Back in 2011, Topps wowed everyone by releasing a product pre-season, that not only had rookies depicted in their NFL uniforms, but also had on card autographs on said cards. Usually, because of when the rookie photoshoot took place, this type of product was unavailable until the pictures were processed and cards were sent to and returned by the rookies. It took months upon months for this to happen, and every pre-season product through september would have stickers. Inception turned the majority of this on its head, using photoshop and computer programs to picture the new class on the field, before they actually got on the field.
From all accounts, this is a very tall task. You have the draft happening the last weekend in April, and the signing needs to be completed in the middle of may at the rookie premiere. That is literally two to three weeks to take all the attendees of the shoot, pick the photos, retouch the photos, get the cards approved by the NFL, and then printed all in time for them to be signed at the premiere. Ridiculous time crunch for both companies to deal with. For the first time, Panini tried it with Prestige, with mixed results.
In the first year, Inception was able to be successful because there was a lot more leeway on using numbers perceived to be correct going into the shoot. Topps took liberties in using college numbers and rumored numbers to construct the cards, which led to every rookie having close to the number they would eventually wear on the card. There were some mistakes, but many couldnt have cared less.
In 2012, the NFL tightened the belt, and said that any rookie without an officially assigned number at the time of printing had to be pictured in a 00 jersey. This led to many issues for the a lot of the draft picks, as many numbers arent assigned until tuesday or wednesday after the draft. By that time, the cards are already approved and being set for printing, by my guess. This led to cards of players that didnt do any justice to what makes Inception so amazingly awesome. It left us with a terrible taste in our mouth, and that is not a good thing.
This year, from what people are saying, the number of 00 jerseys is reduced because NFL teams have been pushed to assign numbers much more quickly. Guys that would have gone to the backup 00 last year, have a number this year. There will still be some who dont have numbers, thus forcing the backup numbers, but I hope it isnt many.
From the preview we got on Twitter, the cards for 2013 Inception look better than they ever have. Not only do they feature the redesigned jerseys released the week before the draft, but the subtle changes in the card’s composition make it that much more exciting to collect. There is a LONG road ahead for pre-season products, as the class will be extremely weak until they get on the field in week one. That doesnt bode well for potential value in a box. That being said, these cards look great, and that wont be an issue that Topps has to worry about.