When it Comes to Rookies & Stars, Save Your Money

The upcoming Panini release calendar is packed with products. Threads, Absolute, Certified, Limited, they are all on the way, and are all sets that are not new additions to the slate. Panini uses this part of the calendar to bank on previous years’ success, mostly with a tried and true formula of a mid range price point and 3-4 hits per box. Rookies & Stars is beginning of the products I have dubbed the “Panini Blur,” as each of the products is so similar in the concept, that they actually are indistinguishable for lack of a better explanation. I stopped by Sports Cards Plus in San Antonio today to get a look at the latest batch of Panini splatter paint, and despite a nice pull from a customer there, the results were far from impressive.

Aside from the normal Panini cookie cutter of stickers, foilboard, parallels and busy designs, Rookies and Stars brings absolutely nothing of worth to the table. Its a product that rarely holds its value, the concept and content of the set hardly looks like it was designed by a professional, and it is full of rehashes that produced its share of groans from the peanut gallery at the shop. I opened a few packs after some prodding, and I was lucky enough to pull not one, but two of the stale and played out manupatch autos. Not only was one of them a redemption, but the one that was live was snooze worthy at best.

Because Topps is locked and ready to roll with the meat of their calendar, Panini desperately needs to pull their heads out of their ass to stay relevant. I mentioned in the post below this one all the reasons why I like the low end Topps products as much as I do, and I can honestly say that from what I saw, Panini did not deliver even one of them with R&S. If you can stand to save that hundred bucks you were going to spend on a box of this junk, you are going to have that much more fun opening what is coming on wednesday from Panini’s main competitor.

Personally, I love that the people at Panini use my posts as toilet paper, because it just shows the level of commitment they have to taking what people like me say to heart. I have loudly sung the same tune for 3 years, and over that time frame, Panini has gained its share of haters that function similarly to the way I do. Its funny the amount of times I have started to hear the boos on the boards, twitter, and blogs, when a product preview is posted, something that can easily catch up to your P&L statements. You cant churn out the same shit over and over again, and not expect your customer base to get tired of the apathetic approach. The brass at Panini doesnt seem to get that despite the numerous industry people letting them know how they feel.

I think that once the rest of the Panini Blur hits the shelves, we are going to start to see a lot of angry collectors start to make their voices heard. Its easy to overlook the “YES! LOOK AT THIS CARD I GOT!” when there are a lot of “Nice pull, but it looks like shit.” reactions right after it. I didnt even take the time to review this product last year because it was so terrible, and I am glad to see that Panini decided that one year of poop wasnt enough.

Topps Accomplishes More With Two Products Than Others Do In A Whole Year

I get criticized a lot for being overly negative, especially when it comes to upcoming products. However, with two of my favorite sets of the year on the horizon, I can tell you my level of excitement is unparalleled. With the two products that now compose the low end part of Topps’ football calendar, Chrome and Flagship, its like they are playing on a different level. Topps Flagship is being released next week, and I have a feeling that it may do enough to re-energize exactly what I am looking for in the 2010 card season. I mean, the crap that is coming out of Panini’s butt sure isnt doing it, so for these two sets, its make it or break it. Im sure most of you are wondering why these particular sets are my favorite, and I am more than happy to explain.


Most of the time, the base set design for the Topps products is solid. This year, it’s a little more than solid because I always am a fan of the use of the team word logo design. In all of sports, the NFL team word logos are some of the best looking, and it’s a shame they arent used more often in cards. Those logos are an integral part of the design this year, and the overall simplicity of it other wise, makes the stuff from sets like Rookies and Stars look like it may as well be a traffic jam. This year’s design will also translate VERY well into the chrome sets, and the colored refractors with the eye-popping border additions should look amazing. I will say, also, its one thing to use shitty foil board to produce an ENTIRE set, its something completely different to use the chrome tech. The quality of the base cards is THAT much better, and that quality leads to some of the only base unnumbered rookie cards that are worth any sort of money.


The fact that a box of Chrome costs 50 bucks for what you get is great. Because you don’t need the 2 dollar jersey cards to drive up cost and carry a box, the cards do the talking. Even though you only get one auto per box, there is usually enough other draw to busting that makes up for it. Flagship is very similar, especially for the jumbo boxes. When Topps added in the red-zone signatures to rake with the Rookie Premiere autos and the rare variation cards, this product got that much better. Also, much like Chrome, the box is one of the most fun rips around. You cant beat the amount of fun you get ripping into 50 card packs that actually have value in what you pull.


In Flagship, there once was very little content outside of the RPAs. That has since changed. The addition of a parallel structure that is more friendly to the collector, the variation cards, the red zone signatures, and the other inserts like Ring of Honor, make this set great even without the premiere cards. Yet, with a great design added in, even the base cards bring content. For Chrome, Topps sadly folded the Bowman Chrome line into the Topps Chrome brand, which is great for Topps Chrome, but not good for my love of the stand alone product. Because of the added Bowman content, as well as more red zone signatures, and retro autos, Topps Chrome is going to mash this year. Again, the great price point and great design add into the content rather than detract like Bowman Sterling, and that is always a huge plus.


When I heard Topps was out of football, I was pissed, despite my hatred of their high end brands. Their low end brands have been around for decades and my collection is stocked with past players in said products. Collectors associate the Topps base cards with the general happiness of collecting, and a year without them is like a year without football itself. Chrome has a similar legacy with collectors, especially those who loved the invention of premium brands as much as I did back in the day. Even though Chrome is no longer a premium brand, it has the feel of a well put together product each and every year. Like SP Authentic, collectors buy because they know they are not going to be short changed on the construction of the set, and that is something that Panini has lost in creating the crap they have churned out lately. Sets like Rookies and Stars and Certified have a lot to learn from the likes of Chrome and SPA, especially due to the way they look. You can line up the cards for Panini’s long running sets and see nothing but rehashes and staleness, where as the Topps and Upper Deck cards are reinvented visually each and every year. THAT is how you build a legacy.


I hate the fact that Parallels have been blown up like they have in high end Topps products and Panini products. Chrome and Flagship don’t fall into that category. The parallels are tastefully done and add a lot of value to the card itself in some cases. When you pull a rare parallel of a Topps card, you get exponentially more value out of that pull. The difference between a Triple Threads card to 299 and a Triple Threads card to 99 is negligable. That’s when you know there is a problem.

Because of the above and lack of options, I may be purchasing my first case of anything, ever. I opened so much of these products last year that I probably gave away three complete sets to the local kids at the shop. I can tell you all right now that spending 700 bucks on a case of Chrome will definitely be a better investment than buying box after box of the products that blur together on the slate of the other companies. If you are going to blow your money on wax, at least blow it on something worth busting.