Dak Prescott Auto Pen – Questions Remain In Bunches

This is quickly becoming the most talked about hobby story of the year, and its sad that is the case. Either way, there are a LOT of questions out there, and I literally cannot wait to see how it all shakes out. I mean, this is as juicy as it gets, Panini and Dak getting caught with their pants down. With that, here are some of the questions that I want to ask and how I might expect they play out.

Who Was Ultimately Responsible – Part 1?

This is really the main question that everyone wants answers to, and without us having a statement from either party, it lets us run wild with the narrative. Who ultimately made the choice to use the auto pen machine? If Dak is responsible, then Panini will dodge a bullet. Of course, we need a statement to confirm, and Im not sure it may come anytime soon. If Panini made the choice, the implications in the hobby will be enormous. The NFLPA might get involved, and it will cast a terrible shadow all over Panini and the way they do business. From my contacts in the industry, they already have a terrible reputation, something that differs very much from the reputation that Dak has cultivated since his time in the spotlight began. Its possible that neither were responsible, and his marketing agent actually made the call. That’s a gray area I havent even thought about yet. Darren Rovell floated this idea in his article, and its not out of the question.

Who Was Ultimately Responsible – Part 2?

Once we figure out who is responsible for this situation, it now comes down to legally who is responsible for the damages. Does the guarantee on the back of the card put Panini at fault if Prescott knowingly deceived them? How does it impact their agreement going forward? Do collectors have legal recourse to file a class action? All of these things depend partly on the above answer to part 1, and some on how the law might be interpreted. Auto pens have been used to sign legally binding documents all over the place in the nation’s history, so I dont think that would put much on the player. Considering how little this likely means to Prescott, we all have to wonder what is going to happen.

How Do Collectors React Long Term?

People on the forums have already found examples of other people using an auto pen to sign cards, which means Panini has done this before and may be responsible for the decision, or others have deceived Panini without being caught. I have to believe every Panini autograph will be studied as a result of this and there will no doubt be others that are discovered.

Here are some alleged auto pen examples from 2014 signed by members of Florida Georgia Line:

If Panini is found to be at fault, I see huge issues with regaining collector trust in the future. Its national news, and if they are the ones behind it, they may not be able to recover in a way that makes it worthwhile for them to try. They may just have to hope that there are a number of people out there who dont see the follow ups and just put it out of their minds.

If Prescott is responsible, that’s a bit of a different story, but still one that begs further questions of general autograph authenticity. This situation shed a light on things that no one wanted to consider. At some point Collectors will form an opinion that everything should be questioned. Look at the way many people think about relics. Panini even had put player worn swatches into cards and labeled them as game used. Flawless had an issue with player worn materials being labeled game used. Collectors formed an opinion and now its hard to look the other way. With autographs being more valuable than relics, it might be the straw that breaks the camels back.

Here is the thing I dont understand. If Panini wises up and eventually does make a statement, this situation is easily fixed. Replace the cards and get the real autographs to the people that are owed. Other fuck ups like in 2014 when Odell Beckham and Teddy Bridgewater were left out of the original shipment of National Treasures seem to be much more of an issue that people seem to have forgotten. Literally thousands of people opened boxes and cases of NT without some of the most valuable cards included. After weeks of questions, the way it was corrected was even worse. They just shipped new pallets of cases to distros, who then sold them to shops and breakers as wave 2. No make good for any of the other impacted people. Complete fucking shit show. Guess what? 2015 and 2016 National Treasures and all other Panini products were still bought and sold as normal after that. No mention of the fact that Panini’s process would surely dictate that they likely had access to the information that these cards never made it in. I just cant even fathom. The Flawless Game Used scandal should have also registered with them and didnt. At what point do people finally give up?

How Will the League React?

This is a big one too, as its clear that the league sees their brand as the most important asset they have. They protect the shield at all costs. With this potentially being a stain on their brand, a licensee like Panini may not be a company they want to continue to do business with, especially if they are found to be responsible. If Prescott is responsible, I doubt much will happen. Simple as that. Although Panini has had their fair share of clusterfucks, the league only cares about one thing as much as their brand image – money.

How Much of Dak’s Autograph Inventory Was Impacted?

From the looks of it, he may have had some issues long term, at least from some of the photos collectors are sharing. Either way, there is no way to tell for sure, and there is no way Panini will likely admit that they have a larger problem on their hands. Im not sure if we will ever get the full scope of the answer here, and I doubt I would want to be transparent if I were Panini.

How Does Panini Fix This?

Im seeing reports on the forums that Beckett is pulling cards that they dont own and shipping them to Panini without providing some reasoning or choice to the people that sent them in for grading. If true, that is quite the twist to this story, considering the goods are not theirs to move. With this in the mix, and a number of other people who likely have redemptions pending, or cards in hand, how will they fix this mess? I have to believe a replacement is all but assured, but I would also hope they find a way to repair brand image a bit and give a bit extra.

What Does This Say About the Hobby?

Sadly, the national media, save Rovell, has reported on this with a very tongue in cheek approach. Someone on the radio reported the story as a funny quip, adding something like, do you sue the contractor who built your house because he used a nail gun instead of a hammer? Not good. First off, Panini’s national brand is unfamiliar to just about everyone outside of the hobby. 99.9% of America likely believes they sell grilled sandwiches. When they get tied to a story like this, it only adds to the negative viewpoint that most already have about this hobby to begin with. It might actually serve Panini to have no national identity, because they are faceless in that respect. Everyone knows Topps, and to a similar extent Donruss. We grew up with them. Panini as a brand name is nobody to just about everyone. Unfortunately, they are serving as quite the negative ambassador.

There are a million more questions to ask, its time we start getting some answers. Start the clock, we wait to feast.

2017 Bowman Mega Box Insanity Continues Thanks to Shohei Otani

Im not a huge baseball collector, so I didnt really know what was happening until it was too late. These boxes are literally the hottest thing to chase down not named Judge or Bellinger, and it really isnt those guys driving the price, which might actually be more crazy. There is a story behind it, and it mostly begins and ends with Shohei Otani, a star prospect Japanese player whose WBC card was part of special packs in the box. There are some reports of the boxes being recalled from retail shelves because of issues, and it has made these boxes insanely valuable. Like, so valuable, you start to wonder what might have been had you seen any for sale at the beginning of the ordeal.

Check out these prices:

2017 Bowman Mega Box – Sealed

2017 Bowman Mega Box – Sealed #2

2017 Bowman Mega Box – 3 Box Lot

These are some of the most watched cards on eBay:

2017 Bowman Chrome Shohei Otani Mojo Refractor RC

2017 Bowman Chrome Shohei Otani Mojo Refractor BGS 9.5

Otani is a huge prospect, but international spending caps have made it difficult to predict when he may be posted and sign with a team. Like the players who came before him, the market for their first American cards is white hot. Masahiro Tanaka is the pitcher of most recent memory to generate this type of hype, but lack of real success has had an impact over the years. Same has been said for Darvish and others. Although Darvish hasnt been bad by any means, his values have cooled despite having a good start to the 2017 season.

The issue is more circulation than anything, as limited product and high demand will fuel rage fires in value that no one can predict until it happens. With Otani’s base card topping 200 dollars in some cases, it was only a matter of time before the blaze reached peak intensity on any unopened boxes that remain. With the national convention approaching, things could get even more nuts as more collectors seek out the exclusive cards available only in these products.

Special refractor variations of top prospects have been fetching huge money, with Judge, Bellinger and Maitan all claiming astronomical auction prices as cards are graded and posted for sale. If boxes of this stuff are sitting somewhere in a Target distribution center or Excel Marketing distribution center, eventually to be released, the time to sell is now. If those boxes never see the light of day, this Shohei Otani card could be one of the gems of the 2017 season. Considering the insanity brought on by the young sluggers who have taken the hobby by storm, this situation just blows my mind.

Panini’s Newest Disaster – Dak Prescott 2017 Prizm Autos Are Not Real?

This is a huge fucking problem, especially with someone as high profile as Dak is. According to a number of collectors, BGS has returned a number of cards from the recent run of autographs from 2017 Prizm, siting that the autographs do not look to be authentic. Similarly, reports are saying that Panini has already started cancelling a number of outstanding redemptions and pulling shipments of cards set to go out. The prevailing theory is that the autographs Dak Prescott returned were auto penned, or machine signed, instead of signed by the player. As you can imagine, this has the makings a of ANOTHER giant clusterfuck that Panini seems to be terrible at avoiding as of late.

This is the second autograph issue that Panini has had this year, and if you go back through the last decade, one of MANY that seem to have gone without recognition. There are so many of these types of autograph problems that I cant even remember the giant list of players that have had issues. Dez Bryant, Cam Newton, Shaquille O’neal, Whitney Mercilus, Cordarrelle Patterson, among others.

All of these cards have been questioned by collectors at some point in the past:

2011 Panini Gold Standard Cam Newton Auto Patch

2010 Panini Limited Dez Bryant Auto Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Cordarrelle Patterson Auto

2012 Panini Limited Whitney Mercilus Auto

It all stems from the way autographs are obtained, and Panini has been playing with fire more than most. Players will sign a document that guarantees the authenticity of their signatures signed during the course of the autograph deal. The companies send out boxes of cards to be signed, and it is on the player to return them. Sometimes they may send a representative to guarantee the autographs get done, but this method of trusting the player has been the primary method for Panini’s plans since as long as they have been in the american card market. Their competitors have chosen a bit of a different path from what my sources have said.

Personally, seeing news like this is both troubling and wonderful at the same time. Troubling that Panini is finding themselves the subject of more autograph authenticity problems, but wonderful in that maybe collectors will finally come to understand what the fuck has been happening as a pattern for years on end. This is NOT the first issue that collectors have called out. As long as this method is used for obtaining autographs, the players have no reason to deliver.

The reason is that the method by which investigations are to be carried out. First, lets say the player has a buddy sing the cards. He gives the cards to his agent or assistant to ship back, and the cards get packed out. Some Joe Collector who collects that player realizes the cards are a bit off. He tweets to Panini, who is responsible for carrying out any look at the cards. They ask the agent, who obviously doesnt want his player to get in trouble, so he says the cards are real. Panini then gets back to the guy who asked originally, and says the player confirmed authenticity. In a similar conflict of interest, Panini doesnt want the cards to be labeled fake, so they close the investigation, as a problem could undermine the quality of their reputation and product line, and cost would be incurred to launch a recall. Again, no reason if its just one guy complaining on a forum that only a few hundred people would ever see. Basically the player’s word on a legal document with a confirmation from the agent. They have done their work and case is closed.

With auto pen, its a bit different, because it isnt a matter of who signed the cards any longer. Its also quite easy to identify auto penned autographs in a large quantity, which should be easier to hold the player accountable. Im just saying, autograph authenticity has always been an issue in the industry, going back decades. The hobby just doesnt really care to believe that the companies could be as fallible as they are.

Hopefully Panini figures out a way to make this right, as I am waiting on one of these cards myself. Its time for us to understand what we are really up against here, as its clear that the card companies need the players much more than the players need the card companies. That means its not as simple a solution as we could ever imagine. The NFLPA will likely have to get involved to get any real results, and they might not care enough to do so. In the end, Panini needs to do better inspections of returned merchandise, as its clear they have slipped more times than most would ever know. That’s where the rubber meets the road.

On Shelves Now: 2017 Elite Football

This is one of those legacy sets that a lot of people look forward to every year. Its not a real anticipation that I share normally, but I think they did a pretty good job making this set look good this year, as long as you overlook the horrific gory car accident that is the Pen Pal signatures. Considering we had Elite Draft so recently release, I cant understand this strategy, but that is why I think the NCAA license is such a huge fucking waste.

Here are some of the bigger cards up so far:

2017 Elite Leonard Fournette TOTC Auto /99

2017 Elite Mitchell Trubisky Auto Turn of the Century /49

2017 Elite Deshaun Watson Auto Turn of the Century /49

2017 Elite Mitch Trubisky / Deshone Kizer Dual Auto

Ill start with the good, which is the overall look of the base cards and the rookie autographs. Although I hate all the crazy ass patterns they have such a boner for, they are limited to a small area on the design of the cards. In person they look a bit better than if the whole card was seizure inducing, but its lost among the insane amount of foil they are using in these products.

Here is my whole complaint, as it has been for years. FOIL IS TO BE USED IN FUCKING MODERATION. If you use foilboard I automatically start with a lower score than if you actually took the time to design a good looking design. This whole set is foil. The foil is foiled. The foiled foil has additional foil. Its nuts.

Moving onto the Pen Pals, this is where I just cant comprehend how a card designer sits at their desk and thinks these cards are good looking and worth making. Add in they have now been done for two straight years, and I just want a mental evaluation completed over in Texas. Seriously, its like some dude challenged them to create cards that resembled security ID badges from work. What a fucking joke.

I think Elite has a unique plus of being the first product of the rookies in their NFL jerseys, which means a lot can be overlooked. At the same time, we have been spoon fed NCAA garbage for so long, they may see benefit to going this direction. I just want good looking autographed cards, which Topps never had a problem delivering. EVER. Panini seems to be a blind squirrel looking for the nuts they hid in a tree that was cut down months ago.

Too bad really, because we are stuck with them for so many more years.

Release of 2017 Museum Collection Brings High End Judge Cards

The story for 2017 baseball cards is Aaron Judge’s torrid pace, and his insane spike in hobby value as the year has progressed. Up until this point, he has a had a number of cards, including many in products from 2013 and beyond. One thing he hasnt had as much presence is with some of the super premium sets, like Museum.

Check out the goods:

2017 Museum Collection Aaron Judge Auto /299

2017 Museum Collection Aaron Judge Gold Framed Auto /10

I have been a big fan of Museum in the past, mainly because of the framed autos and how great those have been over the years. Judge has one, and it might be one of the main cards people want to pull out of the product. He also has a number of autographs elsewhere, including a few other examples that are hard signed.

Museum really has a ton of nice stuff:

2017 Museum Collection Kris Bryant Gold Framed Auto /10

2017 Museum Collection Bryce Harper Jumbo Patch Auto /15

Being that I hate the Yankees as much as I do, I havent really gotten caught up in Judge or Bellinger for that matter, either. Not only is Mike Trout the same age as the new Yankee star, but we have seen insanity like this fizzle out quickly as pitchers figure out how to work around the players. Right, Yasiel Puig? These cards are quickly approaching levels we didnt even see with Bryant, who was similarly hot in 2016 as the Cubs marched to the title. The thing is, Im not convinced Trout and Bryant are anything more than glaring exceptions to a dismal outlook for career longevity of players that have a small sample size of work in the bigs.

Although I do enjoy watching breaks of Museum, Finest, and the other products to see what gems get unearthed, I do weave a cautionary tale in my mind that this could end up so much like it has for so many other players. Prospecting is not about buying in now, its about 3 months too late for that. Buying in now, you may be as close to the ceiling as you are going to get, and comparative value isnt looking to be in your favor.

I write a post like this every time something like this run happens, and every time I find it to be an exercise in patience more than anything. As sets like Definitive Collection and other ultra premium stuff hits the market, its worth considering that just buying what you want is a better proposition overall. Until then, bask in the rays of Judge’s flame, because they might not be a long term thing.