Friday, June 29, 2012

Early Preview Images: 2012-13 Panini Threads Basketball

We are still 4 months away from the release of the 2012-13 Panini Threads Basketball set on October 3rd but Panini has begun to release some early teaser images to give collectors an idea of what we are in for when the set hits. This will be Panini’s third basketball release of the 2012-13 season after Hoops and Prestige are both released in August.

The 2012-13 Panini Threads Basketball set contains 150 base cards which will include 100 rookie cards (2011-12 and 2012-13 NBA rookies), each rookie card will be printed on wood stock and contain an on-card autograph. Each 24-pack box (5 cards per pack) will contain 3 autograph cards and one memorabilia card and while a price has not been announced Panini usually sets a $90-100 SRP for similar pack outs.

Inserts include Century Greats and High Flyers; autograph inserts include Team Threads Signatures, Rookie Team Thread Signatures and Private Signings and memorabilia inserts include Authentic Threads, Prime Authentic Threads, Triple Threads and Prime Triple Threads.

I am actually digging what I have seen so far, the rookie cards look nice and you cannot argue about the possibility of pulling an on-card autograph rookie card of Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis out of the same box. Panini’s designers have done a nice job with this set, the inserts are pleasing and there are no glaring eye-sores in this first round of images.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Preview (Sort Of): 2012 SP Signature Edition Baseball

Next week (July 3) Upper Deck is releasing a set that I think can be likened to a lottery ticket. In an unexpected announcement from Upper Deck in late April they stated that SP Signature Edition Baseball was back and would be released the following week on May 1st, each 3 pack box (3 autos per pack) would run $255 and a box break would include 6 base autos and 3 multi-signed or manufactured patch autographs. In the announcement they only included images of the box and packs and some basic information regarding the various subsets and some numbers pertaining to the serial numbering. Obviously the May 1st release date has come and gone and everything remained quiet, many of us figured that the release was being delayed/cancelled due to Upper Deck’s ongoing legal battles.

One thing that was for certain is that without any baseball related licensing this was a sticker dump, cards were expected to be pretty basic, no logos, no team names and possibly no player names or images. In a sense you were paying close to $300 for a chance to pull 9 stickers and maybe 1 or 2 manufactured patches.

Now almost 2 months after the original announcement and we are finally hearing some news about the 2012 SP Signature Edition Baseball release. The product will be arriving on shelves on July 3rd and best of all, the reason for the delay; it will arrive with licensing from the MLBPA. This is a one-time license approved by the MLBPA for use with the 2012 SP Signature Edition Baseball product only and was apparently part of an agreement for UD to pay on money that is owed to the Player’s Association.

There are still some big questions, because there have been no images released and there has been no checklist released so people are left wondering what the cards will look like and who will be included. The MLBPA license helps but does not answer the questions. Some of the highlights of the set that have been announced about the included subsets will contain signatures from players connected to these events/honors:

World Champions  (1946-Present)
Class of 1972 Hall of Fame Dual #/10
Class of 1991 Hall of Fame Triple #/50
Class of 2007 Hall of Fame Dual #/15
3000 Hit Club Quad-auto
500 Home Run Club Seven-auto
Striekout Kings Quad-auto
1960’s Superstar Eight-auto

Will people drop $250-300 on a 9-card box? I think it will be a tough sale, at least at first, until box breaks and auctions start showing up. If things look good and a solid group of players are included it can turn in to a monster or it can just float by with a whimper.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vintage Card Of The Month: 1948 Bowman Basketball George Mikan

Please note that I do not own this card I am using an image pulled from Google Images.

Because tomorrow is the NBA Draft I wanted to go in that direction with this month’s Vintage Card of the Month which comes from the 1948 Bowman Basketball set. When the set was released the NBA was only around for 2 years and was known as Basketball Association of America. It did not become the National Basketball Association until 1949. At this time there was still a question of whether the league would even be around for very long and the next basketball set would not be released until Topps put out a set in 1957 after purchasing Bowman the year before. Fleer came in to the game in 1961 and then Topps returned to basketball in 1969, from there the rest is history.

The 1948 Bowman Basketball set was almost a “test” set, it is essentially the same design that Bowman used with their first baseball set but they added color. The cards used a colorized version of a black and white player image and this was placed over a colored background. There were no player names, team names, team logos or even Bowman name/logos.  The backs were basic too, a card number, player info and a bio write-up.

The set was released in two series of 36 cards each, for a total of 72 cards in the set. The second series is the more rare series with George Mikan’s rookie card (card #69) being the treasure of the entire set.

George Mikan was only 31 years old when he finished his career in 1956 and over his 10-year playing career he won 7 Championships (2x NBL and 5x NBA) along with a long list of awards and records. In 1950 he was selected the "Greatest Basketball Player of the First Half-Century" and in 1996 he was named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players.

Some collectors may not recognize the name but he changed the sport of basketball, I mean literally. The NBA made a number of rule changes regarding the size of the lane, the addition of the shot clock and while he was the ABA Commissioner he made the addition of the 3-Point Line. When he passed away in 2005 Shaq offered to pay for his funeral saying "Without number 99, there is no me". Shaq is definitley known for his lack of common sense and saying things that you would expect to hear from a 5 year-old but this was a class offer on his part.

Even today his cards are demanding a premium, low graded 1948 Bowman rookie cards are easily going for $750-1,500 and a couple of years ago a PSA-10 Gem Mint sold through Memory Lane auction for $218,500 ($186,000 auction price plus buyer's premium fee). His autographs run from $100 and up with his on-card autographs selling for a premium. Panini has started adding Mikan relic cards to their National Treasure releases over the last few years, single color relics are going for under $50 but multi-color relics are hitting well over $250 each.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Random Packs Of 2012 Bowman Football

Going back to part of my Father’s Day presents from my kids, I got a rack pack of 2012 Bowman Baseball and a rack pack of 2012 Bowman Football. The football rack pack came with 3 8-card packs plus 3 retail-exclusive purple rookie parallels.

I really like this set and I think that Topps did a wonderful job. The base set consists of 200 cards, 100 veteran players and 100 rookies. There are 50 SP variations from the rookie’s checklist. There are a handful of parallels for the 100 rookie cards on top of the SPs, including Gold (Retail No #), Purple (Retail No #), Silver #/99, Green #/25, Red 1/1 (Hobby) and Printing Plates 1/1 (Hobby). The rookie set also includes autographed versions of 56 rookie cards, which also have their own Red Ink parallels #/15.

The base set’s veteran cards are interesting, the focus is all on the player and being that every image used is an action shot it makes for a pretty sweet set. The background on each card was blurred so you are drawn to the player, the center of attention; the players are then sharpened thus giving them almost an art/cartoonish definition. Some of the photos have actually become a bit distracting because the detail was magnified to the point of excess, for example the Vincent Jackson card was sharpened so much that his arm hairs became distorted and a glaring issue which does not appear natural.

Because the veterans checklist is limited to only 100 players Topps included only the best. I pulled a nice collection of players including Cam Newton,  Calvin Johnson, Aaron Hernandez and Mike Wallace. The front of the cards are pretty nice, as I said the focus is all on the player just like a card should be designed. The back of the cards include a bio, last season's stats along with a complete career stats plus a write up on a breakout performance.

The rookie cards have drawn some negative reactions from collectors. Because Topps got the set out so quickly the rookies had not been photographed in their pro uniforms so to make sure that the rookies got in to the set Topps designers removed the background, Photoshopped all college names, numbers and logos and then overlaid a hue layer over the player using their pro team’s colors. One thing you will notice that the darker team colors like blues and greens came out reasonably well but the warmer reds caused a color distortion for the players as well as the uniforms. I included a couple of different rookie cards, two have green overlays (Curry and Cunningham), two have blue (Wright and Claiborne) and two red overlay (Herron and RG3). Dan Herron and RG3 actually look orange the other players all have a more natural skin tone.

I pulled two Gold parallels, Kendall Wright and Dre Kirkpatrick and three retail-exclusive Purple parallels, Curry, Herron and Cunningham. The best rookie by far is the RG3. This kid is going to be a monster in Washington, while I do not like the Redskins I am pulling for this kid.
I close out on a couple of inserts, an Andrew Luck Accolades and a Luke Kuechly Chrome Refractor Rookie Autograph. The Accolades set is a 10-card set built around 7 players and the awards/honors that they received last year. The checklist includes three Andrew Luck cards, Dwayne Allen, Justin Blackmon, Luke Kuechly, Morris Claiborne, two RG3 cards and Trent Richardson. I pulled the Luck Player Of The Year card (AL2). What struck me as odd is that the RC logo is included on the card, I never considered an insert as a rookie card.

 The Chrome Refractor Rookie Autographs are nice cards (outside of the players in Photoshopped uniforms), a nice action shot on one side and a cut out team helmet on the other side.The die-cut helmet adds depth and texture to the card. The best thing about the set? The autographs are on-card. The checklist includes 43 rookies so many of the players will likely show up on their team's roster with a handful making it in to the starter role. I pulled Luke Kuechly, the #9 pick from the Carolina Panthers. He will almost definitly slide right in as a starter so I can not complain much, especially considering that I beat the retail odds just pulling an autograph. I would have prefered Nick Foles, but I have been watching some auctions and I can pick one up for a couple of bucks down the line.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sneak Peek At Topps' National VIP Cards

The National Sports Collectors Convention is returning to Baltimore this year and will run from August 1st-5th at the Baltimore Convention Center. With a little over one month before the doors open we are beginning to see special releases and exclusives that will be offered to collectors.

So far we have seen teasers for the VIP sets from Topps and Leaf. Topps will be giving each collector who has purchased the VIP or Super VIP packages an exclusive 4-card pack. They have released 5 images so it is uncertain if the set will contain only the 5 cards or if the checklist will include additional players.

The Topps set is based on the very popular 1952 Topps Baseball set but will include each player in a Minor League uniform. Currently there are two Mickey Mantle cards; one depicts him in a Yankees uniform. These are not actually images of the players from their Minor League days, Topps designers Photoshopped Major League images but they are still pretty cool.

Jackie Robinson in his Montreal Royals uniform, he only played one season (1946) in Montreal before moving on to Brooklyn but what a season it was. He took the team to the Junior World Series beating the Louisville Colonels for the Triple-A Championship. He led the league in batting average and fielding percentage and was named the International League’s MVP.

Mickey Mantle in his Joplin Miners uniform, he played only one season (1950) at Class-C Joplin before moving on to the Triple-A KC Blues in 1951 for 40 games and then eventually making it on to the Yankees roster before the end of the 1951 season. He led the team in Batting Average, Hits, Doubles, Triples and Home Runs.
Mickey Mantle in his New York Yankees uniform, he appears quite young in the photo and since Mick’s first Topps card is the 1952 Topps Baseball I am going to go out on a limb and say this is from the 1951 season, his first season in the Majors. In 1951 Mantle began the season in Triple-A so he only played 96 games in New York. He had a mediocre season and ended the season on IR after injuring his knee in Game 2 of the World Series but what started tough ended 18 years later in a Hall of Fame career with 7 World Series Titles, 3 AL MVP Awards and the 1956 Triple Crown.
Babe Ruth in his Baltimore Orioles uniform, like the other players on this list he only played one season in the Minor League playing with both the Baltimore Orioles and the Providence Grays plus 5 games with the Boston Red Sox (4 games as pitcher) between his time in Baltimore and Providence. He played a total of 46 games in the minors including 35 as pitcher (in which he started 30 games). His pitching record was solid going 22-9 with a 2.39 ERA. His batting was definitely not a sign of what was to eventually come, hitting a dismal .231 Batting Average with 28 Hits.
Willie Mays in his Minneapolis Millers uniform, his second season in the Minors. He actually played a season from the Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro Leagues in 1948 when he was 17 but his first MLB game came in 1950 with the Trenton Giants, a Class-B team in the New York Giants organization. After he killed the ball in Trenton he was moved up to the Triple-A Millers where he not only killed the ball but he smacked it up, flipped it and rubbed it down (How many of you just read that sentence and finished it up with “Oh No!”?)
He only played 35 games in Minneapolis before moving on to the Big Leagues and when it all closed out he was a Hall of Famer, one World Championship, two NL MVP Awards and a whole slew of honors and awards including 660 Home Runs, which put him #3 on the All-Time Home Run list before his steroided up God Son over took everyone by knocking baseballs in to McCovey Cove like he was swatting away flies. Another player with an "*" afixed to his name is moving up quickly and is now less than 20 Home Runs behind Mays.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Preview: 2012 Topps Wrestling

Schedule Release Date: September 26, 2012
Box Configuration:  7 cards per pack/ 24 packs per box
SRP: $48/box

Box Break:
1 Shirt Relic
1 Autograph or WrestleMania XXVIII Mat Relic

My Thoughts:
We are finally getting our first peak at the 2012 Topps WWE base set which is set to be released in September. Currently boxes are preselling at $48 and each box includes 24 packs. You will pull 2 hits, a shirt relic and either an autograph or WrestleMania relic.

This is a 90-card base set and the backs of the cards contain bio/write ups by wrestling legend Mick Foley. Each base card will also have a number of parallels; Blue, Gold, Black (#/50), Platinum (1/1) and Printing Plates (1/1). There is also a 6-card autograph parallel and 21-card relic parallel which uses the base card designs with either a sticker auto or shirt relic added. The original auto checklist includes Triple H as a signer but his auto has since been removed from the checklist. You will notice that the base card design is the same as the 2012 Topps Baseball and while it does work with wrestling it feels lazy, we should expect more from Topps’ designers.

An interesting addition is the Sketch cards, the checklist has not been released, but the cards are illustrated by Jerry Lawler. I have to admit, I did not realize that Lawler is a professional illustrator and an accomplished painter. He has worked on a number of comic books (including cover art) and he has been to a couple of Comic Cons as an illustrator. If you are a comic art/book fan or just appreciate illustrations or even art overall, you really need to take a look at his work it is just amazing.

The Diva Kiss cards should do well, back when Fleer was producing (2001-2003) WWF/WWE cards they released a couple of "Kiss" autograph inserts and they are still selling quite well even 10 years later. TriStar has included "Kiss" autographs in a couple of their TNA releases over the last few years and while they do not sell as high as the Fleer WWF/WWE versions you have to take in to consideration the popularity difference.

What will draw the interest of the collectors is the nice selection of insert sets, including autographs and relics, there are 12 inserts sets plus sketch cards. The sets include:

Hall of Fame: 35-card checklist containing a nice selection of WWE Hall of Famers- Sadly one of my favorite HOF’ers George “The Animal” Steele is not on the checklist.

Hall of Fame Autographs: A 12-card parallel version of the HOF set

WWE Divas: A 15-card checklist made up of the Class of 2012 Divas

WWE Divas Autographs: A 9-card parallel versions of the Divas set

First Class Champions: A 20 card checklist of WWF/WWE Champions through the years from Sgt. Slaughter and the Iron Sheik to John Cena and CM Punk
Top Class Matches: Punk’s Picks: A 10 card set where CM Punk picks his favorite matches

World Class Events: A 10 card set with Pay-Per-View posters

WWE Divas Kiss Cards: 10 cards where a Diva signed the card with a kiss

WWE Dual Autographs: 5 autograph cards signed by 2 personalities/wrestlers that have a connection

WWE Shirt Relics NAME: A 21-card checklist containing a relic from the wrestler. The set is built using the base card design. There are Black (#/50) and Platinum (1/1) parallels.
WrestleMania XXVIII Mat Relics: 25 cards in the set and includes a piece of mat used at WrestleMania 28, all 25 cards depict a wrestler who had a fight that night.
WWE Sketch Cards: No checklist has been announced, but each card will be a 1/1 sketch completed by the WWE’s own Jerry “The King” Lawler

Small checklist makes it easy for set builders

Nice selection of inserts/parallels

Sweet sketch cards

Diva’s Kiss Cards


Lazy 2012 Topps Baseball design re-used

Autograph stickers

I would put this set at a healthy 3.5/5 easily, it is a nice set and with its size set builders will have ease completing the set. It does loose half a point because Topps reused the 2012 Baseball base set design which is disappointing.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Miami Heat Take The Title

First and foremost, the Heat came to play this year. Dwyane Wade played to his usual stellar self even playing through knee pain and a lower back injury. This guy is just plain class, he is a team-first player and deserves winning the title again. I think that by the end of his career he may just add a couple more rings to the two that he has now. LeBron James showed up this year, even with a couple of off nights he shut it down tonight with a Triple-Double. I know he must be feeling a huge relief from all the pressure the media has been laying on him over the past 9 seasons, especially considering his losses in the 2007 and 2011 NBA Finals. I am sure there are some who were beginning to wonder if he would ever win a title.

On the lighter side (read this as humorous) the Heat won, but I have the pleasure of seeing that ass clown Clay Bennett loosing the NBA Championship.

Photo courtesy of CNN

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Random Packs Of 2012 Bowman Baseball

For Father’s Day my kids gave me a couple of rack packs, a 2012 Bowman Baseball rack pack and a 2012 Bowman Football rack pack. These are the value packs that contain 3 packs and 3 Purple Prospect parallel cards. Opening these packs was like taking a walk through the woods, I hit some nice highs and a lot of lows. It was like a roller coaster with each pack.

I got a nice selection of base cards like Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain (OK, the guy has a .510 win percentage but he did just throw a perfect game), and Mark Trumbo (the guy has potential) and most importantly a pair of Mariners in Ackley and Ichiro. A couple of dismal RCs were pulled, Liam Hendriks and Addison Reed, a pair of pitchers who are 1-5 between them in the Minors.

I pulled 1 Gold parallel per pack; Adam Jones, Dustin Ackley and Aramis Ramirez.

The Bowman Prospects that I pulled could best be described as “Bipolar” at best, starting out on nice high with Mike Murray. A young guy in the Giants organization, he has been moved from catcher to DH (on an NL team really?). In his first two seasons he has moved from AZ Rookie league to A and is expected to be moved up to AA Richmond before long. Follow this up with severe low, Ian Gac, the guy has been in the league 10 seasons and has never cracked Double AA and his lifetime .251 BA and 1130 Strike Outs will not help his case. Finally I end on a high (with a caveat) with Drew Hutchison. He is young, he is 5-3 in 11 starts and while he has a 4.60 ERA his 1.35 WHIP puts him among the top 50 pitchers of the current season. There is one glaring concern about the kid, his elbow injury.  He is looking at Tommy John Surgery so his future is a big question mark right now.
I got three purple Prospect parallels and one orange Prospect parallel.

Purple parallel: Greg Billo, Tyler Collins and Luis Angel Sanz. Billo and Collins are young and have a nice upside; Sanz on the other hand is a Minor League lifer who is floating around Detroit’s organization and at his current rate may never see the AA level.

Orange parallel: Nick Maronde. #151/250: This may turn out to be a gem in waiting. He is a lefty with 3 pitches; he has been used as a starter and in college a reliever. Last year in Rookie ball he posted up a 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He is in High A right now and he is 0-1 but he is sitting at a 2.83 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP over 6 games. He is considered the #6 Top Prospect in the Angels organization.
Closing out with the Chromes: Jose Campo, another Maronde, Jose Vinicio, JT Wise and Luis Heredia.

Campo came over to the Yankees in the Pineda-Montero trade and like Pineda he went down with an injury. He was actually starting the season well before the injury and may be a force in the New York lineup in the future.
Vinicio is just 18 but this is his third season in the Red Sox organization. He has quick hands and is expected to be a defensive fixture at the SS position but right now he is not showing it with 18 errors in 217 chances this season. What caught me is this kid looks young, yes he is only 18 but on the card he looks 12 years old maybe 13 on a good day.

JT Wise is coming along slowly but he may turn in to a solid backstop for the Dodgers in a couple of years unfortunately he is 26 and needs to get in to high gear if he wants to make it to the Show.

Luis Heredia, when this kid was 15 he had teams lined up to offer him millions in a signing bonus. When the signing period opened (per the Mexican Baseball League) the Pirates signed him for $2.6 million and he was 16 at the time. Apparently the team has been scouting this kid since he was 13 years old. Here is the kicker, when a MBL team sells the rights of a player they keep 75% of the signing bonus meaning his old team keeps $1.95 million and Heredia gets only $650,000 from his bonus. He started the season on Pittsburgh’s Class A SS team, the State College Spikes.
I close out on a Joe Benson Bowman Best. I have always been a fan of BB and this year is no different. While I am not excited to see Joe Benson I am happy I pulled one anyway. Benson had a cup of coffee with the Twins last season but could not cut it. He started 2012 in AAA but was hitting a disappointing .173 before injuring his hand which requires surgery. As of the end of May he was looking at a minimum of 6 weeks on the DL depending on his rehab.

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Adidas Faux Paux

In a questionable WTF moment from Adidas you have their new Originals by Jeremy Scott 2012 Fall & Winter shoe line. Jeremy Scott, a well-known Beverly Hills clothing designer, is famous for his outrageous and over the hill outfits. He has worked with Adidas before to design a line called “Originals”. Images for his second collection for Adidas were recently released and you can see that he has carried the outrageous over to footwear. The collection includes shoes with wings, neon colors, silver buckles, teddy bears, moon-style boots and shackles.

Wait…shackles? You read that correctly. One of Scott’s designs, officially named JS Roundhouse Mids, the purple, silver and orange shoes include orange plastic shackles connected to the shoe in what some people are stating looks an awful lot like slavery shackles.

On his Twitter page Jeremy Scott explained that he was inspired by the 1980s My Pet Monster doll when designing the shoes. You know that he meant no harm but it is apparent that when the green light was given nobody had made the connection to slavery. Adidas has since canceled the release of the JS Roundhouse Mids.
As a graphic designer I understand the nuances of an advertising campaign, when you are working outside of “the norm” you need to consider all aspects. You need to think about the name, the colors, the imagery, the placement and so on. What may fly for one client on a national campaign may not work for their international campaign. A perfect example would be Nike’s recent faux paux with their 2012 Nike Black and Tans. To most Americans when you see “Black and Tan” along with an image of the shoes you would think about a nice pint of Guinness. But, when you head over to Ireland, Black and Tans were a British paramilitary military unit based in Ireland in the 1920s who were known for their violent attacks on Irish citizens, killing hundreds.

This is a perfect example of some executive at Adidas signing off on the designs without reviewing each example thoroughly. I am sure it was an honest mistake and when you hear that Scott created the shoes based on a toy you see that his intent was pure but unfortunately this is a situation where having good intentions and what is seen by the public are two very different things. I think had Adidas promoted the shoe with a connection to My Pet Monster the public's response would have been different because the context would be complete. At least they responded appropriately with a public apology and a quick cancellation of the shoe. If they would have kept the shoes and tried to connect My Pet Monster after the fact many people probably would have seen it as a thin veil by the company in an attempt to save face to what many consider a racist shoe.