On Shelves Now: 2016 Contenders Football is Live!

The last two years of Contenders have been pretty good, and I think that ends up being the exception rather than the rule with ticket designs for a product that I feel gets more credit than it deserves. So much of the loyalty of this set comes from the inclusion of autographs from literally every possible rookie, and less about getting a good design down on paper. From early boxes, 2016 is one of the good years, much to my excitement.

Here are some of the big hits so far:

2016 Contenders Ezekiel Elliott Ticket Auto RC

2016 Contenders Carson Wentz ROY Contenders Auto

2016 Contenders Jared Goff Auto Ticket RC

2016 Contenders Will Fuller Rookie Ticket Auto RC

2016 Contenders Tyreek Hill Horizontal Auto Variation

This year’s design hasnt been the best in the mockup phase, but I actually think it has grown on me considerably. The problem is that the rookie class is driving up prices on the boxes to the point where they almost arent affordable enough to bust.

I think Panini did a good enough job with this set that it will sell better than most likely expected even a few weeks ago. Despite the inclusion of more points in boxes (NO FUCKING CLUE WHY POINTS STILL EXIST), the rest of the set looks pretty standard for much of what Contenders is known for. The NFL draft autos look to be the only set that use those shitty posed photos, and the inclusion of Sepia and Horizontal variation is a good add.

If I am Panini, Contenders needs to be a focus in A) keeping it simple B) not using a horrid design and C) not driving new features down our throats. That being said, they are including digital redemption codes straight out of Topps’ playbook, which would be nice if their app werent fucking trash. I like that they are trying to add value there, but their digital presence is that of a monkey in a pen of gorillas.

Overall, this Contenders needed to just be enough to not be so off the wall that collectors would have tons of questions. Luckily Panini didnt fuck it up so badly that Zeke and Dak couldnt save it, so…good for them?

2016 Optic Football Rated Rookie Photos Are the Biggest Disappointment of the Year

I loved Topps Chrome when it was THE rookie card to own. Products that cost 1500 a box werent generating the type of value in their chase hits that we got from Superfractors, and its clear that everyone in the hobby was jealous of the technology as a method for producing cards. In fact, Panini was so enthralled by Topps’ dominance, that they created a rip off equivalent of each of the Chrome sets that Topps put out.


Optic is new this year, and the set had the right idea going in, creating a Chromed out version of the Donruss set that I liked a lot this year – save one specific aspect. The photos used on the rated rookie cards were tagged as the base for the product, and on card autos were used as the way to deliver the one auto per box. This is where the biggest fuck up of the year was made, as the ridiculous photos used in the Donruss set were not changed to reflect action shots or game shots.


As if I havent made myself abundantly clear this year, the use of these goofy ass photos just make me angry. It makes me angry because these could have been cool if action shots were used appropriately. Instead we are left with pictures of rookies flexing muscles or being handed footballs or awkwardly looking at the camera. Just writing this post has me as fired up as seeing Panini murder Spectra for the 3rd year in a row.


People often criticize my blog for hating on Panini with every fiber of my being. This is why I hate what they do. They dont make decisions that create good looking trading cards, and save a few surprisingly good sets, 2016 was as ugly of a clusterfuck as has existed since they took over Donruss just before 2009. I cannot stand the choices they make about so many different things, and seeing the disappointment over a potentially great on card chrome set just really drives that dagger home.

Panini will say they were trying to recreate the retro cards of the golden days of the NFL. I call bullshit. Im not even sure they understand why goofy posed photos were used back in those days. It wasnt because the card companies thought those types of photos looked good. Limited access to the players during the season, lack of a Rookie Premiere (the event created for card companies to avoid posed shots), cost of buying game shots, and lack of ability to show team logos were all a big reason why the companies had to go the direction they did.

Now that the Rookie Premiere exists for rookies to get action type photos before the preseason, the need to use this type of photography is no longer necessary. PERIOD. It doesnt create connection with the player, it doesnt highlight what football is all about, and it misses out on the dynamic pictures that have made the gridiron what it is today. Panini should be fucking ostracized for the use of these dumb pictures, and I cannot wait for a year to come where 2013 repeats itself. Dak and Zeke have made it easy for Panini to mail it in on card design, and collectors are more concerned with jumping on the Cowboy bandwagon, than examining the embarrassing display that Panini has put on this year.

Optic is not the ugliest set of the year, Panini owned the ugly side of things big time with Unparalled, Gala, Spectra, Phoenix and Infinty. Its the most disappointing because of the asinine decision on the way the Rated Rookies were done. I swear to god I will fight this fight as long as I have to. Enough of these fucking photos. I dont need to see Carson Wentz doing his best impression of Captain Morgan. I dont need to see Dak Prescott posing like he is checking himself out nude in the mirror. I want action. I want dynamic. I want REAL FUCKING GAME PHOTOS. Fuck Panini and their embarassing boner for showcasing rookies like fashion models. This is why they suck. This is why Optic is as disappointing as anything. It could have been so, so, so much more.

Do Some Collectors Hate Panini Football Because They Have No Organic Brand Identity?

Maybe a better question is do some collectors hate Panini because they have stolen their brand ideas from so many of the other companies out there? I was conceiving this post in my head, and I have a clear narrative I want to tell, the problem is, Im not sure how to put it into a coherent article that will make sense to convey what I am trying to convey.

Basically, my opinion is that Panini owes the majority of their football product line to sources that are not organic to their football team. Most of the products, down to using the Superfractor pattern that was made famous by their competition, feature ideas or “identities” that arent theirs. So much of their product line is either directly ripped off from Topps and Upper Deck, or grandfathered in from the team at Donruss. Hell, some of their products from the last few years didnt even bother to change the name before taking it for their own.

To be fair, its clear that stealing from other brands is a standard practice in the hobby. Lets all remember that the jersey card started with Upper Deck in 1996. Within a few years, it had expanded to every manufacturer. Same thing with autograph cards, booklets, shadowboxes and every other creative idea. The thing is, Panini owns zero of those ideas, and they seem to make it their mission to integrate the creativity from other companies into their own products.

Adding to my personal disgust is that many of the ideas they rip off are like photocopies of the original. Just not as sharp and definitely not as desirable. I am curious if the growing negative sentiment over their imminent desire to take over the hobby’s exclusives stems from the fact that people are genuinely upset that rather than establish a brand identity on their own, they have taken pieces from the beloved corners of the hobby and tried to re-purpose them without making anything better or making anything really for themselves.

If you want to go through a super fun exercise, go through their product calendar for Football and start looking at what products are homegrown Panini fun houses, and which ones are the photocopies from previous products. Origins was a hilarious attempt at Inception, Luxe is based solely on a subset of Framed Autographs from Museum Collection, Prizm is Chrome, Select is Finest, Immaculate Collection is Exquisite with a new name and sticker autos, Spectra is modeled after a Bowman Sterling product that no one liked, there are Superfractors everywhere, and the rest of the products are either carry over loyalty products from DLP, or exercises in how ugly a trading card product can be. Wonder how a year like this could still have so many products selling below MSRP on Blowout? Is it because Panini (and the rest of the industry too), have cut so many corners that it is no longer able to sustain a quality pricing structure? Personally, I say yes.

Panini uses the minimum advertised price program as a way to prevent its products from losing value off the bat, and its really sad that that has to be in place. Although MAPP pricing exists in other industries, its not used in the way its used in trading cards. Its clear to me that the cost of making cards has gotten more expensive, but not all corners that have been cut with box content, autograph checklists, and relic practices need to be cut as much as they have. From what I have been told, in football, they negotiated such a ridiculous deal to get the exclusive, that they have set up collectors to shoulder the burden of extra licensing cost beyond what most probably are aware of.

At some point, my perceived lack of sustainability in card production catches up with the other companies as I think it might eventually, Panini likely will be the last one standing in the physical card industry. They have the most stable source of funding among the big four companies. The problem is, their lack of success around building products in the major sports that have staying power really concerns me to no end. They cant keep hoping that this plan works out for them. Collectors have tired of it, even though the Cowboys’ rookie class has masked some of the results in their dismal product line additions for the year. Take away Dak and Zeke, and the picture looks a lot different than it does right now.

We have seen many hobby shops closing doors because trends of moving towards online and group breaking has already made it difficult to operate a retail storefront. If the takeover trends continue and Panini does find a way to take over more than they already have, Im not sure the constant flow of the product shit river that runs weekly through shelves across the nation, can continue to have profitability built into it. Group breakers have even started complaining about how bad things have gotten, and if no real creativity is brought to the table, will there be a growing tidal wave of boredom that eventually envelops the entire hobby? I have often said the hobby will never die. A group of collectors will always exist. The problem is that the industry is not immune, because it has to remain profitable for the businesses that support it to exist.

For me to change my tune, Panini needs to get off their ass and start bringing new ideas to the table. They were woefully outgunned on digital, and they are building their existing products around found items from the scrap heap. I have yet to really see anything groundbreaking come from them in their entire existence, and that needs to change. I want it to change. I want there to continue to be a reason to buy boxes of cards. Right now, buying boxes as a whole is a losing venture because nothing changes week to week. I can buy the singles I want cheaper on ebay than ripping packs, and I can get the thrill of gambling from other means. A similar article like this can be written about many of the other companies out there, but Panini seems to have the trajectory that many people like me are dreading.

I want to see the industry change. I want to see Panini change. I want the hobby I have dedicated my life to begin to flourish again. The arrow is not pointing in the right direction. This lack of brand identity that Panini exhibits angers me to no end, because I know it just makes things worse. For 99% of the casual sports fans out there, Panini is a sandwich, not a card company. Organic growth doesnt seem to be happening, and good years seem to stem more from a market of people that are already aware of cards, not new collectors. Its not like Panini brought thousands of new people to the hobby with Dak and Zeke, the existing base just bought more than normal. Digital helps a bit with Topps, but not enough to fix what ails us.

On Shelves Now: 2016 Panini Optic Football Go-Live Report

Some collectors have been going through a commonly discussed exercise lately, and its one I find absolutely depressing. On a few hobby message boards, I have seen people asking which of the Panini products will eventually unseat Topps Chrome as THE product to buy. Every year, the Chrome Superfractor Autograph was the most valuable rookie card for the top name. Just like clockwork, every year, Panini trotted out their diet version to try to wear big boy pants and sit at the adult table. It never worked. Now that they have bought their way to killing Chrome for good, it leaves Prizm to fill the gap, and results have been good but not great. Optic is hitting early, as a secondary offering, and its not looking good at all.

Check out the horrible photos on these cards. Just horrendous:

2016 Panini Optic Jared Goff Rated Rookie Auto

2016 Panini Optic Ezekiel Elliott Rated Rookie RC

2016 Panini Optic Joey "Dancin' Machine" Bosa Auto Rated Rookie

2016 Panini Optic Josh Doctson Blue Rated Rookie Auto /75

First off, Panini made some TERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIBLE choices with the set configurations, as is their nature. For some idiotic reason, they chose to make the Rated Rookie set from Donruss as the flagship autograph for the set. As we know, this is the set that might feature the most hilariously fucking awful photos of the year, and that’s putting it lightly. Similarly, it remains a huge question as to why they chose a new product like Optic to house the on card autographs instead of Prizm, which has a more likely chance to be the Diet Chrome replacement. At least get rid of the goofy fucking pictures of Joey Bosa mid dance battle, and Carson Wentz after a very satisfying fart. That’s how bad those cards look.

If Prizm were to offer some sort of on card rookie autograph, with the simple design it has featured in 2015 and 2016, I think Panini might actually be on the right track. Knowing them, they will do such a thing in 2017, but A) the rookie class will be shit and B) they will fuck up the design or the photos like always. With Chrome, we got our cake and we got to eat it too, and prices reflected the consistently great looking on card autograph cards. With Panini its rarely a total win. They always have to fuck it up some god forsaken way. Optic may have had potential, but all that was trashed with these disgusting Rated Rookie cards of Dak Prescott looking longingly into the distance like the cover of a Christian Rock album.

At some point, I want Panini to remove their head from between their cheeks, and recognize that their products that focus on these photos are dying on the vine. I dont think Optic will be even close to what Prizm is selling for, and Contenders is going to be the product that makes Optic a forgettable part of the calendar. Its unfortunate that the product team at Panini has no clue how to build a good set, as I feel that the retro feel of some of the designs are actually pretty interesting.

I have a feeling when we look back on 2016, we are going to be really disappointed with the way Panini has fumbled their first year of the exclusive. They FINALLY had the house to themselves, and instead of throwing a raving party that everyone had a blast at, they literally just stayed home in their sweatpants and jerked off to the thought of their time when people actually gave a fuck about what they did in the industry.

A Hobby Festivus Airing of Grievances: 2016 Edition

frank-costanza-1In the immortal words of Frank Costanza, I got a lot of problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it. 2016 has had its hobby ups and downs but Festivus isnt about anything more than removing distracting tinsel, high strength to weight ratios, and my favorite part – airing of grievances. Its a time where you gather the family around and tell them all the ways they have disappointed you during the previous year.

Panini NFL exclusive is a huge disappointment

Holy shit, Panini got fucking lucky that the Dallas Cowboys rookie class can cure cancer, heal the sick and clothe the poor. Without Zeke and Dak, this year would be as bad as everyone thought it would be, with Goff sitting until Fisher’s ineptitude forced his hand, and Wentz starting hot but cooling off considerably. Panini’s new product lines are so fucking terrible that I dont even have any more adjectives that can describe the hobby equivalent of a cat coughing up a hairball it just licked from its ass. Product after product was terrible, save a handful of surprises. Coming soon we have the part of the calendar when everything costs 800 dollars a box, so it can only get better! Its clear the NFL made the move because Panini offered a laughable amount of minimum guarantees that no company would ever turn down. I cant wait to see what happens next year when the class looks to be worse than 2013.

Panini’s photo choices are a huge disappointment

I can only believe that Panini’s design team has never really collected cards, because there is no other logical explanation for why Panini continually chooses photos for their cards that feature players posing like they are nude in front of a mirror. You would expect that they would use the opportunity at the rookie premiere to get the top guys in uniform out on the field and running around, but leave it to Panini to actually build a structure on the field where they can do their vogue glamour shots out of the sun. To Panini, nothing looks better than a player acting like they are smashing a football in their bare hands, and for the rest of us, its nothing but a fucking joke.

Building products for group breaker formats is a huge disappointment

Im not saying that products provided any insane amount of value before, which is kind of how the group break phenomenon started. That doesnt give the card companies a pass from creating high quality products that wont be sold as slots. Its rare that a box will consistently deliver an ROI that gives a person any shot of making back 10% of their money, and its even less so with super premium releases. Topps took the opportunity this year to build the hobby’s first 25k per box product, and the top market for those boxes? Group breakers. Panini’s football release this week is so group break specific that the rest of the population is literally risking a 180 dollar loss every time they rip a box at a time. This is becoming a terrible trend, and its not going to do much to grow the hobby. The industry is not sustainable as it is, but catering to a group of collectors that literally are unwilling to invest in product without going halfsies kind of defeats the purpose of growing the business.

Panini Replay Basketball is a huge disappointment

I dont collect basketball, but I literally cant look away from this car accident in progress. Multiple casualties, and its been a long time since I have seen a card company release a product that was so bad, they needed to release a second product to give to the people who opened the first one. There have been production mistakes that have caused giveaway programs to be needed across every company, but this was a legitimate product offering that Panini tried to slip through the five hole. There was such a huge public outcry over the disgusting results people were seeing, that they are going to release a second round of Prizm that will be distributed in an effort to smooth over this train wreck. Its hilarious how terrible they are for the image of the industry, and this is a company that owns more licenses than any of the big three. Not a good state of affairs. Someone needs to pin their shoulders to the floor so we can end this holiday.

The lack of creativity in new products is a huge disappointment

Every week, new products come out. Every week, its the same goddamn shit over and over again. Mike Trout had like 5000 autographs this year, and very few of them showed that creative spark that would necessitate a whole product being built. Dak Prescott will have over 15000 autographs during the course of his rookie year, and every single one of them is a variation on a theme. Even worse, stickers still remain the favored way of delivering autograph content, although the shift to on card is more pronounced with Topps and its products. The issue is that I dont understand how the industry will create more interest in cards if every product that is released is just some version of another product already released. There are only so many cards that can be stomached before someone realizes this Tom Brady auto is just like every other Tom Brady auto, and decides its better to just walk away from the hobby. No wonder things have shrunk so significantly over the last 10-15 years. We’re all bored out of our collective fucking minds.

The slow crawl of product development in digital is a huge disappointment

Somewhere in upwards of 5 companies produce some sort of digital based trading cards. Since 2013, not much has really been created, despite some major advancements in technology. Panini digital is such a sorry state of affairs that they cant even figure out how to make their apps worth playing in the smallest possible way. Topps has taken a golden goose and made it so uninteresting that people are starting to leave digital all together. Product functionality in the apps hasnt changed since 2014, and even with a new build, the once promising medium seems like it needs a major facelift to remain a long term profitable venture for any of the companies involved.

The amount of scams that still remain in the hobby is a huge disappointment

I cant believe that some of this shit still exists with how many people have google searches at their disposal. Fake patches, counterfeit autographs and all sorts of other ways to take advantage of people still are a big money maker for scammers on the internet. Even more concerning is that people still place huge value in high grade cards, which is a giant scam in its own right. Its only getting worse, especially as more people find out how easy it is to take money off the ignorant people who refuse to educate themselves. The 2007 rookie premiere autographs from Topps still sell regularly on eBay, despite the first three pages on google being stacked with content telling people to stay away.

The amount of products that still consider single color relics a hit is a huge disappointment

I cannot believe that Panini can sell a box for as much as they do, when 3 of the hits are single color relics that no one gives a shit about. How is that still worth advertising on the side of the box? How does Panini get away with text that says “4 hits including at least 1 autograph!” Its misleading as shit, as its clear that these junk cards are barely worth the cardboard they are printed on these days.

The fact that Panini Rewards still exists is a huge disappointment

I dont care what the card replaces, its worse than a redemption. Collectors literally cringe at pulling points cards, and I have literally seen people throw them across the shop in anger. I have seen boxes of 500 dollar packs have points in them, and Panini should be ashamed of themselves. Its a complete fucking slap in the face that these are added to premium products, and that’s just the beginning. It doesnt matter that they still inexplicably charge for shipping, and have so few cards that are actually worth using the points on. I havent even begun to explore the false expansion of a print run due to points, something that still concerns me as it did when this was first announced. Bottom line, I could pull a 10000 point card, but if Im not sitting there hitting refresh when they load new cards into the system, im stuck with a choice from 100 different Devin Smith autos.

As we all know with Festivus, there has to be a better way!