Back in 2008, Baseball cards were in a very unique position. Licenses were coming due in the year after, and both Topps and Upper Deck were trying to solidify a niche within the market that would continue to be profitable in the eyes of MLBP. Additionally, Panini was coming on as an international force trying to make an impact, and they brought in Prime Cuts baseball to make their case for continued consideration. For the most part, they succeeded in maintaining enough momentum to receive an MLBPA license to create products with current players.
Prime Cuts is back again this year, and even though I literally balk at their ability to create an unlicensed product worthy of competing in one of the longest running card markets, the product does look pretty good. Of course, there are the normal cards that fit Panini’s awful design pedigree, but there are some really cool ones too. Additionally, the added on card content will help, but the overwhelming majority of sticker autos will hurt. Where Elite and Contenders fell into the pitfalls that Panini football has not been able to climb out of (Gotta love the guy fielding the ball OVER THE WHITE BOX!), some of the sets in Prime cuts looks good.
The most important part of the product is definitely the historical content, as some how and some way, they are including more Joe Jackson content similar to 2008. Joe Jackson’s memorabilia is NOTORIOUSLY rare, and I honestly do not know where they got it from at a price that would make it worth acquiring. There looks to be a lot of other rare HOFers in this product, who like Jackson, will have some really cool looking game used bat nameplate 1/1s in this product. I remember how ridiculous these cards were in Triple Threads, and I think that they have a better shot of being awesome in Prime Cuts.
Here are some of the Joe Jackson cards from before:
I still believe that the lack of official licensing will hurt Panini’s attempt here, like it has done with all of their other products, but they are making a better case with Prime Cuts for a license than ever before. I still think Topps has a distinct advantage over them, even if they were to get a license, but products like this will gain a few followers. Topps’ design team in baseball outside of the lower end sets, has struggled to find a foothold, but if sets like Museum collection continue to be ridiculously well put together, its not going to be a competition. When you combine collector loyalty with the great looking cards like we saw in Museum Collection, this stuff will not hold a candle to the success Topps will have.
Believe it or not, Panini is making it as interesting as it can be at this point, which is EXACTLY what I want to happen. Prime Cuts has a lot of room to grow as we can see here, but it could have been a lot worse. Topps had carte blanche to do as they pleased for a number of years, and the product suffered as I expected it would. Now that Panini is making a run at them (gum on their shoe, but I digress), Topps has stepped up their game almost immediately. With Five Star Baseball hitting shelves later this year, I think its obvious that Panini is forcing Topps to switch to missles, as the guns arent working. That is good for EVERYONE.
I will continue to despise Panini’s production methods, and of course their awful looking cards, but I understand the need for their presence in the game. As they have been in football, they will continue to drive competition, even though Topps has treated them like Bo Jackson treats defenses in Tecmo Bowl. At least now, they have to use the turbo button a bit more.