For the last 4 years, the annual release of the tired product that has become Absolute Memorabilia, has done little to nothing to excite me. Even with the addition of on card rookie autographs last year, I felt the design of the product was so lackluster that it wasn’t even worth putting out on shelves. When the preview came through for the product this year, I was shocked by two things, how much improvement had been made in the non-box hit portion of the product, and how much of a step back the rookie content had taken.
Starting with the RPM cards that have been the staple of this product since 2006, they could not be more of a visual disaster. Not only did they switch back to a vertical orientation, but they cropped the player picture at the top of the card to make everything unbalanced in where your eye is drawn. In previous years vertical RPM, the letters have been scrawled down the side of the card to make room for other elements, but this year, they go horizontally across the middle of the card. Not only does this limit the area the player has to sign, but it looks absolutely horrible. As they have been for the last 5 years, the jumbo swatches look worse, only to be upstaged by the awful rainbow foil that adorns each card. BLECCCCH.
Outside of this content, there are signs of SIGNIFICANT improvement. My favorite card has to be the tools of the trade set, which was the ugliest it has been in years for 2011. There has been talk that Panini farms out some of the design work, and if I were a guessing man, this is one of those sets. I get a very “24 episode” type approach to this set, and it presents the player in a way that suggests action. I love it. The non RPS rookie cards are similarly impressive, even though the rainbow foil is back. The design is clean and stunning in the player presentation, and I cannot say enough good things about how it turned out. The players jump off the card. Even the NFL Icons set looks great with silhouetted players in the background. Its all around awesome for some of these cards.
Of course, not all is peachy, as there is still frequent representation of the calling card Panini seems to leave on all their sets. Cropped players, trapped pictures, separated autograph areas with no explanation. Its all there. Even though Panini has found some way to make things better, they must not get the full picture, because a lot of this is the same as it always has been.
I have not bought a single from absolute since 2006, and this will be the first year I do. However, when you can buy a 50 dollar pack and get a jersey card that isn’t worth 10 cents, this product represents a need to change our mindset about how relics are used in the hobby. Panini and Topps both have to adjust, but Panini is so far back in the dark ages, that I doubt they will be seeing the light any time soon. At least if you are going to make a jersey card, make it look good. That is something Panini seems incapable of doing.
For my personal edification its obvious that I wouldn’t mind if Absolute bit the dust, history or no history. The good thing is that this year seems to be a step in the right direction, as small as that step might be.