When Topps lost their license to make NFL football cards in 2015, we all knew that Chrome Armageddon was upon us. Being that Topps Chrome was the set of the year in just about every sense, especially in creating the most super premium hits of the year. Believe it or not, the top rookie card of the top rookie each year did not come from Flawless at $1500 a box, NT at 600 a box, or even Contenders at 160 a box. Every year, the top card of the year was the superfractor auto of whomever the top player in the class was, out of a box that cost $70 bucks.
Without Chrome in the mix in Basketball, collectors immediately did two things. First, they started chasing down all the Chrome cards they wanted from previous years. Second, they were desperate to find a replacement. Because Panini has never really had an idea of their own, Prizm very much became that set. This is abundantly evident with the way Ben Simmons cards have performed as of late. In football, things were similarly approached, although Prizm in football never gained the following it did in Basketball. Years of absolutely fucking horrible designs curtailed the loyalty to the set, and the creation of Optic with on card autographs in 2016 hurt that even further. It wasnt because Optic had better looking cards, because that is definitely not the case. Its because the auto cards were not stickers, and that is the ONLY reason.
Panini made a choice for Optic to get hard signed cards instead of Prizm, and I have been bitter as fuck that they made such a stupid decision. Not that they created another chrome based set, or even one with hard signed autographs. Not in the slightest. The more chrome the better. In what I consider the WORST FUCKING DECISION OF THE YEAR – they chose goofy ass posed photographs for the main rookie cards of the set.
Check out this bullshit:
2017 Panini Optic Taywan Taylor Rated Rookie Auto /99 – His face is fucking priceless!
Not only did they choose pictures that are not action shots from the premiere, but they literally chose the worst type of posed photos that are about as cringey as you can get. These are posed photos without helmets, and in weirdly articulated positions that resemble robots who were shut down mid sequence.
Panini will argue that they want to offer a variety, which makes sense. Many people would say you cant use the same photo over and over and over again, even though Panini did just that in 2016 with this series (Donruss, Optic, Black Gold – three subsets, and one other). I would use this as an argument that there should be a focus on getting actual game photos into products more quickly, and maybe – just maybe – committing to less products in the deal than any normal sized team could create.
I would also venture a guess that people really dont care what Panini puts on a card. I mean, fuck, they put a picture of a player sitting on stairs on a card and called the set "Initial Steps." That isnt a joke, that actually happened. People still buy those god forsaken cards. Many people just dont care what the card looks like, unless its some crazy gimmick built for a specific reason. That being said, there is a reason why National Treasures and Flawless use very specific techniques in building a product that more align with my tastes. For those sets, Panini knows they have to cater to people with higher expectation. Its not going to be some clueless idiot who just wants something shiny.
I find that to be an insult, because none of their competitors ever treated it that way in Football. This lack of effort is so evident to me, that I would say Topps could produce Chrome without logos and literally decimate anything Panini has been able to accomplish. That’s how little brand loyalty Panini has built up over the last 3 years since Topps’ departure, or even since Upper Deck’s departure after 2009. Panini struggles in a hilarious state of failure, almost in such a constant fashion that I question how they could get it so wrong for so long.
Optic is a prime example of this lack of vision, as there is absolutely no reason it should be used the way it is being used. Panini should make every effort to solidify brands across sports, much like Topps did with Chrome since the mid 1990s. They made it easy for collectors to jump between sports and not miss a beat. Chrome was what it was in every sport, from Basketball, to Baseball, and to its ultimate success in football. The most crazy piece of this is that Optic could easily flip flop with Prizm and start that reconciliation process. It would still leave collectors to laugh at the awkward poses they stupidly choose for each card, but it wouldnt be as much of a detriment to their calendar or branding. Prizm could have hard signed autographs, and more would be right with the football world than it is now.
Instead we are left to languish in the barren wasteland of Panini’s vison-less hellscape, hoping that some day Topps or Upper Deck will be welcomed back to the fold. That is quite the sad existence for a sport that is facing diminished participation across the country, and major political pressure to change its ways. Panini is playing with fire in an environment that is leaking gas. They should be ashamed of themselves.