On the Radar: 2016 Panini Encased Football

If anyone wonders why I bash Panini like a pinata any chance I get, this set is prime example. Over the course of 2016, Panini has done absolutely nothing to show they deserve the NFL exclusive, and seeing this new product is even more evidence that they probably dont deserve to have any licenses. Their continued obsession with these goofy looking awkward posed photos is nauseating, and I am literally sitting here laughing that someone on their product team green lighted this disaster.

What is even more concerning is that they dont seem to see the writing on the wall when it comes to developing new brands. Shit like this product wont bring new innovation to the table, as it is literally the same garbage they put out regularly with a new name. Its one thing to put together a white dominated design, which can work if done right. Its another thing to use a super zoom photo of a player’s back that was already used in Prizm and looked terrible there too.

I hate this. I knew this is what the Panini exclusive would amount to, and the look on Jared Goff’s face is that of how I am taking this first year under the Panini banner. What should have been an absolutely incredible year is marred with overproduction, terrible designs, and new products that make 2012 Bowman Draft look like its a worthwhile product. I never believed that Panini would literally take a nose dive off the deep end, but here we are.

I could only imagine what would happen if Topps were still around to take Panini to task, as digital is showing that the brands we love would have been amazing in a physical world. Instead we are left with a visual that looks like the port-a-potty outside a tailgate. Yup, that’s how bad football is right now. Pretty horrible picture in your head, and that’s not even putting it close to the car accident that represents Panini’s attempt at a product calendar.

At first it was bitterness that the sport I love would be dominated by a company that literally does not know how to make good football cards. Now its despair that this is what we will be forced to endure for the next 10 years. My hatred can only be expressed in the 400 point font that they used for Will Fuller’s hideous card in this preview. Fuck us all.

2016 Best and Worst of Football Cards So Far

We are more than halfway through the football card year, and now that the regular season is starting to wrap up, I wanted to talk about some of the things I have really liked about football this year, and what hasnt worked as well. Its actually kind of interesting to look at the product listings on Blowout, as there is still A LOT of red slashes through prices, even though the Cowboys are creating a hobby perfect storm. Here are my thoughts so far.

Leaf Pre-Draft Products – Best

I was kind of scared coming into 2016, as Panini has a history of going off the deep end with their exclusives. As if on cue, Leaf made them look absolutely fucking goofy with Metal Draft and Trinity looking amazing with on card autos, and all of Panini’s products being sticker garbage. Leaf needs to be commended for what they were able to accomplish. Trinity’s inscriptions alone were worth the price of admission, and Tom Brady in the draft product was worth a box break and then some.

Here are some of my favorites:

206 Leaf Trinity Ezekiel Elliott Inscription Auto BGS 9.5

206 Leaf Trinity Dak Prescott Tag Logo Auto 2/5

206 Leaf Trinity Carson Wentz Auto RC BGS 10

Panini Inception Origins – Best

No surprise that Origins was good, it was literally a pound for pound rip off of Topps’ popular product, right down to the design and name. That being said, Panini needed to take note of both the stock and finish of the cards Topps used, because Origins looked cheap. Sadly, there were more 00 jerseys than Topps ever had, with only 5 or 6 players getting their actual jersey numbers. Topps usually waited until the last possible second to go to press, and Panini didnt seem to do that. Either way, since there wasnt a lot of good so far this year, im giving this a thumbs up. Kind of sucks to win by default, but that’s what we are categorizing as a victory.

Some of the better cards:

2016 Origins Ezekiel Elliott / Derrick Henry Dual Auto Booklet /5

2016 Origins Dak Prescott Gold Auto /25

2016 Origins 6 Auto QB Booklet /5

Panini Impeccable – Best

This was one of the only legit bright spots of the entire year. Impeccable is a great product from top to bottom, and looks like I would expect most super premium sets to look like. On card autos, great looking design, nice checklist, and only a few redemptions. I think that if I am building a new set, this is how I look to cultivate a brand. No stupid posed photos, no giant white boxes for the signatures, and overall flow to the set. I loved it.

Check these out:

2016 Impeccable Tom Brady Auto Patch /5

2016 Impeccable Brett Favre Jumbo Patch Auto /10

2016 Impeccable Marcus Mariota Auto Patch /25

All Other Panini New Products – WORST

I literally think the rest of the products Panini created this year are so fucking horrendous that I cant even put enough nasty adjectives in this sentence to describe the shit fest. Unparalleled and Infinity are so bad, that they are already below dealer cost in a year that every product should be selling like hot cakes. Phoenix is even worse, with one of the worst looking designs I have ever seen. I still dont understand why its called Phoenix either? Then lets talk about Gala, which isnt 100% new, but I fail to see why Panini even decided to port it over from Basketball. It tanked there too, and yet, here it is. As close to an F minus as something to get. If Rotten Tomatoes had a ranking for these products, they wouldnt even crack Gigli numbers.

Just the worst cards in a long long time:

2016 Unparalleled Carson Wentz Auto Patch RC /25

2016 Infinity Jared Goff Auto Metal /8

2016 Phoenix Michael Thomas Auto Patch

The Invasion of College Products – Worst

I understand that NCAA branded cards have a niche out there, but that niche cannot support a whole product line, let alone 8. Panini has diluted good brand names with some crazy shitty products, and I dont get why they even used something like Black Gold, which doesnt sell on the pro level. Bottom line, Panini is flooding the market with so many shitty products, that the shops cant even sell what they have before they are burdened with 3 more things on their shelf. This is a disaster made worse by a needless license they shouldnt have bought.

Panini’s Low End Offerings – Best

I was actually surprised by the way Panini used low end to create some good products. Donruss wasnt bad, and Playoff isnt actually horrible either. I liked Donruss better last year, but in comparison to the rest of the products you have to look hard to find good stuff.

Topps Digital Football – Best

Well, Topps is out of football, but Huddle is still around and creating some cards that are showcasing much better design than Panini could ever hope for. They just released the digital version of Inception last week, and it comes on the heels of an incredible thanksgiving campaign that really was quite impressive. While Panini’s digital app continues to shit the bed, Topps continues to showcase that they can be dangerous without a physical license.

The Cowboys’ Rookie Class – Best

Im pretty sure someone at Panini sacrificed something to the football gods, because the only reason they are even reasonably successful is because Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are having historic seasons. In a year where bad products out number good products 3:1, these rookies make everything much more bearable. If they can put it together and get to the Super Bowl, look out!

Football’s Future – Worst

Right now, its abundantly clear that Panini has done everything in their power to make us hate their products, only for the rookies to save their ass. If that isnt scary enough, I dont see much evidence that they are bringing that many more new people to the hobby. It looks like they are just getting more out of people who are already collectors. In order to make up the massive minimum guarantees they have made to the NFL, they are going to need something like Dak and Zeke to happen every year or they will be quite a bit in the red. Considering most sports fans think Panini is a sandwich and not a card company, there is no national presence to build a new hobby around. Its bad, as Topps at least had a brand that so many of us recognized outside of the hobby. You need to expand the pie or this industry wont be sustainable. Shops are suffering because they cant make money on wax, and when another 2013 rolls around, its going to be a blood bath with 31 flavors of turd put out by Panini NFL and NCAA. Im frightened.

As we get further into the year, Im wondering how the big products are going to shape up. They better be on point or Im going to lose my shit. That’s all I gotta say.

Are These the Worst NFL Trading Cards of the Year?

One of the main reasons I hate Panini’s product line as much as I do is their choice of photos. For whatever sick reason, Panini seems to want to paint athletes as different than the warriors they are on the field, using posed glamour shots taken inside as subject matter, instead of the insanely dynamic action photos that football is known for. Every last fucking product has some photo from the Rookie Premiere, where Panini thinks its attractive to ask Carson Wentz to stare blankly into a camera. They are the only ones in football to use this approach on a continual basis, and none of this is more evident than a recent set from Absolute. Ill warn you ahead of time, this is not a joke. These cards do exist.

Good god, the horror:

2016 Panini Absolute Eric Decker Men's Lifestyle Relic

2016 Panini Absolute Von Miller Relic

2016 Panini Absolute Charles Woodson Relic

Here is my thing. I hate posed photos as a whole. I understand that photos taken by pros on the sidelines cost money to obtain rights to. I also understand that the NFL probably wants sets like this to be used to highlight their brand. Regardless of this situation, I still cannot stop laughing. It also brings about fits of anger, because the rookie garbage that Panini has used for years (Initial Steps anyone?) has showcased a long storied past of making absolutely horrid photo choices across the product calendar. So much so that Panini seemingly seeks out new ways to get the rookies off the field and into their studio.

Historically, trading cards have featured posed photos on the baseball side, some of which I would guess has to do with licensing and technology available. In the era of high speed cameras and digital photography, along side massive trading card budgets, the excuse is gone. There is no more reason to use a photo of Kris Bryant sniffing his fucking bat like a goon.

Football is war. If you are a fan of the game, its likely because of the constant action and absolute brutality that is involved in the game. Although sports figures have likely become more and more focused on creating brands, only a small handful know how to and want to participate in that side of the game. For 99% of the league, the brand the players create is in uniform with full warpaint. If you saw some of these guys walking down the street, they would stick out, but for so much of the league, they would not be recognizable by name. This is different in almost every other sport, and Panini just doesnt get how to properly present football players. I blame the product team and the design team for going at it from this angle, and I will never support a product that uses this awkward garbage.

I have started to see trends on the secondary market as well, where brands that feature this type of picture dont seem to perform as well. There are a lot of factors that go into what sells and what doesnt, but this is starting to swing more and more against Panini’s use of posed photography center stage. Maybe collectors are voicing opinion with their wallet, that pictures of Ezekiel Elliot fake running arent as cool as Elliot ACTUALLY running on the field during the premiere. Hell, Panini owns both of those shots.

Bottom line, these stupid Men's style cards are ripe for parody, much like the time Beckett tried to employ love and relationship advice for collectors. Panini’s brands are worse off as a result of these choices, and for the sake of football, I hope they pull their head out of their ass. Once another 2013 comes around, there wont be Dak or Zeke to save them from themselves.

On the Radar: 2017 Topps Inception Baseball

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Inception is one of my favorite sets. Not only does it combine some cool HDR filter type images, but a lot of on card autographs and an easy to digest configuration. Since its first run in Football back in 2011, it has expanded into prospect baseball, and now for 2017 it is switching to a traditional product. We had some veteran presence last year, but it was still dominated by players who would still be considered prospects. This year could be different now that it has been retitled “Topps Inception” instead of Bowman.

Here are some of my favorites from previous years:

2014 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Auto Green RC 25/25

2015 Bowman Inception Mike Trout Silver Signings Origins Auto /5

2016 Bowman Inception Bryce Harper Flashback RC Auto BGS 10

2016 Bowman Inception Kyle Schwarber Silver Signings Origins Auto

2014 Bowman Inception Byron Buxton Inscription Auto RC

For a lot of us, this is long overdue, as we have seen some great looking cards in Bowman Inception, but with prospects being so Chrome focused, its hard to see long term value in the format. Now that it has become a professional level set, it adds a level of collectability that hasnt been there for the veteran side of the product.

We are still getting a traditional Inception look, with on card autographs, booklets, and new silhouette type auto relics, which look absolutely fucking amazing. We also seemingly are getting a checklist of players that looks to combine some of the top rookies with autograph subjects from the normal list.

I absolutely love the look of this set, and though it still rings clearly with the original football set, the addition of some of the new subsets continue to make me want to dive in headfirst. The issue in baseball and football previously has been the box break, where it becomes extremely hit and miss. One pack products always have that element baked in, and with prospects and NFL rookies that was double. With a bit more of a robust checklist coming, hopefully the dud factor will be reduced significantly.

Topps has always done a good job providing top quality cards at more reasonable prices, and Inception has been the flagship example of that. They have had a growing commitment to providing on card autographs in products that cost 100 and less, something that Panini has failed miserably at providing. Resetting expectations that on card is the rule and not the exception is a welcome step forward, and I hope it continues to be profitable enough to continue.

Cant wait to see what is coming with this, definitely in for a few boxes.

2016 Contenders Rookie Ticket Preview Cards are Selling Large

Over the course of the Contenders line, it has always been a set that collectors fawn over. Although I dont think the set deserves the level of collector attention that it consistently gets, I know that any time something has the set name with Contenders in the title, its going to sell. None of this is more clear than when you see just how horrifically awful the sets look in many of the years it has been on the market.

This year’s design isnt great, but it isnt bad either, which is a relief. Its a relief because its going to be used for a number of sets, including a needless college version that will likely be released next year. In what looks like a VERY good move, and one I have suggested before, Panini has inserted preview tickets into the fold. Smartly, they added them to a set that is pretty much a dud, but now looks like a better buy knowing you can pull one of the tickets numbered to less than 25.

Check out the ones already up:

2016 Contenders Preview Dak Prescott Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Ezekiel Elliott Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Carson Wentz Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Jared Goff Ticket Auto /22

We have only seen a few surface, but like previous editions of the preview tickets, they are selling for insane numbers if you pull one of the better guys. Im actually surprised this hasnt been done in previous years recently, as sets like Playbook or Absolute might benefit from a chase like this.

Panini needs to find ways to add value to their products, as its clear that sets like Infinity, Gala, Phoenix, Unparalleled, and other garbage they developed this year are so bad that Blowout is already knocking them down close to 50% and less than cost.