DIGITAL DABBLINGS #22 – December Review

By William M. Noetling, PWTorch Specialist

Just a reminder, this column is now a monthly and will take a look back at the previous month’s worth of releases with commentary and pricing speculation added.  I will also have a very special bonus column looking at 2017 year in review in the very near future (it’s already half written), so stay tuned for that.  We’re almost to the one year mark of this column, and I’m still pumped up to keep it going, so let’s see where we’re at three weeks prior to the big Winter Tent-Pole event, The Royal Rumble!

Once again Topps released a huge amount of product last month, along with a lot of holiday specific sets, we got a lack-luster PPV set and a couple extremely limited releases.

December 2017 New Sets:
  • WWE Universe (14 daily cards + award)
  • Boom Comics Wave 7 (4 cards)
  • Topps Illustrated (7 cards + award)
  • NXT Wave 1 (48 roster + award, 49 base + award, 8 Signatures + award, 12 reprint signatures)
  • Undisputed Dream Matches (9 cards + award)
  • Triumph Wave 3 & 4 (8 daily cards each + award for each, and 1 overall award)
  • Clash of Champions PPV (20 base, 4 sigs [3 single, 1 dual], predictors/awards/diamond incentives) + Topps Now
  • 12 Days of Slam Motion Cards (12 daily cards + award)
  • Ugly Sweaters (27 daily cards + 3 awards) – 3 per day
  • Heritage 2017 Wave 3 (27 base cards + award, 10 signature + award, 9 Bizarre SummerSlam + award)
  • Breakouts (10 daily cards + award)
  • Christmas 2017 (5 cards + award)
  • Kiss Cards Wave 2 & 3 (3 cards total)
  • Boxing Day (5 cards + award)
  • High Caliber (15 cards, base, silver signature and gold signature)
  • Blizzard 2017 (7 cards + award, 2 variants)
  • Pink Base Set (110 cards + 4 awards, 50cc each)
  • Undisputed Wave 3 Signatures (10 cards + award)
 Personalized Live Signatures
  • Becky Lynch (delayed)
  • Bobby Roode
  • Daniel Bryan (delayed)
  • Sami Zayn
 VIP Signatures
  • Edge
  • Undertaker One-Off Insert (1500cc)
 Base Variants
  • Gold Rush – Mr. Perfect
  • Headlines #8-12 + award 2 –  Dean Ambrose, Neville (award #2), Sasha Banks, Bayley, Shelton Benjamin, Booker T
  • Fuel #7-10  Aliyah, Bobby Fish, Kalisto, Randy Orton
  • NXT Series 2 #6-9 Velveteen Dream, Angelo Dawkins, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly
New Insert Set Checklists
WWE Universe
  1. Kevin Owens
  2. Paige
  3. The Big Show
  4. Singh Brothers
  5. Brock Lesnar
  6. Tye Dillinger
  7. Apollo Crews
  8. Elias
  9. Jinder Mahal
  10. Goldust
  11. Kalisto
  12. Mojo Rawley
  13. Natalya
  14. Shelton Benjamin
      Award – Braun Strowman (3371cc)
Triumph Wave 2
  1. Goldberg
  2. Roderick Strong
  3. Maria Kanellis
  4. Jey Uso
  5. Viktor
  6. Tony Nese
  7. Epico
  8. Dean Malenko
      Award – Ultimate Warrior (1844 cc)

Triumph Wave 3
  1. Alicia Fox
  2. Steve Cutler
  3. Ariya Daivari
  4. Eric Rowan
  5. Nigel Mcguiness
  6. Primo Colon
  7. The Honky Tonk Man
  8. Sunil Singh
      Award – Rusev (has yet to be issued as of 1/2/2018)
Topps Illustrated
Level 1
  1. John Cena
  2. Dean Ambrose
  3. Kane
Level 2
  1. Sting
  2. Dusty Rhodes
  3. Enzo Amore
  4. Roman Reigns
      Award – Shawn Michaels (184cc)
Boom Wave 7 “WWE #4”
  1. Roman Reigns
  2. Chris Jericho
  3. Sting
  4. Royal Rumble
 Undisputed Dream Matches
  • Award – D1 Undertaker vs. Sting (144cc)
  • D2 – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Goldberg
  • D3 – Brock Lesnar vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
  • D4 – The Rock vs. Shawn Michaels (UER – Front shows Rock vs. Michaels, back is the same as D5)
  • D5 – Eddie Guerrero vs. Shawn Michaels
  • D6 – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. John Cena
  • D7 – Bret “the Hitman” Hart vs. Edge
  • D8 – Goldberg vs. The Undertaker
  • D9 – Batista vs. Brock Lesnar
  • D10 – Daniel Bryan vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
 12 Days of Slam Motion Cards (12 cards + award)
  1. Chris Jericho
  2. Nia Jax
  3. Bray Wyatt
  4. Beth Phoenix
  5. Carmella
  6. Bobby Roode
  7. Tyler Breeze
  8. Shinsuke Nakamura
  9. Roman Reigns
  10. Paige
  11. Sasha Banks
  12. Ric Flair
      Award – The New Day (yet to be issued)
Ugly Sweaters
1-3 Alexa Bliss
4-6 Matt Hardy
7-9 Becky Lynch
10-12 Braun Strowman
13-15 Mickie James
16-18 Natalya
19-21 AJ Styles
22-24 Renee Young
25-27 Sasha Banks
Award 1-3 Finn Balor (499cc each)
  1. Hideo Itami
  2. Drew Gulak
  3. Jason Jordan
  4. Kairi Sane
  5. Mandy Rose
  6. Ruby Riott
  7. Tian Bing
  8. Montez Ford
  9. Adam Cole
  10. Killian Dane
      Award – Asuka (yet to be issued)

Christmas 2017
  1. Alexa Bliss
  2. Bayley
  3. Becky Lynch
  4. Seth Rollins
  5. Shawn Michaels
      Award – John Cena (1522cc)
Signature/Kiss Cards (250cc)
3.  Alexa Bliss (Wave 2)
4.  Dasha Fuentes (Wave 2)
5.  Alicia Fox (Wave 3)
Boxing Day
  1. Bobby Roode
  2. Eric Young
  3. Pete Dunne
  4. Tyler Bate
  5. William Regal
      Award – Bret “The Hitman” Hart (905cc)
Blizzard (2 variants)
  1. Batista
  2. Matt Hardy
  3. Tomasso Ciampa
  4. Booker T
  5. Maryse
  6. Nikki Bella
  7. No Way Jose
      Award – Stone Cold Steve Austin (yet to be issued)
When comparing months, on paper it looks like December releases were actually fewer than November, but there were several more high-end releases this month which sent collectors into a frenzy chasing their favorite performers.  The main culprit was “High Caliber” which was a 15 card set with 3 variants, a base, a silver signature and a gold signature.  Both the base and silver signatures were limited to 75cc each, while the gold signature topped out at 5cc.  Packs were only available for diamond purchase and they weren’t cheap, initially costing 38,000 diamonds (or roughly about $150 in cash) then dropping to 27,000 diamonds when the gold signature sold out, which they did in about 5 minutes.  Each pack got you a full set of silver base and silver signatures though, so you did get a lot of bang for your buck.  On the secondary market the gold signatures were the clear winner, with legends singles selling for a minimum of $50 apiece, and the active stars commanding much, much more.  Many players griped about the fact that their single player collections were now broken because they would never be able to afford a 5cc gold signature, and while the performer selection wasn’t the best, it still has Sasha Banks, Trish Stratus, Randy Orton and John Cena.  It also has less popular cards like Eve, Mr. Perfect, Jerry the King Lawler and Eddie Guerrero.  Silver Signatures of legends will run you $7-10, while the active men are slightly higher, with ladies going for $15-20.  Base singles are few bucks.  

Oh and before I forget, there’s an error in the High Caliber set as well.  Card #13208 (did you know each card has its own number on the back in the right hand corner) is supposed to be a Gold Signature of Stone Cold Steve Austin, but the front of the card shows Sasha Banks.  I would imagine at some point this will be fixed, but who knows if they will actually fix it.  The silver base and signature of Stone Cold appear just fine.
High Caliber in the long-term may have damaged the brand more than it did any good.  Quite a few collectors who are already upset over the introduction of diamonds as a premium currency decided to swear off the game all together because of the high-end set.  Some calling it a “fiasco”.  My take is this: in virtually every game app out there you can buy power-ups to make your game play more enjoyable.  MOST games can be played without ever making a purchase, and such is the case with all the Topps apps too, however to get a full experience you need to make a small purchase here and there.  
Premium content in digital apps is nothing new, and therefore I don’t really understand the griping about High Caliber.  Sure I didn’t buy any, nor did I even attempt to trade for any, despite the fact that one of my hoard performers is featured (Chris Jericho).  Due to my playing of Bunt and Star Wars before playing Slam I knew right away there would never be any point where I would be able to or could be able to collect every card, or even every card of my favorites.  I am quite OK with this prospect.  Sure I’d like to have a complete player set, but there are many more important things in life, and if the card that I’m missing is just another variant of a card I do already own, then what’s the big deal?  
Completionism is a disease in my book, and not only that, Topps is well aware that collectors “gotta catch them all” and will stop at nothing to fleece money out of your wallets.  They are the masters of the color variant with diminishing cc levels.  There are currently THREE Finn Balor variant cards that were only available as incentives to buy $100 diamond bundles.  Now I may have spent over $100 in November on Slam (though I may not have depending on who’s actually reading this), but that was a total anomaly and I cut back appropriately in December.  That said I’ll never drop $100 in one fell swoop on this game.  I simply cannot justify it.  I can justify a weekly $3-5 to keep my collection going as long as I’m gainfully employed.  So unless I’m extremely lucky I’ll probably never own those Balor cards.  I’ll never own the 33cc NYCC Off the Panels award either.  Once again I’m OK with this.  I have variants of all those cards, and the only difference is the color of the design.  If you absolutely have to have every card of someone, pick a performer who isn’t that popular and doesn’t have a lot of low cc cards.  I know there’s at least one R-Truth collector out there.
The other high end set was released just after Christmas and was a partial base variant set in Pink color.  Last year the Pink set was released for Susan J. Koman month, but I guess this year they decided to go earlier…or later.  Not sure which.  In any case, each Pink base is limited to 50 cc, and of course they sold out in minutes at 600 diamonds for 3 guaranteed, or 1500 diamonds for a pack of 3 undisputed wave 3 sigs and 5 pink guaranteed.  Now usually when they sell out Topps is pretty quick to remove packs from the store, but this time they failed to do so and several collectors complained that they bought guaranteed packs and got nothing due to the sell-out.  Topps has a disclaimer on every pack that says even though it’s “guaranteed” it’s only while supply lasts, so unfortunately those players are out of luck.  Pink commons are going for $2-4, while the most popular women have commanded up to $20 for a single.  
For the uber-whales Personalized Live Signatures returned this month after a several month hiatus, and of course there’s some controversy involved here as well.  Right after the tickets went on sale (for a reduced price over the last set I might add) Topps announced that both the Daniel Bryan and Becky Lynch personalizations wouldn’t be forthcoming any time soon as a scheduling conflict arose.  Sure that’s beyond Topps control, but come on already.  These cards already cost players at least $150 or more.  Oh and they gave away a few cards, and some didn’t even sell out, so this batch there are 8 Sami Zayn, the second lowest number of personalized sigs (there are 6 Kevin Owens for the record).  Until they do a Bret Hart or Finn Balor personalized sig, I will completely ignore these.  

NXT got some more love this month with the release of the physical-to-digital NXT set, which while marked “wave 1” actually contained the entire roster and base set that were released in physical packs.  This issue was generally well received, however, the signature set of 8 cards disappeared from packs very early on when the included “reprint live sigs” sold out and never came back.  So while they were supposed to be limited to 750cc each in actuality less than half of those actually fell into collector’s hands.  The Finn Balor award signature came in at 135cc, and is now the 4th lowest cc for a single Finn award.  I would imagine there will be a wave 2 of this set, but it might only feature signatures and relics, since the physical set of signatures is 39 singles plus there are multiple relics sets to choose from; I would think the remaining Wave 1 signatures will be available as well, since Topps has been throwing in unsold signatures into later packs.  They did it with Undisputed and Heritage most recently.
Speaking of Heritage, a third wave of 2017 Heritage was released and again the set was pretty lackluster.  Yet another Finn single led the lineup of 10 sigs, which also included a Liv Morgan, Becky Lynch, Ember Moon and Natalya.  The men were represented by Undertaker and Goldberg amongst others.  I’m pretty sure none of the 10 (plus the Sting award) were new signers.  
Every one of Topps apps celebrated the 2017 holiday season in some fashion, with all of their apps giving double the daily coins for almost the entire month.  Some of them even gave out free sets!  In fact, Slam, UFC and Kick were the only apps NOT to give out free cards.  So while Star Wars fans were rejoicing in their new movie, we got 12 days of Christmas motion cards, Ugly Sweaters, Christmas and Boxing Day sets.  The motion cards seemed to be quite popular if they were a bit underwhelming, as the motion was just lights around the border blinking on and off.  Ugly Sweaters saw a lot of action since once again the award was a set of Finn Balor cards, but if you were lucky you could get each days’ set of 3 cards for under $2 on eBay.  The five card Christmas set was a nice addition and the cards were well designed, and Boxing Day made a nice return with a lot higher CC than last year and Bret Hart was the award for a second year running.  I still get offers on singles from last year, which I’ll never trade away since I am loathe to break a set once I’ve finished it.

A new wave of Boom Comics Covers hit and was promptly forgotten about.  I missed this month, so I’ll have to go back and acquire them so my collection remains complete.  Because there is no individual wave award these aren’t that tough to obtain.  Topps Illustrated was released early in the month and used the special kind of hell that is a two-level insert program.  Level 1s are easy to collect and anyone can since they’re in coin packs, even at long odds.  The Level 2 cards though are behind the paywall in diamond packs, and of course you needed all 7 inserts to get the award.  I say either put the entire set behind the paywall or forget it.  A full set of 7 plus the award has sold for $20, with the HBK award having an asking price of $10.  The level 2 cards topped out at $5 apiece while the level 1 set of 3 can be had for a buck.
The extremely popular Kiss/Signature cards made a return for a second month with three new issues and still no award announced.  Of the three this month Alexa Bliss is clearly the winner, with her cards selling for almost $50.  Dasha is the “dog” of the bunch, you can get hers for about $10.  

Blizzard returned for a second go-around right after Christmas, and this time it’s got 2 variants, an easy to find Black and a paywall Blue motion card that shows a snow-flurry on the front.  It’s actually a better effect than the lights on the 12 Days cards.  The paywall isn’t even that steep, 25 diamond packs have a 1:3 chance at a black and 1:20 at a blue.  

Lower end sets include WWE Universe and Breakouts, both of which are available in 1000 coin packs at very reasonable odds.  Neither of these sets will ever set the game on fire, but it’s nice to see that Topps can release easy to collect sets that won’t break the bank.  Triumph falls into this category as well, but it has four waves to collect and has a 20K coin pack that guarantees an insert.  The three ongoing marathons also continued this month with nothing really special to say about any of the issues.  

So that wraps up December 2017, next time I’ll take a special look at the entire year in review.

Don’t forget you can find me in game at GRENDELSEN, and I’m always happy to trade or answer any questions you might have.  Leave questions or concerns here and I’ll see you next time.

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