Five Things Worth Talking About as We Begin the National Sports Collectors Convention

Looking back over the last few weeks, things have gotten quite a bit out of hand. Its been one thing after the other, some good and some bad. Being that so many people have their ears perked up around collecting thanks to national attention, it breeds a great atmosphere and buzz heading into the NSCC this week in Chicago. Here are five things I am going to be talking about as I think about how to enjoy the show.

1. How will Panini deal with all the negative attention brought by the Dak Prescott scandal?

The timing could not be better for collectors to get an opportunity to interact with Panini on a large scale. Although I doubt anyone on the floor is going to offer anything outside of what has already been communicated, I think this is a unique opportunity for collectors to share their thoughts. There are only a few times over the course of the year where Panini wont be able to mute a tweet or just not respond, and this is one of those times. Will their show sales be impacted by the news? Probably not much, to be honest. That doesnt mean they wont face a number of people who want to say their piece and hear what the reps are going to be saying on the floor.

Events like the VIP party will also be at the forefront of this discussion, as its likely that the people at this party have seen the way that Panini handled the scandal, and the lack of communication that resulted. It was a terrible face for the hobby to wear, and it was handled extremely poorly by their team. Being that the people at this party will be the top customers Panini has, its not going to be rainbows and butterflies in that way. Regardless if the NFL/NFLPA dictated the process by which the scandal was communicated, its clear things went completely sideways. Someone has to answer, and Panini is the logo on the door. Good luck.

2. Will Aaron Judge / Cody Bellinger be center stage as people experience the show?

If you have been to an NSCC in the past, it has been as much about vintage and autographs as modern cards, and Im curious how that will play out. With everyone and their mother looking for any deal they can find for Judge, im curious how that might play out on the show floor. As much as the show has its roots in tables of cards, its become a vendor spectacle over the last decade more than anything. Less focus has been put on the show each and every year, with group breaks and giant booths now dominating the way the floor is laid out. In this sense, it will be all Judge and Bellinger all the time, as it has become clear to everyone that putting Judge’s name on a garbage bag will add value to the final price.

The fact remains, vintage is a HUGE focus on the floor, and I just dont see that changing anytime soon. There are collectors who come from all over the world to find rare cards they might be missing, and the dealers arent going to change their bread and butter just because everyone else is digging for 99.

3. Will there be any big announcements?

There is always something that gets dropped at the National, some years are bigger than others. I really expect some interesting news to come from the likes COMC or other vendors of that nature, especially as they begin integrating themselves into more of the industry. As a whole, I dont foresee bombshells like we have seen in previous years, but look for some nice little nuggets just because there is a big stage for everyone to shout from.

4. Will traffic be up or down?

I think I saw that 650 vendors and 100 exhibitors will be on hand, which I believe makes this a larger show than it has been in the previous few years. That being said, its all about the traffic, and that’s where we could get differing perspectives. I would love to see a ton of people latch onto the hype floating around baseball this year and decide a trip is worth it, but it might not end up that way depending on a number of factors. Chicago tends to be a great place for the show because of its central location, and that will help things, unlike Atlantic City where you couldnt fly directly there from many places. Im interested to see how everything plays out.

5. Will group breakers showcase their hobby influence?

This is where I am most intrigued, as its clear that the breakers have had more and more of a place at the show. Since the creation of the group breaker stage, all the card companies and exhibitors have made it their focus to get on camera as much as possible. More than that, show events and scheduling involves the breakers too, which means its hard to go to the show and not see how much their influence has grown. Because of the way it works, things like the Panini VIP party present a great number of attendees from all the breakers at the show, and I doubt that will change. Its clear that for new products, these type of people are quickly becoming more than just the face of the hobby. They are becoming power brokers in a lot of ways, and the NSCC tends to be a place where they have a chance to shine.

Stay tuned for more coverage all weekend long, as the fireworks will start and not stop once Wednesday gets up and running. Ill have pictures, breakdown from the show floor, and all sorts of stuff to see. Looking forward to a fun week, as always. Follow @SCUncensored on twitter for live coverage as the events kick off.

On Shelves Now: 2017 Topps Allen and Ginter Baseball

I feel like collectors all over the world are running to their shops today like madmen looking to get their hands on Ginter. Its one of the most popular releases of the year, and with Judge and Bellinger mania sweeping the hobby, I dont expect anything to be different this time around. I have already started price watching a number of cards, and man things are nuts to start.

Here are some of the big hits already up:

2017 Allen and Ginter Aaron Judge Rip Card /99

2017 Allen and Ginter Aaron Judge Framed Mini Auto

2017 Allen and Ginter Cody Bellinger Full Sized Auto

2017 Allen and Ginter Ronaldo/Pele dual auto booklet

First off, Judge and Bellinger both have autographs, even though they both look to be redemptions. In all likelihood, these could end up some of the more desirable cards to have this year for both players, if only because of how much hype is behind this set. Add in subjects like Floyd Mayweather and it becomes a race to see who can get the top cards for their set. Red inks will be so difficult to get a hold of that im curious just to see what becomes of the cards. With the NSCC less than a week away, this is going to be a set to remember as long as both players stay hot.

After spending some time looking at the design for this year, I cant say Im impressed in the slightest. I think it can be really tough to keep updating this set each year with the hope of bringing a fresh take, but they are trying. The rounded backdrop looks odd, and I have never been all that much a fan of the posed pictures for this set over action shots from on the field. Although its not the worst they have done, I have to say its quite far from the best too.

Other stars like Tom from MySpace and Gene Hackman are really interesting additions to the checklist, and relics from Yetis and Santa will definitely be a huge chase. I think I saw a sharks tooth as well, but im sure that is just the beginning.

Im curious how this product might fare without the two biggest names, but Topps has gotten lucky for the last few years with tent poles to hold up much of their card year. This stuff is going to be a hot commodity around the group breakers and at the National, so its going to be fun to watch the rarer cards and rip cards get sorted out across the product.

On Shelves Now: 2017 Leaf Trinity Football

I look forward to this set every year. Its been a staple of the preseason since 2013, and brings tons of on card autographs with some of the more unique cards released all season. Inscriptions, acetate, jumbo patches, and a bunch of other hard signed cards look great and deliver one of the best box breaks of the year. Its impossible to find any unopened boxes of 2016 Leaf Trinity for good reason. Because of a limited run, not much of it still exists unripped. The set is too good to pass up.

Check out some of the better cards up so far:

2017 Leaf Trinity Dalvin Cook FSU Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2017 Leaf Trinity Deshaun Watson Inscription Auto

2017 Leaf Trinity Mitchell Trubisky Inscription Auto

2017 Leaf Trinity Deshone Kizer Logo Patch Auto /5

2017 Leaf Trinity Christian McCaffrey Clear Acetate Auto /10

Of all the types of cards out there, inscriptions are my favorite, without a doubt. With autographs, shields, logos, and everything being so common, adding a touch of personality in this format brings a new dimension to the card type that is still special. Trinity was built around these types of cards, and its one of the reasons why I love it so much.

This is easily the best looking year of the product to boot, which makes it more worthwhile to check out the cards in the set. Leaf continues to deliver high quality sets at prices that Panini is unable to compete with, and it shows in so many ways with Trinity. I opened 4 boxes and hit 3 of the top players out there, something that has become impossible with Panini’s watered down product lines. Metal already exceeded a lot of my expectations, but I can tell that Brian Gray knows how important over delivering on product quality is to his customers. Without logos or NFL branding, it can be tough to win over people who only collect licensed cards. Adding content that is unique in this fashion can do a lot to overcome a lack of pro jerseys – especially when Panini has yet to offer a fully hard signed set.

In the end, battles against the goliaths of the industry are always uphill, but when products like Trinity can chip away, Im all for it. Shit, even the redemptions get done 100x faster than Panini. That alone is worth mentioning. As I have said for all four years of this set, kudos to Leaf. Really well done all around.

Autographs and Cards – Can Things Get Worse?

Ill be the first to admit that my time working on this site has been minimal prior to this fiasco, and its because I got to the point where I was bored with complaining. I was just bored all around, to be honest, and I dont think I am alone in that feeling. As a football collector, its not exactly super fun happy time if you feel the way about Panini that I feel. We still have 9 years left of this shit show, and at this point they are doing so much harm to the football side of things, im not sure it could get much worse. Then the whole Dak Prescott thing happened, and I realized that rock bottom wasnt even close.

The reason I say that I dont think we are even within eye sight of rock bottom is because of the way the national media treated this. Autograph collecting is still a foreign concept to most Americans, even though chasing foul balls and running down a player for a selfie is pretty commonplace. What was made even more apparent was how little trading cards factored into people’s perception of autograph collecting, all of which should not be a surprise. Basically, no one who got wind of this story thought it was anything more than a tongue in cheek jab at a QB from one of america’s most cheered against sports teams.

As I have said thousands of time before – none of this should be a surprise. The industry around the hobby has shifted so drastically from where it was during my youth that it is barely recognizable. Lots of people like to get autographs of their favorite players, few will pay a premium for a trading card that features a contrived scarce availability.

With all of this as a consideration, how can things get worse than they already are?

I think the answer lies in the player themselves, as its clear that the trading card companies and their business model lies almost squarely on the player’s shoulders. Sure, league licenses are an issue in their own right, but just producing base cards with no autographs is likely a losing battle. They need the players as desperately as ever, and more and more, players are becoming more and more unwilling to participate. Even worse, they may not be understanding of why their participation is so important to the companies.

Imagine explaining how those 300 sheets of stickers were going to be used to a 21 year old college kid, whose intelligence is almost 100% based around their sport. In football, from my own experience, this is about as prevalent as any sport, and I dont think that is any shock to people. The autograph game is too one sided in so many ways, and with the way the general public is reacting to recent news, I have to think that the uphill battle of growing the hobby is tougher than ever.

Digital has a place in this as well, because it is introducing trading cards to thousands upon thousands of people who wouldnt normally be exposed. Since digital signatures arent actually signed by the player unless noted, it changes the game a bit. Product development can be hours instead of months, and that poses a unique advantage. You dont need to explain why the player needs to sign 10000 of the card in front of them.

Im generalizing, I know. Some players do understand what is going on and dont mind the process. With most of the kids being exposed to autograph days with their school or fan fests with the professional team, they get the desire for their signature. They also understand the contract they signed and why they are being asked to do specifically what they are asked to do. I have to believe this is the exception, not the rule, and the middle ground players can be very easy to work with. Older players who have been around the hobby for years are likely not as much of an issue other than cost per signature, too. I dont think they are the problem.

At the same time, if the guys dont really get what they are signing or why they are signing it, it becomes that much easier to shrug off their duties or try to manipulate the system in a way like Dak and others have tried. The NFLPA also has a stake in this, because they work with the players to ensure the cards get signed at many of the sanctioned events.

Im actually wondering how this all plays out over the next ten years, because I have put so much effort and money into the hobby that I really dont want to see things come crashing down in the industry that supports my addiction. Personally, I dont see the way things are set up right now as sustainable at all. Licensing costs are too much, players want more and more to sign, companies need them more and more, and box prices are getting so unreasonable that everything is diluted. It also doesnt help that Panini’s football business methods is to run the presses like they are on fire, only exacerbating many of the challenges everyone faces on a regular basis.

Here is how I see this. More and more players will try to do what so many have done already. They will try to get around the grueling five hour signing sessions or thousands of cards that show up in their mailbox. Its brutal. Ive watched them do it, and some have a system that makes it go faster, others struggle to get it completed. For that reason, companies will have to find a way to weed out the misses and capitalize on the players who understand what is going on. Hopefully they can do that and quickly, before more national news comes crashing down upon us all.

Dak Prescott and His Autograph Fiasco: The Aftermath

If you spent your Friday night sitting at home until late, you got the treat of Panini trying to bury the announcement of their statement at the end of the week. It was a treat because it might have been the most hilariously horrific end to this whole shit show that any Panini fan could hope for.

If you want the gist, they are going to replace the Prizm cards with a signed version that has a stamp on it. Not only that, but Prescott will have his deal extended and will continue to sign for Panini. Yes, this is what they said. Im not joking. They are giving him an extension after what happened.

Even more mind numbingly stupid:

  1. No one took responsibility in the statement
  2. Neither group apologized
  3. There is no “make good” other than fulfilling the card
  4. No explanation of what they are going to do to prevent this from happening again.

Word on the street is that the league got involved and would not allow Prescott to take the blame for the situation. Basically Panini had to take the heat, and rather than say nothing, both parties agreed to say they “have no knowledge of how those cards were returned to Panini.” Obviously, someone knows, and it only brings about more questions.

This is a disaster, only made worse by how terrible Panini is handling the aftermath. Clearly Prescott couldnt give a flying fuck about how this plays, because the national media is clearly laughing that this is even a story. Panini’s less than positive reputation in the hobby has been damaged further, and its without a doubt far from over.

Every autograph in every product will now be under a microscope – especially those from Panini. Signings completed without a company rep present will have new eyes hopefully cast upon them.

Similarly, Dak Prescott’s hobby value has been damaged as well. Although he is far from worthless and will continue to be a superstar, things have changed. Im curious to see how second year cards will perform, or what might happen if he doesnt have the success next year that he did in 2016. He may not have the leash that players like Andrew Luck were provided.

When you also consider how collectors feel they have been treated by Panini, its going to be interesting to see what Panini does to reclaim some of the people that were lost. Casual collectors who hadnt really been invested in the hobby might not be as easy to convert to larger spenders, and that could hurt long term.

In the end, this could not have been a worse face for the hobby, and Im actually upset that Panini was left to handle it, instead of one of the other companies. When you see the trend lately, something like this was bound to happen. I think of all the trading card companies out there, Panini was the least equipped to handle it with class and with an expert approach. They handled this like amateurs, and its unfortunate that the hobby will hurt as a result.

With Chicago’s National Convention in a couple weeks, there will be a TON of people looking for answers and even more people who will likely have a shorter temper when things go poorly in the future. Panini has fucked up so many times its not even funny, and I dont think they have the public patience to continue on the current trajectory they are on today.

Here is the worst part of all of this.

Because Panini owns the exclusive license for the NFL and NBA, there is no place for those collectors to go to speak with their wallets. If you collect football cards, you cant go to a licensed competitor to get cards you want. You are FORCED to buy Panini, and that is fucking horrendous. When shit like this goes down, we should have options to buy from other companies, but with exclusives in all four major sports, we have not been afforded that privilege.

Hopefully something gives out and we get more options, because I hate that I have no ability to show Panini how terrible they are treating their exclusive.

Here is the link to the statement:

Panini Statement on Dak Prescott