Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid


Andrew Luck, the star quarterback who is already reportedly the Colts’ number 1 draft choice, is getting used to being in the spotlight. Every writer and analyst who has an opinion on football has either labeled him as the next big thing or a highly overrated soon-to-be draft bust. Almost all NFL talk in the past month has at least mentioned Luck’s name.

Now Luck is getting a little more attention than he may have wanted.

And it stems from a trading card.

Leaf uses Luck’s image to his chagrin

A report was released today that states Andrew Luck’s lawyer has issued a cease and desist letter to Leaf Trading Cards over the company’s use of a photo of Luck from the 2008 U.S. Army All-American game, an event for which Leaf holds trading card rights. Leaf has countered the attack by suing Luck claiming it has every right to use the images from that game.

You can read the full story here.

What do you guys think about this story? Is this another case of a young athlete with an inflated ego trying to pull his weight, or an example of a company trying to capitalize on the popularity of a young blooming star?


HOF Spotlight: Pete Pihos


Tom Fears
Name: Pete Pihos
Position: End
Pro Career: 1947 – 1955
Team Affiliation(s): Philadelphia Eagles
College: Indiana
Induction Class: 1970
HOF Profile: Click Here

Brief Bio: Pete Pihos may have been the very definition of versatility. Drafted in 1945 but unable to play until 1947 due to military service, Pihos made an immediate impact on both sides of the ball once he hit the field. A second-minute man, Pihos was an excellent receiver and defensive end. As football become a platoon-style game, Pihos was positioned as a receiving specialist and thrived. The Eagles won three straight divisional championships and back-to-back NFL championships with Pihos catching the ball. In 1952, the Eagles were in desperate need for a defensive end and Pihos aptly filled the roll, winning All-NFL honors. Pihos then switched back to receiver and was the league leader for the final three seasons of his career. He was never a blazing speedster, but what he lacked there he more than made up for in moves, brains, and toughness. Pihos missed just 1 game his entire NFL career.

Career Stats: 107 games played; 373 receptions; 5,619 receiving yards; 61 receiving touchdowns; 1 punt return TD; 1 fumble recovery for TD; 2 INTs.

1948 Leaf #16

Featured Card: 1948 Leaf #16. Making an immediate impact on the field, there is little wonder why Leaf picked up Pete Pihos in its 1948 set. Despite not being one of the all-time “big names,” Pihos obviously still catches collectors’ attention. There are quite a few copies of his Leaf rookie card available on eBay, ranging in price from $15 to $225. Interestingly enough, there are currently no graded copies of the card listed, which seems a bit odd for a vintage rookie card, especially of a hall of famer. Pihos does have another official rookie card, 1948 Bowman #63, and several other vintage cards available.


NOTE: You can find all of my Hall Of Fame Spotlight Features by clicking the HOF Spotlight banner above.

HOF Spotlight: Leo Nomellini


Leo Nomellini
Name: Leo Nomellini
Position: Defensive Tackle
Pro Career: 1950 – 1963
Team Affiliation(s): San Francisco 49ers
College: Minnesota
Induction Class: 1969
HOF Profile: Click Here

Brief Bio: If you look up “longevity” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Leo Nomellini. With humble origins from Italy in 1924, Nomellini knew what it meant to work hard, and did he ever once he hit the gridiron. A four-year starter and two-time All-American at Minnesota, Nomellini was the very first draft choice in San Francisco 49er history. Not only did he play in the franchise’s first game in 1950, he played in every single franchise game for 14 years, often being on the field for the entire game. Nomellini was a two-time All-NFL selection for his brilliant work on the offensive line. He then became one of a very few players in history to be named All-NFL on offense and defense when he received defensive All-NFL honors in 1953…an honor he would win three more times. Nomellini played in 10 Pro Bowls which brought his career game total to a staggering 266. There is little wonder that Nomellini was named the NFL’s all-time defensive tackle.

Career Stats: 174 games played; 2 safeties; 1 punt return TD

1948 Leaf #52

Featured Card: 1948 Leaf #52. How good was Nomellini in his college days at Minnesota? His rookie card from the 1948 Leaf set was released two years before he was drafted into the NFL. Oddly enough, there was only one copy of this card listed on eBay at the time of my research (mid-April) with a BIN price of $199.99. As one of the greats of all time, let alone his own generation, Nomellini does have several other vintage cards that cover a fairly large price range. The most expensive example I found was a 1952 Bowman Small #125 graded SGC 96 asking $5,000. The cheapest was a $1.75 1962 Topps #159 listed in “poor” condition.

NOTE: You can find all of my Hall Of Fame Spotlight Features by clicking the HOF Spotlight banner above.

Product Review: 2011 Leaf US Army All American


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.

2011 Leaf US Army All American box
The Box – Click for Detail

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:

The Breakdown:
Base Autos: 6
Selection Tour (on-card): 3
Young Guns (#/50): 1
   Selection Tour (#/20): 1
   Base Parallel (#/10): 1

2011 Leaf US Army All American2011 Leaf US Army All American
Click image for full-sized scan

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 (?)

HOF Spotlight: Charley Trippi


Name: Charley Trippi
Position: Halfback, Quarterback
Pro Career: 1947 – 1955
Team Affiliation(s): Chicago Cardinals
College: Georgia
Induction Class: 1968

Brief Bio: In what may have been one of the first contract battles in professional football history, Georgia All-American Charley Trippi eventually signed a $100,000 contract with the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals. HOF owner Charles W. Bidwill, Sr. essentially stole Trippi away from the AAFC’s New York Yankees just as they were getting ready to announce his signing. In 1946, $100,000 was an absurd amount of money, especially for a football player. Trippi, as it turned out, was well worth the coin. The final piece to Bidwill’s “Dream Backfield,” Trippi was an exceptional rusher and dominated the 1947 championship game over the Philadelphia Eagles (in which he wore basketball shoes for better traction in the icy field conditions). A multi-faceted athlete, Trippi was a star halfback for four season, switched to quarterback for two, back to halfback for one, and ended his career almost exclusively on defense for two seasons. During that span, he was also the team’s main punter and was a star on the kickoff and punt return units.

Career Stats: 99 games played; 2,547 passing yards; 16 passing TDs; 3,506 rushing yards; 23 rushing TDs; 1,321 receiving yards; 11 receiving TDs; 40.3 yards-per-punt average; 2 punt return TDs; 4 INTs; 1 INT TD

1948 Leaf #29

Featured Card: 1948 Leaf #29. It is no wonder that Charley Trippi was featured in both national football sets in 1948 after dominating the 1947 championship game. This 1948 Leaf card carries a trivial Beckett value of $110 while current eBay prices range from $22 to $2,250, with an obvious grading premium. Trippi also has a 1948 Bowman rookie card, although it appears to be less popular than the colorful Leaf card. Current eBay listings for the ’48 Bowman range from $19 to just $59.50 and there are significantly fewer listings than for the ’48 Leaf.

NOTE: You can find all of my Hall Of Fame Spotlight Features by clicking the HOF Spotlight banner above.

Product Review: 2011 Leaf Metal Draft


Have you heard? Leaf is back. That’s right, THE Leaf. But this isn’t the 1948 Leaf your Grandpa collected. This is 2011 Leaf. The Leaf being run by Brian Gray, former president of Razor Entertainment Group. And, having acquired nearly all of Razor’s product lines, this is the Leaf that now features high-end entertainment and sports cards. The first football product from the “new” company is 2011 Leaf Metal Draft. This is a review of that Leaf:

2011 Leaf Metal Draft box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with just 4 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $82, which translates into a rather salty $20.50/card ratio. One item of note, however, is that EVERY card in the entire set is autographed. So even in the worst box of the production run, you are getting 4 autographed cards. If you compare prices amongst all hobby boxes that come with 4 autographs, $82 actually isn’t such a high price after all.

The Breakdown:
   Base: 3
   All Americans (#/25): 1

2011 Leaf Metal Draft
Click image for full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: This is usually the place where I talk about the base cards. There are no true base cards in this set of which to speak. But since this area is called “Design”, we’ll run with it anyway. The cards are very sharp. Each one has that super sleak silver sheen a la Topps Finest or Fleer Platinum cards of old. There is not much in the way of design elements with just a few simple lines and a pigskin texture on the card edges. The focus of the card is definitely the player photo and the autograph, which works perfectly. The card backs are also very basic with just a CONGRATULATIONS and authenticity statement. On a side note, I think it’s amusing that each card celebrates your luck in pulling an autograph card…considering every single card in the entire set is autographed. One last observation, I think it’s interesting that Leaf went with straight-up game action shots with airbrushed helmets. Hopefully there are no that’s-too-close-to-a-license-violation-so-we’re-going-to-sue-you-anyway lawsuits from that. I will say, the airbrushing techniques must have come a long way, because I remember off brand sets from the mid-90s always looking “off” while I had to remind myself that these helmets were missing something. I did note that two of the four cards in my box had guys who played for teams without any helmet logos anyway, which obviously made the job easier.

2nd Down, Inserts: Several times in the past, I have suggested that certain products just drop the base card from their set. Certain products are so geared for hits that no one cares a bit for the base cards. So what did Leaf do? It forgot all about inserts and just gave the collectors the hits. That’s a pretty nice way to save on card stock purchases. Despite all cards being autographed, there technically are inserts. There are Blue, Red (#/5), and Super (1/1) Prismatic parallels, as well as Young Guns, Touchdown Kings, and Leaf All-Americans. I’m not sure if there is a 1 insert per box ratio, but I did pull 1 All-American card. The card is essentially the same as the base, but has a slightly different design, a nearly rainbow refractor look to the silver backing, and is #/25. I would love to see a Super Prismatic 1/1 in person. The scans of those cards look really sweet.

3rd Down, Collation: How in the world do you judge collation when you only get 4 cards in a box? You don’t. So I should probably just ignore this aspect for this set. But I will say that with pulling 1 insert out of 4 cards, there is a good chance you will not just end up with 4 “base” cards in a box. I’m not sure what the exact print runs are, but I would imagine the base cards weren’t super higher than the rarer serial numbered cards. Also, from a purely personal stance, 25% of my box was composed of Penn State grads, which was awesome. Royster’s less-than-stellar and sub-expectations senior year had to hurt his NFL prospects and inclusion in pre-draft sets, so it was really nice to pull this card. I don’t know that it has to do with collation, but I really liked that each card was sleeved and in its own toploader straight from the box. There was obviously a great deal of care and human touch that went into packing out this product, and that is a huge plus in my book.

4th Down, Overall Value: This is such a crap shoot for a product that comes in 4-card boxes. At $20.50 per card, you’d think it would awfully tough to recoup your money. And honestly, it probably will be. For every $50 card I’ve seen on eBay, there might be 5 $5 cards. You do the math on that. You could get absurdly lucky and pull a $350 gem, or you could have my luck. Either way, while I love the concept of only making hits for a set like this and scrapping the worthless base cards, it still turns any box into a lottery ticket. Sometimes you hit the jackpot. Sometimes you just hit yourself.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL I have a feeling I’m going to be a little more generous with my red zone results this year as I make an effort to be more positive about things. But then again, what’s the point of having a hobby if it only ticks you off? That being said, I do like this set. I admit that I was very skeptical and almost didn’t pull the purchase trigger. I thought, how can a box with just four cards be worth my while and money, especially after the 2010 Topps Supreme debacle (that is one of the product reviews yet to come). But now I’m glad I bought it. The cards are sweet and it’s a great reminder that some people still care about card design and value. Due to my conservative nature, I can’t highly praise a product that has such a big risk factor, so I just can’t allow 2011 Leaf Metal to find paydirt, but it definitely deserves to light up the score board. If you are like me and don’t particularly care for gamble boxes, but find yourself loving these cards, go buy yourself some singles of your favorite prospects. These cards are great and will be a fantastic addition to your collection.

NEXT UP: 2011 Press Pass Football

HOF Spotlight: Bobby Layne


Name: Bobby Layne
Position: Quarterback
Pro Career: 1948 – 1962
Team Affiliation(s): Chicago Bears, New York Bulldogs, Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers
College: Texas
Induction Class: 1967

Brief Bio: A dynamic individual both on and off the playing field, Bobby Layne has gone down as one of the greatest players in Detroit Lion history. Layne was an All-NFL player twice in his illustrious 15-year professional career and won 4 divisional and 3 NFL titles in the 1950s. Beyond his statistical accomplishments, of which there are many, Layne is also remembered for his intangibles: leadership, determination, competitiveness, and guts. He may have liked to party hard, but come game time, no one competed more fiercely than Layne and that determination allowed him to become one of the most prolific pigskin tossers of his era.

Career Stats: 175 games played; 1,814 completions; 26,768 passing yards; 196 passing TDs; 2,451 rushing yards; 25 rushing TDs; 34/50 FGs; 120/124 PATs

1948 Leaf #6

Featured Card: 1948 Leaf #6. As a high profile quarterback for one of the most successful teams in his era, there is little doubt the rookie card of Bobby Layne is highly prized. Trivia Beckett value of this gem is $400. Current eBay prices for this card range from $75 to $349, although there is an obvious premium for highly graded copies. Most listings fell between $125 and $250. One note that this card brings to my attention is that it may be worth your while to search with alternate spellings. I accidentally typed “Bobby Lane” for my first search and only caught it because I thought it odd that no 1948 Leafs showed up, although a lot of others did pop up with that incorrect spelling. Also, although Layne’s first name often appears as “Bobby”, you may want to check “Bob” or “Bobbie” (as it is spelled on this card). Often times sellers may not understand why their card is not selling and will lower the price without realizing they are using an incorrect name. On the flip side, uninformed sellers or potential fraudsters may be more likely to make these mistakes, so as always, shop with caution.

NOTE: You can find all of my Hall Of Fame Spotlight Features by clicking the HOF Spotlight banner above.