Panini Admits Wrongdoing in Flawless Game Used Patches

Panini has gotten themselves into a hot mess. Quite the hot mess indeed. Basically, for a few players in Flawless, the cards were labeled as game used, when in fact they were leftover event used jerseys from the rookie premiere. These players, Kaepernick, Jeffery, and others, are were part of an exhaustive review thread on the message boards, leading to this identification.

Considering all that goes on in the world of trading cards, we shouldnt be surprised – even with an apology and an offer of exchange that was issued yesterday. Here are the cards:

2014 Panini Flawless Colin Kaepernick Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Colin Kaepernick Jumbo Patch Example 2

2014 Panini Flawless Alshon Jeffrey Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto

Here is the bottom line. I really dont think this was done with nefarious purposes in mind. Im guessing it was a mistake (albeit major), and it is definitely going to hurt them significantly in terms of trust with the public. Issuing the statement only happened because they got caught, and that is not a way to run a business. They should have gotten out ahead of it, no doubt about it.

That being said, the authenticity of “Game Worn” cards within such a high end product should never be in question. Attention to detail is a huge deal. Additionally, this isnt the first time that Panini should have been facing questions around their business practices. I honestly believe three players jersey relics are much less of a concern than the practice of obtaining autographs through the player’s agent and other related people. Many of the companies have resorted to live signings as much as possible, but with Panini, there is good reason to think that they are only doing live signings for the important players.

For years, Topps has put a top priority on being live with the player as they sign for as many of the autograph sessions as logistically possible. They are far from perfect in their track record, but they have avoided many of the problem players as a result. Panini, due to their different ways of obtaining signatures, has gotten caught with everyone under the sun. Dez Bryant, Ryan Mathews, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Cordarrelle Patterson, Whitney Mercilus and others.

The scariest thing about using this model is that there is no trustworthy party that can verify the authenticity. Currently, the only way Panini can question authenticity is through the player’s agent or contact, and there is no way they would ever throw their guy under the bus. The only way to completely verify the signature is to be there when it is signed. Panini has failed too many times to count.

When you add on this jersey situation, the trust is damaged further. Panini does these sorts of things to cut cost. All is done in the name of the bottom line, and that hurts collectors. GU Jerseys are expensive. Flying people out to signings is expensive. Panini wants to save that money to offset the enormous expenses of league licenses and player autographs.

This is not good all around. Here is their article that details the situation.

Here are some of the previous articles I have posted on the autographs:

Can We Still Trust Autograph Content in Sports?

Penning the Hobby: Trusting Autograph Content

Calling Into Question Robert Griffin’s Contenders Autographs

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Totally Certifed Football

There are a lot of products made by Panini, which illicit a question of why they exist. Sets like Prominence, Hot Rookies and Momentum have all gone to that space for me. However, of all of those products, many of them are or will be one and done. Totally Certified is easily the one that everyone should have a hearty chuckle over, because even after all these years of horrid performance, it still exists. It sold poorly in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but that’s no matter for Panini! Bring it back again!

Check out this disaster in all its shitty glory:

2014 Totally Certified Kelvin Benjamin Auto Patch /10

2014 Totally Certified Johnny Manziel Auto Patch

2014 Totally Certified Sammy Watkins Auto

2014 Totally Certified John Brown Auto RC /10

You know things are getting a bit desperate when it is the first product to voluntarily be released on a Monday in as long as I can remember. Each card looks worse than the next, and dont even get me started on the names they chose for the inserts. I mean, who could fault a company for releasing a subset named "AWESOME AUTOGRAPHS!" I cant make this shit up, they actually went there.

The most disheartening thing about this product is not the awful names though, believe it or not. Even though they named a rookie autograph set "Rookie Penmanship," that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is how bad the cards look. Separated signature areas, off center swatches, and odd vertical presentations are only the start of it.

In fact, I cannot fathom why Panini is so obsessed with making sure every sticker auto that they use (and its a lot of them), is completely separated off from every design. That only speaks to how poor their design team really is, as there are so many methods to ensure that the autograph can be seen clearly without walling it off and obscuring the rest of the card. I dont know about you, but I would really like to see a full player shot.

Panini sucks at designing cards. They just do. Although they have their wins here and there, the body of work is fucking horrendous. I would trust Adrian Peterson with my children before I trust Panini designing a nice looking trading card. That is NOT going too far, that is what their track record represents. I mean, it is horrifying to believe that this design was presented in a production meeting and green lit for the set. Seriously.

I dont know what it is about them, but they just cant get it right. Totally Certified is totally not worth the cardboard it is printed on. Until someone explains what makes something TOTALLY certfied over just regular certified, I will continue to abhor this product. What is being certified so poorly that it needs to be Totally Certified? Doesnt make any fucking sense.

Johnny Manziel to Make His Padres Debut with 2014 Bowman Draft Picks

Bowman Chrome Draft Picks can be one of the top products of the year, especially for the players that many of the prospectors out there who are trying to acquire their targets for the coming year. However, it can also be a time where Topps wants to have some fun, and I am one that always likes when they do.

Last year we got a Russell Wilson SP card, commemorating his time with the Texas Rangers during spring training. Obviously Wilson is never going to play baseball, but he was drafted by the Rockies back in the day:

2010 Bowman Chrome Baseball Russell Wilson Refractor BGS 9.5

2010 Bowman Chrome Baseball Russell Wilson Blue Refractor RC

His Bowman SP still sells for a ton:

2014 Bowman Russell Wilson Rangers SSP

2014 Bowman Russell Wilson Rangers SSP BGS 9

He also had a card in 2010 Topps Pro Debut and Bowman Platinum for kicks:

2014 Bowman Platinum Russell Wilson Rangers Insert

2010 Topps Pro Debut Russell Wilson RC

This year we get another treat, as Topps has found a way to bring a big Football name back to the Bowman brand again. Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Padres, likely as a joke, but lucky for card collectors, it made him eligible to be included in sets like this. Manziel's football stuff is down because of a lack of playing time, but this will be rare and likely a very expensive card for all the Manziel fans out there.

At the same time, this is a big thing for football fans as well, as this means he will have live signatures in the remaining Topps products. Although he is required by the PA to complete all autos, Topps had been struggling to lock him down for a signing. Over the last few products, he had been redemptions, and now that we see he has signed for them. Its a good sign for the upcoming release of Topps Chrome, for which Manziel’s top RC will likely come from, based on sales from what we saw in the early release of Bowman Chrome. His signature remains one of the nicest looking autographs of the class.

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On the Radar: 2014 Absolute Football

As of last year, Absolute was about as dead a brand as it ever has been. Not only were the cards incredibly ugly, but the value in the boxes was akin more to 2007 than 2013. Absolute’s format has not changed in years, even though the hobby has relatively moved on from tiny swatches and worthless autos. Now that we have somehow made it to this brand’s 20th anniversary, I am surprised to say that it looks good for maybe the first time ever.

You can see, this product has produced some VERY ugly cards over the years:

2012 Absolute Andrew Luck Rookie Premiere Materials Auto BGS 9.5

2011 Absolute Aaron Rodgers Jersey Auto

2009 Absolute LeSean McCoy Jumbo Patch Auto

2012 Absolute Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto

There have also been a few nice designs too:

2012 Absolute Tools of the Trade Matthew Stafford Quad Relic Auto

2011 Absolute DeMarco Murray Rookie Premiere Materials Auto RC

I think the biggest change (at least according to the sell sheet) is the shift away from die cut spellings on the Rookie Premiere Material cards, which have been an ugly staple of the brand since 2006. Instead they have chosen to go with a quad swatch pattern, that I think is a really nice choice. Although we still have sticker autos, the broad line design with the player focused layout works very well. In the past, these cards have been complete train wrecks.

As for the other major part of the set, Tools of the Trade, we get another pretty nice looking design. It has been one of the more consistently awesome sets of this product. My only complaint is that the main look doesnt vary all that much from the RPMs, which is a bit confusing. In the past the tools design has been a different look all together, where as this year looks very similar to the other parts of the set. Even the jumbo patches look pretty good, which is saying something, considering the history of eyesores with this product's jumbo patch designs.

I think that Absolute still needs a major overhaul to be relevant in today’s market. However, I think that the look this year seems to be improved enough to get a few collectors to stay interested.

Diving Deeper Into 2014 Limited Football

Here is the thing. I understand what Panini was trying to accomplish with Limited's retooling a bit, but I think its worth another look to figure out if it has done anything to save this product. After a DISASTEROUS 2013 edition, Limited was shaping up to be as irrelevant as ever, though I do think the 2014 product looks quite a bit more crisp.

Check out some of the bigger hits:

2014 Panini Limited Teddy Bridgewater Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2014 Panini Limited Elway/Davis/Smith/Sharpe Quad Auto

2014 Panini Limited Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto Logo /5

2014 Panini Limited Richard Sherman Triple Patch Auto Dirty Patch

Limited’s 100+ dollar price tag is up over previous years, with the understanding that many of the cards are what the product title promises. However, its pretty clear that there are quite a few reasons why this could be referred to as a sticker dump, which is everything Panini should want to avoid with a set like this.

At least the design of the cards is much improved, save the jumbo memorabilia cards, which I have no words for. The lack of foil and focus on higher end looking motifs do this product a lot of justice, especially in terms of the base cards and base autographs. Even cards with multiple players look really nice all things considered, and that is a step up from where we usually see cards of that type.

I think the Black, White and Gold color scheme helps to make the colorful jerseys of the players stick out more vibrantly, and from I what I gather, that’s on purpose. I still think that the team word logo cutouts would have been something that could have made the rookie patch autos a bit more attractive, but collectors dont like their event used relics to be covered up. I disagree with that, but I still like that they added some shape to the box without making it an ugly straight rectangle.

The jumbo memorabilia cards are what kill this set for me. You just cant make a vertical oriented card with a patch that big. It covers too much of the player, and obscures so much of the card that you lose all the things that make cards cool. Adding in a giant foil box for sticker autos is even worse, as it prevents more of the card from being seen.

Similarly, with Limited coming out around the same time as flawless, I have no idea why we are still consistently bombarded with rookie sticker autos for the guys who signed. We KNOW they were able to get done, so why neuter it further? Although I like that some of the guys have preseason game shots as their pics, which is a great addition when you have to go with stickers, but I am not ready to make the trade off yet.

When considering how far Panini still has to come with a set like this, I start to wonder what is in play for other products coming later this year. We all know Totally Certified is going to totally bomb like the totally horrendous product it is, but this one had potential. Kind of pissed about it still.