This is normally where we read about the hottest selling sports card products but the calendar tells us it’s time to take stock of the year that was. The Mikey Awards is my annual non-scientific, incredibly personal and sometimes self-serving take on the last 12 months. If you’re scoring along, this is the 4th annual edition. It’s the good, the bad and the ugly from my own observations as a shop owner along with the collectors for whom I have much respect.
Do I expect you all to agree completely? I do not, because I would be worried about you if another person thought exactly like I did. If you are a collector, please enjoy. If you are a manufacturer, please forgive and don’t do whatever you did this year to hobby shops or collectors again. If you think differently, please feel free to say so in the Sports Collectors Daily Facebook page where you will see this article posted on Friday morning.
Rookie Of The Year Award
Yes, it is a 2015 release, but Topps Definitive Football came out in the late winter of 2016 and man was Definitive an incredible parting gift (Yes, 2015 Topps Diamond technically released afterward) from Topps.
This product was the cardboard equivalent of a mic drop as Topps finally showed what a high-end release was supposed to look and act like. I did not know what to expect when I ordered it since some other pricier releases did not always deliver. I took a chance at three cases and when I started seeing them pop, I wish I had snagged a dozen or so more.
Not only was the rookie selection and style unparalleled but the cards looked flawless. The autographed veteran content pretty much offered sigs of anyone and everyone you wanted who was still alive. If Panini is looking for another Topps release to copy, I would hope they peek at this one before they are done making 2016 NFL releases. While I’m on that train of thinking…
The Haven’t We Met Before? Award
Let’s see…Topps loses their right to make NFL cards and Paninigets the exclusive. What do they do? They come up with a completely unique idea like making Panini Origins NFL, a set based on drawings, with seven cards per single pack box and three mostly rookie based autos or relics.
Good thing we have never seen that before since the “inception” of sports cards.
The How Is This Crushing Without Ben Simmons Autos Or Him Even Playing? Award
2016-17 Panini Prizm Jumbo NBA –Once again Panini offered Prizm to the masses with 13 different parallels. This is exactly the right number of parallels needed to make people forget that the number one pick does not have signed cards in the exclusive manufacturer of NBA trading cards (he’s an Upper Deck exclusive).
Throw in how the rest of the 16/17 rookie class has all the buzz of the 2013 NFL rookie class and somehow this release is currently trading on the wholesale market for $70+ over cost.
The Karma Is A…What Again? Award
2016 Leaf Jack Eichel Collection Sets. So Leaf signs an exclusive autograph card agreement with #2 overall pick Jack Eichel meaning that his Upper Deck The Cup, Premier, Ultimate Collection and every other rookie card will not be able to be signed. Granted, he had a good rookie season, but not the OMG one that people hoped for. The topper? Eichel sprains his ankle in the last practice before the season begins and will miss the first two months of the season, just in time to sink the November 23 release date for these 30 card sets that also offer an autographed Eichel card.
Currently these sets are being offered for the price of three fast food pizzas (without any toppings).
They Aren’t Your Customers, They’re OUR Customers Award
Upper Deck e-Pack – Since we are advancing steadily into the digital age and getting end sale money sure beats getting factory direct to hobby shops money, it has not been a complete surprise to see a manufacturer offer boxes and cases at full SRP to collectors. They have already been moving boxes to fans, but they deserve props for their online version that was tied in to COMC.
With e-Pack, not only was UD getting more per box, they didn’t have packaging costs, all of the cards were already in-house at COMC waiting to go into accounts as they were bought and the Canadian dollar devaluation sure did make it attractive to so many folks up north to give it a try. Interest was not only limited to Canadians because multiple collectors who usually bought boxes or cases of product from me were spending their funds directly with Upper Deck. Ugh. I cannot imagine I am the only shop owner who has felt the pain and to compound things, shop owners all anticipated that all 10 high gloss Connor McDavid Young Guns rookie cards were going to be in the product we carried.
To their credit UD does not offer products on the e-Pack site on release day and they made sure that the shield logo Connor went into packs.
Card Of The Year Award
Sure, a Mickey Mantle 1952 Topps cleared the seven-figure mark in an auction, but does that get you the opportunity to party it up in Las Vegas with Topps and Kris Bryant? In each box of 2016 Topps Transcendent, there is a golden ticket good for an entry to this January 2017 event in Sin City. These gems have sold for as much as $5499.99. For that price, you would think that Carrot Top, David Copperfield, Donnie and Marie, and whichever member of Sigfried and Roy didn’t get mauled by the tiger would also be in the house. We assume those who go will get some nice gifts from Topps for their money.
Hey Topps, if you’re reading this, please consider going live on Facebook or with Periscope on Twitter at the event so all of us can see how the up to 65 people who snagged invites enjoy themselves.
Sure, You Ordered This For The Past Two Decades, But That Ain’t Happening This Year Award
2016 Topps Finest MLB – While initially offered directly to hobby shops from Topps and also through distributors, Topps pulled a fast one and only fulfilled orders from the 250 or so direct stores and pulled the remaining cases to be sold only on Topps.com. Yup, if you owned a card store, but did not buy it direct, your only option for carrying this annual gem was to pay full price on their site and then mark it up to collectors.
Personally I wish that they had fulfilled orders to those who committed through distributors. As of three minutes ago, boxes and cases were still available on their site.
Lipstick On A Pig Award
2015/16 Panini Replay NBA – When my distributor solicited Replay I was told it was a buyback release, a major hobby publication STILL refers to it online as a buy back release and seemingly everyone but Panini calls it a buyback release. Either way, breakers, collectors and hobby shops quickly saw on release night that this release had some issues with it. The reviews about the quality of what was inside were nothing short of brutal.
Nearly two weeks after release, Panini stepped up to support those who purchased it with an exclusive Prizm NBA set that is currently scheduled to arrive March 1, 2017. Props to Panini for at least coming up with a viable option to help hobby shops get out of a release that saw breakers deleting videos or doing their breaks before their cases were completed.
The You Knew Something From 15/16 Upper Deck NHL Would Have To Stink Award
Upper Deck Contours NHL – The 2015/16 NHL season was one for the ages. Seriously, it was the frozen version of the 03/04 NBA season with every release seemingly gaining in popularity. Of course one release would have to stink and it was Contours. With one autograph or relic in each of the four packs in each box, it seemed to be the Absolute NBA of the hockey season. Sadly, it seemed that the Connor singles hit about as often as the lottery numbers.
Somehow, in spite of offering autographs from C M Punk, Larry King, Kevin Smith, Bret Hart, Jason Priestly, Kevin Harvick and Rachel Nichols (huh?), these boxes are still available for $20+ under cost.
108 Years Of Tears Never Tasted So Good Award
As many of you know, my store is located in Colorado and the Broncos spent the year as defending Super Bowl champions. It never hurts to have a local team take home the Lombardi Trophy and while that win and the run that led up to it helped my store significantly, when the Cubs ended their World Series drought, it seemingly helped every sports card store not located in Cleveland or St. Louis.
Some 2010 releases saw a bump thanks to Jake Arrieta, 2014 and 2015 products with Bryant cards continued their dominance, 2014 Bowman Draft got some love with the remarkable return of Kyle Schwarber and pretty much every other Cubbies player on the roster got on to the MLB hot list for some amount of time. The Cubs were simply good business for the hobby.
Cup, Cup And Away Award
I cannot remember in the 24 year history of my store any release that was more anticipated than 15/16 The Cup. It felt that with each box of 15/16 Upper Deck NHL product I moved this year, that the buyer was buying it to shred and also to line up some guaranteed boxes of The Cup. It seemed that everyone, their sister and the little neighbor kid down the block wanted a box or a case to pop to hunt for the most hyped single we have seen since the 03/04 LeBron James Exquisite RC.
Box prices started off in the $700 range and the vibe pretty much seemed that unless you pulled some 1/1, a Gretzky autograph, a Dylan Larkin rookie /99 or the holy grail (Connor McDavid), then you weren’t going to pay for your box. If the said Connor was not in your case, then you were going to take a big hit on your investment. Cases have softened a bit and they aren’t selling as quickly as when they released, but there’s still considerable interest. After being out for about a month, only three of the McDavid rookies /99 have sold (according to my research) and none have gone for less than $12,797.97. So that means up to 96 of these gems are hiding out there and I still feel great about the remaining product I have in stock.
2016 Panini Immaculate NFL – Sure other releases might be a bit sexier and there were better selling boxes, but for some reason Immaculate stands out as the product of the year for my store. Every NFL release was bolstered by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. We’ve seen several of the better Immaculate autos from both exceed $1,000 (click here to get a look at some others being offered right now).
Where Immaculate really stands up to its name is with the killer relic cards. There are Dual Shield cards, the points-for-originality Eye Black signed cards, Gloves Brand Logos, Locker Nameplates, Rookie Cleats, Rookie Helmets, Rookie Soles and some other pretty innovative stuff that’s fun to pull.
So the Mikey Awards are history for another year. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. This is my favorite “What’s Hot” piece I write for Sports Collectors Daily each year and I’m not sure if it appears as such, but I do try to put some thought into it. My compensation comes by way of those who visit our Facebook page or Twitter feed from reading my column or finding my shop on SC Daily’s social media pages. It comes from occasional out-of-town visits from people who read these pieces and decide to visit my store, much the same way that I eagerly visit other shops while on the road. I also get paid by loving this hobby all the more by writing about it, often after a 10-hour shift, when the best of the worst movies are on (at this moment, I happen to be watching For Love Of The Game and it’s the perfect backdrop).
I love fighting for the hobby whenever I feel the need. I love risking relationships with manufacturers to share constructive criticisms like what you just read.
I love counting down the days until the annual Industry Summit when I can see my hobby brothers and sisters again.
May your 2017 pulls exceed your ones from 2016, may next year’s rookies make you forget about this year and most importantly may my editor let me do this again for another year. Happy New Year!
Mike Fruitman owns Mike’s Stadium Sportscards in Aurora, CO. His column focuses on what products are selling best in hobby shops. He’s got thousands of cards for sale on COMC.com under the ID cardmn5150. Enjoy new arrivals and big hits from Mike’s on Twitter. Mike’s is always looking for more friends on Facebook and you can email him at [email protected].