and then a career line for statistics and no player image, but what sells it for me is the player bio. Most cards will have a trite reason why the featured player is good. Inception focuses on the player’s inception and talks about how he got his start in football. Very cool concept. The foil stamping is about the only so-so point on the base cards. It never scans well and isn’t terribly vibrant in certain lighting, but you almost need foil stamping for a card like this. Printed and colored logos/text just wouldn’t work in this case.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: great. The parallels seem a bit pointless in a product like this. An average base card is already worth about $5, so changing the background color and adding a serial number isn’t a big selling point. I will say the re-coloring is done well, and could really look great for certain teams. For instance, the Ray Lewis here looks awesome as a black parallel (a Baltimore team color) while the Joe Flacco just doesn’t have IT, despite being more vibrant. The autographs are fantastic. The player sheen is removed on the lower half of the card to allow a nice matte surface for the autograph, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it rubbing off or fading as fast as you would with a shiny sticker. The faded auto area also really helps the autograph “pop” from the card. I couldn’t get a silver auto with my limited budget, but the scans of those are stunning. Jersey cards seem pointless at this stage of the game, but they are done well in this product. I find it interesting that a lot of sets now have lower serial numbers on jerseys than autographs. This card is the jumbo jersey swatch variety. The smaller swatches feature a different card design, which is a nice touch. It’s evident that every card was hand designed, rather than simply adding or removing elements to make the design process easier across the board.

3rd Down, Collation: In two words: not applicable. I didn’t buy a box, so my selection was hand picked by me. So that’s perfect collation. But even the factory packed hobby boxes contain 7 cards. How in the world do you judge collation for a product with 7 cards in the box? You don’t.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: questionable. As I said above, I had just a $50 budget to purchase a team-based sampling of this product, and that included shipping fees from five different sellers for these six cards (I was able to double up on the two base cards). That budget was less than half of the cost of a box, yet I came up just one autograph short of an entire box’s contents. Not too shabby from a buyer’s perspective, but certainly not good from a seller’s perspective. Granted, by hand picking a “box,” I had no chance at that super rare card of a high draft pick. But I also avoided pulling a hit of an after thought veteran from a small market team. So in essence, Inception is a typical high-end product. The prospects in any box can be off the charts, but the risk in buying is almost equally high. The cards themselves are fantastic, but a sealed box may be overpriced a bit.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT NOT NECESSARY 2011 Topps Inception is a great product. There’s no getting around that in my opinion. The base cards are subtle yet carry an air of elegance and the hits are well designed and eye-catching. But unless you’re really into lotteries or busting wax for the sake of busting wax, buying boxes or cases probably isn’t the way to go. As I showed here, you have a real shot at getting a box worth of cards of your favorite team/players on the secondary market for the same or even lower price. I will say I really wish Emmitt Smith was on the checklist as I would definitely love to add cards of this calibur to my collection. But even if that were the case, I would definitely go the singles route than gamble on any sealed product.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score (No really, I will review this some day…)