Every single year, Playoff Contenders is a product that collectors flock to. Over the last few years, the design has been ridiculously awful, with the exception of the awesome 2010 design. This year, 2012 contenders is a design I really like, which is only fitting because it is the 20th anniversary of the product.
The first few cards are live on eBay tonight, and we should see a flood of new cards come tomorrow on the official release.
I absolutely love the tribute design to the 1998 version of the product, as I believe that year was one of the best ever. On top of that, to have Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and others to carry the value is huge. Because its a great design and a favorite product, I expect this stuff to fly off the shelves. I also give huge amounts of love to Panini for STAYING AWAY FROM THE STUPID FOIL (at least for most of the cards)!
There is one problem, however. When Panini previewed the design earlier this year, the player photo was much further off to the left, leaving a lot more room on the side for the autograph. Since that time, an adjustment was made leaving less room on the right side, and having some of the players sign horizontally over their photo. This means the design becomes a little bit more jumbled and difficult to digest, as the autographs are either squished over to the left, or hard to see along the bottom.
Its still a better design than any of the 2008, 2009, or especially 2011, and that is VERY good thing considering the 2011 design was about as terrible as it gets.
My biggest gripe is with the non photo shoot rookie autographs, guys like Cousins, Claiborne and others who did not attend the premiere last may. They are all stickers, and rather than just put the stickers along the bottom of the card, panini hacked off the bottom quarter of the design and put a big white box there. Not only does this make the players look like their legs are amputated, but it causes a complete visual disaster.
Im guessing that Panini farmed out the big rookie design to a firm that came back with a seriously awesome design based on 1998. Rather than let them work on the other cards as well, Panini’s in house guys just slapped a huge white box at the bottom of the card for the sticker. BIG mistake.
Panini has also decided to add parallels to the tickets for the first time ever. This means that many of the tickets will have a few parallels other than the normal Championship Ticket 1/1s, including the horrendous cracked ice /20. Bad form. Contenders never needed parallels before, and I dont get what changed this year.
Overall, this looks like a strong year for the brand. It just could have been THAT much better if Panini had really thought out the design before letting their better judgement get the best of them. Opportunity wasted.