On the Radar: Panini Prizm Draft Picks Football

Starting in 2015, Panini’s plan for Hobby world domination takes another step, with them taking over the exclusive license for all NCAA logo trading cards. From 2010 through the beginning of this year, Upper Deck has owned the exclusive, and done well carving out a niche over the last five years. After releasing a few GREAT football products already this year, Upper Deck has left NCAA, and Panini is ramping up.

Panini just released some extensive previews from one of their new collegiate brands to be released before the NFL rookie premiere in May. Although I HATE that they have managed to lock down another exclusive, there is merit to what it can do for their products, picturing players in college jerseys. This space is where its definitely the most valuable.

Too bad Prizm remains the dog it always has been, and this preview really didnt do much for what I affectionately call “Chrome Zero.” I would call it Diet Chrome, but I dont think it even deserves that.

In a market where almost EVERY SINGLE product has on card autographs, Prizm is launching their new brand with stickers, something that I just cannot understand. Because every set that serves as their competition will feature hard signed autographs, Prizm wont be able to measure up in the least. Although the design is better than any other Prizm set to date (I know, not saying much), the usage of stickers could kill any potential it has to be successful.

Remember, this is NOT a part of the year that is devoid of great looking products, including a few we have yet to see. If Panini thinks they can waltz in and win the battle, they will fall flat on their stupid faces. College collectors are few and far between, but its different this time of year. Because so few sets have been released, many pro collectors will take a gamble out of boredom. Panini has almost ensured that the crossover collectors will choose an alternate route.

Even though this is only 60 bucks a box, come the first pro-release, these wont be worth the cardboard they are printed on. Unless something is special, most pre-draft type releases dont continue to hold their value, and Panini is playing with fire there. This goes double if things dont measure up. Of course, they dont really know their ass from a hole in the ground, so I cant blame them for being dumb about this.

Prizm is already a joke and a half, and this will further devalue an inferior brand. Regardless if the design is nicer than it normally is for this dumpster fire product, they have guaranteed that collectors will continue to give them the stink eye with each new thing they decide to try. Hey, at least this set gets some work, as they could not be bothered with Contenders to even come up with a new design. Ill give them that, but with everything else? Who cares. Cant wait to see how many packs are being offered for buying this junk at the National?

2014 Exquisite: Upper Deck Football’s Last Stand?

Last week, amid the drama of National Treasures and the simultaneous release of Five Star, Exquisite Football was also released. It is likely going to be one of, if not THE last licensed CLC football product from Upper Deck, something that is going to sadden a number of people who loved the brand. That isnt saying the brand is done for good, but maybe just not sticking around in the same way.

Check out some of the top hits:

2014 Exquisite Marcus Mariota XRC 1/1

2014 Exquisite Jameis Winston XRC /125

2014 Exquisite Teddy Bridgewater Rookie Auto Patch /75

2014 Exquisite Blake Bortles Rookie Auto Patch /75

2014 Exquisite Odell Beckham UD Black Auto

I have always been a huge fan of the Exquisite brand, especially in its days as the premier high end product for any of the sports it was produced in. These days, it still has tremendous value, and has birthed some of the more interesting cards of the last few years. It continues to be a fun set to chase your favorite players, including some of the big rookies for 2015, which accompany this year’s crop.

To release this set on the same day as National Treasures is not really the decision I would probably go with, but I understand they are limited by Panini’s usurping of their exclusive license. At the same time, I have stood by the fact that a product like this would SEEK AND DESTROY early on in the calendar year, as no other high end products are really released until halfway through the season. Because this is college licensed, the production can begin as soon as the rookies declare, with planning done months before that.

Either way, most of the cards look great. My favorites are definitely the dimensions jersey autos, which have taken a page from the past versions of the card, mix in a little bit of the tweaks made by Strata, and added some Exquisite flare. I also think the puzzle type art cards are pretty interesting, as are many of the HOF autographs from across the release.

Im not as much a fan of the rookie auto patch design this year, as the foil embellishments intrude too far into the cards surface. It leaves very little room for the player to sign, and creates a tough visible area for them to be seen unless the player is wearing a light jersey. Its not the worst its been since 2010, but its far from the best.

Additionally, the price of the product is significantly more expensive than the other two that were released over the course of last Wednesday, and that was a complaint I heard a lot of people making. However, from a group break perspective, this is a much more moot point, as people were able to divert the extra cost that way.

If this is indeed Exquisite’s last licensed year, I think it ended well but not in the insane way that it started. I think this was Upper Deck’s chance to really make a splash and show people how much they could be missed, but instead, it felt like just another year of a product that has been around since 2005. Considering so many of the cards still looked really good, UD should consider that part a victory, but I cant help but feel some potential was wasted.

2014 National Treasures: Teddy Bridgewater and Odell Beckham Cards Surface

Its been seven long days for a lot of breakers out there, and seven longer days for the collectors who have been looking to pick up any of the main National Treasures rookie cards of Odell Beckham and Teddy Bridgewater. Although both players have had autographs in the product that have surfaced as early as the day before release, it took this long for the least rare examples to pop up.

So far, at least 3 of the missing cards were uncovered last night, with two pulled in the same batch on a large group break site.

Here is the first of the auctions to be posted:

2014 National Treasures Odell Beckham Rookie Auto Patch

As I have been saying this whole time, none of this comes as a surprise. My stance from the first mention of this debacle was that was likely that a pack out or collation issue. Based on what everyone on every message board and every social media outlet has guessed, the floodgates will open, the cards will show up, and Panini’s spin doctors will go to work.

Although they crafted a carefully worded response on facebook a while ago that offered zero insight into the issue, it only took them a matter of hours to get the hype train a rollin’ on addressing the concerns.

Stupid hashtags aside, its borderline irresponsible to continue the charade that the cards were in circulation from day one. Although they were probably not lying in saying the cards were packed out, I have stood by the assertion that “packed out” and “in circulation” are two very different situations.

My prediction is that these cards will serve as the lightning rod for their response mechanism. They will point mercilessly in this direction, hoping that the cards’ eventual appearance shows that they were right all along. However, that is about as far from the issue at hand as it can be. Its not about whether or not the cards eventually show up, its how long it took. Panini may want you to think its about missing cards eventually surfacing and how they were right, but we cant forget the true situation.

The best part about this is that Panini’s blog cant trot these cards out as much as they want, as Redemptions dont have the same pull with collectors. Imagine if Teddy and OBJ were live and how much more potential those have to be lauded to the world. A redemption card just doesnt have that same appeal. They also know that the Beckham cards have the potential to turn into another Russell Wilson situation from 2012, where it took ages for the cards to finally get done. They would be ill advised to get people’s hopes up without knowing the cards will be done in a short timeframe.

Now, Panini’s team finally got tired of my coverage of the event and let their emotions get in the way of following best practices discussed in entry level Marketing classes. Seeing comments like this should show you how they are perceiving their place in this fiasco, as well as how they feel about criticism brought by their customer base. Best part is, I bet the words I used are half as tame as the emails they have been getting from other people. Yet, they chose to use their time in this fashion. Its just the cherry on their shit sundae when they have to stoop to my level, right?

Over the next few days, I would expect 5-10 more of the cards to show up as wave 2 boxes from the distributors finally make their way into the hands of the breakers. Panini’s favorite group break sites will likely feel the benefit immediately, even if they are not looking for that kind of treatment. I have talked to a number of people who have all been as surprised as I am that it took this long.

Prepare yourself for the blitz. It will come hard and it will come fast. Just keep all of this at the back of your mind when reading their posts.

Just so you can see how “transparent” Panini wants to be about this, here is an email that was sent to a user who reached out to them for a response. Pretty clear narrative is being established, and I am loving every minute of it.


Has Panini Replaced the Manu-Patch With Something Worse?

Back in 2007, DLP (now Panini) started to use a kind of card that eventually permeated all of the sports they made cards for. The embroidered patch piece, signed by the player, eventually deemed the “manupatch,” was a staple for Panini's products up until 2013. Since that time, the cards have tapered off considerably, now only used for holiday promotions and very few other instances.

Here are some of the ways Panini has used the hideous Manupatch cards over the years:

2007 Rookies and Stars Calvin Johnson Auto Manupatch

2012 National Treasures Barry Sanders Auto Pull Out Manupatch

2014 Black Friday Andrew Luck Manupatch card

However, with the welcome and celebrated fall of the manupatch, a new kind of card has surfaced, one that is just as trashy as the one it similarly replaced. The “colored paper” autograph cards have steadily invaded products since last year, including high end examples in Immaculate and Black Gold. As we start to see more previews for upcoming products, its clear that these cards are now the trademark go to design for Panini, taking over the hole left when Manupatch autos went away.

Here is what I mean:

2014 Black Gold Richard Sherman Colored Paper Auto

2014 Immaculate Baseball Jose Abreu Colored Paper Auto

Personally, it would have been a hole that should have stayed empty. The colored paper autographs look horrendous, even if it is a replacement for sticker autographs in products. Although collectors dislike stickers, many times the clear presentation doesnt force designers to obscure a large portion of the card. With the colored paper, it automatically becomes the focal point, taking away all focus from the parts of the card that matter as much as the signature from the player.

In Immaculate baseball, and some examples from Black Gold football, the card was built to be signed by the player on card. Even though the colored paper looks like a trapped cut auto, that isnt what is actually happening in some cases.  The player is sent cards with the paper already inserted, which implies that Panini could actually just send a normal card for them to sign instead.

I think as a sticker replacement, there would be some support for using trapped cuts, just because of the reputation stickers have gained. I disagree completely, as I think the visual appeal of the card shrinks exponentially with this new approach. The cards look so terrible that I refuse to acknowledge any type of superiority over a well crafted sticker auto. Then again, this is Panini, so well crafted doesnt usually belong in the same sentence with their brands.

The bottom line is that companies should spend less time trying to find out a replacement for stickers, and spend more time finding ways to make better looking cards that are better with hard signed autographs.

Here is some of the upcoming visual diarrhea that is slated for Immaculate basketball:

Diving Deeper into 2014 Topps Five Star

Lost a midst the drama surrounding missing cards from National Treasures, is one of the strongest high end sets I have seen in a long time. 2014 Five Star has some amazing looking cards, and from what I have seen in person and online, the product is delivering case by case unlike many of the other high end sets that are out there.

Here are some of my favorites from the set:

2014 Topps Five Star Tom Brady Auto SP

2014 Topps Five Star Russell Wilson Silver Signature Auto

2014 Topps Five Star Peyton Manning Auto SP

2014 Topps Five Star Andrew Luck Silver Signatures Auto

Not only does it have a great and concise checklist, but it also has a very sleek design that works extremely well. Although much of the relic content has been removed from the set, it does have a lot of different things that make it up for it. Considering all rookie relics arent game used anyways, its not that big of a deal to an autograph collector like me.

The Good

Five Star has been the penultimate autograph product since Upper Deck lost its license in 2010. It has always focused on the parts of the product that cater to autograph collectors, and as a result, I have loved each and every version of the set. This year’s design is perfect for the football version of the product, as every card almost presents the player as a work of sports art.

Adding in that Topps has done away with the base, and made sure every card in the product is autographed (with few notable exceptions), takes away a lot of the needless bulk. Where NT is pumping up the cards per box with 2 dollar shitty jersey cards, Five Star is focusing on what collectors should want – on card autographs from all the top players in the game.

The checklist definitely reflects this, as Five Star is less about the scrub rookies, and more about the top tier guys and non-RCs that player collectors chase until they are blue in the face. Unlike Treasures and Exquisite, all the big rookies are live, as are on card autographs from elite subjects like Brady, Russell Wilson, Luck, Favre, and Emmitt Smith. The only big name redemptions I have seen are Marshawn Lynch and Aaron Rodgers, who will both likely not be too tough to nail down.

My favorite cards in the product are the gold and silver autographs, which have improved significantly in their pen strength since Baseball rolled out similar cards. Where silver and gold autographs usually fail, Five Star succeeds more than ever before. Although some are still misses, there are a lot of really bold autographs.

Booklet cards this year have become exceedingly rare, but when they pop out of a box, they look nothing less than stunning. I dont see a bloated rookie premiere checklist on these either, as the majority of the booklets in the product are top tier guys.

Lastly, with relic content reduced, the jumbo patch autograph cards are that much more of a chase. The design is a transfer from Baseball, and I am glad they stuck with it. The horizontal 1×2 inch swatch always looks good, and provides a lot of room to sign and a lot of room for design elements.

The Bad

I think that some of the major issues that plague this product havent changed year over year. This product is targeted more at people who collect great looking autographs, instead of the people who just want ridiculous patches, regardless of the visual appeal of those patches.

The industry’s focus on relics, even ones that are not game used, is so frustrating to me that I cant put it into words for everyone to digest. I am glad that Topps focused on improving the checklist, getting top signers on card, and forgetting about all those other things that Panini still worries about. However, I also understand that this choice makes it so that many collectors wont assign the same value to the rookie cards or non rookie autographs. Bonkers to me.

All year long people complain about stickers. So much so that every sticker based product gets its own thread on all the top message boards. Its the first thing people complain about with each new set that is solicited. “UGH STICKERS AGAIN. I HAS A SAD.” Then, when a product comes out that is hard signed, its either 1500 a box in Flawless, or a much more affordable box in Five Star. Yet, for some stupid reason, Five Star never gets to be the bride. Always the bridesmaid to Treasures, which people love because of the stupid oversaturation of event used patches.

I feel like the hobby is going in the wrong direction here, and that Five Star deserves so much more credit on the secondary market than it gets. We undervalue what it brings year after year, and even after Panini’s product doesnt deliver as promised, Five Star remains lower than I think it should be.

My one major complaint remains the lack of inscription cards, as they were my favorite cards of the year. I have already moved on to start collecting some of the other cards that have stepped up to replace the big hits, but the absence still stings.

The Ugly

This is Five Star’s second to last year in its current format. That alone is ugly enough to make me cringe. To think that come 2016, stellar sets like this will be gone is so devastating, it causes me to consider my continued place in the hobby.

Panini does a terrible job in just about every way, shape, and form. From design, to configuration, to price, all the way up to the fiasco with Flawless Jerseys and NT missing cards. They are a terrible card company, and I am sad that they will force Five Star off the map. Instead we will be left with sticker riddled National Treasures products that never deliver as promised.

Hopefully Topps will find a way to continue producing football cards, as I am not ready to say goodbye to their presence in the sport. Sets like this are just too infrequent to let go without a fight.