A Look At Redemptions

I have never been scared by a redemption, let me say that right from the start. I don’t know why, but I never really had too much of a problem with my patience in waiting for a card I wanted. However, I know for a lot of people that isnt the case, and most have very ill feelings towards the companies they patronize who have redemption problems.

Back in the early part of this decade, Upper Deck became notorious for failed attempts at getting their redemptions out in a timely fashion. Months would pass between updates, sometimes years, and a good portion of the time, you would get stuck with replacements. Although they have improved dramatically from those days, sometimes a dramatic improvement from crap is just a bridge to poor. Upper Deck has made strides in the way redemptions are handled, being the first to institute an online redemption program. This made a lot of people optimistic about the times they feared their submissions were being lost in the mail, but most of the time it caused as many problems as it solved.

Other companies have latched on to the online redemption program, most recently Panini, followed slowly, as always, by Topps. These programs have brought about sweeping changes in the ways old redemptions are handled as well as brought newfound confidence to the floundering redemption programs of each company.

Recently, I decided to take another chance on a redemption, this time with Panini for the first time. I have had huge amounts of success with Upper Deck, getting all of my Adrian Peterson cards filled in a very short time, so I thought it was worth a shot on a Percy Harvin that I liked. I redeemed the card about a month ago, hoping to get a nice auto and nice patch on the Limited Phenoms card I thought was the best of the year so far from Panini. Lucky for me, it came yesterday, and I am very pleased with the results (pic below).

This led me to go through a discussion of the different pros and cons of each, under the auspices that I could maybe inform a few of you about everything I have experienced.

Upper Deck

Cards Redeemed: Adrian Peterson National Chicle Auto, Adrian Peterson Exquisite Auto, Adrian Peterson Sunday Stars Signatures, Sidney Rice SPA RPA, Adrian Peterson SPA SP Authentics, Joe Mauer SPA By The Letter Auto

My Experiences: As you can see, I have had a lot of redemptions that I have bought through eBay. I did not pull any of these cards in packs, and I knew there would be a wait on some of them. When I first was introduced to the Upper Deck Redemption system, I was pretty impressed. Create your account, enter the code, see the card and updates right there on the screen. For the Mauer, a card that was the first redemption I worked with, I didn’t understand that it would take so ridiculously long. It took about seven months, only because I redeemed it at the beginning of the season, and we know that players have a tough time signing during the season. The problem was not that it took so long, but because I had no clue. That was the only time I had a problem. The other cards got to me in less than a month, sometimes in less than a week if they were already in stock. None of the cards were damaged, though it was annoying to have to trek to the fedex office to get the signature on the package.

Others Experiences: Im sure you have heard of the stories. The horrors, the horrors! Redemptions taking years upon years, awful replacements, everything that one could imagine. The worst I have heard was someone getting a five dollar card for a card that sold for over 150 due to equal book value or some crap like that. Upper Deck has said to me that they have switched to using what cards sell for in addition to the guide, as well as collector requests and rarity. It doesn’t always work out, but I have seen people get Flacco RPAs from SPA as well as a Chris Johnson for a card that didn’t sell for much. I guess it works both ways. In all reality, I think the horror stories create very vocal people, while the success stories do not. However, I do think that Upper Deck did earn their stigma pretty early on, and much of it is still sticking, rightfully so in some cases.

Topps

Cards Redeemed: Harry Douglas Bowman Chrome Auto

My Experiences: I loved when Topps switched to online, and decided to try out the Douglas as a test. At most I was losing ten bucks, so I didn’t really think of it as too much of a risk. Again, a very user friendly site, and the design of the cards you pull is very helpful with name in big bold letters. You don’t need a magnifying glass or a checklist, which is clutch. As for the card itself, it came in about four months, and didn’t have any big problems. Again, I was pissed that a guy at the rookie premiere had to have a redemption, but at least I got the card I redeemed, even though others have had a lot of issues.

Others Experiences: I have stood by the fact that you shouldn’t spend any significant money on any Topps redemption because there is a good chance that any replacement you get will be total and utter fucking poop. I have heard of people getting low end packs as replacements for a redemption, and that just isnt right. I have also seen that Topps’ track record on filling redemptions, despite using all stickers, is quite a bit lower than I expected, with some major cards going unfufilled. Having unfufilled redemptions is just as much a player problem as a company problem, but any replacement problems are all on their shoulders. Topps is notorious for that, no doubt. One addition recently has been redemption updates on Twitter, and that is beyond awesome. I applaud Topps for that part of this whole thing.

Panini

Cards Redeemed: Adrian Peterson Limited RPA, Percy Harvin Limited RPA, Shawn Nelson Base Auto

My Experiences: I wont talk much about the Peterson RPA, because it was a write in before the new online system was started, and it turned out pretty well. The Harvin and the Nelson are newer ones. Starting with the actual redemption cards themselves, they could be the most annoying things in history. You always will need a checklist, and that can be problematic if you are opening them in a shop from loose packs, when they threw the sheet away. I don’t understand why they cant print the names of the players on the cards like everyone else, just seems completely useless. The site itself is a little more complicated than the others, especially if you have multiples going at once. I had two at once, and I couldn’t tell which was which without clicking through a few menus. Also, they call everything a “request” so your files may not be redemptions, as damage and missing card replacements are filed under “open requests” as well. The Nelson hasn’t come yet, but the Harvin showed up yesterday as I explained above, packaged nicely. It came via USPS which may cause more problems if there was damage. With Fedex like UD uses, there is much more accountability for damage because of national policies, which is very helpful. USPS is practically nothing in terms of those types of policies. There was not even insurance on the card.

Others Experiences: Other people have had generally normal experiences with both good and bad replacements and fufillment stuff. Since Panini is pretty much all stickers as well, they have a luxury that on card st
uff doesn’t have, however, that doesn’t always mean you get what you paid for. There were a lot of problems last year with Chris Johnson’s Contenders cards, with some people getting shafted. However, most of them were able to work it out with customer service, which is a good sign. I wonder what happened for those collectors who didn’t know what to do, though. Panini is generally regarded to have a mid range wait time, with some being quick and others taking forever, but their strength is in expired cards. They are notorious for keeping back stock of expired cards, and will usually fufill something, even if the card is years old.

I don’t really think that there is a clear cut best company here, as each has their strengths. I would just advise you to ask people before purchasing redemptions, especially old ones, and really see if past ones have been fufilled for that player. If there is documented success, it may be worth a chance to try with one. Otherwise, stick to the live cards, as a bird in hand is much better than two in the bush.

Product Review: 2009 Donruss Threads Football

Usually, each year, when Threads hits stores, you can set your watch for the start of the real football products to start. Usually as well, Threads is one of those products that tends to hold more value as the year drags on. This year, things may be different, unfortunately for the fans of this product.

Design/Creativity

There has been one constant all year for Panini products, and thats the over use of the line tool in photoshop. Every product seems to be swimming with cards with angular designs, most of which look busy and hard to follow. Threads takes this to a whole new level. The base cards have been chronicled here as some of the worst I have seen all year. In addition to being a fathead style player photo (player looking like a fathead stuck on the background) instead of a game shot, the lines look like they are attacking the player like a game of invaders. When you see some of the MANY parallels for each card, some on mirrorboard, it gets worse. For every one of those parallels that doesnt have a swatch or an auto, the card also looks incredibly top heavy, as the Panini design team still hasnt found a way to make every parallel of a card look like it can stand alone.
As for the Rookie Collection cards, they stayed again with the horizontal design, which I like, but the design just doesnt cut it. Its almost like they turned the opaque-o-meter down to about 60%, stacked about 5 levels on top of each other, and added a player picture into the middle of all of it. Then they took a weird looking helmet off pic and made it look sketched on. Add in that the Threads logo cuts straight across most of the player pics at the waist, and I cant say its something that looks even remotely good. Its a hodge podge of craziness, and Im very diappointed.

The Letters this year look pretty much the same as last year, which is fine, as they are always the focus of the set. The problem is that they tapered the border back a little, which has shrunk the player pic even more than it was last year, so that detracts from the overall presentation. However, the Letters arent all that bad. It sucks that they cant be built ahead of time with the team colors, but this is fine. Nothing great.
A star of the set, as always is the Gridiron Kings cards which are great this year. The painted style, along with a design that is simple and not overstated, makes these cards a must get for the product. I have always loved these cards, and this year looks like another home run for these. Too bad this type of design couldnt have been more of a focus.
The rest of the subsets in Threads are pretty typical, weird looking swatch placement on cards with even weirder design elements. I really think that Panini could solve a lot of their problems if every card didnt have to have ten parallels. They are really the only company that still employs this way of doing things, and it detracts from every element of the set. The cards just reek of lazy attempts at filling the product, and I wish they would just do it the right way instead of the ways that people hate.
Rating:
Autograph Cards
The autograph cards in Threads scream Panini from the mountaintops. There arent any that dont have non-autoed parallels, and most of the time the labels dont look like they fit into the designs. I would rather see them take an approach similar to National Treasures and save the autographs for the good subsets.
One of the major problems I have with Autos in most of the Panini products is that more than half of the autograph cards are going to be non-premiere scrubs that stand for your box hit. That means you can pull a free agent auto in your box, and get nothing else more times than not. I watched a full case break today, and more than every other box was a crap scrub rookie auto for the whole thing. That is awful.

The Gridiron Kings auto parallels are amazing, unlike most of the regular autos, as they are not mirror boarded. Sometimes they also have a cool frame around them, which makes the cards stand out even more. Its a great save for a non-letter box, which makes me angry that more of the set could not be great like these.
As for the Letters, they are what everyone wants, and this year will be no different. I did see some college numbers on these AGAIN, which made me cringe a few times with Harvin and Beanie Wells not adapting their sigs at the premiere. Also, I saw a college uni Harvin with a pro number sticker, and a pro uni Harvin with a college number uni. Who at QC let that slide?
Rating:
Relic Cards

What can I say that hasnt already been said about Panini and their awful relic cards. Im not sure why no one has decided that maybe its time to change the way these cards are designed. This time, they have used weirdly cut windows to try to distract us from the fact that most of the cards dont look right. Its like “Ooh! My jersey card looks like it has a little jersey looking thing it! I shall call it Mini Jers!” Seriously, we are not that stupid.
Again, the only good looking relic cards are the Gridiron Kings dual swatch cards which look very well done. Still, the rest of the subsets look ridiculous and out of place in the general design of things.
Rating:
Value To The Collector
I would definitely support buying some singles off eBay, but stay far away from the boxes. The odds are that you are going to waste close to 100 bucks on a box with three crap jerseys and a scrub auto. Then you will see that most of the cards look like crap and you will wonder what you just spent your money on.
If you were lucky enough to pull an auto parallel of the Gridiron Kings, Rookie Collection, or a Letter, you can pretty much feel good that the value probably wont drop much as the year continues. Mainly, you have to hit one of those cards to even think about justifying your purchase, but overall the product is just an all around disappointment. Its not Rookies and Stars bad, but
its not on the level it was last year, and definitely not on the level of a product that costs as much as this one does.
Rating:
Overall Impressions
Basically, these cards could have been put into any other Panini set this year and no one would know the difference. I really have no idea why anyone continues to have faith in this take over, as last year things were 10 million times better than this year’s lazy attempt to redesign each set. The solution is pretty simple, ditch the crazy grafitti and the weird lines, and stick to using simple designs with fluid transition between the parts of each subset. Until then, my ratings will continue to be the way they are.
Average Rating:

2009 Product Leaderboard (SO FAR)

1(t). UD Philadelphia Football (3/5 GELLMANS)
1(t). Topps Football (3/5 GELLMANS)
1(t). UD Icons (3/5 GELLMANS)
1(t). UD Heroes (3/5 GELLMANS)
1(t). UD Draft Edition (3/5 GELLMANS)

6(t). Donruss Threads (2/5 GELLMANS)
6(t). Donruss Classics (2/5 GELLMANS)
6(t). Donruss Elite (2/5 GELLMANS)
6(t). Playoff Prestige (2/5 GELLMANS)
6(t). Bowman Draft Picks (2/5 GELLMANS)
11. Score Inscriptions (1/5 GELLMANS)
12. Leaf Rookies and Stars (0/5 GELLMANS – NR)

First Look: 2009 Donruss Gridiron Gear Football


In 2007, Gridiron Gear was one of my favorite sets of the year, but in 2008, it dropped well below acceptable standards to me. The continued use of event used footballs, as well as a RC Patch auto design that didnt lend well to parallels sold the product down the river to me.

I see a lot of 2008′s product in 2009′s preview, which concerns me, in addition to ANOTHER Donini set with sticker autos, despite a focus on hard signed products elsewhere. Gridiron Gear is like SPA and Limited is like Ultimate in terms of the release calendar, and both are at a disadvantage to UDs sets before a preview is even released. See, I love UD products because they are the best, its not even a contest, especially when Donini continually falls short of product expectations.

Ill give you an example.

Instead of retiring lame gimmicks like signed plastic NFL fields, and cards with rubber helmets embedded in them, they are issued as a staple in the product. I cant tell you how bored I am with these cards, even when they were created in 2007, and it makes me really frustated to think how lazy the Donini designers are. Why not focus on the design of the Gridiron Gems to ASSURE that every parallel fits into the design. It didnt last year, and from the preview of the sanchez here, this year’s is the same. Look at the tapering of the window in relation to the design. It looks off, because the card was actually designed for the other parallels. This fact, in turn, makes the window look like it is breaking through the borders of the card.

Here is the reality I see in Donini cards for 2009. Who ever is designing them was just given the old set and adobe photoshop and told to reinvent. Rather than starting from scratch as UD and Topps usually do, they just tweak little parts of the old cards. Im guessing its because of a lack of talent/lack of knowhow in the designers’ repetoir, but it could just be that they have no resources – hence all the stickers.

As I said in my UD bias post, I give them more positive press because they are just better at making cards. Donini and Topps are second tier when you hold up the calendar against each other. Sadly, the second tier is second class in this case. Ill take SPA and Ultimate over Limited and Gridiron Gear every day of the week.

First Look: 2009 Leaf Limited Football

First off, let me say how surprised I am by how good some of these cards look. Have things started to turn around for the bastard child of bad ideas and poor design? Possibly.

The best part about these cards is that they seem to be the first design update for any release that Donini has had for the entire year. They acutally look somewhat different from 2008. As for the Leaf Limited slideshow autos, the design looks pretty cool for me, the best of the previews. When it comes to all the RC Phenoms Patch Autos, the one they showed looks much better than last year, though I am VERY scared for the parallels that are not out of 5. Usually with these cards, there are a million parallels, and many of them just say “RC” in die cut windows, or have the number of the player. These particular ones will be the most short printed of the non-logos, and I cant fathom where they are going to put the patch for the normal card out of 99. The Cut autos look very good as well, but I never really saw the appeal in cuts to begin with. At least if you pull one, it wont be a crappy looking card.

The Letters are always a favorite of the fans, as they are really the only game used autographed letter cards out there. Factoring in that these will also be pro bowl ones, will make people very happy. Personally, I know they wont be the ACTUAL Pro Bowl jerseys, but rather a practice one or something similar, as the actual ones are coveted possessions of the players. Plus, im not a fan of the pro-bowl to begin with, so its not a big deal to me. Hopefully there will game used ones as well.

Lastly, there are a few AWFUL parts to this product. Of course, the main one is that the base cards look ridiculous, especially when they have a swatch involved. Although the swatch is in the right place, I cant get passed the hypnotizing design. What an awful choice for a theme for the set. Secondly, for what you get, the price point is going to be beyond stupid. They are going back to the one pack box, which I wholly support, but they are giving you 1 auto and 1 jersey for 100 fucking dollars. Sorry, but Limited is always a good affordable option for higher class cards, and they are now taking that away. Very problematic to me, as they just priced me out of a few boxes, especially with dealer markup. Then, when you add in the diluted RC premiere class from 2009, and you just priced a lot of the rest of the collectors out of this product. This will be a big problem, and I dont think Donini knows any better.

You can color me exicited for the possibility of buying some cool singles, but I will not even consider buying a box of Limited this year thanks to the configuration. Too bad really.

Product Review: 2009 Donruss Classics Football

Today is a big day, believe it or not, as we finally have a set today that pictures the rookies in their NFL uniforms. Classics has received a lot of coverage here because of that fact, and Donini knows that they are under the microscope now that things have changed for the company. Although the set has some bright spots, it seems like things may not have been as thought out as they should have been. I will say that this is the best offering so far from Donini this year, but considering that their previous releases have been loose poops, its not saying much.

Design/Creativity

First, I want to preface this by saying that I have always been a big fan of classics. I still think the base RC of Adrian Peterson from 2007 is one of the best non-auto Peterson cards there is. 2008′s base design wasn’t bad either, as the cards had the look I was hoping for. 2009, well, that’s a completely different story. Unlike the previous two releases, Donini decided that this year’s product would not feature a nicely designed base set, but instead would use boring square borders and the back of a 1940′s wicker chair as the background for the pictures. After seeing the result of this, you have to say that it just doesn’t work for this type of design. The problem is that the square border adds nothing to the character of the card, and the background does not do it any favors either. Instead you have players who look like they are cardboard cutouts photographed against the chair and then put on the cards. On top of all of this, it clashes completely with some of the uniforms, which takes all the fun out of it. At least when they left the field in there, you knew what to expect.

Secondly, Donini has improved the design of some of the subsets, but they are still employing the fucking awful three step parallel process for them. Step 1 – numbered base card, Step 2 – memorabilia card, Step 3 – Auto or auto/jers card. This time it seems to work on SOME of the subsets, but you can still see the places where things will fit, leading to the thoughts of why the parallels exist in the first place. Regardless, the Sunday Stars look good with the swatch finally having a good home, the Saturday Stars look a little worse but still good, and the School Colors havent changed one bit from last year. On the other side of things, the Monday night heroes have MAJOR floating swatch issues and the Classic singles look oddly weighted. Other than that, its standard fare for Donini.

Lastly, the Cuts have problems, lots of problems. To begin with, there is no picture of the subjects on the cards to make them look presentable. They are just a border on a cut, and that doesn’t work at all for me. Secondly, there is no name on the front of the card either, which means it could be fucking impossible to determine who you pulled if you arent familiar with a lot of signatures. This is completely amateur, as there is no reason to leave out a picture, let alone a name, especially when a good portion of the people who pull these cards will be casual collectors. Bad form.

Rating =

Autograph Cards

Man, these autograph cards are a train wreck for some parts of this product. I don’t think there is any other way to describe the ideas behind some of the cards.

The most important cards of the set are the Auto RCs, and because of the swap meet rug background, its beyond tough to see some of the stickers. That is just poor planning, nothing else. If you know that you are going to put black writing on a card, you have to plan around a light background to create that pop we all love in a dark sig. This has none of that. Plus, when some of the rookies are signing early stickers with college numbers, all while the company KNOWS they will be used throughout the year, you can expect the complaints that will come. As Jake said on Twitter, don’t sign the numbers and you don’t have a problem.

Moving on to the biggest fail in this product, the School Colors autos, and you can see the extent of how poorly these cards were planned. Its like Donini thought that by putting out on card autos, they could blind us enough to look the other direction in design and pen choice. Companies avoid using paint pens on cards because they can stick to the back of other cards during pack outs, they can chip as time goes on, and because they look gross. If I were waiting outside of the OTAs to get an auto in person, I might use a paint pen out of necessity. For card companies, use need to use a fucking sharpie/staedtler like normal people. However, if you MUST use silver, fine point pens are available instead of the thick pointed paint ones used on these cards. See UD Black Baseball 2007 for examples.

The one bright point of this set is the Sunday and Saturday Stars jersey auto cards, which look very cool. It’s the only redeeming point for this offering at all in terms of autos. The cards look well thought out, well put together, and professional. The problem is that they are two subsets, and numbered to 25 a piece. Kind of a drop in the bucket. I would give the autos two Gellmans if these were a focus, but they arent. The rest of this has way too many problems.

Rating =

Relic Cards

As said before, the relic subsets in this product are very much improved over Prestige and Prestige Chrome. Donini is heading in the right direction on some of these cards, as the cards look like they may have taken into account the fact that swatches and stickers will need to be incorporated into the design. The Sunday Stars and Staturday Stars look great in this respect, but others do not follow the same suit. The Classic singles look oddly unbalanced, and should have just had two swatches per player, and the Monday Night Heroes subset was definitely backwardly designed old school junk from the Donini floating swatch factory.

When you move up into the patches and the duals, things continue to go well, but there are still many problems that Donini needs to address before I can count them among the saved.

Heading in the right direction is good.

Rating =

Value To The Collector

This set always holds water because it’s the first for pro jerseys. However, there are no rookie relics from the premiere, and there is a staleness that is creeping in on classics. I think the overall price will drop per normal as the year goes on, but these cards wont drop the way prestige and prestige chrome will. You may have already noticed how little value the previous sets held compared to last year, and its only going to get worse.

Although I wouldn’t suggest buying boxes of this product with reckless abandon, I would suggest checking out some of the good looking singles that will be out there.

I will mention this, I am not the only one who is touting the poor quality and creativity of Donini products, and price has started to show some of that apathy. Cards that would have gone for 100 bucks last year are going for $50-$60 this year, which is too much of a drop to attribute completely to the recession.

Basically, I would be very careful before blowing your load this early.

Rating =

Overall Impressions

Although Donini is heading in the right direction, improving from total fucking shit to acceptable is starting to seem like an inconceivable jump. With as bad as the first two products were, compared to classics, I am getting overwhelmed with how much needs to be improved. There are so many things present in this set that no professional would ever do in their right mind, and that scares me for the future of this crap. Plus, when you start to see them influence their man-crushes at Beckett to the point where they are singing the praises to the mountaintops, you can tell they just arent trying anymore. Instead of designing products that should be sung from the highest peaks, they use underhanded marketing tactics to force people to avoid looking at the obvious.

Average Rating =

2009 Product Leaderboard (SO FAR)

1(t). UD Heroes Football (3/5 GELLMANS)
1(t). UD Draft Edition (3/5 GELLMANS)
3(t). Donruss Classics (2/5 GELLMANS)
3(t). Donruss Elite (2/5 GELLMANS)
3(t). Playoff Prestige (2/5 GELLMANS)
3(t). Bowman Draft Picks (2/5 GELLMANS)