2013 Contenders – Looking Back on the Best and Worst of the Brand

With the release of Contenders next week, it will mark the 21st year of a product that is one of the most widely collected in the hobby. The rookie ticket autos have become a collector favorite, with a very deep checklist of players that dont get the same spotlight elsewhere. Here is a look back at the recent history of the brand:

2012 Contenders – 20th Anniversary Edition

With a copycat retro product highlighting the most iconic design of the entire run, 2012 Contenders was a force to be reckoned with. A crazy popular rookie class, combined with a timeless look proved to be a winning combination. For the first time, we got extra parallels, including the ever sparkly Cracked Ice, which was a major source of a card chase for many people.

Top cards:

2012 Contenders Andrew Luck Ticket Auto

2012 Contenders Russell WIlson Ticket Auto

2012 Contenders Robert Griffin III Ticket Auto

Verdict: WIN

2011 Contenders

This was a horrid design, mostly because of the trapped player and autograph. The team color backgrounds didnt do much for these cards, which havent seen the usual value a ticket auto usually holds. The photo variations were simple photoshop elements added or removed, leading to a lot of confusion, and also a significant drop in value for the overall product. Not good.

Top Cards:

2011 Contenders Colin Kaepernick Auto Ticket

2011 Contenders Cam Newton Auto Ticket

Verdict: HUGE LOSS

2010 Contenders

Probably my favorite of all time, even with the foil. Its a simple design that focuses on all the right things. Absolutely love this year. This set was propelled by another hugely popular rookie class in Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford, even though now is not exactly a strong showing. With the loss of the CLC license to Upper Deck, Panini started using photo variations for the first time.

Top Cards:

2010 Contenders Sam Bradford Ticket Auto

2010 Contenders Dez Bryant Ticket Auto

Verdict: WIN

2009 Contenders

As mentioned above, this was one of the worst. The giant 102 point text covering the player looks ridiculous, so much so that the autograph is lost. Bubbly autos on the foil were also a major issue for this year, leading to one of the worst Contenders set ever made. This was the first set in years to go back to on card autographs, which didnt mean much with such a horrendous design.

Top Cards:

2009 Contenders Matthew Stafford Auto Ticket

2009 Contenders Clay Mathews Auto Ticket

VerdictL LOSS and then some

2008 Contenders

If the giant text was gone, this would have been a much better look, but like 2009, the set’s visual appeal is lost. Because the text scrawls across the middle of the player, the card looks off balance. On top of that, without on card autos, the set looks cheap. Horrible showing for a high potential class at the time.

Top Cards:

2008 Contenders Joe Flacco Auto Ticket

2008 Contenders Matt Ryan Auto Ticket

Verdict: LOSS

2007 Contenders

This was also a great design, even though the stickers take away from the overall potential. It was a good look with the top and bottom border, and little interference with the player photo and auto. I think Panini really tried to make the cards work with the means that they had, and most of them turned out pretty nice. Could have done a bit better in separating out the different pieces of the layout, but it looks good.

Top Cards:

2007 Contenders Adrian Peterson Auto Ticket

2007 Contenders Calvin Johnson Auto Ticket

2007 Contenders Marshawn Lynch Auto Ticket

Verdict: WIN

Its only a matter of days before we get our first true look at the box breaks and how 2013 shapes out. Unfortunately, the rookie class has yet to show they can carry any product other than Chrome, so we should get to see how another widely collected set performs. Im interested to find out.

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