Are Group Breakers Helping or Hurting?

Let me start off this post by saying I am indifferent. I think that group breaks are part of the culture in the hobby right now, and there is nothing any of us can really do to change that in the near future. That being said, I think there is a legitimate discussion for whether or not their presence in the grand scheme of things helps or hurts.

Why Group Breaks Are a Good Thing

Right now, the cost of wax is insane, made even more bonkers by how often you can walk away with so little of a return on your investment. When you go to a casino and gamble, you dont lose your money 90% of the time unless you are really drunk or really dumb. Does this mean its better to head to a casino than a local shop if money is your game? Yeah, probably. Its pretty clear that the products today dont deliver on a regular basis, and though there are hot streaks and cold streaks, wax is a losing venture for most sets. What makes this troublesome is that shops and manufacturers depend on wax sales, and if collectors continually feel like nothing is being delivered for what they pay, its not good.

Enter Group Breaks.

Dont want to shoulder the burden of an entire box of Flawless at 1500 a pop? Spend significantly less and still partake. Clearly, this is a much more positive outcome than walking away with nothing on a box that costs triple the monthly payment of a Tesla. Not only do we get to feed our addiction – and that is exactly what it is – but we also get to participate in the hobby’s equivalent of a five star restaurant.

When things are so out of hand that 95% of the collectors out there refuse or are unable to participate in the way that manufacturers need, that’s a huge problem. The market becomes exponentially smaller, with very little prospect of expanding. Group breaks provide a band aid for that issue, as the risk is much smaller for the individual, and shouldered by the group instead.

I stand by my take that this hobby is 100% unsustainable long term. Its just not possible for anyone to survive if the trends continue the way they are going. Group breaks do provide relief in the short term, but even they are not immune from a terrible draft class or another recession. This hobby is all disposable income, and if the purchase of wax no longer provides any chance of value, I think there will be a lot of reason that this industry will fail.

Why Group Breaks Are Not Good For Anyone

There is one word that I throw around on a regular basis, and it is the reason why my indifference to group breaks comes with major red flags. The word is reinforcement, both on the strategy and the product side. Group breaks not only give false hope that people are interested in terrible products, but false hope that the strategy of the current hobby is a worthwhile one to continue.

Right now, Im pretty sure that there are multiple breaks for every product that is released. From the good stuff all the way down to any of the NCAA products that Panini puts out. Every set gets a rip, and it inflates the failure line to a marginal success pretty much every time. Release Infinity football that is collecting dust on every shop shelf in the country? Broken by group breakers on a regular basis. Release a basketball product that Panini had to issue a special offer because it was so terrible? Cases were broken. These products should have been nothing but unadulterated failures that instead made money because of group breaks.

There is also reinforcement that the strategy currently employed by every company is working. Oddly enough, the strategy might be the only strategy available right now because of cost, but the group breakers are extending the life of this strategy more than it ever should have been able to live. The strategy of returning value in so few boxes may have a terminal diagnosis regardless, as I have seen group breaks go unfilled more and more as the months pass.

From a fundamental perspective, the companies believe that they can churn out tens of thousands of cases, most of which do not have perceived value to the person that is designed to be the end user. Dont believe me? Look at the number of people who have literally stopped opening boxes. They wait for the group breaks to produce the singles they want, and just buy them on eBay for a fraction of the cost of a box.

There is a reason the hobby has shrunk at such a significant rate over the last decade. Its been a veritable fucking disaster from an active buyer perspective, and though these new break formats have helped calm the wave, its not even close to a dam against the flood of apathy.

Overall, there are very good things to say about what group breaks are capable of. Just be cognizant of the flip side of the equation. Dont let short term success cloud your judgment of what is definitely not a positive outlook for the industry.

On the Radar: 2017 Leaf Metal Draft Football

Much to my happiness, Leaf has not given up on football, despite Panini making things pretty difficult for competitors. After announcing an exclusive with Leonard Fournette earlier this month, Panini seems to be on the same track they were in Basketball. I would be scared if I were them, as Leaf’s products made them look completely silly last time this situation rolled around.

These cards were AWESOME last year, and the wax is barely available unless you are willing to pay a huge price:

2016 Leaf Metal Draft Dak Prescott Auto RC BGS 9.5

2016 Leaf Metal Draft Ezekiel Elliott Auto Green Refractor BGS 9.5

2016 Leaf Metal Draf Tom Brady Auto BGS 9.5

Like we saw last year, Leaf’s autographs are all on card, where Panini’s will be sticker, unless something changes. The design looks similar to last year, which is a good thing, as I think the Leaf Metal and Trinity looks were MILES ahead of any retread products Panini put out. I love that they run low prints of their products, and the cards are basically copies of Topps Chrome. That’s a good thing, as they did a really good job retouching photos and making the cards look attractive even without logos.

The issue, as always, is that no one knows who to collect before the draft, other than names and potential targets for their team. Obviously the Top QBs like Trubisky, Watson and Kizer will be good players to chase, and that list might include a few lineman and receivers as well. Even with Fournette, this class looks exceptionally mediocre from a potential perspective, but so did 2016 originally as well. I dont think we are going to have Dak and Zeke 2.0, but we might get some good rookies that always seem to come through the fray early on.

Im a huge Leaf fan, and hope they continue to produce sets like this – if not only to stick it to their main competitors of what a good looking 100% on card product can look like.

Panini Super Bowl Promo is Back to Clear the Warehouse

This ended up being a pretty awesome year for football cards, and it all has to do with two players. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott took the world by storm and brought some heat to a product calendar that was definitely lacking much warmth. Even with their historic achievements this year, Panini’s products continued to fall flat, especially on the NCAA front and with new brands launched for 2016.

As we see with every year, Panini hasnt adjusted the way they make products, knowing that group breakers and online resellers will continue to bail them out as long as it is profitable. When even that doesnt work for some of the terrible products they make, we get promos like what we are seeing with their Super Bowl boxes that are being shipped with qualifying buys from their website.

Here are some of the cards already up so far:

2017 Panini Private Signings Andrew Luck Auto 4/5

2017 Panini Private Signings Carson Wentz Auto Patch /10

2017 Panini Private Signings Matt Ryan Auto 1/1

2017 Panini Private Signings Andy Dalton Auto Patch /10

Over the last few years, the cards in these promos have looked nothing short of horrendous, but this year, it looks like they are actually pretty good looking. They still use a ton of rainbow foil and all sorts of crazy patterning on the stock, but the design behind the glitz is better than it has been.

The problem with Panini promos is that the cards drop like a rock on the secondary market once the player collectors and team collectors get their fill of cards they need. Because the products arent advertised in traditional fashion, everyone else doesnt even know to look for them. As much as these promos probably work, they create a long standing realization that overproduction of shitty products is a HUGE problem for Panini.

At some point, when a rookie class tanks like it did in 2013, there will be no way to reclaim that level of discrepancy between the actual demand of a product like and the perceived supply that Panini wants to create. I find it hilarious that collectors believe this is just Panini being nice, but it is far from that. They need to clear shelves as the 2016 card season comes to a close, even more so that the Super Bowl is now over.

We have already seen Panini forcibly demand that shops and dealers take on cases of worthless (AND EXPENSIVE) NCAA product just to get their hands on National Treasures, a practice that Upper Deck started using with Exquisite to move failing golf and soccer sets they couldnt get rid of. This isnt fair for the shops that are already sitting on enormous amounts of unsold garbage, which is not a good sign for a year where the class was actually good. What happens when we have another 2013? Good luck.

I sincerely hope people understand how bad this type of practice is, and how much it reinforces dangerous behavior when it comes to over printing a product that has no real reason to exist. I mean, there was no fucking reason in hell that there should have been even one box of Unparalleled, let alone 25,000.

The Big Game is Here: Hobby Stories to Watch in Super Bowl LI

I love today and I hate today. I love the excitement, I love the pageantry, I love that we finally get to see a new champion crowned. I hate that its the last football of the year, and that until the draft, a barren wasteland of boring sports is to follow until Football gets going again in September.

For once, there are a number of things to watch for, all of which are very crucial to the hobby’s progression over the next few months.

Will Tom Brady Solidify His Legacy as the Greatest of All Time?

I already believe he is the greatest of all time, but with a win today, its not even a question. He will have the most Super Bowls of any QB, he will be the greatest success story ever, and all of that can have a nice cherry on top today. Scary thing is, Brady believes he can play into his 40s, and based on his play this season, I have no reason to disagree with him.

Already seeing some record prices already:

2014 Immaculate Tom Brady Auto Jumbo Patch

2000 Playoff Contenders Tom Brady Rookie Ticket Auto

2015 National Treasures Tom Brady Auto Patch /15

2002 Topps Tom Brady Super Bowl Relic Auto /150

Hobby wise, there is no one that has more impact in football cards than Tom Brady, and I used to say there was no room for his autograph to be more valuable than it already is. Im not sure that is a true statement after tonight. I have wanted a nice rookie auto of his for a long time, but he has never sucked enough for prices to drop low enough. That isnt going to change any time soon.

Can Matt Ryan Get the Hobby Love He Deserves With a Victory?

Right now, he is riding a great season, an MVP award and a bright future into this game, and yet, he isnt “elite” as a person that collectors flock to. The Falcons arent a widely collected team, despite their success, and Ryan has signed quite a bit over the last few years. Much to the benefit of the companies who had Matt Ryan sign a ton since 2008, this year could be the time where he finally gets his chance to shine.

Here is where he sits right now:

2014 Topps Five Star Matt Ryan Auto Inscription

2008 Exquisite Matt Ryan Auto Patch RC /25

I actually think the Falcons have a great shot to win, and considering how Dan Quinn must feel about the last time he played the Pats in a big game, Ryan hopefully wont make the same poor choice to throw Malcom Butler’s way if it comes down to the last play of the game.

Will Julio Jones Live Up to His Season?

If the Falcons are going to win, Julio will need a similar performance to what we saw in the NFC championship game. That will be fine with all the people who waited almost half a decade for him to sign his cards from Panini, as the timing couldnt be better.

Outside of his rookie year, he has signed little to nothing in terms of cards, and that’s a problem for his fans. There just arent a lot of cards to go around, and this might be a feeding frenzy if he brings Atlanta their first championship.

Can the Super Bowl Running Backs Steal the Show?

Right now, if you arent named Elliott or Peterson, you really dont see value in the hobby. Running backs just dont get love anymore, if not only because careers are short, and the workhorse back is dead in the league. This means, for guys like Freeman and Blount, a championship wont do what it did for Marshawn Lynch. Even Le’veon Bell doesnt get the love he deserves, and that’s saying something.

Im curious how the hobby will react if one of the backs has a game like Dion Lewis did during the playoffs. This would be one of the more important games to test the collectability of the position, and I really want to see what happens.

The game is about to start, and if you are like me, this bittersweet event always takes on a hobby focus for me. Good luck to all the Pats and Falcons fans out there tonight, enjoy it, regardless of what happens.

On Shelves Now: 2016 Black Gold Football

This set needs to be split into 2 parts. Hell, if you count the horribly unsuccessful college product, maybe 3. So lets approach this horribly named product in the part that is pretty damn good and the part that should be piled in a large barrel and set ablaze. Considering all the plastic, that blaze would smell pretty terrible, much like most of the design work for that part of this set.

Part 1 – The Hard Signed Content

I am a HUGE fan of this part of Black Gold. The on card autograph designs are really good looking, including the Sizeable Signatures that have been a staple here for a number of years. These cards feature action photos, great design work to highlight a jumbo patch and a signature area, and it works extremely well all around.

Here are some good examples.

2016 Black Gold Peyton Manning Auto /25

2016 Black Gold Andrew Luck Jumbo Patch Auto

2016 Black Gold Dak Prescott Sizeable Signature Auto /225

My favorite cards are the veteran jumbo patch autos, which have a nice checklist along side the good looking cards. Panini even separated out the signature area like they have done in vomit worthy designs in the past, but for this it works. It works because the separated areas are not disruptive and the player photos arent sliced abruptly like Panini loves to do. The results are quite stunning. The whole thing pops.

Part 2 – Everything Else

BBBBBYYYYYYARRRRRFFFFFFF

Phew, now that my stomach is empty, I can submit myself to how terrible this part of the product is. We are talking about the worst of the worst player photos, terrible design work, and shitty themes and concepts that never work well in any of the sets Panini does.

These are just a fucking train wreck:

2016 Black Gold Ezekiel Elliott Metal Auto RC

2016 Black Gold Quad Relic Dak Prescott and Rookie QBs

2016 Black Gold Quad Relic Carson Wentz

2016 Black Gold Paxton Lynch Gold Mine

As we saw with Infinity, which was most likely the front runner for the worst performance of the year, the metal signatures A) looked like shit, B) sold like shit and C) are shit. That didnt stop Panini from using the concept again, despite the fact that these main hits put the previous product into the bargain bin AS SOON as it was off MAPP. Im certain that Panini has no fucking clue how bad these cards are, because if they did, we wouldnt have seen identical versions used in two separate terrible sets.

I cant go without mentioning Panini trotting out the Optic/Donruss rated rookie photos not once, but twice in Black Gold, something that has become a running joke to me more than anything. Only Panini would use the same horrendously hilarious photo FOUR fucking times during a calendar year, and it makes me happy when collectors start to question their intelligence for doing so. WE NEED MOAR DANCE BATTLE JOEY BOSA DAMMIT!

Lastly, the configuration of Black Gold wax is worse than Triple Threads, which takes talent. For 240 fucking dollars you get 2 autos per box, one of which may be points. Yes, you are not reading that wrong, Panini uses points in a product that costs this much. So, that means you could pull two autographs in your box (if you are lucky enough to avoid the points), and one may be a sticker scrub. Fuck you Panini, fuck you in your dumb face.

This product isnt even worth ripping at 150 bucks let alone almost 100 dollars more, and its why so few hits have made it onto eBay yet. Everyone is going through group breakers to shoulder the ridiculous burden of expense for this stuff, and its sad that Panini has built their product this way. Its one to spend for technology used in this product, its another to deliver absolute shit at a huge price. Not only absolute shit at a huge price, but horribly overproduced shit.

Panini should be ashamed of themselves, bottom line.