It’s a time of change, a time of high-end product exploration and a time of options for many collectors in what we call the sports card industry these days.
Tastes, products and prices continue to evolve as does the business environment that helps bring us our cardboard. For every super-pricey box being made, there are seemingly just as many buyers ready to rip or pick off singles for not-always-so-super prices (but super bargains).
The Buzz has only been around for part of 2015, but Buzz has been here all along as part of the world of collecting. Here are Buzz’s picks for 15 cards that helped define 2015.
2015-16 Upper Deck #201 Connor McDavid RC
The impressive prices being paid for what’s just a simple piece of cardboard with just gloss and some foil stamping shows that fundamentals never go out of style when there’s a big name involved. This time, it’s the No. 1 pick Connor McDavid, a Canadian phenom drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. This photo was selected by collectors and it even has a fun sign of 2015 — the fan showing off a photo on her phone in the background.
2015 Topps #616 Kris Bryant RC
If there is one rookie who owned baseball in the last year, it’s this guy and, while he’s had plenty of cardboard, his standard Topps Rookie Card is one that comes to mind first for Buzz. The colorful departure for the design of Topps this year was one that, inevitably, some collectors didn’t like, but they have to appreciate the simplicity of a flagship RC that’s readily available to almost anyone. (Buy a Series 2 box and it’s probably in there.)
2015 Topps UFC Knockout #100 Holly Holm RC
We all know that Ronda Rousey owns the market on UFC trading cards, but for a night back in November Holm owned the MMA hobby and the UFC spotlight. She had just two Rookie Cards — and not one certified autograph — for collectors to consider at the time. The buying frenzy was one to see even if it didn’t last all that long.
2015 Topps #1 Aaron Rodgers
Why is this one on here? It’s a sign of changing times. The Topps football design is dramatically different from past years and it’s also the last fully licensed NFL set that the company will make after 60 years in the game. As a result of a licensing change with the NFL and the NFLPA, Topps is done with NFL cardboard after this season. The first card in the set is the beginning of the finale — though draft picks sets released before the season starts and players sign with the PA might be a likely option.
2015 Panini Contenders Draft Picks #122 Jameis Winston (red jersey)
This one is another example of the changing licensing times. It’s one of Panini America’s most-collected brands, Contenders, but it’s Contenders with a college twist. The company took over the college ranks and has infused college colors back into its NFL (and other pro) sets as well as releasing some college-only brands. This one was the first and this guy might be the top rookie of the bunch going forward. How will it all work out for Panini, the hobby and Winston? Only time will tell.
2015-16 Prestige Prestigious Premieres Signatures #5 Kristaps Porzingis /299
When Porzingis was drafted with the fourth pick, he was booed by some Knicks fans at the Draft who simply didn’t know who he was and they wanted a more-established college or high school name. Fast-forward to the beginning of this season and he’s one of the biggest rookies in the NBA and an expensive card. He makes the list because you never know who will perform and also as a reminder that sports — as well as collecting — is a global game.
2015 Topps Dynasty Autograph Patches #KB Kris Bryant /5
Had Buzz readied yearly awards (that will wait until next year), Topps Dynasty would be a contender for the best of the best despite its one card per pack and the price tag attached. For iconic year-defining choices, it’s hard to pass up a card of the year’s iconic rookie in a set like this one.
2014-15 Panini Eminence Gilded Graphs Silver #33 Andrew Wiggins
The reactions to a $6,000 box of basketball cards were strong — and the possibilities for what NBA cards can sell for have been pushed to their limits by this guy, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year. (Think small car in terms of many of his sales.) Will Eminence come back? Will it become a reality in other sports? Only Panini knows — and this Panini product is one that certainly is representative of the high-priced possibilities in the hobby today.
2015 Immaculate Collection Immaculate Jumbo Cleats #15 Ichiro Suzuki /1
If Buzz had to pick one brand of cards that helped change things in the hobby in 2015 it might be Immaculate and its jumbo memorabilia cards. This card is a high-end representative of those found in the brand — and they don’t have to be this impressive to be impressive. Consider that they aren’t the only cards in the boxes they come from — there’s some safety in numbers in the boxes — and that also makes Immaculate one for collectors to ponder. (If you can’t do a box, there are certainly some great bargains singles-wise.)
2015 Diamond Kings Minis Framed Materials #13 Babe Ruth /10
Babe Ruth’s game-used memorabilia returned in the Donruss/Panini America lineup for the first time in a decade when Diamond Kings arrived this year. The instances where game-used jersey/pants pieces of legends like this guy will become rarer and rarer in the future. Why? Simply because those items will continue to become pricier and pricier and potentially too much for even card companies to consider buying. Consider finding one while you can.
2015 Topps WWE Undisputed NXT In Line Autos Black #NASB Sasha Banks /50
When Topps took the WWE high-end for the first time with Undisputed, it was still a very-affordable $20 a pack for an autograph inside every single time. The lineup was a who’s who of WWE past and present with the young stars of NXT like Banks here among the cards with potential.
2015 Topps Allen and Ginter Framed Mini Autographs #AGARBA Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
Allen & Ginter has been a brand that’s been full of surprises for a decade and its 10th release was one that included quite a few of them — even though they weren’t easy to find. Among them were cards and autographs of the Rocky movie franchise. Why? Why not?
2015 Topps Five Star Autographs Rainbow #FSAI Ichiro Suzuki
Topps landed Ichiro Suzuki autographs for the first time beginning in the middle of this year, giving fans a chance at his ink as well as standard cards that he hadn’t appeared on in recent years. While he made his ink debut elsewhere, this Five Star card is one that’s so clean and impressive it had to make Buzz’s list.
2015 Topps Archives Will Ferrell #WF1 Will Ferrell
When the comedian played 10 positions with 10 different MLB teams during a single day in spring training, we all knew it was a publicity stunt with a cause. Thankfully that also translated into cardboard with a card for all 10 teams in Topps Archives — cards that were not hard to pull, either, meaning we all had a chance to collect them. (The autographs were just there if we got really, really lucky.)
2015 Topps Star Wars: The Force Awakens Series 1 Mystery Autograph Redemption (Daisy Ridley)
We all know Star Wars owned the worlds of marketing and merchandising well before it opened on Dec. 18. After making billion dollars at the box office globally — and there’s plenty more money to come since it’s been out less than two weeks — there’s no doubting that this card, the biggest card of the bunch for Star Wars, makes the list. It’s good for the first certified autograph of the new lead for a franchise that will always be around.
Who would make your list? Did Buzz miss any obviously iconic cards? Tell us in the comments.
Follow Buzz on Twitter @BlowoutBuzz or send email to BlowoutBuzz@blowoutcards.com.