2009 Topps National Chicle Football Review

Our video review of this product can be found in the post right below or on our YouTube channel! Or, if you’re especially daring, why not try the original, unedited, too-hot-long-for-YouTube version over on our Viddler channel?! Or, if you’re confused by all the confounded technology mentioned there, read this review:

In 1992, at the ripe old age of 11, I decided to embark upon a project. This was to be an historic and momentous project that would set the art world on its head and begin my career as a comic book artist. I was going to draw portraits of one superstar from every major league team. Yes, the journey would be long and hard (LOL), but I would preservere and complete these portraits as a testament to my love for the game and dedication to being an artist.

I did about three of them. Then I gave up my dream of being a real artist and went to film school. The point is, someone must have found those portraits in the trash, because somehow the form and style I developed on those three drawings has infiltrated the sports card world. You see, Topps National Chicle contains many cards obviously inspired by my 11 year old handiwork. Cases in point:

These are, without doubt, some of the worst drawings I’ve ever seen. There’s been much talk of the abominations in the forthcoming Chicle baseball set, but let us not underestimate the ugliness of the football set. About 80% of the base cards are of this caliber. The other 20% are actually really really good. But it’s too little too late:

I especially like the Montana, and the stylized background of the Sanchez is pretty cool too, even if the throwback jerseys (as on the Ware) can be somewhat distracting. If the whole set looks like this, I’m writing a very different review. As it stands, it’s hard to get past the pretty awful artwork.

But get past it I must, because I’ve got more to complain about! First and foremost: parallels! Here’s a look at the one-per-pack mini parallels and one of the several parallels of the parallel:

The gold-bordered beauty is the standard mini. Pretty cool- I’d go for a set of those little guys. Oh, but wait? A white-bordered parallel seeded 1 in 6 packs? AND it has a different back?! Sign me up! WAIT! Another parallel of the parallel (not shown here because they’re effing identical), this one with Bazooka Joe on the back, seeded 1 in 12 packs?! BUTWAITTHERE’SMORE! Umbrella backs? WTF are those? Seeded 1 in 92 packs?! OMG, gotta get ’em all!!!1

Or I’ll just ignore them because they’re just excuses to make more packs full of ugly base cards. Oh, and these inserts:

There’s not really anything wrong with these inserts- honestly. You’ve got yourself the standard superstar insert set, the young guys set, and the nostalgia set (hey, remember 2008?!). There’s also a Greats of the Gridiron set highlighting retired players , which are the hardest pulls of the normal inserts- we got Elway and Sanders. Perfectly respectable selection in all of these. My only issue is that they’re nearly identical to the base cards in style. Sure, they’re different paintings (and I legitimately like all these three pictured here), but they’re just not differentiated enough. The simple design does appeal to me, but I’d love to see what they could do to set these apart- maybe one artist does each set and chooses a particular background style to be consistent across the inserts… or they go together to form a bigger picture or something. I just want to feel like some more thought went into these than an order to “paint another LT picture and we’ll use the good one for the isnert instead of the base.” All told, these are relatively satisfying, albeit difficult to collect as there are 50 cards throughout the 4 sets I’ve mentioned here. We’re talking a 10 box break just for a chance at getting them all. But my guess is that these will be pretty cheap in a couple of weeks, so don’t go ordering that case just yet!

Rounding out the inserts is one that’s bound to elicit some groans:

Normally, I’m not a fan of non-sport inserts (or base for that matter) in sports sets. The hamburger card from Mayo was hilarious and all, but I’d rather have had another veteran or something. But this is just one insert set of 14 cards highlighting the era in which the Chicle cards were originally made. And, truth be told, the artwork on these inserts is some of my favorite in the set. They appear to be photographs with some filters on them and stylized backgrounds- I think they look great and the truest to the era’s design and style. This one of Hoover Dam looks like a watercolor I did in 3rd grade (AKA: it’s awesome). I’m totally fine with this insert set. And, since it’s an insert set, there aren’t 4 different parallels of it! Yay!

In the two boxes we busted (one of which is available in video form), we got the requisite 4 autos and 2 “relics.” Of course, we got the (no joke) worst autos in the set:

Ugh. Unnumbered sticker autos of some young guys that didn’t pan out. Am I opening a box of 2003 Bowman Draft? The relics were a little more interesting at least:

Of course, by “interesting” I mean “Randy Moss is pretty good” and “WTF is a baseball card doing in this football set” or “WTF is this worthless stamp doing on a card that calls itself a relic? Sadly, the best hit of the two boxes was this:

No, that’s not Brett Favre’s signature on-card there. It’s not even Derrick Mason. It’s artist Brett Farr (who, upon further research, is responsible for a good 75% of the terrible sketches in this set). It’s a #/10 Artist Proof and it’s on Derrick Mason’s chest. I can’t tell you how much more I would enjoy a Derrick Mason auto. In reality, I can’t complain about this card though, as it didn’t count towards our auto total in the box- it’s essentially a bonus (as is the cabinet card artist auto we also pulled but did not open because it’s really easy to see through the box-topper packaging). But, even as a bonus, it’s a disappointment. The only on-card autos are the artists who are signing versions of the card that aren’t really any different than the National Chicle back variations. I’m sure Brett Farr’s a great guy and all… but my guess is he’d be happy to sign a card for you if you sent it to him. So this doesn’t impress me a ton. If it was an auto’d printing plate or silk version, that would be much cooler. Even a canvas-style card with the auto would be cool- just something to give it that “artist’s touch” that just a plain thin-stock retro-themed card just doesn’t give.

I’ve been pretty harsh on this set. It’s just hard to get past the low quality of the majority of the paintings. I’ve read all the posts and interviews with the artists saying that they don’t have the time to do them right and all that, and I want to be very clear that I’m not bashing the artists here. If Topps wants to create an all-painted set, they need to step up the game on their end: give the artists the time they need to create high quality paintings, pay them appropriately and put some serious quality control in place. The minor issues I pointed out (inserts too much like base, parallel fever, etc.) and getting quite possibly the worst selection of “hits” didn’t do much to help my opinion (though I’m trying to be fair, even with the sloth-eyed Nate Davis staring me down). Bottom line is that this set’s one to avoid unless your favorite players won the “not-looking-like-a-frightened-wildebeast” lottery and got a good painting). Scores below, followed by breakdown of our two boxes.

Design – *
Set Collecting – **
Inserts – **
Hits – *
Overall – ** out of 5


Base set (including unknown SPs): 180/200 (90%)

Dups: 124

Short Prints (1:6): Unknown

National Chicle back mini parallels (1:6): 8

Bazooka back mini parallels (1:12): 4 (Brady, Marshall, E. Manning, McCoy)

Youngsters of the Gridiron (1:4):  12

Stars of the Gridiron (1:6): 7 (1 dup)

Greats of the Gridiron (1:24): 2 (Elway, B. Sanders)

Greatest Thrills (1:12): 4

Era Icons (1:3): 15 (6 dups)

National Chicle Autographs Group D (1:56): 2 (Mike Goodson, Nate Davis)

National Chicle Autographs Group E (1:25): 2 (Andrew Brown, Jarret Dillard)

National Chicle Relics Group B (1:25): 1 (Moss)

Era Icons Relics Group B (1:139): 1 (Yankee Stadium Ruth stamp)

Artist’s Proof (1:232): 1 (Farr)

8 comments to 2009 Topps National Chicle Football Review

  • jay


    Very in depth post, and I know how time consuming such a detailed review can be. I guess my question is why go through the hassle of purchasing such an expensive box of cards ($160.00) that your obviously not going to be happy with, and then post such an in depth review on it? Not to sound like a jerk, but the scans have been up since last year. I could understand if this was movie that you heard was bad, and you had to see for yourself how bad it really was, but this is a 160.00 box of cards were talking about. Giving a bad review to me is a form of honesty, and even more justifiable when the box is sponsored by a corporation, but in this case you paid for it out of pocket so I call Shenanaigans. I will be the first to admit that I wouldn’t collect some of the art in this product, but is it bad? Im not sure. There is a following for most everything these days, and some of the most poorly received art can be highly collectable to others. I hope I didn’t offend you, because I think you guys are very creative, and heading in the right direction with this blog. From one artist, to another, to, another we should try to be a little more sensitive about how we judge each others work, because unlike eleven year olds adults have bills to pay.


    • Jay-
      First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to write a response. We’re new to the blogosphere/cyberspace/internet superhighway, so feedback is absolutely crucial and most definitely helpful!
      Secondly, let me address some of the points I think you’re trying to make directly here:

      1. Why spend a bunch of our own money on these cards when we knew they would be so bad? As I mentioned, we’re new to this. I haven’t bought a box of cards since some Heritage in 2006 or so. And even that was a departure- I was a collector in the mid- to late-eighties and early nineties. In fact, I’ve never bought a single pack of football cards in my life until Jon and I bought three football boxes for the sole purpose of reviewing (Jon’s Philadelphia and my Magic review will be up in due time). We ordered these cards specifically to review them- we knew we needed content for the site and thought the opinions of a couple guys without much experience with modern wax might prove useful to people considering buying the product. Sometimes that means taking one in ye olde chin, but I’m braced and ready to have my ass handed to me by any product out there!

      2. “You paid for it out of pocket so I call Shenanigans” I may be misinterpreting this (and please feel free to correct me if I am), but it sounds like you’re suggesting we bought these to have a laugh at the artists’ expense. Neither Jon nor I saw any more info about these cards than what we saw on the Dave & Adam’s sell sheet before we bought them. We’d just come off a really enjoyable break of some Magic and Philly and thought we’d keep the retro streak alive. Plus, I love Heritage and there’s a similar vibe here. I read 0 posts about how sucky this set was going to be (and the baseball images had been released before we pre-ordered). In fact, I’ve only read two posts about Chicle since we opened these two boxes (Gellman’s predictably scathing review of a handful of scans and Gellman making fun of some more singles). If you really think we’re busting $160 worth of wax just for a chuckle on YouTube, you’ve vastly overestimated both our marketing acumen and our income! The bottom line is that I’m not going to put my own good money down on a product unless I think there’s a decent chance that it will be a good product. This isn’t going to see a bad movie to see how bad it was- this is going to see Die Hard 4 thinking it might be as good as Die Hard 3. Plus, if our integrity as reviewers is in question (which it should be since we’re so new) please bear in mind that we’re also trying to sell these cards to try and recoup our expenses for the break. Giving a product a two star rating isn’t helping us clear out the stock of these cards any, that’s for sure. If Topps decides to send us boxes at some point, maybe some of these questions will be cleared up. But for now, we’ll keep buying with our guts and hope we get to put up more 4 star reviews than 2 star ones.

      3. “We should try to be a little more sensitive about how we judge each others work…” Here’s the only point where I’ve got to legitimately disagree. This break/review (and all such breaks/reviews you’ll see here) was done in good faith. The goal of paying money out of our own pockets to do breaks and reviews is to offer people a look at a product and our own opinions on it. I’ve got absolutely nothing to lose by giving my honest opinion about it. If I give anything other than that, what’s the point? I may not have made it clear enough in my review, but my problem with this set is less the art or the artists than it is Topps- if they want an all-painted set, they need to budget time and money for that set appropriately. And to your point that adults have to pay the bills, I assure you that I understand that as much as the next guy. But these guys are billing themselves as professional artists. And, with that billing, comes the expectation of a certain level of quality. To my eye, those expectations were not met on 100% of these cards. We’re the consumer here- we’re the client. We get to decide where that bar is and we vote with our dollars. I threw away my votes on this product and that’s totally fine- it’s part of the game. But where’s the percentage in censoring myself? Who am I trying to protect? The artists? I shoot videos for a living. Here, check some of them out: Transit Studios When I give you that link, I’m giving you license to judge and that’s a fact of art that’s existed since the beginning of time. Now, when I give you that license, I’m obviously hoping that you’ll enjoy them and encourage me to continue my work- that would be great! But if you tell me my videos are crap (or you’re nice about it and say they’re not up to the level you expected, all I can do is go cry in the corner, tell you to go to hell because you don’t know what art is or (and this is my preferred method) thank you for the feedback and then decide whether I want to incorporate that feedback into my work going forward. Was I harsh on Brett Farr? I really was. And I honestly do feel kind of bad about it. I’m sure he’s an awesome guy and I’m not arguing that even the wonkiest of his paintings is better that my wonk-ass could paint. I also know that he didn’t have enough time to do these right. I know that Topps was too demanding. But when Topps came knocking and he figured out that he wasn’t going to have the time to do these right or that he wouldn’t get to do revisions, he had a decision to make. Without the proper amount of time and/or resources to do the best work he could do, he was setting himself up for the possibility that the result might not show off his skills and may, in fact, damage his reputation as a professional artist. Or he could decline the gig and deal with the ramifications that might entail (i.e. asking mom for money, eating ramen for 3 months straight, living in a basement apartment for 3 years with those creepy centipede things, etc… sadly, I have experience with this very decision).

      Point is, artists need to have thick skin. If some asshole on some silly punk rock video blog says my videos are worthless, I’ll be able to handle it. And yeah, I’ll call him an asshole, but somewhere inside, I’ll be thanking him for giving me his honest opinion. My videos aren’t for everyone (just like these Chicle paintings), but everyone’s entitled to their opinion and the right to express that opinion. And I’ll stand by that until this blog is a pathetic skeleton wasting away on archive.org somewhere.

      Now it’s my turn to hope I didn’t offend you- I truly do appreciate your feedback and I look forward to more discussions of this nature in the future. I certainly hope I haven’t come off as some kind of jerk- you and Beardy do great work and are two of the main reasons Jon and I started this place up, so your opinion is very valuable to me. Let’s keep this dialog open!


  • jay


    First of all I would have killed to have a couch spot for the Stadium Club break. I haven’t had a dose of Ultra Premium Photography in a very long time. Christ I’m getting old! Very nice. Thank you for the generous response.

    Now if we could just get the artists on board to further the debate.

    To Be Cont…..

  • Gary

    The good news…your review is spot on and hilarious (I peed a little when I read the phrase “sloth-eyed Nate Davis”.
    The bad news…I JUST read the review, after having purchased and opened a box of these little atrocities. Worst box ever. At least your “relic” had Babe Ruth on the stamp. Mine had a stamp of the Boulder Dam! “Dam!” is what I said when I realized it counted as my relic!!! You say the artwork looks like that of yourself at age 11. I say it looks like the fecal smears of a madman.
    The worse news…Topps has hired the same “artists” to do the baseball version of Chicle.
    The absolutely, positively, worst news…I’m addicted to buying SOME boxes of baseball cards a few times a year, and with the evil empire of Topps now having the baseball card collectors of the world by the short hairs (read: monopoly), I KNOW I’m going to buy a box (or three) of these when they come out. I think I need an intervention.
    The silver lining…I have been introduced to your site, which is awesome. Thanks for the great review.

  • Gary

    By the way, I know that it is generally accepted that all current athletes have sucky-looking autographs, but does Nate Davis feel that his 9-letter name is so long that he needs to just put his initials?

    • Thanks for the comments, Gary! Too bad we couldn’t spare you the cost of that box! As it happens, our Chicle singles have been selling all right on our SportsLots.com account so all may not be lost! Looks like some people are putting the set together after all- just let us know if you need any singles! Glad to have you as a reader- let us know if there’s a review you’d like to see and keep an eye out for our first ever contest this week!

  • Man, some of these just look terrible..you have every right to be harsh on them.

  • […] will not be a hit. It may be destined to be this year’s Chicle- the one everyone bashes (including us) but that sells just like all the rest of them do. The name doesn’t bother me like it does […]

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