About a year ago, I would have told you that I am a fan of anything acetate. Its a great medium to use when producing trading cards, as many times it highlights all the right things about the product. Since that timeframe, acetate has become a feature in so many sets, so much so that we are reaching a point of oversaturation. This is none more clear than with Panini’s recently solicited product
High Tek Clear Vision Football. Sometimes I wish there were a rule that prevented Panini from abusing a cool technology.
Dont get me wrong, Acetate can be a powerful tool when used correctly:
Of course, it can also be a complete train wreck:
Believe it or not, the product’s design is actually NOT the weirdest thing about this product. That designation belongs to its format, which for the first time in many years, is highlighted by a one autograph per CASE outline. Yes, Panini is going to attempt the impossible – create a product, in an autograph dominated hobby, with barely any autographs. Not only is it beyond risky, it might actually be something more than that. To me, if the one autograph per case format holds, it serves more as a test product for 2016 than anything.
Here is why I think that is the case.
Basically, when Panini drastically overpaid for the NFLPA exclusive, they set themselves up for a very difficult task. Not only would they have to absorb all the calendar slots from Topps, but they would have to make those products VERY successful to even entertain the prospect of breaking even. After hearing some musings on the minimum guarantees that Panini will have to come up with just for the NFLPA, there are a few things that will have to be accomplished.
One of those things is creating products that dont rely on autograph content as much, as it seems like the autograph deals that many players will sign are going to have to get a lot larger. To fund 30-35 products per year, their team is going to have to come up with double the amount of autographs they would normally do, unless those new products some how create value without adding additional autograph content to the pool.
Clear Vision looks to be a product that could end up being the first of those sets that focuses more on content outside of the autographs. Funny enough, I have heard that distributors revolt against products that want to move away from relic content. I have heard the same is true on the autograph side. Im not sure how Panini plans to sell this to the only customers that matter to them, if that indeed is the case.
They might tout on card signatures with this product, but I think its clear that they are stretching the definition of what “on card” really means. This looks to be those ever-horrible manupatch autographs, but with an acetate insert instead of a signed piece of embroidered cloth. That isnt on card, people. That is a sticker replacement device.
There is a big potential for this set to explode in their face, but it all depends on their ability to execute on all those elements that speak to customers. Even though its 50-60 bucks a box, and features the first Panini cards with rookies in their NFL uniforms, I really dont see much potential here. Football is the wrong sport to be in the conundrum that Panini put themselves in. This sport is autograph dependent, and I think they are going to have a very tough time hitting sales numbers for the PA in general. Releasing products like this will only make it tougher, but then again, Panini isnt known for their hobby intelligence.
Personally, I see this as a knock off of Hi-Tek Baseball and Football, which featured a set comprised mostly of acetate cards. In football, Hi-Tek offers true on card autographs, and does it in a normal format for a similar price. I cannot understand why Panini wants to try to compete with that. This set seems destined for below cost prices on boxes, especially after the allure of new rookie cards wears off.
I guess we will have to wait and see how the collectors react to something like this.