Our Favorite 2011 Trading Cards
With 2011 coming to a close, several of the Cardboard Connection staff sat down and made their picks for the top sets to come out in the last 12 months.
by Brad Campbell
Taking in consideration that there are several products that could be at the top of my list, it came down to a simple idea. This was the most fun for me to open all year! It was true to its name, Tribute. The checklist pays its respects to the game of baseball, mixing current and future Hall of Famers. It is expensive, no denying that, but it delivered with stunning autographs and relics that left my jaw dropped.
by Doug Cataldo
Perhaps the only product that truly delivers what you pay for. You want high-end racing gear and signatures? You get it. Made in limited numbers, the raced-used pieces use prime NASCAR gear. To top it off, the cards keep their secondary market value.
There's no fodder. You get nothing but the best in the business. Every box I've opened has delivered more than I hoped it would. It doesn't get better than that.
by Ryan Cracknell
I'm a sucker for nostalgia. No set has ever captured it like 2011 Topps American Pie. A pop culture potpourri, the set brings together major events from the past 65 years. There's nothing like ripping into a pack and finding out about John Lennon, Roswell and the Hell's Angels. Toss in some Walk of Fame inserts of Mr. Rogers and several other inserts and you've got value and fun.
A huge plus is that Topps was able to use editorial photos to cover the events and not more generic ones. So when you get a card about Seinfeld, you actually get a card with the cast. Likewise for cards about Jimi Hendrix, Vincent Price, Wheel of Fortune and Kurt Cobain.
Oddly enough, the hits are irrelevant in this set. Even the best reality TV stars are already B-list celebrities in my book. American Pie relies too heavily on second tier reality stars and other celebrities who have appeared in several other sets. I'm a huge Goonies fan, but how many Sean Astin autographs do we need? Even worse are the wardrobe cards, which don't come from any specific film or event. They're straight from the closet to the card.
Even my wife wanted to look through these cards. I don't see how there could be any greater endorsement for a set.
by Paul Lesko
My favorite product this year was a surprise. I mainly collect baseball prospects. So, every year I look forward to the Bowman, Bowman Chrome and Bowman Draft products. For the first time, these products were not my favorites. I was also looking forward to Leaf Metal Draft and Valiant. I appreciated the deep checklists, lack of base cards I'd never have to look at, multiple hits per box and on-card autographs. However, the images and lack of MLB uniforms put these products slightly behind Bowman. I really enjoyed Topps Pro Debut, but was disappointed by the lack of on-card autos.
So, what was my favorite? 2011 Topps Tier One. While not a prospect-driven product, the card stock, on-card autos, quality memorabilia cards (with good, understandable disclaimers), simply designed cards and checklist that mixed a wide-variety of legends, current stars and rookies clinched it for me.
I busted one box, and even though it only took me two minutes to get through it, I was hooked. I've had more fun recounting this box break and the cards I received from Tier One than any other product this year. Did I mention, I received a dual relic for Sandy Koufax? It's funny, coming from a prospector, that my favorite pull of the year was from a legend and not a rookie.
by Trey Treutel
There were a lot of great products this year. After a decent amount of thought, I believe the best product is 2010-11 Panini Totally Certified Basketball. My decision is based on several factors, including value, "chase" factor, innovation and the overall enjoyment.
First, the product boasts six hits per box, which works out to one per pack. The expected haul includes at least two autographs and four memorabilia cards. If you took notice of the decreased prices during the lockout, boxes were selling for $70-80 online. At that price, the value was even greater. Now, post-lockout, most of the prices are around $90. In spite of this increase, the value's still there. Next, the "chase" factor is very high for this product because of the strong parallel sets. There has been much interest among the Green (#/5) and Black (#/1) variations. Based on the popularity of the variations, comparisons have already been made to the Precious Metal Gems of the 1990s. While clearly not on the same level as PMGs, the cards have sold well online.
In terms of innovation, Panini has not normally shown itself to be on the forefront of the hobby. In spite of this, they were able to draw a lot of positive attention for the HRX video cards that made their debut in Totally Certified. Although Upper Deck released the first video cards in the industry, Panini's video cards have emerged as the more popular and valuable of the two. I was not fortunate enough to pull a redemption, but it still adds to the hunt.
Lastly, the overall enjoyment was very strong. The cards have a good look and the various colors of the parallels added to that appeal. Also, it is fun to know that every pack has a guaranteed hit. Combine all those positives, plus the chance for on-card autographed rookie cards for less than $100 and you have my favorite set of 2011.
by Chuck Vanderbilt
My favorite product to come out in 2011 was Topps Tribute. A high-end set that included three autographed relics and three multi-relic cards per box, Tribute packed a serious punch.It gave collectors a chance at hits of true baseball legends, including Sandy Koufax, who signed his first cards in several years for this set. Everything in 2011 Topps Tribute is limited, including the base cards.
Since its release, prices of unopened boxes have nearly doubled from $250 to their present level of more than $400. Fans of this product will be foaming at the mouth for the 2012 set, which will include autographs from Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.
What were your favorite sets this year? Let us know in the comments below.