2014 Topps Chrome Football Retail Hits the Shelves!

Im sad. Im sad because this is the second to last time we are going to see Topps Chrome in Football. It has become the penultimate football product every year, a set that appeals to both the set collectors, who enjoy more lower end products, and the hit collectors who chase the high end autos and such. That rarely happens, and it should be maddening that this is not going to continue being the one holiday we can look forward to every year. Instead, we will be left with crappy knockoffs that have never and will never measure up.

Here are some of the retail cards already up:

2014 Topps Chrome Blake Bortles Orange Retail Refractor

2014 Topps Chrome Kelvin Benjamin X-Fractor RC

2014 Topps Chrome Johnny Manziel 1963 Mini RC

2014 Topps Chrome Lot of 1985 Rookie Retro Flashback Cards – Cant wait to see the autographed versions!

The retail cards from 2014 Chrome have started to pop up recently, and as we get closer to Wednesday’s release, more and more will surface. Its crazy that a product costing less than 80 dollars per box delivers the top chase cards of the year. Those card DONT come from products that cost 150 bucks or even 1500 bucks per box, just Chrome. Its a testament to the staying power of the brand, and also how much it will be missed after 2015.

When looking at retail, it does actually deliver some reasons to buy. Different parallels, autographs, and other content make it worthwhile trip to Target or Wal Mart to pick some up, and I would suggest taking a gander next time you are there. I absolutely love this set because it can deliver so much value in the non-hit cards, and that only serves to make the retail version that much more attractive.

There have been numerous reports that this is the largest production run for Chrome in a long time, but I dont think it will have much effect. Topps knows people will want to get as much out of this set as possible, and it wont matter that guys like Manziel and company will be tough pulls. People buy Chrome because it always looks great, and always is a fun rip. Its cheap and can pack a punch if you hit something nice. Retail, since 2012 has been a major reason why Chrome’s popularity has increased, and I am probably walking out the door as you read this to go pick some up.

Questions Raised By Panini’s Recent Flawless Football Fiasco

Every so often, something comes along in the hobby that ignites a huge discussion. A good example from the past was Mark Ingram’s photo from the 2011 Rookie Premiere, showcasing a clear representation of the way that Event Used jerseys were done. Although it wasnt displaying anything that most of us experienced online collectors didnt know, it clued a lot of others in, and they werent happy. This new Panini Flawless fiasco is a similarly big discussion, although its far less cut and dry.

The whole situation was further complicated after Panini released a more extensive understanding of how far the mislabeled cards went, and with some additional thought, there are a lot of questions that were established in the mean time. For those of you unaware of the situation, here is my original reaction.

What Does Further Discovery of “Mislabeled” cards Mean?

When Panini released their first statement, I wrote it off. Three players had issues? Okay, whatever. But now more players are part of it? Wait what? That’s a bit different. It seems a larger part of the print run was deemed to be mislabeled, and that is a very disappointing situation. Remember, this is a product that costs a mortgage payment per box, attention to detail needs to be top of mind. Something doesnt compute. This led me to the next question.

Was This Really A Mistake?

Aha! Now we get to the meat of the discussion. Originally, I could see how a few wrong swatches get into the wrong cards. It happens. Yet, to have extensive documentation of which cards from which run were effective? How does that happen unless you know exactly what is going on? Its one thing to say, “Well we missed on these three player’s whole runs. The wrong bag of swatches got used.” Its another thing to say, “3 cards from Subset A were bad, but the rest were good, and the same goes for 6 cards from subset B, but the rest were good.” That shows me that someone probably knew exactly what was going on. You dont have that type of documentation without knowing. Products go through too many QC checks to not catch this many issues.

Flawless came out very early in the year. Very early. I can easily see a scenario unfold that stems from having to rush the cards to print, cutting corners, and hoping no one can tell the difference. Not only is that extremely short sighted with a hobby that is known for its meticulous study of the different releases, but it is a blatant disregard for everything that we find to be trustworthy. This brings me to a third question.

Why the fuck do they have so many old photo shoot jerseys in stock?

Calvin Johnson attended the photo shoot in 2007, which was over 7 years ago. There is absolutely NO excuse for having his swatches in inventory after this many years. Somewhere down the line they needed to pick up a game used jersey, and dump this shit once that happens. This brings me to a fourth question.

How many other cards/products might this have affected?

This was a likely hand packed, highly QCed product that should have never had these issues. What about those other products that cost 1/16th of the price? Can we trust that Panini hasnt cut the same corners with other products? I have to say that my once solid stance is shaken with them, and I am guessing that others will probably feel the same way. Many of the players on the list have been in MANY products, and that only begs the final question.

CAN WE TRUST ANYONE ANYMORE?

I want to say yes. I want to say that the plethora of bad autographs, bad jerseys, and dismantled trust gives us nothing that should shake our confidence, but that just isnt true. Panini made themselves the online bad guy overnight, mainly because they mistreated that trust. This recent post further explaining the situation only makes things worse, even though it is them stepping out from beyond the shadows to own up. The bottom line is that they are only owning up because they got caught, and it seems like they are employing every part of their PR department to try and spin this away from the questions I am posing in the above part of this article.

The industry is not in a good place right now, and it is even more in question now that the company who just signed an exclusive license with the world. These are the people that the leagues are putting their trust in, and we can all but be certain that as long as the checks clear, they could care less. Or, will a shaken public who is coming off the heels of a federal investigation finally have a jumping off point to rid this bully from the yard? Who knows, but this cant hurt.

Here is the article in question if you want to take a look.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Classics Baseball

I have often questioned the ability possessed by Panini’s design team to design a good looking card. Time after time, they have shown that they are not only inept at doing so, but take it to a level previously unseen in the trading card industry. This could not be a more horrifying situation, as its clear that Panini is making a push to own an exclusive license in every sport. Seeing the initial examples from Classics Baseball showcase how poorly they perform in the design arena, and it only reinforces why everyone should be concerned.

Here are some of the hits people have already posted:

2014 Classics Jose Abreu Auto Relic

2014 Classics Mike Schmidt Dual Relic Auto /10

2014 Classics Kris Bryant Base Auto RC

2014 Classics Anthony Rizzo Dual Relic Auto

2014 Classics Roberto Clemente Triple Relic

The part of the classics design that baffles me the most is the separated nameplate area that exists on the majority of the base and base autograph content. It literally serves no purpose to draw a line that separates the player picture and layout from the flag and product logo, thus obscuring close to 1/3 of the card surface. Can anyone disagree that having the free floating flag and product logo would be more than adequate? I cannot see a reason why someone would design a card like they did for classics. Its fucking ugly.

Other inserts in the set are even more hideous, which should be beyond shocking that something could look worse than the base design. Classics has long been about a simple design and cool autos and relics, but this is obviously the opposite direction entirely. Overly complicated layouts, and like every single goddamn Panini set, the signature area is regularly separated off in its own defined area.

There are nice looking cards, and some really cool ones that im sure a lot of collectors will use to breed interested in buying the product. On the other hand, I just cant fathom why anyone would want to open this junk. It only goes to show that the hobby has inexplicably shifted away from desiring good looking cards, and will literally accept anything you put in front of them. As long as it has a player subject somewhere tied to the card set someone will buy it. Doesnt matter if the design was thrown together with no consideration for proper visual appeal. Hell, sometimes Panini doesnt even bother with the player.

Maybe we deserve this. Maybe Panini’s exclusives are our punishment for accepting the low standards they have imposed. That is sad and hopefully something will change. I doubt it though, especially when you see their twitter contests. If the hobby is stocked to the brim with those types of people, we ARE doomed to this existence.

Panini Admits Wrongdoing in Flawless Game Used Patches

Panini has gotten themselves into a hot mess. Quite the hot mess indeed. Basically, for a few players in Flawless, the cards were labeled as game used, when in fact they were leftover event used jerseys from the rookie premiere. These players, Kaepernick, Jeffery, and others, are were part of an exhaustive review thread on the message boards, leading to this identification.

Considering all that goes on in the world of trading cards, we shouldnt be surprised – even with an apology and an offer of exchange that was issued yesterday. Here are the cards:

2014 Panini Flawless Colin Kaepernick Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Colin Kaepernick Jumbo Patch Example 2

2014 Panini Flawless Alshon Jeffrey Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto

Here is the bottom line. I really dont think this was done with nefarious purposes in mind. Im guessing it was a mistake (albeit major), and it is definitely going to hurt them significantly in terms of trust with the public. Issuing the statement only happened because they got caught, and that is not a way to run a business. They should have gotten out ahead of it, no doubt about it.

That being said, the authenticity of “Game Worn” cards within such a high end product should never be in question. Attention to detail is a huge deal. Additionally, this isnt the first time that Panini should have been facing questions around their business practices. I honestly believe three players jersey relics are much less of a concern than the practice of obtaining autographs through the player’s agent and other related people. Many of the companies have resorted to live signings as much as possible, but with Panini, there is good reason to think that they are only doing live signings for the important players.

For years, Topps has put a top priority on being live with the player as they sign for as many of the autograph sessions as logistically possible. They are far from perfect in their track record, but they have avoided many of the problem players as a result. Panini, due to their different ways of obtaining signatures, has gotten caught with everyone under the sun. Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Cordarrelle Patterson, Whitney Mercilus and others.

The scariest thing about using this model is that there is no trustworthy party that can verify the authenticity. Currently, the only way Panini can question authenticity is through the player’s agent or contact, and there is no way they would ever throw their guy under the bus. The only way to completely verify the signature is to be there when it is signed. Panini has failed too many times to count.

When you add on this jersey situation, the trust is damaged further. Panini does these sorts of things to cut cost. All is done in the name of the bottom line, and that hurts collectors. GU Jerseys are expensive. Flying people out to signings is expensive. Panini wants to save that money to offset the enormous expenses of league licenses and player autographs.

This is not good all around. Here is their article that details the situation.

Here are some of the previous articles I have posted on the autographs:

Can We Still Trust Autograph Content in Sports?

Penning the Hobby: Trusting Autograph Content

Calling Into Question Robert Griffin’s Contenders Autographs

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Totally Certifed Football

There are a lot of products made by Panini, which illicit a question of why they exist. Sets like Prominence, Hot Rookies and Momentum have all gone to that space for me. However, of all of those products, many of them are or will be one and done. Totally Certified is easily the one that everyone should have a hearty chuckle over, because even after all these years of horrid performance, it still exists. It sold poorly in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but that’s no matter for Panini! Bring it back again!

Check out this disaster in all its shitty glory:

2014 Totally Certified Kelvin Benjamin Auto Patch /10

2014 Totally Certified Johnny Manziel Auto Patch

2014 Totally Certified Sammy Watkins Auto

2014 Totally Certified John Brown Auto RC /10

You know things are getting a bit desperate when it is the first product to voluntarily be released on a Monday in as long as I can remember. Each card looks worse than the next, and dont even get me started on the names they chose for the inserts. I mean, who could fault a company for releasing a subset named "AWESOME AUTOGRAPHS!" I cant make this shit up, they actually went there.

The most disheartening thing about this product is not the awful names though, believe it or not. Even though they named a rookie autograph set "Rookie Penmanship," that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is how bad the cards look. Separated signature areas, off center swatches, and odd vertical presentations are only the start of it.

In fact, I cannot fathom why Panini is so obsessed with making sure every sticker auto that they use (and its a lot of them), is completely separated off from every design. That only speaks to how poor their design team really is, as there are so many methods to ensure that the autograph can be seen clearly without walling it off and obscuring the rest of the card. I dont know about you, but I would really like to see a full player shot.

Panini sucks at designing cards. They just do. Although they have their wins here and there, the body of work is fucking horrendous. I would trust Adrian Peterson with my children before I trust Panini designing a nice looking trading card. That is NOT going too far, that is what their track record represents. I mean, it is horrifying to believe that this design was presented in a production meeting and green lit for the set. Seriously.

I dont know what it is about them, but they just cant get it right. Totally Certified is totally not worth the cardboard it is printed on. Until someone explains what makes something TOTALLY certfied over just regular certified, I will continue to abhor this product. What is being certified so poorly that it needs to be Totally Certified? Doesnt make any fucking sense.