The Panini Showdown: 2014 Flawless vs 2014 Immaculate Football

There is no denying that Panini has really taken high end very seriously this year, albeit with some very mixed results. Some of their stuff has been quite impressive, while other stuff has been far from mediocre in the way it looks. But, without a doubt, their two biggest high end sets of the year have been Flawless and Immaculate, and its time to break down who did what better. Because both sets are a direct port from Basketball, it shouldnt be too hard to see how they made the transition. I have often said that Flawless lacked the punch that Immaculate had, and I guess this is the opportunity to compare side by side.

Base RPS Rookie AutosĀ 

Im not really interested in comparing scrub vs scrub, because Flawless really didnt have any of the non photo shoot guys. However, they did have relatively the same slate of rookies when you get higher up, so we should go that direction.

Here are Flawless’ Base Rookie Autos:

2014 Flawless Odell Beckham Jr. Rookie Auto /25

2014 Flawless Teddy Bridgewater Rookie Auto /10

Here are Immaculates Base Rookie Autos:

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham RC Patch Auto /25

2014 Immaculate Teddy Bridgewater RC Patch Auto /25

From a visual stand point, I think Flawless is more clean, but I definitely dont necessarily believe that being clean actually sets it apart here. Immaculate definitely has a more dynamic look to it, and that almost always leads to a better looking card. I dont like that either has a separated area for signatures, but unlike Flawless, Immaculate makes it part of the design. Huge difference in look.

The rarity of Flawless’ base autographs for the rookies should be taken into consideration, but it doesnt matter enough to sway my vote. So many cards are rare these days that it is no longer the attractive situation it used to be.

Verdict: Immaculate 1, Flawless 0

Rookie Insert Autos

Flawless and Immaculate really have a lot of insert sets for rookies, and I think they did a really nice job in both sets making the cards look really good. Immaculate does have an advantage in some ways because of how many swatches they used, but that doesnt always mean its going to be a runaway victory.

Here are some of Flawless’ Rookie Insert Autos:

2014 Flawless Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Flawless Mike Evans Jumbo Patch Auto Logo

2014 Flawless Blake Bortles Inscriptions Auto RC

Here are some of Immaculate’s Rookie Insert Autos:

2014 Immaculate Mike Evans Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Immaculate Jordan Matthews Auto Patch RC Acetate /81

2014 Immaculate Sammy Watkins Rookie Ink Auto

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Signature Patches Auto

Flawless again went with as clean a design as possible, and for the most part, it worked out very well. Immaculate has a few sets though that look better above and beyond, and its kind of insane that they were able to make Flawless almost look boring.

Flawless only has one type of rookie swatch with ink on it, and it was one of my favorite looks for the set. However, when you consider that all of the rookie relic content is event used anyways, it becomes more about making the card look good.

Immaculate has more focus on relics, and copying from Exquisite’s design archive makes the cards look pretty damn good. I think that in many of the examples, Immaculate made better use of the autographs and swatches to make the cards look better and more interesting.

Verdict: Immaculate 2, Flawless 0

Veteran Auto Content

Because the sets had different focuses it seems, this could be quite the contested category between the two sets. Both had a plethora of autographed veteran content, but I think its pretty clear which sets had the main advantage.

Here are some of Flawless’ Veteran Autos:

2014 Flawless Tom Brady Auto Jumbo Patch

2014 Flawless Peyton Manning Auto Dual Patch

2014 Flawless Andrew Luck Auto /10

Here are some of Immaculate’s Veteran Autos:

2014 Immaculate Tom Brady Auto Immaculate Moments

2014 Immaculate Peyton Manning Auto Jumbo Patch

2014 Immaculate Emmitt Smith Auto Pro Bowl

Bottom line, Flawless was all on card and had a very succinct approach in building checklists. Although there were some MAJOR duds on the list, getting them all done in the beginning of the year is almost worthy of a freaking medal.

Immaculate was hugely disappointing in seeing that some of the vets were sticker autographs, almost a complete taboo for a product that costs as much as Immaculate does. Though the jumbo patch autographs in Immaculate look better than Flawless’ design, the stickers just kill it. Most were on card, but Immaculate should have had the same attention as Flawless did with hard signed cards.

Verdict: Immaculate 2, Flawless 1

Patch Content

Here is the thing. Flawless had a shorter run than Immaculate, so there wont be as many subsets to create more boxes of the product. This is where it has a distinct disadvantage just in quantity over quality. Either way, its worth talking about it.

Here are some of the top patch cards from Flawless:

2014 Flawless Adrian Peterson Dirty Patch /25

2014 Flawless Emmitt Smith Patch /25

Here are some of the top patch cards from Immaculate:

2014 Immaculate Tom Brady Giant Logo Patch

2014 Immaculate Antonio Brown Full Steelers Logo Giant Patch

2014 Immaculate Demarco Murray Full HOF Logo Giant Patch

2014 Immaculate Sammy Watkins Helmet Shadowbox

Let me start off by saying that Flawless’ run of patch cards is more simple, but looks better than 95% of the patch cards in Immaculate solely because of the design. I know that isnt what collectors think about for some stupid reason, but I definitely bring it in for consideration.

However, that’s where the advantages end, as Immaculate has some crazy shit in it. Just insane patches all over the place, and they are not all rookies either, which is only more intriguing. The problem is that they just slapped a border on many of the cards, which I think is lazy and cheap. They should have done booklets, regardless of cost, instead of trying to pack the product with Nate Washington and Anthony Fasano crap.

The checklist for Immaculate is so diluted on the patch stuff, . Flawless is significantly more compact, and the checklist reflects that.

Also, the stupid content of hats, jackets, and locker name plates for rookies is just dumb. Stick to the stuff they play in – gloves, shoes and helmets. Lucky for Panini, those all turned out nice.

That being said, there are so many duds in this product, especially the signed rookie letters, which are about as stupid and lame as it can get. I should take away a point for how bad these turned out. Just a stain on this product, right next to the stain already left by the sticker autographs.

You just cant argue with Immaculate’s chase appeal to the general collector base, so it gets the point. It also goes without saying that the fiasco surrounding the authenticity of game used material used in Flawless should never be understated. Just a completely disgraceful situation that Immaculate has YET to face. Yet being the key word, right?

Verdict: Immaculate 3, Flawless 1

Base Cards

Both products decided to keep base cards in the mix, and I am actually surprised by how much people actually want these. To me, base cards in a high end product seems to be a dumb way to add more cards to the box, but they sell well, so whatever.

Here are the base cards from Flawless:

2014 Flawless John Elway Base /20

2014 Flawless Mike Evans Base /20

Here are the base cards from Immaculate:

2014 Flawless Andrew Luck Base /99

Personally, I understand why they wanted to go with base cards that had gems in them. Flawless illicit that type of context. However, that doesnt excuse how asinine of an idea it is to put diamond chips in cards. Adding in that the authenticity of the diamonds has been questioned on the forums, and diamond melee is REALLY cheap, I dont understand the appeal.

Immaculate’s base cards look awesome. Simple and dynamic just like the rest of the set. I almost dont need to say anything else because they look that good.

Verdict: Immaculate 4, Flawless 1

Chase Cards

This was always my main complaint. How do you put out a box that costs as much as Flawless does and not have any chase content. I mean, no shields, very few logos, and no multi-signed cards at all. It makes no sense.

Here are some of the chase cards from Flawless:

2014 Flawless Nick Foles Auto Jumbo Patch 1/1

2014 Flawless Drew Brees Auto Jumbo Patch 1/1

2014 Flawless Larry Fitzgerald Logo Patch 1/1

Here are some of the chase cards from Immaculate:

2014 Immaculate Dez Bryant / Demarco Murray Dual Shield 1/1

2014 Immaculate Kelvin Benjamin Auto Shield Logo 1/1

2014 Immaculate Blake Bortles Shield Helmet 1/1 Shadowbox

2014 Immaculate Earl Thomas Seahawks Logo Jumbo Patch Auto 1/1

When you bust a box of Flawless, you almost are paying for a better checklist, which is about as bad as it gets. Its sad that we have gotten to a point where you have to pay three times as much to get a better chance at a good hit. Content has really become an issue.

Immaculate has some insane chase cards. Logo patches, quad shields, shield autographs, logo 1/1s, the craziness is everywhere you look. Every other set has some really ridiculous cards in it, and people are going gaga over them.

It should be mentioned that watering the chase down with so many cards is an issue, but that’s why people buy high end. Im all about it.

Verdict: Immaculate 5, Flawless 1

Box Break

This is where it gets really dicey, as I think both products have a horrific box breaking format. You either pay through the nose and get SOMETHING or you pay less and get burned about 75% of the time, and come out poorly another 20% of the time.

Flawless has one of the worst MSRPs to ever been put on a product, but it delivers more times than Immaculate could in five times the cases. Even though some of the encased main hits were so bad that it made me want to barf, it came through with nice stuff frequently. Immaculate has points cards in it, which is a such a fucking slap in the face that it should be disqualified from even being considered for a point in this category.

Add in that when you bust a box of Immaculate, and one of your cards could be a 400 point card, your autos could be 2 scrubs, and you are still only going to get 2 other cards in the break, and its over. Flawless wins, and I cannot believe I am saying that.

Verdict: Immaculate 5, Flawless 2

Bottom Line

Im not saying that Flawless is a bad set in any way here, even though it had some huge issues. Flawless does have some really nice looking cards, but in the end, Immaculate has the more attractive cards that will inevitably outsell anything Flawless has to offer. The chase element HAS to exist in a high end set, and when you take that away in the name of a smaller checklist, that is bad for business. I shouldnt have to pay 1500 dollars to ensure I get a good card. Flawless should have the insane content that Immaculate has, and that is the deciding factor in many ways for me. If you cant give me something special for 1500, im not touching it.

All in all, both products have enormous holes that I dont expect Panini to have the intelligence to recognize or the willingness to fix. That’s the biggest price to pay, and I remain petrified for 2016 as a result.

Final Score: Immaculate 5, Flawless 2

2014 Immaculate: Who Wore It Better?

I think its funny to compare these all side by side. They are almost direct copies, but Im actually good with copying as long as you do it well. So, the question becomes, who did it better – Upper Deck or Panini? You might be surprised as to who I side with!

2006 Ultimate Collection vs 2014 Immaculate:

222

I like the immaculate version except for the fact that the player looks so confined in the top part of the card. Upper Deck found a way to make the player seem more whole, although the cropped shield looks really weird.

2007 Exquisite vs 2014 Immaculate:

4
Again, Immaculate’s look good with the player extending down to the bottom of the card. Upper Deck did better with the swatch making the window fit right in line with the design. Almost a variation, but the whiter look is more high end to me.

Exquisite Notable Nameplates vs 2014 Immaculate:

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I like both, but the Immaculate designs are nice take on this design. The Upper Deck version is a bit nicer in the way the full card looks, but the weird picture border is off putting on the Exquisite card.

2009 Exquisite vs 2014 Immaculate:

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I like the Exquisite better because they didnt separate the signature area with that horrendous bar of gold. But save that, Immaculate looks nicer. UD with the cropped shields again!

2009 Ultimate Collection vs 2014 Immaculate

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I like the Immaculate better. Pretty simple here. The gold foil works nicer, and though its a sticker, that’s not what I am judging here. Both should have avoided the separated area for the signature, but Panini’s looks nicer.

Immaculate has some nice cards, and I think everyone is going to have different opinions. Like I mentioned before, if you are going to rip something off, at least do it well.

On the Radar: 2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions

If you have been reading this site, you know how much I love autographs. You also probably know how much I love inscriptions on said autographs. When I heard Upper Deck was coming out with a product that prominently featured both of my favorite categories of cards, my ears perked up. Now that we see some examples, its going to be quite an interesting product indeed.

Upper Deck isnt the first to try a pre-draft inscription based product, but they are the first one to do it with NCAA CLC licensed cards. They previously did some awesome NCAA based inscriptions in 2014 SP Authentic. That adds a bit of allure to the product indeed.

Take a look:

2014 SP Authentic Sammy Watkins Auto Inscription

2014 SP Authentic Blake Bortles Inscription Auto SSP

2014 SP Authentic Zach Mettenberger Inscription Auto Patch /10

I mean, there are some really nice inscription cards out there over the year, but they usually dont come until later in the calendar:

2014 Inception Carlos Hyde Inscription Auto Gold /10

2013 Five Star Eddie Lacy Auto Quotables Inscription

2013 National Treasures Gale Sayers Auto Inscription

This will likely be one of the last products before Panini takes over the CLC license exclusive that granted Upper Deck the opportunity to produce licensed college cards. There has already been speculation that they will continue to produce unlicensed sets after it kicks in, but we have yet to hear any details. As a fan of Upper Deck’s sets and design style, I hope that happens.

Inscriptions is definitely going to turn some heads, and I like that they have previews of many of the top guys in the 2015 draft. There will be a lot of concern that the checklist will be diluted, but at the same time, college collectors are rabid in enough ways that it might not matter as much as it would in the NFL.

Leaf Trinity will be a direct competitor here, and its all going to come down to who can deliver more. Hell, there is no reason they both cant be successful. I like the design of this set A LOT, and Leaf has usually been around the same level. We will see how it all shakes out soon.

Check out the cool preview cards:

Diving Deeper Into 2014 Immaculate Football

Right now, 2014 Immaculate Football is a wave of buzz and hype that is sweeping over the people in this hobby. In many ways it deserves some of the nice things people are saying about it. In other ways, it deserves to be kicked in the head and thrown in front of an oncoming bus.

It should also be mentioned that arguably the biggest card in the product hit eBay recently, and it has a price tag around 10k. Behold:

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Auto NFL Logo Shield 1/1

I mean, at least its not a card like this, where you literally cannot understand why it was even created:

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Auto Letter Patch 1//9

Beckham has been doing well though:

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham RC Patch Auto

With that, here are some other thoughts on the way the first few days of this release are shaping up.

The Good

Panini did a good job in making the product appeal to a wide range of collectors. I think that if you are a patch collector, this set is for you. If you are an autograph collector, this set is for you. If you are a rookie collector, this set is for you. It is one of the better singles product that Panini has put out in years.

A card like this is just insane. Pure insanity:

2014 Immaculate Walter Payton Jumbo Patch With Part of Autograph

The star of this set isĀ the on card autograph content that composes about 50-60% of the set, with almost no redemptions. Manziel is the notable exception, but Panini just tweeted out his cards are in stock. Like Flawless, Panini did a good job taking care of business and getting Beckham, Teddy, and all the big rookies to get their cards done. They also got some really nice on card content from Manning and other vets, including a surprising inclusion of Adrian Peterson.

Additionally, there are some rreally huge patch hits in this product, including QUAD logo cards. This is what I dont understand, as a product like this has a ton of crazy patch logos and Flawless has almost none. How does that make sense? Although I dont like the layout of many of the patch cards in the slightest, and would rather they be made into booklets to showcase both a good design and a huge patch, im not going to say they arent going to be big hits.

I think there is some definite kudos to be passed along on the design of the Immaculate Moments cards, even though they are almost a direct copy of some other cards we have seen in Upper Deck. They look great, and they celebrate moments that many of us have a nostalgic connection to. Im a bit shocked that Franco Harris isnt in this set, as the Immaculate Reception seems to be a ridiculous exclusion. Upper Deck got it done, right?

I also really love the acetate cards, which come in a number of different flavors. The patch autos on the acetate stock are amazingly awesome. They are just really cool cards, and I consider myself a connoisseur of fine acetate cards.

Lastly, the Helmet logo cards, presented in a shadowbox style format, are a really interesting addition to the lineup of different swatches available in the product. They turned out awesome in most cases and are really tough pulls.

The Bad

When I first got wind of this product, I heard it was going to be all on card – even the non-photo shoot guys. Obviously that didnt happen, and the number of stickers all around are a stain on an otherwise amazing autograph lineup. There should not be stickers in this product with a $375+ price tag and a release in February. That is just inexcusable, especially considering how much the stickers detract from the high end look.

Similarly, the autograph checklist and patch checklist is so beyond diluted, that I question why Panini continues to include some of these players in their biggest products of the year. Second string non-RC scrubs like Gavin Escobar should not be in Immaculate, and Nate Washington and Delanie Walker should not be either. There are other products during the year where these guys would be more than welcome, but not in a set like this. After watching about 8-10 cases broken online yesterday and 3 in person, there are some people I saw pulled where I wanted to hop in my car, drive to Dallas and chuck them at the guy who built this checklist.

Panini is notorious for choosing cost cutting measures over making a product look good and have a good checklist. Its a main reason why their products struggle to build brand equity after the first year. Collectors feel so cheated in a lot of ways that they stop buying the second and third year of a product because the first was not produced correctly. Buzz or no buzz, you cant continue to chip away at people’s confidence and loyalty. The community is just not big enough that you can let high end buying customers walk away feeling like they got kicked in the nuts after a break. You have to give them SOME reason to come back, and if Panini made the investment to use a Silhouette format on some of the giant patches, or a booklet format, people might feel like there is a reason to keep buying. If its just a border on a card with no design, its only going to appeal to some people, and you can only pack so many event used logos into a product before it gets tired.

The Ugly

It should be no surprise that I am going to talk about the points situation here. This program is a fucking train wreck, and to see the cards replace hits in boxes of Immaculate is a kick in the nuts all by itself. Panini made a conscious decision to include these cards in the product instead of using redemptions, and that should not go unpunished. To open a 375 dollar box and see that one of your hits is a 250 point card? I might throw some shit. I might tip over a table or two. That is not the type of reaction a box break should illicit.

Panini almost expects that a lot of their crap is going to be broken in group break format, where the pain wont be as tough to stomach, but they have lost sight of a significant problem. Points give them a cost free way to expand out a print run without adding any content. Not a good situation for collectors.

Similarly, lets say that by some fucking miracle they actually add some Immaculate cards to the Rewards Store (unlikely, I know). Do you really think the average 250-400 point card is going to buy anything worth missing a hit for? No. When you also factor in that they are going to charge 5 dollars for shipping and processing, you are basically allowing them to short you a card and replace it with a shitty leftover from a more undesirable product. How is that okay? At the very least, they should make Immaculate point holders the only people that can buy the Immaculate cards if they are ever introduced into the store. I mean, that’s only if they continue to roll with this fucking bonkers idea of not giving people the choice of waiting on the redemption they are entitled to.

God forbid, would it damage the program to say “YOU HAVE WON A REDEMPTION FOR JOEY ROOKIE’S AUTOGRAPH OR 500 POINTS”? No, but Panini is not staffed by people who get that. They are staffed by people who were absorbed from other defunct card companies and really only care about making money NOW. They dont care about brand perception or worth. That is a huge problem, because anyone with any fucking sense in their head would know that this program shouldnt have even entered the conference room discussion about product format. It should have stayed in the trash bin next to the intern’s desk. Thats where it belongs.

I have a theory on how the points cards are being used in this product, as replacing hits is something that really should never be done with these cards. Because there is no checklist of how many points cards are included in the products, or how many cards they are meant to replace, Panini can actually beef up a product print run without adding cost to the product. As an unverifiable situation, Panini can actually scam collectors out of cards they should have gotten, because they chose to run a few extra hundred cases off the line.

Here is how it works. Basically, as an example, I have 1000 cards that need to be replaced with points because the scrubs didnt sign. That brings an allocation of boxes that go with it, because the points cards replace hits in the box. Then, lets say I want to add another 1000 points cards, because no one can ever say they werent meant to replace a card that never came in. That gives me an extra allocation because I can basically add a box to my run for every 5 that I create. Do that enough times, and you have hundreds of thousands of dollars that basically came out of no investment to the product. Its like printing free money, and there is nothing we can do about it.

The scariest thing? How much do you all think a stupid decision like the ones described above will affect Panini or their terrible mindset for producing products? NONE. NONE AT ALL. Who else cant wait for 2016?

SCU Go Live Report: 2014 Immaculate Football

Right now, there are a load of collectors rushing out to buy a few boxes or at least participate in a few group breaks of 2014 Immaculate. It promises a lot, especially considering its basketball sister product and recent baseball release. There are some massive cards to be had, and it is attracting some major buzz as a result.That being said, im not sure Panini really put the kind of thought and planning into this product as they should have, and that is beyond depressing considering the potential it had.

Here are some of the big hits up so far:

2014 Immaculate Mike Evans Logo Auto 1/1

2014 Immaculate Dan Marino Logo Jumbo Patch Auto /49

2014 Immaclulate Tom Brady Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Immaclulate Teddy Bridgewater Auto Patch /99

2014 Immaculate Odell Beckham Auto Patch /99

The best part about Immaculate are the on card autographs, which are extremely nice. They are so nice that many of them are nicer than Flawless, which cost significantly more per box. Many of them are worth setting up a saved search for your target players, and that is no joke.

Adding to the allure, the relic cards have some really nice patches in them. If you are a patch person, this is your product and its not even close. As mentioned before, I hate giant patch cards with no design elements to them, so that really didnt intrigue me all that much.

What I wasnt prepared for was how bad some of the boxes are. In many cases, you might as well set your cash ablaze, because that will be a better use of your hard earned money. Not only are there some TERRIBLE autographs in this product, but there are a ton of sticker terrible autographs. Fuel to the fire, there are at least 2-3 points cards per case, and from what I saw from 3 cases at my local shop, they actually had the fucking nerve to replace a hit with them. I honestly dont understand why collectors continue to support this bull shit, as it will get worse. I dont care if you still get two autos when you get a points card, they should never replace a hit with how Panini has handled that fucking joke of a program at almost 400 a box. That is plain robbery.

Bottom line, this product breaks like Ultimate collection did back in 2009, where there is literally no middle ground. You either walk away a huge winner, or you get killed. The points cards only make it worse, as does the stickers in a product that costs this much money.

Of course, there are going to be a ton of big hits, just let someone else break the boxes and stick to singles. Trust me. Your box of two jersey cards, a 600 points card, a Michael Sam auto and a Rod Streater auto is out there. It has your name on it.