2016 Unparalleled Football: An Unparalleled Nightmare

When I saw the preview for Unparalleled, I literally laughed for about 3 minutes. Not only was I completely shocked that Panini actually had the balls to call a set by this name, but also that they chose to do it with some of the ugliest parallels I have seen since 2015 Spectra. Then to see them decide to do an entire set with rookie content that uses posed photos, and it becomes premium filling in this shit pie.

There are always going to be sets that invoke a violent reaction from me. Panini has really hit the jackpot with two in as many years, and I dont think they are far from stopping. I am actually curious who believes the approach they are taking is the right one, as I am seeing more and more evidence that the final sellers of their product are not happy either.

I mean, lets break this down just so that we can all have a lesson in how NOT to build a product.

First, I am looking at the base design and I just dont understand why they look the way they do. The player is way off to the side, there is a big blob background of color, which is only made worse by the UNPARALLELED amount of foil used in this set. The worst part is, this disaster is just the start. Its almost like they are using this as the testing ground for new terrible patterns that make Lisa Frank look tame, and its getting annoying that anyone even thinks this trash is worth putting out to the public.

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Secondly, football has amazing photography available as a main point of attraction. They literally JUST got done taking tens of thousands of company owned photos at the rookie premiere, where the players can be pictured as close to game ready as possible. Instead of using these photos, they choose to trot out these posed wet farts and hope that collectors appreciate the feel of seeing gladiators without their gear. Football is violence, not touchy feely bullshit, and this is a set built around all the wrong elements. It is literally UNPARALLELED in its stupidity.

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Then, to see the main hits, with a typical Panini approach of a posed photo, a big white box, and a sticker autograph, who WOULDNT be excited? These rookie auto relics might be the ugliest rookie cards in a long time, and considering the hot mess that Spectra was, that is saying a lot.

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Panini is literally sitting on the pot and trying to squirt out that last bit of diarrhea, and as horrible of a visual as that is, this set is on that same level. They need to fill their product calendar and it should be obvious how much of a task that is turning out to be. They have already shown time and time again that they have no ability to create new brands in football, at least without stealing directly from their competition, and that should scare everyone.

Unparalleled is the new face of Panini ineptitude, and I dont think we are done with crafting this face quite yet.

2016 National Convention: General Thoughts

CaptureThis is a fun time of year. Its the only time when all the collectors of the world descend on a space to show that the hobby is still relevant to a few thousand people. I have been to a few of the NSCCs over the years, and they are definitely a blast. If you havent been, its definitely a pilgrimage that everyone should make. Its amazing to see all the top dealers and related entities in one spot, and the giveaways are a huge focus too. This is a time where we see people drop the money they save all year, and some even a bit more than that. The floor is huge, the tables have some amazing stuff we could only dream of, and the companies come in guns blazing.

For many of these giveaways, the purpose is clear – move all that product at the show that no one can sell without free packs attached. Well, at least for Panini that’s what its about. If you have seen the way some of the recent products have been selling, well…. a giveaway is more necessary than ever it seems.

Here are some of the giveaways from the show:

2016 Bowman Chrome NSCC Promo Kyle Schwarber Auto Red Prism

2016 Panini National Convention Shaquille Oneal HOF Auto

2016 Panini National Convention Laquon Treadwell Auto RC

2016 Upper Deck NSCC Dylan Larkin Auto /10

Topps, Upper Deck, and Leaf all have a big presence at the show too, and it looks like Panini VIP party will again take money out of products and put it into a ridiculous show for people who obviously have nothing better to do with their money.

I actually like the Panini national set this year, as I think they usually do a really good job designing the base and the rookie cards that are used in the set. The autographs are almost non-existent this year from what I hear, which is really disappointing to see. The content of the Panini packs have been going more and more down hill by the year, and 2016 looks to be nothing but the same. Of course, only Panini would continue using the stupid manupatch crap in these packs, so I guess downhill trajectory is par for the course.

Topps’ Ginter die cut packs last year were a huge hit, and it looks like the Bowman set they chose to run this year is really cool too. Although their set isnt as big a deal as Panini, it should be mentioned that because of their printing and production process there is a lot less they need to move. Topps prints to order in a lot of cases, where as Panini’s enormous commitments to the league put them in a much different bucket. They love to close out product, and it shows in a situation like Father’s Day, Black Friday or the NSCC.

Upper Deck looks poised to have a huge close to the year, especially if Ben Simmons pans out the way everyone expects he will. From what their signage at the show is looking like, they are making a big push to get back in with the NBA, something that would make collectors throw a parade down the aisles of the NSCC.

Overall, this year’s show isnt the norm. Its in a place that is insanely difficult to get to, much more expensive to stay at, and delivering products that seem to be heading in the wrong direction. That might change by next year, and I hope it does, because the NSCC is a fun place to be. These types of giveaways arent really the main reason why that is the case, but it is still fun to see what comes out of the show’s main floor.

 

2016 Topps Chrome Baseball: The Last Bastion of Hope for the Chrome Brand

Topps-Chrome-LogoWe started off with Chrome for Baseball, and expanded into all of the major sports. With exclusives in place now for all 4 leagues, Chrome is down to its last brand, something that makes me infinitely bitter. Since I was a kid, saving my allowance for the high end offerings of the Chrome universe, the cards have brought me decades of joy through the years. Every one of my favorite players has a place in my collection steeped in chromium stock, and now that Football is gone, we are back to basics with Baseball. Luckily, this years baseball product is pretty great looking.

Here are some of the nicer cards up so far:

2016 Topps Chrome Carlos Correa 2015 Purple Refractor Auto /250

2016 Topps Chrome Corey Seager Green Auto /99

2016 Topps Chrome Julio Urias Auto RC

2016 Topps Chrome Nomar Mazara Refractor Auto RC

2016 Topps Chrome Trevor Story Blue Refractor Auto

2016 Topps Chrome Kris Bryant MLB Debut Auto

First off, I knew the base Topps design would be great to transfer to a chrome setting. The way the parallels were set, the modernized nameplate and even the layout are great for transfer. The way the autographs turned out are even better than I expected, as in hand they really seem to pop. The colored parallels are really a consistent uptick after a banner year in 2015. Although the rookie class isnt as insanely strong, the product still looks nicer than it has in a long time.

With the jumbo configuration being added to the product, it creates a better opportunity to get a ton of autographs in your box. With all the autographs being hard signed, this is a nice box for the price. Its not cheap to buy jumbo, but man you can get a lot of stuff for what you pay.

Carlos Correa’s 2015 Chrome Cards were signed too late to include in last year’s edition, and seeing them included in 2016 is a nice value add to the product. He might not be setting the world on fire like he was last year, but the cards will be valuable regardless. He is still a superstar in the league, and shouldnt be written off just because he hasnt been a world beater.

Overall, Chrome has gone from the gold standard to outdated, back to a reinvigorated part of the calendar for Topps. Even with a rookie class that is a bit weaker, its a good idea to get in on a few breaks.

On the Radar: 2016 Spectra Football

It literally hurts that Spectra was brought back. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DID. Its Panini and they need 31 products to hit minimums. This one should have been canned. Not only was Spectra priced in such a ridiculous way that even with good design it would have been tough to stomach. Then you factor in what might have been the worst looking set in modern memory, and you see where my suffering begins. Neon pens on sticker autographs, horrible background patterns that made my eyes hurt, and a design that used more big boxes for the stickers than ever. WHAT A DUMPSTER FIRE.

These are just fucking horrible:

2016 Spectra Amari Cooper Blue Auto Patch RC

2016 Spectra TJ Yeldon Pink Auto Patch RC

2016 Spectra Marcus Mariota / Jameis Winston Dual Patch Auto Blue

2016 Spectra Todd Gurley Auto Patch Green RC

Because Panini cant ever come up with an idea on their own, Spectra was born out of their desire to copy Bowman Sterling. Prizm was Chrome, Select was Finest, and this was Sterling. Topps axed Bowman Sterling in football because it was stupid to build a set like that in a sport like football. Panini obviously missed the memo.

As if this needed to get more complicated, the product seemed to have sold well above its prospects. People seemed to have bought into the group break side of it, mainly because they could avoid the hilarious price and get easier access to the good players, but that was far less than enough to get me on board. The design was just horrendous. Panini loaded up the boxes with autographs of guys like Winston, Mariota and Gurley, which softened people’s stance on this train wreck, but I feel like it shouldnt have mattered with how poorly the set was conceived. Some collectors look back at the late 1990s with happiness, including all those overly gaudy designs, but I was never a fan. I like simple. I like clean. Spectra is the complete opposite in all the worst ways. Getting better hits doesnt matter if the cards look like shit.

This year’s spectra does look a bit better in the approach, but I have such a poor taste in my mouth from last year, im not sure I can get past it. The boxes around the stickers are gone, and the baseline design patterns do look improved. The problem is that the crazy fucking patterns and ugly neon pens are back, and that is going to ruin it. They are also likely going to continue ripping off the Topps superfractor design, and that just seems so wrong to me.

I still laugh at cards in this preview like the dual auto patch, because that is just as bad as we saw in 2015, and that Treadwell relic design is similarly terrible. Overall, Spectra had potential to be much better. It had on card autos in 2014 and 2013, and offered more reason to pay the stupid price people are being forced to stomach for what ultimately ends up as garbage. As expected, those crazy secondary market prices fell considerably when better stuff came out last year, and that will SURELY happen again in 2016. If you feel so compelled to kick yourself in the nuts, buy early on this. If you are smart, like with everything Panini is putting out this year so far, waiting is the BEST play. That isnt even a question anymore.

Sad that we have gotten to this point.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Panini Certified Football Product Review

To put this frankly, this isnt the best time of year. We are beyond the pre draft junk, which is really good, but we are not to the point where on card stuff is happening either. Without Topps in the mix this year to spark interest with their flagship products and perennial winners like Inception, im bored out of my mind. Unfortunately, Panini's best effort to cure that boredom is Certified Football, which for the last few years has been deader than ever as a viable product line.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2016 Panini Certified Jared Goff Auto Patch /75

2016 Panini Certifie Carson Wentz Auto Patch /149

2016 Panini Certified Ezekiel Elliott Auto Patch

2016 Panini Certified Tim Brown Auto /25

The problem, as we will see with most Panini products this year, is that this is just one of many releases that really offers nothing in terms of compelling content. In previous years, this set had been on card, but even then it wasnt anything special. Not only is the look of the set riddled with foil and stickers, but nothing really wows me enough to actually go out and buy some. What seems to be more frustrating is that Clear Vision is still fresh off release, and here we go with another set that brings nothing to the table.

To be fair, this is SIGNIFICANTLY better than Clear Vision, but that’s like saying this 1987 Ford Fiesta is better than that burning wreck on the side of the highway. Neither are really that attractive as a viable option for transportation.

I have said time and time again, if every set is just going to be sticker after sticker, blah design after blah design, what is the point of even continuing to collect new products as 2016 moves on. Each week there is going to be another entry in the calendar, and each week there will be something else that will fall drastically in price as the season progresses. No one really cares about products like this long term, and I would even go as far as saying that this stuff isnt on people’s list in the short term either.

The base card autographs really dont look bad, but as mentioned before, I am just getting to the point where stuff like this doesnt do it for me. Ive seen it 30 times a year for the last few years, and its getting boring. Seeing that the designs havent improved to be more compelling, or even offered some sort of on card autographs is a huge detriment. People wonder why the hobby buying public of new products is shrinking so much? This is a big reason.

Funny to mention that we arent even a handful of products past the end of the premiere, but we are already seeing redemptions in play. Considering that the players spent so much time taking goofy photos with instagram cutouts, and drawing sketch cards that arent good looking in any sense of the word, you have to wonder what Panini was thinking.

Overall, things HAVE to change. Panini overpaid way too much for this exclusive deal to waste it churning out cookie cutter bullshit that didnt sell last year, the year before that, or the year before that. I dont really have a solution, but holy fuck this is bad news.