2014 Elite Football: Acetate Shines In New Ways

I love acetate cards, especially ones with hard signed autographs. Im not sure why I like them as much as I do, but using acetate in a card set usually gets my attention unless it looks like crap. My favorite use of acetate in football so far is Topps Strata without a doubt. 2014 Elite is the most recent in a long line of products to use acetate, and I think they have done a pretty nice job. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights.

Inscriptions Rookie Autos

Over the last three years, these cards have gone from awesome to shitty to pretty nice. I have come to the determination that if these cards are nice, I am that much more likely to buy Elite, especially if the rookie class is worth checking out. This year’s acetate cards come in three flavors, with some being better than others. I like the horizontal ones the best, but the vertical ones arent too bad. Nothing like the turds we were forced to endure last year. Photoshop work has improved as well, which helps.

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel Auto Inscriptions On Card Acetate Auto RC

2014 Elite Jadeveon Clowney Inscriptions Auto Version 2

2014 Elite Marqise Lee Auto Inscriptions On Card Acetate Auto RC Version 3

Verdict: WIN

Clarity Glass

Not only is the design on these really cool, but to make them plexiglass is a really awesome idea. It adds much more collectability to these cards, as I dont think there has been a licensed plexiglass style card in a while. These are falling one per box, and it is VERY easy to see which pack has the Clarity card in it. Not only are they easy to feel, but the cards are heavy as hell. They come wrapped in team bags, so you know which packs have them. Great cards though, and I dont know why they didnt opt for this to be the main auto subset for all vets. I know it would cost some money to make that happen, but lest we not forget what Panini is made of.

2014 Elite Drew Brees Clarity Glass

2014 Elite LeSean McCoy Clarity Glass

Verdict: WIN

Elite Acetate Rookie Cards (With Vets)

When I pulled one out of my boxes this year, I was really surprised as to how cool they are. They are basically the same rookie card with acetate stock instead of the tired foil stock from all the other cards. Although they are numbered with really weird structuring, they can be very collectible for a base style rookie. Really unfortunate they couldnt have found a way to get an autograph parallel. Money money money money money, I guess.

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel Acetate Rookie /98

2014 Elite Peyton Manning Acetate Base /82

2014 Elite Tom Brady Acetate Base /98

Verdict: WIN

Debut Numbers

These cards are in general replacing what I would guess are the Hard Hat cards from 2012 and 2013. Its unfortunate, because the hard hat cards are usually pretty cool. Last year they were able to get hard hats card printed with premeiere pics, and to switch them out with these is a huge disappointment. Not only is the design relatively dumb, but its completely uninteresting as well. None of the rookies at the premiere have autos in this set, and that is a big mistake.

2014 Elite Anthony Barr Debut Numbers Acetate Auto

2014 Elite Lache Seastrunk Debut Numbers Auto

Verdict: LOSS

Elite Marks

As far as I can tell, this is the only single auto subset for veteran autographs in Elite. In 2012 and prior, many vets had base autograph parallels, but that was stopped in 2013. Elite marks has a pretty lackluster checklist, but the cards arent all that bad. I think the acetate does them a big favor, because if these were printed on regular stock, they would be so boring I would fall asleep looking at them.

2014 Elite Eddie Lacy Elite Marks Acetate Auto

2014 Elite Victor Cruz Elite Marks Acetate Auto

Verdict: PUSH

Overall, not a bad showing for acetate cards in Elite this year, but Im still eager to see some of the surprises that are bound to show up as more of the product is opened next week in Cleveland.

Breaking Down 2014 Elite Football

I did something today that I rarely do – I busted a lot of a Panini product. I was excited that Panini had added a ton of on card content to this year's product and I thought it was worth a shot as I had some Birthday funds at my disposal. I was surprised to see the way the product turned out, and I think it is likely one of the better examples of the product we have seen.

Here are some of the top hits you can pull from one of the boxes:

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel Auto On Card Red Ink SSP

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel Auto On Card Acetate RC

2014 Elite Teddy Bridgewater Acetate Inscriptions Auto

2014 Elite Jerome Bettis / LeVeon Bell Dual Passing the Torch Auto

2014 Elite Sammy Watkins Gold Status Auto Die Cut /25

I started into my lot of boxes at Sports Cards Plus here in San Antonio, hoping I was going to come away with something remotely nice after watching lots of junk surface online. I had watched a few boxes before mine, and not very much nice stuff had come out. You are guaranteed two autos per box, but 2 out of my 4 boxes had 3 autos which was nice to take away the sting for a bad box. The third auto was one of the relic autos from the New Breed set each time.

My on card autos ended up being Tajh Boyd, Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews and one Ill save until the end. My sticker autos which were one per box to match the on card per box were Ha-ha Clinton-dix, Kony Ealy, Ryan Shazier, and one other scrub all out of 199 gold die cut like this one. I also hit Paul Richardson new breed auto relic which was nice, and a Connor Shaw new breed auto patch. Here is where I get REALLY pissed off.

Connor Shaw was invited to the premiere as one of five players who were part of the NFLPA bowl. These scrubs are LATE LATE round picks and most will likely not make the team. As far as I am aware, Topps chose not to use Shaw as a box hit for any of their products, but Panini obviously thought otherwise. Seriously, this guy was there as a favor to the NFLPA and from my understanding was only required to take some pictures. No jerseys were required, but I had heard that the NFLPA supplied some if there was a desire. Panini really wasnt thinking when including him in their products, and to pull him as a box hit is not even close to acceptable.

Now, I couldnt stay pissed for too long, as I also pulled a Teddy Bridgewater 3 color jumbo patch (which was cool), an Emmitt Smith jersey card, and the big finale of a Johnny Manziel On Card Auto RC Blue. To be into the year 3 products and have pulled 2 high value Manziel cards so far is awesome, even if I have already sold them both.

Screen shot 2014-07-23 at 8.30.18 PM

I also pulled three very low numbered parallels in an EJ Manuel Base 1/3, a Jace Amaro clear acetate RC 8/12, and a 1/1 of the face2face insert of Ladarius Webb and Antonio Brown. Not bad.

Oddly enough a secondary highlight was the Clarity insert cards which are on a thick plexiglass stock. The cards look awesome, and I might need to pick up a few after pulling Russell Wilson, Ray Rice x2, and Jamaal Charles.

Overall, Elite is definitely a big improvement over 2013, but still isnt up to where I would put a product like Inception or Base Topps, which will be out in the next few weeks. With the National Convention coming up, it shouldnt be hard for Panini to move it, which is demonstrated in the lack of redemption packs that are being given for it. Buy the product that you can move? No redemption packs. Buy Spectra which NO ONE can move? 10 redemption packs. Still think these programs are all for the collector? Welcome to the future of NFL Football cards ladies and gents.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Elite Football Improves With On Card Autos

When it comes to the beginning of the year, Elite can be pretty nice to have with nothing else on the market. It is usually one of the first Panini products to have some nice stuff, as Prestige and other sets rarely impress. With the new addition of some extra content, Elite looks like it has improved considerably over previous years.

Here are some of the big hits so far:

2014 Elite Teddy Bridgewater Acetate Inscriptions Auto

2014 Elite Jadeveon Clowney On Card Auto RC

2014 Elite Johnny Manziel Status Die Cut Blue /98

2014 Elite Sammy Watkins On Card Auto RC

2014 Elite Walter Payton Throwback Threads Patch – Horrid design, wow.

Obviously, the on card autos for the base rookies are a humongous upgrade over the normal sticker autos that we usually see. Although parallels are not on card, this one element is a big win. I think the design turned out pretty nice, and I think that when all is said and done, these cards should hold value more than previous years.

The acetate cards remain my favorite in the product as I have always been a big fan of anything that uses this medium. Although I dont think the sticker autos are anything special this year, the on card autos more than make up for it. It has yet to be determined if there are a lot of them or just a few, as I was worried when none popped up in any of the early Panini breaks or case breaks.

Elite still isnt what it could be, as the foil is a huge distraction that should be removed, as are a lot of the poorly named inserts. However, no one really busts Elite for those reasons. Seriously, if they could print it on Chrome like stock, or even just matte stock, it would be so much better, even more so if they could drop the price by about 25 bucks.

With my birthday coming up this week, ill bust a box or two for shits and giggles, hopefully ill be able to walk away with something pretty nice.

Further Implications of Possible Panini NFL Exclusive

Im not sure how many of you are familiar with the NFL and the way the licenses have always been different than the other sports. Have you ever wondered why Michael Jordan or Lebron James never had autograph cards in Panini NBA products? Ever wondered why Ichiro was never in any Topps baseball products? Its because they had signed autograph exclusive deals with other companies that prevented them from signing with everyone.

One of the major differences between the NFL and MLB/NBA is that no player specific exclusives were ever allowed. Now with a changing atmosphere, that may not be the case any more, and you should be quite scared if you are someone who enjoys many of the products that will likely not exist in the same capacity. Lets discuss this.

Current NBA Situation Could Be New NFL Situation

With a new potential exclusive for Panini and the NFL, it is all but assured that exclusive player licenses will be granted around the same time. Here is how that impacts the NBA – a sport where Panini has the exclusive but competes with UD for all basketball products.

Each time the NBA draft rolls around, Panini goes and figures out which players are likely going to be top picks. After that review process is completed, they approach those prospects with exclusive contracts that basically tell a rookie if they want an NBA basketball card, they better sign with Panini. Some dont care and happily sign whatever, others may review and decide based on that specific situation. Every once in a while, you have an exception like Damian Lillard, who chose to sign with Leaf, but those are few and far between.

Currently in the NFL, that isnt allowed to happen, which means that companies like Leaf and UD can sign players to contracts that allow them to participate in their products, but doesnt prevent them from others. These group licensing agreements, or GLAs, are the reason the unlicensed products exist. Every once in a while, you have specific exceptions like Andrew Luck, who signed an exclusive with Press Pass, for all non-NFL products. It didnt exactly go over well, so that was scrapped for future classes. Luck was still able to sign for Topps and Panini because of rules in place.

How does this affect product lines?

With an exclusive, Panini will likely operate the way they do in Basketball, signing enough of the top picks, that UD and Leaf will not be able to support any rookie themed products. They could pretty much cannibalize a class with signing the top QBs, WRs and RBs to exclusives. Exquisite, SPA and most of UD's product line would need drastic new directions, and that is going to make a lot of people upset. Similarly, Leaf will likely not be able to do their pre-draft products the same way, as its likely that Panini will have too many of the top picks under exclusives.

Its also likely that Panini will ink exclusives with current top non-rookie players to further prevent Topps, UD and Leaf from competing in the same capacity they once used to. Players like Luck, Manziel and others who already have Panini authentic deals in place will likely be easy targets for Panini card exclusives as the new spokespeople for their licensing.

This will have a dramatic enough effect on existing products that strategies will need to change or be completely axed. If Panini’s goal is likely to eliminate competition rather than just make money, they will not stop until they have damaged enough for the competition’s product to be junk.

They might not take this approach, which would be good – but that doesnt speak to the situation that Panini has operated under previously. It also doesnt serve their potential goal of further putting competition on the path to extinction. If they just want to make money, they will not waste time with exclusive deals. If they truly want to drive out the other companies, there will be a huge push to sign as many deals as possible. That alone could dictate a hobby wide shift that ripples into many other sports.

Why Doesnt Topps Sign Many Exclusives in Baseball?

Long story short, they dont really need to. Unlike in Basketball and Football, Topps was, is and always will be the best product in town. For lack of a better explanation – they should have gotten an exclusive because no one else really competed other than UD (who had pissed off a lot of the wrong people at the wrong time). Baseball is also a completely different sport that doesnt rely on autograph content the way NBA and NFL do.

Panini's baseball products dont even deserve to be on the same shelf as a Topps product in most cases, which is similar in football as well. As a result, Topps is smart enough to recognize that signing exclusives in MLB is wasting money they dont have a lot of. They also dont have a death wish for the hobby’s market, and have made a decision to let things be unless they are put into a corner. Its just not worth it to them.

Although they recently signed Bryce Harper to an exclusive, that was likely one of two things at play. The rumor is that Harper signed with Topps over an exclusive with Leaf originally because of his desire to have MLB rookie cards. Leaf supposedly offered him a lot of money, but he wanted MLB and he also wanted Topps. This might have been defensive, or it might have been solidification of the above mentioned story. It also just might have been cheap enough to do it, or that Harper’s agent really didnt care.

Obviously, they could have done the same thing with Jose Abreu, but why waste the time and money to get that done. Its not that his Topps cards wont be worth more intrinsically in his White Sox uniform, and its likely better for the hobby overall. Although I doubt that entered their mind, its just the truth.

What Happens if Panini Gets a CLC License?

This is a truly interesting question, as it seems as though this might be coming sooner rather than later. Although UD has the exclusive to produce NCAA themed cards, Panini DESPERATELY needs a piece of the action to really set their plan in motion.

By securing a CLC license, and an NFL exclusive, its basically Panini saying that they will be effectively replacing UD's niche in the hobby with their own, and doing it with many more available resources. Although you might think the CLC license isnt that big of a deal, its a huge deal in just about every sport. College baseball makes for some great prospect themed products when you dont have an MLBP licesnes, and College Basketball is a new genre that makes their NBA license much more attractive to collectors.

It also effectively reduces the value UD has as a company, as they are no longer the only game in town when it comes to college sports. Former president Richard McWilliam’s death opened a lot of doors for new buyers, but the asking price remains high due to the value of their current brand names and licenses – both of which are exclusive to this day. If that changes, you can expect that they are no longer worth as much, especially with a relative 100% loss in rookie football products that make up 80% of UD's calendar.

Can UD still be profitable? Definitely. As profitable? Not a chance. Panini is basically going to run them out of town because they can. Maybe not out of the country, but they arent going to be living as close to the city as they once used to. That isnt good when the company is for sale.

What can we conclude here?

If Panini does get an NFL exclusive, your collecting life will change, and its likely not going to be for the better. Although we might get some improvement in product lines, its clear that the overall ripples may eventually become tidal waves that overturn all boats. Panini is pretty much looking to expand their own venture, but not expand the market from what it looks like. They can eat slices of everyone’s pie with new licenses and exclusives, but it doesnt look like they are going to be making the pie bigger.

With the only choices a collector has being generally inferior to their previous choices, its going to drive people away from buying new cards. It will impact shop owners (who were interestingly a target for improvement that Panini touted years back), and it will also impact manufacturers who are going to fall prey to Panini’s resources baiting the NFL into an exclusive.

If you are a fan of Leaf, UD, Press Pass and SAGE, its likely going to be a drastic shift that could put a few people out on the street. Yes, Panini’s exlcusive has that potential. If the CLC license also comes their way – look out.

If you are a fan of Topps, better start collecting baseball. Topps is not likely going to want to spend money in a sport where large print runs cannot make money – something UD and Leaf really havent ever had to deal with. In order for Topps to stay in football, they need to be able to produce products on a large enough scale to make money. When you have lost the ability to produce products without exclusives or licensing, that’s no longer possible.

Listen, Panini does a great job with social media and networking to understand the people they need to influence, so its likely that will happen. Someone, somehow, will come out and vehemently support the exclusive on a large scale if it happens. Panini will obviously blow the shit up about how great it is, but have no fear, that wont last. Heads will roll, because otherwise the money isnt worth it.

As mentioned above, if the exclusive takes place, your collecting life will change. You need to be prepared and you need to speak out. Tweet @NFLPA, @NFL, @NFLPlayersinc, and anyone you can think of. Tell them how much this means to you. Tell them they are making a big mistake. Make sure they hear your voice, because they might not have made the decision yet, and we need to stop it.

SCU First Take – 2014 Rookies and Stars Football Preview

If there is one thing that Panini is known for, it is their complete inability to create and sustain mid year products. Especially ones that dont look anything special from other sets that are already on the calendar. Bottom line, its quite difficult to differentiate one of their mid year releases from the rest, and Rookies and Stars is NOTORIOUS for being one of the most bland and forgettable products of the year.

It has been around forever, which is the only thing it has going for it:

2011 Rookies and Stars Tom Brady Auto Patch

2003 Rookies and Stars Andre Johnson Rookie Relic Auto

2012 Rookies and Stars Nick Foles Jumbo Patch Auto

2013 Rookies and Stars Mike Glennon Rookie Auto Logo Patch

It is also the set that brought these horrendous abortions to the hobby:

2007 Rookies and Stars Calvin Johnson Manupatch Auto

2011 Rookies and Stars Julio Jones Manupatch Auto

I have to frame my commentary so much differently now because of rumors of the NFL exclusive, and if this is what we have to look forward to, product after product after product for the foreseeable future, then god help us all. Does Rookies and Stars look better than 2013? Yes, it does. Am I happy that there are no fucking lame ass manu-patch autos that have plagued this hobby for 8 years? So far, yes. Does this show anything worthy of being the only game in town? Hell no.

Rookies and Stars is not only unfortunately boring in its name, but it is unfortunately boring in its configuration. Another product with four hits for just under 100 bucks, and not much flair or fanfare to say – “yes, Mr. Collector, buy me.” You guys had better get used to reading this refrain, as it is likely more products will be necessary to support the cost of a license. I dont think there are many more synonyms for perfect that Panini can name a set, nor do I think there are enough holidays/conventions to have the giveaways necessary to clear the shelves of this mediocre shit.

Granted, I am still reeling to the point of anger over recent news, so I would like to say that things will likely calm down in my fury. But for now, this is going to be a full time thing.