2010 Panini Crown Royale Confuses Me

There is one question I have been asking lately, and that is in regards where the Panini design team has been hiding. They obviously havent been designing good looking cards, so I was curious if they even actually existed. Well, I think I found the answer. They have been holed up trying to complete the design for Crown Royale football, a new product in the Panini line. Not that the cards are even that good, just that they are so utterly complicated that it must have taken them 10 minutes to design the cards instead of the usual 2.

All kidding aside, Im not sure how I feel about these cards. A few of them look like playing cards, and others look straight out of the 17th century due to their ornate designs. The problem seems to be that some of these cards are so busy and complicated in their border work that I don’t know where to look. The other problem is that these cards from the preview are the ridiculously low numbered parallels that feature both the autos and the jerseys, so what happnes when you subtract elements but don’t change the design, as Panini normally does? I think the single jersey cards of the Peterson and the Montana, as well as the Bryant and the Brady are going to look ridiculously unbalanced and top heavy.

As for the base design, I think its terrible. When you add in the auto, like on the Bradford, its worse. Im not sure why they are trying to stuff a sticker onto the card when it obviously has no place to go. That is poor planning and the base design should have been adjusted if that was the plan all along.

Im also torn on how I feel about the Royalty cards. I think they would definitely fit in a set like National Treasures, and the concept is interesting in the way the cards are designed. Again this subset plays into the overall theme of the product, and Im still not sold on that as a whole. I get that Pacific made these cards famous, but I don’t really see the appeal of creating a set based on a defunct brand that produced some really ugly cards.

This may in fact be one of the products that we need to see the finished product before we can pass final judgement, but right now, im still deciding if cards like the Peterson and the Gerhart have enough spunk to carry a product that doesn’t seem to pack a lot of punch. It is pre-selling at under $100 on ATLSportscards, and from the layout, it looks like it is going to be similar to Absolute with 1 hit per pack, 2 autos per box. Street date is set for the same week as Topps Chrome, so I guess its not a surprise that there hasn’t been much pub on it.

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.

2010 Panini Certified Looks Worse Than Anything Yet

Leaf Certified Materials, now Panini Certified has been around forever. The Fabric of the Game subset has produced some amazing cards across the span of the product’s existence, and it is usually a celebrated part of the football calendar. Over the last few years, Certified has gone from a celebrated product to “meh” to absolutely terrible, and this year’s set may be the worst thing I have ever seen to come out of Panini’s house. Although we only have a few cards from the set, the common theme and design of the product is so bad, that I actually laughed.

The fact that Panini is willing to stake one of their most popular sets on a shitty design like Certified showcases this year, makes me wonder if the people over there are even trying with football anymore. If this year’s National Treasures Basketball is any indication, its not like they are focusing on the Basketball designs either, so this begs a very important question: WHO HIRED THIS BUSH LEAGUE DESIGN TEAM? Jesus, this is just terrible.

Starting with the base cards, it looks like someone was carrying the printing plates and dropped them on the floor on the way to the press. The result looks like a fractured mirror and it looks absolutely horrid. When you add in jersey and autograph in typical Panini fashion, like they did for the rice, it becomes a complete and utter Dexter McClusterfuck.

Oddly enough, the only cards that anyone cares about are not present in this preview, and those are the freshmen fabric cards. Last year’s werent a complete disaster like 2008, but they still left a lot to be desired. I figure these will shape up more like the 2008 than anything, if not a hell of a lot worse.

Lastly, the Fabric of the Game cards don’t look terrible, but that isnt the point. They are basically the 2009 design with minor tweaks, and that is BEYOND frustrating. It shows that Panini is getting very lazy with their updates, and its going to be a long time before we get any sort of innovation again.

Panini, you are heading the way of worry faster than I can say Ndamukong Suh, and that is a pretty scary situation for football collectors who depend on good looking cards to build their collection.

What We Can Learn From Unlikely Sources

I don’t think I speak with someone these days and don’t get the feeling that the card industry is playing on borrowed time. In general, people people have a negative opinion over where sports cards are going as a whole, myself being one of the neysayers. To me, its obvious that certain parts of the hobby are becoming disinterested with the products being released, and even more people are skeptical of the staying power of the manufacturers as a result of that feeling. When you have a situation like this, its pretty tough to ignore that maybe there is some re-evaluation that needs to be done.

Some collectors have cited that cards in general have become confusing to the point where they have stopped buying. Personally, I disagree, but that is me, not them. The companies seem to agree with the confused people, and have actually intiated programs to move away from the many products that promote said confusion. I actually see where they are coming from as cards themselves have moved so far into a closed demographic that there is no way out. This is where my discussion hinges, and it was actually brought to my attention recently by an unlikely source – my XBOX.

Think about this for a second. How many times have you seen a kid walk up to a Playstation and look for an instruction manual? Let me say, from the beginning, I know my brother and I have never even opened that package of materials it comes with. You can actually go to some of the most underprivleged areas in the country, places where the literacy rate is miles below the national average, and there are kids that are playing these games. Even though they cant read, they still know how to game. Its because video games have created and recreated themselves around an intuitive design, one that kids have infused into their DNA. It’s the reason that video games is one of the most profitable industries in the world.

Cards have gone in the complete opposite direction, and I am talking 100% independent of the “kids are the future” argument. Instead of moving towards an intutive layout accessible to the sports fans that drive this industry, Cards have imploded upon themselves. The sets are only well layed out to existing collectors, and its rare that a casual fan would look at cards and identify with what they see. The nitches where sports fans latched on previously have been replaced by endless parallels and terrible designs.

The reason I say that visual design is so important in cards, is because a good looking card is universal. Its why I love signed base cards so much. Simplicity. No stupid or lame subset name, no ridiculous parallel structure. Just auto on card. Because most base cards are well designed, the appeal becomes highly evident. If more sets focused on similar concepts and used visual appeal to drive the casual fans to card collecting, the hobby and industry would grow.

On the flip side of things, when you have products like some of the stuff that Topps calls its high end brands, it locks out the people that need to be brought in. If card companies produced cards with layout and design as the main focus, the confusion would become more invisible. I have heard the number of products produced as being the main source of confusion, but I actually think its more of the way the sets are approached. If you look back at a time where confusion was not part of the equation, it was not the number of sets that helped, it was the set content itself.

My solution is about focusing on the right things. We should not go in the direction of National Treasures basketball and pack products full of needless jersey cards and subsets that no one cares about. Instead, we need to go more in the direction of a product like the flagship Topps brand, even in high end settings. Topps, as well as Topps/Bowman Chrome is so straight forward in its approach, that even the most casual of collector can appreciate its merits. Forget something like Playoff Absolute Football, where every card has five billion parallels and nothing ever follows a pattern. That is wrong. Even sets like SP Authentic are perfect examples, because they are so extremely popular without being ridiculously expansive. ‘

Creating access is the most important thing that the manufacturers need to do, and the gate key is directly related to simplicity and good design. It has nothing to do with number of products produced, because if every set looked as good as SPA, we wouldn’t have an argument. Sets look so terrible, so much of the time, that the access that visual appeal provides is replaced with, “who the hell is at the helm of this sinking ship?”