Topps Ups the Ante

07.18.2012

Since the advent of the “relic” card, manufacturers have been trying to find new things to cut up and stuff between two pieces of card stock. It started with basic squares of plain jersey, ramped up to multi-color swatches, and evolved into letter and logo patches of massive size. Companies have also gotten creative with the source of those relics by cutting up practice jerseys, game-used jerseys, “player worn” jerseys, pants (although it never stated what PART of the pants), and even laundry tags, which many collectors quipped were pulled right off of freshly worn jock straps.

But it didn’t stop with things worn by players. Several companies have bought and cut up anything and everything from old military photos, cancelled checks, and even other cards to stuff into cut auto cards, although obviously the emphasis is more on the signature than the fact that “this is a check personally used by Joe DiMaggio to pay his electric bill and is guaranteed to be authentic.” Topps added real hairs into their Allen & Ginter DNA relics, again leading to rather comical assumptions by collectors. Upper Deck started slabbing real bugs in their Goodwin Champions Entomology sets.

And then today, Topps showed us this photo:

Yes. You are seeing that correctly. An authentic fight-used mouth piece. In a card.

Part of me thinks this is a very cool and ingenuitive. There is no mystery surrounding the relic and its source. The teeth imprints take that away. But another part of me thinks is a tad…well…gross. Yes, collectors have joked about the jock strap tags and the pubic DNA, but there’s just no getting around a mouth piece. At least there isn’t a lost tooth lodged in it.

To see more photos of these “Grill Gear” cards, you can view the gallery on Topps’ Facebook page here.
Topps UFC goes live today.

What do you guys think? Is this totally awesome and a great idea, or did Topps go a bit too far in bringing us as close as possible to our favorite athletes?


Airbrushed Goodness

03.26.2012

PhotoShop is pretty awesome. I think we all know this. Here is just one more shining example.

Anyone who has even the slightest interest in football, or perhaps even sports in general, knows all about Peyton Manning signing with the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow’s subsequent trade to the New York Jets. What some may not realize is how that created a potential problem for card sets. Most collectors hate the red-jersey-from-summer-mini-camp photographs on their cards. A good number dislike the player-in-his-former-jersey-but-with-new-team-card-logo-and-small-“Traded”-notation method. So what else can be done?

Airbrushing.

Topps has announced that these two high-profile quarterbacks will be shown in their new team jerseys in the company’s first 2012 football release, 2012 Bowman. There are even mock images available already:


Manning and Tebow in their new, albeit airbrushed, unis

Hopefully this example, along with a relatively normal off-season (compared to last season’s labor lock-out debacle), will lead to a much improved image bank for the upcoming football release calendar. Last year was just a bit irksome with so many draft combine and “incorrect” team logos due to everything being slammed into about two weeks before the season started.

This is a good start to 2012.


HOF Spotlight: Bruiser Kinard

01.09.2012

Frank Kinard
Name: Frank “Bruiser” Kinard
Position: Tackle
Pro Career: 1938 – 1944, 1946 – 1947
Team Affiliation(s): Brooklyn Dodgers/Tigers, New York Yankees
College: Mississippi
Induction Class: 1971
HOF Profile: Click Here
 
 

Brief Bio: If you were to look up “scrappy” in the dictionary, I have a feeling you’ll find a picture of Frank “Bruiser” Kinard. Undersized for a lineman, even in his pre-WWII era, Kinard played with an intensity and skill that far exceeded his slight frame. He was a 60-minute man from day one and only once took a day off due to injury, and that was only after doctor’s orders. Kinard built a solid reputation as a formidable blocker and a devastating tackler. His grit and will to win led him to All-NFL honors in 1940, 1941, 1943, and 1944. After a leave from professional football for military service, Kinard returned to the newly formed AAFC and was named all league again in 1946, becoming the first player to be such honored in both leagues.

Career Stats: 73 games played; 1 reception TD; 1/1 FG; 27/30 PATs; 1 fumble recovery TD; 1 INT

1955 Topps All-American #66

Featured Card: 1955 Topps All-American #66. While Frank “Bruiser” Kinard does not have an official rookie card featuring him in NFL garb, he was included in the 1955 Topps All-American set as a two-time All-American from Ole Miss. As part of a popular set, there are quite a few current listings on eBay for this card. Most seem to fall into a $25 – 100 range. There are two over-the-top asking prices that top $1,000 (including one that also socks you for $10 shipping), both of which are PSA 9s. If graded vintage is not your bag, there are also some junk wax era HOF-focused sets and modern cut signature sets from which to choose if you are building a HOF inductee collection.

 

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


Slowly but Surely

11.01.2011

When Emmitt Smith retired shortly after the 2004 season, I had not yet discovered the massive online sports card community and was just trying to track down a single card from each of his playing seasons. Then after graduating from college, I suddenly found you could buy just about any card on places like Beckett’s Marketplace, Check Out My Cards, and of course eBay. (Side Note: I have no idea why it took me until after college to think to look for this other than perhaps my waning interest in cards and my piqued interest in women and beer)

When the online hobby was revealed to me, I suddenly had every Topps base card from Emmitt’s career, every official rookie card, a slew of 90s inserts I had always drooled over, a small batch of my first ever authentic jersey cards, and even a real life Emmitt Smith autograph. Times were good. Then I got married, bought a house, and started my own card business, all which took significant time (and money) away from my box of Emmitts. In the past few years, I have really started to hit the new release calendar hard to do 1&G Reviews and offer fresh cards in my eBay store. But with Emmitt’s retired status, not many new releases have him on the checklist. So even though I am technically spending more on cards than ever before (albeit through my business and almost never for my personal collection anymore), my Emmitt box is pretty static.

Fortunately, there are a few 2011 cards for me. Earlier, I told you about the Topps Super Bowl Legends inserts. My buddy got a ton of the online code cards and got a few of the actual Emmitt Smith die-cut SB Legends cards, which he already said will be mine once they arrive. Sweet! I also just added this beauty on my own:

I just busted two boxes of 2011 Topps Gridiron Legends (1&G Review forthcoming). I was stoked to find that Emmitt was included. I will admit though I was disappointed to pull just one base card of my childhood hero. However, it is a great card and is a welcome new addition to the collection. At this rate, my Emmitt collection will never be worth comparing to some of the super collectors’ out there, but that’s okay. I enjoy my box of Emmitts and am just happy to add to it when possible.

Now to track down the 8 parallels from this set…


HOF Spotlight: Jim Brown

10.31.2011

Jim Brown
Name: Jim Brown
Position: Fullback
Pro Career: 1957 – 1965
Team Affiliation(s): Cleveland Browns
College: Syracuse
Induction Class: 1971
HOF Profile: Click Here
 
 
 

Brief Bio: If ever there was a single man that defined the versatile back position, that man would be Jim Brown. Brown didn’t just rush, he caught, returned, and passed as well. He didn’t just break records, he destroyed them. Brown was the #1 draft choice for the Browns in 1957 and immediately became a star on his way to earning Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, and All-NFL honors. In total, Brown was MVP four times, All-NFL eight times, league rushing leader eight time, and played in the Pro Bowl nine times…not bad for a guy that only played nine years. In 1966, Brown inexplicably retired at the peak of his career and 45 years later, fans still wonder just how much Brown could have achieved. There is a reason the greats like Payton, Sanders, and Smith are compared to Brown. He set the bar for rushing excellence.

Career Stats: 118 games played; 12,312 rushing yards; 5.2 career YPA; 106 rushing TDs; 2,499 receiving yards; 20 receiving TDs; 3 passing TDs; 648 kickoff return yards.

1958 Topps #62

Featured Card: 1958 Topps #62. As one of the greatest and most popular rushers of all time, there is little wonder Jim Brown’s 1958 Topps rookie card still demands collecting attention. There are a slew of copies available on eBay with an equal wide range of prices. There is obviously a grading preference as all of the top price tags are for graded copies. One point to watch with high profile rookie cards such as Jim Brown is reprints and forgeries. Most reprints will state “reprint” or will have a different card back, but some may just have a different copyright date, so be sure you know what you are buying. And always trust your gut. If something feels too good to be true, like a Jim Brown rookie for $25, it probably is.

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


Copy and Paste

10.24.2011

Or: “Why I hope the NFL never awards an exclusive card license”

Over the past few years as the Hobby has been rocked by company after company losing licenses and/or obtaining exclusive card-producing rights, one of the biggest complaints from consumers has been the stalemate fear. If one company gets an exclusive license for a particular sport, there will no longer be outside competition and thus the products (and ultimately the consumer) would suffer in the long run. Eventually the exclusive producer would just stop caring and would turn the card machine on auto-pilot and just crank out set after set with no creativity and perhaps no real differences.

Why wait for an exclusive contract?

In the wake of the license shake ups, only one of the major sports leagues was not under an exclusive contract at some point: the NFL. If you don’t include the few days between when it denied Upper Deck its license renewal and regranted a license to Topps, the NFL has always maintained multiple active card contracts and has secured competition in the collectibles market. Yet despite this competition and what would normally be a drive to innovate beyond the other guy, both Panini and Topps have taken an exclusive mentality into the football card world.

It is widely argued that Panini products feature backwards design issues across nearly all of its products, cards are rarely if ever hard-signed, and card designs are often either uber-neutral or incredibly cluttered. Perhaps being the new kid on the block, or buying out a quickly struggling Donruss Playoff LP company, set Panini up for such public critique. What you don’t find nearly as much is talk of how Topps is just as guilty of phoning it in. I’ll admit that I often gush over Topps’ products while criticizing Panini’s. In my opinion, Topps has simply had better designed cards with more overall value. But Topps is not completely off the hook.

The past three Topps products to be reviewed here at 1&G were Topps Finest, Topps Platinum, and Topps Prime. All three of these sets got above average reviews. Although I did note that Topps Platinum had an awful lot of similarities to Topps Finest, I didn’t specifically mention one item that I’d like to highlight now.

When did Topps’ card designers find the copy and paste feature?

When you take a look at the card fronts, nothing is terribly obvious. Here are three of the base cards taken from the 1&G Reviews:


Click image for full-sized scan

Other than perhaps pointing out that all three have curved lines in their graphic design elements, nothing really jumps out as being the same. Even the Topps logo varies from set to set. Things take a little different turn once we take a look at the card backs:


Click image for full-sized scan

All three sets have the exact same card back elements: full name, position, height, weight, college, drafted, most recent season stats, career stats, copyright info. You could argue that almost all cards have those elements. It’s what we expect to find on the card back. But take a look at the write up. While some cards will have a short bio or humerious anecdote, all three of these sets have a “best moment” type write up with a set-themed title.

Prime Season
Going Platinum
Finest Moment

I wish I had chosen to scan the Sam Bradford card from Topps Finest (all of my extra base cards were shipped out in the group break, well before I busted Platinum and Prime and realized the similarities). I suppose for a long time veteran like Peyton Manning or LaDainian Tomlinson, all three sets could have similar themes but widely different highlights. But when you have a sophomore star like Bradford, how many ways can you point out that he had a spectacular rookie season?

Maybe I am just reading too much into it. Maybe I just expect too much variety in the 20 different sets released by each company each year. Maybe I just haven’t stood on my dusty soapbox enough recently. But all I can really say at this point is that if we are getting such a lack of creativity and originality in a competitive market, I do not want to know what would happen if the NFL ever awards an exclusive card-producing contract.


Product Review: 2011 Topps Prime

10.22.2011

Either sets are being released much sooner this year, or I’m doing a significantly better job of keeping up with things. Last year, I didn’t get a chance to review Topps Prime until February 18. I just can’t remember if it was released so much later or if I was WAY behind the ball in getting my review posted. In any case, here is the 1&G Review of 2011 Topps Prime…on October 22.

2011 Topps Prime box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 10 6-card packs for a total of 60 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $90, which translates into a moderate $1.50/card ratio. That definitely pushes the mid-shelf range, so I would expect design and value some where between Score and Topps Inception.

2011 Topps Prime packs
My scanner was pleased to find that the pillow box packs did not make a return in 2011

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 29 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#/930): 3
Parallels
   Green (all Veterans): 7
   Gold Rookies (#/699): 2
   Blue Rookies (#/599): 2
   Red Rookies (#/499): 1
   Purple Rookies (#/399): 1
   Silver Rainbow Rookies (#/25): 1
Inserts
   Prime Rookies: 3
   Prime Veterans: 2
   Double Combos: 2
   Triple Combos: 2
   Quad Combos: 1
Hits
   Triple Combo Relics (#/388): 1
   Auto Relic Level IV (#/199): 1
   Autographed Rookies Silver (#/50): 1
   Prime Rookie Jumbo Relic Silver (#/25): 1

2011 Topps Prime2011 Topps Prime
Click image for full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: stable. That’s because this base card design is nearly identical to last year’s design. But don’t read that as a complaint, because I love this base design. Like last year, the photography is generally crisp and vibrant (rookie cards notwithstanding) and there are almost no design elements clogging up the card. The rather smooth finish and thicker stock once again reminds me of the defunct but still awesome Stadium Club lines, which was one of Topps’ first attempts at higher end stuff (remember those simpler times?). The rework of the card back wasn’t a complete success in my opinion. It’s got a simplicity that I like, but 2010’s set had a more “simple elegant” feel. Either one is pretty solid, though.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: improved. This year’s set features a whole lot more parallels with various color foil stamping. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not quite as awesome as the absurdly colorful 1999 Absolute SSD, but is still better than some of the parallel concepts I’ve seen in the past. The biggest improvement is with the Prime inserts. Topps still insisted on the Prime Combo, Triple Combo, and Quad Combo cards, but at least the design is better. There is still a pretty obvious backwards design problem to some of them, though. And I’ll never understand some of the player pairings. Ok, they’re all wide receivers from the ACC and SEC…why do they need to be together on a single card? I will say I liked this year’s single prime rookie and veteran cards much better with their much simpler design. The autograph card was also a big improvement from last year, although that sticker label diminishes what could have been an all-star auto design. So Topps is definitely moving the right direction here, but didn’t quite nail it just yet.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: redundant. On my end, not Topps’. I’m just going to copy and past my response from last year: I feel like a broken record in this category. Once again, with only 60 cards, it’s awfully hard to accurately gauge the collation of the print run. I guess in reality, this 3rd down has become just a beacon of whether or not there is a glaring problem with the particular box I busted. In this one, I got was I was supposed to. I didn’t get what I wasn’t supposed to get (duplicates). So yay Topps Prime. You pass the test of blatant problems with collation.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: decent. The price for a box isn’t off the chart, although the somewhat low card count does hurt it a bit. The cards themselves are beautiful and would augment just about any collection, especially for a player or team collection. I say almost any because they don’t really have a place in a vintage collection. But you knew that. As is the case with most products, trying to flip a box for a profit is a complete gamble and not recommended. But if you want a solid product at a fairly reasonable price, this is a pretty good pickup.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL Overall I would say this product was better than last year. So why not give it a better red zone result? The improvement wasn’t out of this world. The base cards are still really nice and probably underrated. The inserts are better but could still use some work, especially those multi-player cards. Lastly, the addition of more parallels doesn’t really increase the appeal of a product to me. If anything, they can take away from a product. I wouldn’t say the various colored foil parallels in 2011 Topps Prime were a detriment to the entire product, but I also wouldn’t say they made it rainbow-licously better.

NEXT UP: 2011 Panini Absolute Memorabilia