There are a lot of products that have a loyal following in football cards, but Contenders is the one for which I have a love/hate relationship with. Some years, Contenders is as good as any other product that is released during the calendar. Other years, it is so bad that I wonder why it continues to hold value with its horrid presentation. Considering the strength of the 2012 class, the product was one of the best in recent memories. Now that we have gotten our first look at 2013 Contenders, I am curious to see how the final product works out.
Rookie Ticket Autos
I was VERY worried that Panini wouldnt be able to make a rookie ticket design on their own. The success of last year was mostly due to 1998's design being as iconic as any football card. When Panini was left to their own on the other autographs, it wasnt even close to being as nice. Now that I see how they can perform on their own, the results are actually pretty good. I like that they are risking the up the side signatures again, and I also think its time to go back to the “ticket” concept. It might not be as good as 2010, but it is something I like a lot.
Rookie Ink Autos
This subset of autos has a storied history of being bad. There are a few examples of when it is good, but the history hasnt been at all positive. In 2010, the Rookie Inks might have been one of the worst insert autographs I have ever seen. They look like propaganda posters made into football cards, and that is not a good thing. This year, they are taking a different approach, which I think works out well. There is an artistic quality to these cards, and I think this type of situation will present well in a normally conservative product. There is a lack of on card rookie content for Panini this year, and I think these will be nice.
Rookie Premiere Autos
I dont know what these are but I hate them. In fact, I cant even put into words how stupid these cards look. Studio shots continue to make the players look goofy and awkward, and the design is ridiculously boring. Panini has an unhealthy obsession with this type of photo, even setting up a faux indoor station on field at the rookie premiere to make it happen. There is absolutely no reason why the card should be made this way, and the results are horrifying. Horrible idea, horrible design, horrible card. Yuck. This is a new set for Contenders from what it looks like, and it is NOT off on the right foot.
Last Year’s Inserts:
Contenders will struggle this year, as we are seeing the lackluster class perform in relatively lackluster fashion on the field. This is pretty much hobby wide, not specific to this set, and a product like this will be difficult to stay above dealer cost unless the loyalty of the collectors who buy it carry the value. That is a distinct possibility, but we wont see anything close to what we saw with 2012 Contenders jumping up to over 200 a box. Im eagerly awaiting the rest of the set and more official solicitation, as I am hoping that Panini doesnt screw up the cards they didnt show. RPS autos only account for 1 or 2 hits per box, which means we could easily have some major issues outside of those cards. Lets hope they just keep it simple and stick to the same designs here.