Another year, another show, another very interesting week. The NSCC rarely disappoints, and this year was no exception. I think this was definitely one of the more unique versions of the convention over the years, especially with such a greater focus on newer elements of the hobby taking center stage. Being that this was the first based Chicago show I havent attended in the last 5, it was bittersweet to see how much fun everyone seemed to have.
Panini’s Show Presence
It seems like Panini exists at the national show solely to make themselves look they throw money around just because they have a bunch of it. They had a bunch of packs to give away, they had a crazy expensive VIP party at Soldier Field, and they made it look like they were on top of the mountain. The problem is, this image only exists during the NSCC, even to spite the success of many of their products during the course of the year.
Although their Italian sugar daddy has a ton of money to throw around, it would be naive to think that Panini has an unlimited budget. That means that all that money they spend on their presence at the National Convention has to come out of somewhere. The rumors around the show floor was that product content was sacrificed so that these things could happen, only further impacting the reason these giveaways and parties exist in the first place.
The cost of running a program like this alone is very expensive:
2015 Panini NSCC VIP Marcus Mariota Auto 1/1
2015 Panini NSCC VIP Karl Anthony-Towns Red Auto
2015 Panini NSCC VIP Andrew Wiggins Red Auto
2015 Panini NSCC VIP Kris Bryant Red Auto
One could argue that Panini’s lack of product quality is responsible for a need to do these types of things to help their distributors and group breakers sell their stock. In fact, from what everyone was saying, the people at the VIP party were predominantly from those groups of people. Fewer and fewer collectors are attending the events, especially as the product content continues to be below Panini’s competition. To think that the NSCC’s cost possibly contributes to this getting worse, is just inexcusable to me. I guess we will never know, as there is no way Panini would ever come out and say “Yes, Clear Vision had one auto per case, because we chose to fund VIP instead.”
From what I heard from the people who opened the Panini packs, they said the silver packs were “Meh” at best. Content was watered down, autograph content was reduced, and the injection of NCAA cards into every facet of the program prevented more return from being generated. Panini seems hellbent on forcing their new NCAA exclusive down our throats, which is only going to sour people in this respect. Because they overpaid dearly, taking a relaxed approach may not be available. Really too bad, as UD really seemed to have this down pat during their turn at the wheel. Sad.
I actually didnt hear as much about the fabled VIP party this year as in years past. The roster of attendees seemed lackluster at best, with the top draw being Mike Tyson and Jabari Parker. Considering many bought $7500-$10000 worth of crappy product to get in, not having a current huge name is a miss. One of my followers suggested the show take place in March so that there is no sports in progress, and more signers can attend. Not a bad idea at all.
Panini should be scared that product releases werent the story of their 2015 NSCC. National Treasures Basketball remains late/unreleased and did not hit shelves in time for the show. Adding insult to injury, people (rightfully) forgot that Prestige even came out right before the show opened. They deserve a big F for this effort, as I am sure that many of the people who previously used National Treasures to get to their VIP status were pretty unhappy that they had to settle for what was already out.
Remember, this is the company that may end up being the last one standing. Great future there.
NOTE: ALL PANINI NSCC PACKS ARE EASILY SEARCHABLE. You can feel the relic and stickers through the back of the packs to find out if you got a hit or not. Only buy packs from people you trust, as its clear that eBay sellers can take advantage of this when getting their packs. There are decoy base cards with thick packs, which can look like hits but are actually not. Keep this in mind.
Another interesting note – anyone remember that its been almost 1 year since Panini announced their NFLPA exclusive? No mention of an NFL properties exclusive to match yet. Hmmm.
Topps’ Show Presence
It was clear that 2013 and 2014 were kind of rough for Topps, especially as their customer service and redemption fulfillment took a hit thanks to a few different situations. During the 2014 show, it really seemed like the Topps booth might need some extra staff to ensure that the angry customer base got their chance to vent.
Since this time last year, its almost like a complete 180 has been achieved, with more positivity surrounding their presence than the previous two years combined. One of the main reasons for the turnaround focuses on their levels of communication through social media, the launch of a new Topps Blog, and redemption fulfillment / customer service taking big steps to head in the right direction. It might even be worth mentioning that Panini has taken a number of steps back in all those departments, save social media through their adver-blog, and that doesnt hurt either.
Topps’ booth was also a lot more active thanks to a few very important components. The first was Topps Digital’s presence, which from what everyone was saying on social media, was one of the better manufacturer interactions one could have at the show.
The team was said to be very helpful and willing to answer questions, and giveaways were great. This makes me incredibly happy, as using digital as a way to reach out to new collectors is a big deal. Topps’ apps have an active user base of over 100,000 users daily, something the current industry would go bonkers over.
If I am Topps, I am taking every opportunity to try and make the digital portfolio as close to business as usual as possible. The fan base is more rabidly passionate than the hobby has been in decades, and the growth is off the charts. Physical card collectors still have a negative stigma that they apply to the games, and they need work on overcoming that situation as quickly as possible. The crossover program in Topps Series 2 is a way to start that, but it needs to be bigger in the future.
Another contributing factor for Topps’ success this year was giveaways being more attractive and events taking place that hadnt ever happened at a Topps NSCC booth before. Videos of the daily pack wars were insane, as it looked like hundreds of people were showing up to participate. Topps’ giveaways were also a bit more attractive as well, with the Ginter die cuts looking great and selling very well.
The social media presence for Topps outdid Panini at the show the second time since the Rookie Premiere, with live coverage, breaking and content delivered through the weekend. It even looks like the Topps Q and A went well, with collectors seemingly asking a bunch of more universal questions about licensing and redemptions.
Topps said on a few occasions that they would still be producing football cards next year, and its going to be very interesting to see how that works out. Although they wouldnt be able to use current players, they COULD still be able to use logos and retired players to make some products. 2016 Topps Chrome NFL Legends does sound pretty awesome.
After all the hype last year to not much fanfare, the group breaking was definitely a focus at the show this year. Over 40 breakers attended, and many spent the entire weekend selling through their entire roster of breaks. Because of the need to hit the cap for VIP, more Panini product was broken than anything, although I did double the Topps and Upper Deck breaks than I expected to see.
The biggest story of the weekend was that one of the group breakers pulled the 1/1 Odell Beckham National Treasures NFL Shield RPA on stage, which led to rampant speculation that the fix was on. Im of the group of people that says nothing is a coincidence in this hobby anymore, especially on the biggest stage there is. Considering the shit ton of problems that Panini had with Treasures collation this year, pulling the biggest card in the product while on stage at the NSCC isnt a stretch of the imagination.
Either way, one thing was becoming more and more clear, and that is the group breakers becoming the new ambassadors to the hobby’s population. Love them or hate them, they are reaching more people through their sites than a hobby shop could dream of at this point. Even some of the smaller group breakers opening a case online can attract over 100 viewers, something that just doesnt happen live in shops anymore. Smaller shops are in dingy strip malls in flyover states, where group breakers are in everyone’s house at the push of a button. The world is getting smaller by the day, which doesnt spell as fruitful of a future for the hobby shop as once thought.
Remember when Panini spent all that time dedicating attention to hobby shops back in 2013? Yeah, all of that has switched over to group breakers.
Although the actual floor of the show and amount of dealers was said to be down from 2013’s Chicago national convention, the traffic from show goers was reported as much higher. There are a few guesses as to why this might be the case, but its still a positive sign that things might not be doom and gloom as much as we thought.
Personally, the actual “show” part of the convention seems to become more and more obsolete with each passing year, especially as eBay and other online sites continue to dominate the way collectors buy cards. Why travel any distance to pay to attend a show where every dealer has their stuff on eBay 24/7? The manufacturer presence is a helpful way to drive traffic, as are autograph signers, but the actual show floor is more of a museum than anything.
If I am the show organizers, its time to consider ways to entice people to attend, other than just having a bunch of people setting up tables trying to sell singles. There needs to be more collector interaction involved, whether that is panel discussions on a grander scale, a bigger social media involvement, and more live coverage.
I have often wanted to set up a lot of this stuff independent of the show, but with attendance becoming more and more costly thanks to travel and accommodations, setting concrete plans is a huge risk. Nothing would make me happier than for all the card bloggers to get together next year in Atlantic City and blow it out. We need to have more content that isnt based on buying things. More content that is focused on furthering the education and interest level of the hobby. Pipe dream, I know.
There is a lot up in the air for next year’s show being at a new location, but I am definitely trying to figure out a way to go. I think this is still the biggest and most accessible card event of the year, and hopefully it continues to grow. You never can predict, unfortunately.