Panini Further Extends Reach with University of Texas Exclusive

With the announcement of the recent news that Panini has secured exclusive rights to University of Texas trading cards, the writing should be on the wall. This is a big deal for their recent strategy. Not only is it clear that they were denied the use of a CLC (NCAA school logos) license, but they have found a loop hole that basically gives them an opportunity to slowly extend their middle finger in response. Texas has been a money maker for UD in the past, only cutting deeper into their margins.

I absolutely hate having to post one of these articles every time they secure another deal, but I have an ever growing fit of nausea that this is going to be a common thing. Eventually they will get everyone important, and it will give Upper Deck a very interesting decision. Continue to produce CLC cards with the remaining schools, or produce unlicensed sets like Leaf and Press Pass.

Lets face facts here, Panini has money, and with money comes the upper hand. Upper Deck is deep into debt, and likely is trying to formulate a plan that will keep them viable to stave off bankruptcy. However, at the same time, I would guess that is exactly what Panini wants to happen. Their cards remain some of the better designed examples on the market, but NCAA is still a niche market. Upper Deck is the lowest hanging fruit in terms of ridding the landscape of competition, which may only be a matter of time based on rumblings within the industry. Its sad, because they have really done a lot with losing both the NBA and NFL license in a very short period of time. Its sad that Panini is slowly whittling away their list of schools available to use.

It also has multiple assets which are EXTREMELY valuable to a company like Panini. Exquisite, Jordan and Lebron would go a long way to legitimize Panini’s floundering basketball operation, and its extreme investment in a very high priced exclusive license. A license that has rarely paid off in any way so far. You can see why it would be attractive to them.

At the same time, eliminating competition is a HORRIBLE situation for the sustainability of the industry. Although Panini is the most stable company thanks to sugar daddies in Italy, its clear that industry health is not of their concern. The only thing they care about is setting their plan for manifest destiny in motion, which will only serve one purpose, and thus limiting the options collectors have.

Exclusives suck. To date, I have seen no reason from a hobby standpoint that people benefit from limited choices. The pain is greater, because not only will an exclusive keep out competition, but it may end the companies as well. Its almost like a permanent exclusive in that way, which is that much more troubling than a league designed exclusive.

University of Texas has a rich history and a rabid fan base. This makes them a very attractive school for Panini to get on board, only solidifying their place in a CLC devoid market. As I have said before, if I am Upper Deck, I am really considering if making unlicensed cards is something that can be done in sports other than Hockey.

Panini is not the company that has made the best and most beloved cards in any of the sports they have taken over, and yet, here we are.

2014 Flawless Football Gem Cards Are Heating Up

I really like the design of Flawless. I have already bought a number of singles, because the cards look as good as they do. As I have said previously, design is not why I want to bang my head against a wall with each passing day. The price of the boxes is really what gets me. But none of that prepared me for what I was seeing in one specific part of the product. The base diamond cards are outperforming many of the autographs. Ba-wha?

Check these rookies out:

2014 Flawless Teddy Bridgewater Diamond RC /20

2014 Flawless Sammy Watkins Diamond RC /20

2014 Flawless Blake Bortles Diamond RC /20

2014 Flawless Derek Carr Diamond RC /20

Fuck, even the vets are going huge:

2014 Flawless Aaron Rodgers Emerald /5

2014 Flawless Tom Brady Diamond /20

2014 Flawless Joe Flacco Diamond /20

Here is why this is a good thing. These cards may actually mean that a box that has dud content may be saved by a diamond card. Similarly, it also showcases that there are a lot of collectors out there who will pay for non-autographed content in this manner. That is a very good thing.

Its also quite representative of the hobby as well. First off, for a product costs 1350 a box, some card with a 5 dollar chip of diamond should not be one of the chases. Im sorry, but that is just beyond bonkers to me. If people are buying these cards because they represent the “true RC” of the set, that is even more unusual of a situation. I fail to identify with an outdated definition from an outdated magazine of what represents a player’s rookie card. It pains me to think that cool cards are devalued because we are so anal about defining the card's place.

The chase of products like this should be logos and rare autographs from high end players that have never been featured in this manner. It should not be gimmick cards with diamonds and emeralds in them. I feel like I am losing my mind here, I feel like everything I have come to identify with is not holding true, and yet, here we are. I dont understand how hard signed autographs do not hold more value, its a completely foreign concept to my perspective.

I also realize how maniacal it is for me to say that the way people are functioning is wrong, but my perspective continues to be warped by the fact that cards without autographs are not on my “must have” list. People can and should be able to spend as they please, but I feel like we are migrating away from the way things should be by a card that offers nothing out of the ordinary. I mean, do people know these chips of diamond arent worth anything? Its the equivalent of scrap metal in the gem world.

Something is off when these cards are selling for what they are, in my opinion. Its like we have lowered our standards so much, that we can be swayed by gimmicks of this sort. This article is going to get me some heat, but I just cant hold this in. As a whole we need to demand better.

Breaking Down the Best Players of 2014

This is a big year for many of the game’s top guys, and we have seen that many of them already have started to set some records along the way. Although not all of them have been hobby superstars to this point, many of their cards are getting some major bumps as a result of performances. Here are my awards to this point.

MVP – DeMarco Murray, Cowboys

There is no doubt that his play has made Dallas into a contender this year. With Romo banged up, Murray has avoided injury to this point to put up mammoth numbers in the rushing attack. With his injuries at bay for now, he could come very close to a shot at breaking the all time record, or at least put up 2000 yards. Not a bad way to reinvigorate the RB position.

2014 Flawless DeMarco Murray Jumbo Patch Auto

2011 Topps Platinum DeMarco Murray Auto NFL Logo 1/1

2011 Topps Chrome DeMarco Murray Auto Black Refractor BGS 9.5

Offensive Player of the Year – Peyton Manning, Broncos

Sure, the Broncos laid an egg aginst New England, but Manning has put up some incredible numbers along the way. In true NFL fashion, he has shown that the QB is one of the most important parts of a winning formula and should have no problem skating to the playoffs. Manning remains a great signer, which makes his cards a bit undervalued, but his breaking the all time record has helped.

2014 Flawless Peyton Manning Auto Patch Emerald /5

2013 National Treasures Peyton Manning Dual Patch Auto

1998 Bowman Peyton Manning Auto RC

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Sammy Watkins, Bills

The Bills found gold in Kyle Orton reclaiming his former glory since benching EJ Manuel early in the season, but Orton has found his muse in Watkins who has lit up the field with his talent for making dramatic plays. I think Watkins has a great shot at being a top WR, and though Buffalo gave up a ton to get him, so far it has played out well for them.

2014 Inception Sammy Watkins Inscription Auto /10

2014 Valor Sammy Watkins Auto Patch RC

Defensive Rookie of the Year – CJ Mosley, Ravens

Look at the top Linebackers so far, and you will be surprised that Moseley is near the top of the league in many of the categories that are valued among the players like him. Additionally, the Ravens are playing pretty well, which helps his case even more. In the hobby, he will go for nothing because he isnt on the Offensive side of the ball, but he is looking like a pro.

2014 Limited CJ Mosley Auto RC

2014 Bowman Chrome CJ Mosley Gold Refractor Auto /75

Defensive Player of the Year – JJ Watt, Texans

Houston is struggling because of a number of issues, including going to start an unproven backup in Ryan Mallett to hopefully save an offense that hasnt managed much. Watt, on the other hand is showing hands down why he is the guy you have to plan for every down, and has made his presence felt all year.

2014 Flawless JJ Watt Inscription Auto

2011 National Treasures JJ Watt Auto RC Gold

Biggest Surprise – Arizona Cardinals

Who in their right mind picked Arizona to start the year 8-1, and have the top spot in the league? To think they did it with Drew Stanton at the helm is even crazier. Though Palmer has played well, it looks like he will be out for the rest of the year. Not good, but still a huge surprise none-the-less. Andre Ellington has shaken off a slower 2013 to come on as a great player, and Larry Fitzgerald has turned back the clock to play lights out.

2003 Bowman Chrome Carson Palmer Auto Red Refractor

2013 Playbook Andre Ellington Drawn Play Inscription Auto

2004 SP Authentic Larry Fitzgerald Auto Patch Gold

Biggest Disappointment – Johnny Manziel

Although its not his fault that Brian Hoyer is playing as well as he has, no one expected him to spend the year holding a clip board. Not only has this affected the hobby in the way products are selling, but he is getting frustrated as well. We know he isnt the most stable personality in the game, which may be a ticking time bomb for the Browns.

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Auto Logo Superfractor 1/1

2014 Limited Johnny Manziel Logo Tag Auto 1/1

Im definitely interested to see how the season plays out, especially if some of the rookies can turn it on and make the playoffs.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Limited Football

Back when I first got into football cards, Limited was a set that everyone looked forward to. Over the last few years, it has gone up and down, settling into a spot where collectors really dont even care about it any longer. Many of the things that made limited worth chasing have become commonplace, yet Panini always fails to adjust the product appropriately.

Here are the cards posted so far:

2014 Limited Peyton Manning / Wes Welker Dual Patch Auto

2014 Limited Derek Carr Threads Auto Relic RC

2014 Limited Mike Evans Jumbo Patch Auto RC Phenoms

2014 Limited Jimmy Garoppolo Jumbo Patch Auto RC Phenoms

For the most part, this year's set is an upgrade from a disasterous 2013, which paired a horrid design, with a class that no one liked, but that isnt saying much. I like that they have moved away from the foil and into cards that look more higher quality with a black and white focused motif on many of the designs.

I think that for the main attractions for the set, the improvements are apparent and welcome, but there are just as many train wrecks to send this product straight into the back of our minds. Releasing this set a week after Flawless is like putting a brand new sitcom up against Seinfeld. Its not going to work out, because everyone will still be focused on the bigger draw.

This might be a makeup set for those individuals who were priced completely out of the Flawless market, but in the end it just seems like a consolation prize that no one is excited to get. The amount of posted cards shows that in the amount of people opening the boxes, and it might get worse.

Limited isnt bad looking compared to lot of other Panini products they have put out, and that serves it well. However, there are also ones like the jumbo patch cards, which look so bad there arent words for it. I have actually run out of adjectives that are a synonym for “shitty.” That being said, the base and base autos look really good, and the other memorabilia cards are an improvement all around.

Bottom line, I am going to say that this product lost a lot with a switch back to stickers since 2012, and I would implore Panini to reconsider the way it is formatted if they decide they need to keep it on the calendar. So many people would rather wait for Chrome later this month, instead of wasting money on a set whose value will tank in a day or two.

Exquisite Signature Kicks Drop the Brand to a New Low

Earlier this year, Panini released Immaculate basketball with game used shoe relics of popular players in a few different formats. Even though I am not a fan of the design, its clear that collectors were drooling over the cards, paying a ton of money to get the best ones. Today, 13-14 Exquisite Basketball was released, containing their own version of these cards – with one major difference.

Check out the auctions and see if you can spot it. Here are Panini’s shoe cards:

2013-14 Panini Immaculate Kobe Bryant Jumbo Sneak Peak 1/1

2013-14 Panini Immaculate LeBron James Jumbo Sneak Peak 1/1

Here are Upper Deck’s:

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James Signature Kicks Auto

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite Michael Jordan Signature Kicks Auto

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite Grant Hill Signature Kicks Auto

In case you missed it, Upper Deck’s language on the back makes it very clear that no player has ever touched these shoes. In fact, I wouldnt be shocked if someone trucked it over to the local Foot Locker and picked up a few pairs to make the cards.

The back of the card says “From a shoe brand typically worn by” as the defining statement. This is accompanied by an official disclaimer language at the bottoms stating that the relics are not player worn, event worn, or game worn. Im sorry, but this kind of takes manufactured relic cards to a new level. Upper Deck is not hiding what these cards are.

Previously we have seen that there are embroidered patches and relics that are used to make cards, but just cutting up and inserting shoes without purpose is something I am questioning big time. I have never liked the manu-patch format to begin with, but to take it to the level of manu-relics is a odd and comical. I mean Exquisite planning is done a year in advance and no one thought to get the players to slip on the shoes for a second or two during a signing? Cmon.

Yes, I realize I just advocated for more event used material, but that is the nature of my thought process these days. Gotta love when our standards are that fucking low. I love what Upper Deck has managed to do in terms of design for many of their products, continuing to surprise me with what they put out. However, not only do these cards look like they are straight out of Panini Design School 101, but the relics have zero meaning. None. Exquisite has always been about the best of the best, but these are just horrible.

Im sorry, but this just takes the cake. In next year’s Exquisite, I hear they are planning relics from “Lids store purchased hats typically worn by XXXXXXXX.”