Are These the Worst NFL Trading Cards of the Year?

One of the main reasons I hate Panini’s product line as much as I do is their choice of photos. For whatever sick reason, Panini seems to want to paint athletes as different than the warriors they are on the field, using posed glamour shots taken inside as subject matter, instead of the insanely dynamic action photos that football is known for. Every last fucking product has some photo from the Rookie Premiere, where Panini thinks its attractive to ask Carson Wentz to stare blankly into a camera. They are the only ones in football to use this approach on a continual basis, and none of this is more evident than a recent set from Absolute. Ill warn you ahead of time, this is not a joke. These cards do exist.

Good god, the horror:

2016 Panini Absolute Eric Decker Men's Lifestyle Relic

2016 Panini Absolute Von Miller Relic

2016 Panini Absolute Charles Woodson Relic

Here is my thing. I hate posed photos as a whole. I understand that photos taken by pros on the sidelines cost money to obtain rights to. I also understand that the NFL probably wants sets like this to be used to highlight their brand. Regardless of this situation, I still cannot stop laughing. It also brings about fits of anger, because the rookie garbage that Panini has used for years (Initial Steps anyone?) has showcased a long storied past of making absolutely horrid photo choices across the product calendar. So much so that Panini seemingly seeks out new ways to get the rookies off the field and into their studio.

Historically, trading cards have featured posed photos on the baseball side, some of which I would guess has to do with licensing and technology available. In the era of high speed cameras and digital photography, along side massive trading card budgets, the excuse is gone. There is no more reason to use a photo of Kris Bryant sniffing his fucking bat like a goon.

Football is war. If you are a fan of the game, its likely because of the constant action and absolute brutality that is involved in the game. Although sports figures have likely become more and more focused on creating brands, only a small handful know how to and want to participate in that side of the game. For 99% of the league, the brand the players create is in uniform with full warpaint. If you saw some of these guys walking down the street, they would stick out, but for so much of the league, they would not be recognizable by name. This is different in almost every other sport, and Panini just doesnt get how to properly present football players. I blame the product team and the design team for going at it from this angle, and I will never support a product that uses this awkward garbage.

I have started to see trends on the secondary market as well, where brands that feature this type of picture dont seem to perform as well. There are a lot of factors that go into what sells and what doesnt, but this is starting to swing more and more against Panini’s use of posed photography center stage. Maybe collectors are voicing opinion with their wallet, that pictures of Ezekiel Elliot fake running arent as cool as Elliot ACTUALLY running on the field during the premiere. Hell, Panini owns both of those shots.

Bottom line, these stupid Men's style cards are ripe for parody, much like the time Beckett tried to employ love and relationship advice for collectors. Panini’s brands are worse off as a result of these choices, and for the sake of football, I hope they pull their head out of their ass. Once another 2013 comes around, there wont be Dak or Zeke to save them from themselves.

On the Radar: 2017 Topps Inception Baseball

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Inception is one of my favorite sets. Not only does it combine some cool HDR filter type images, but a lot of on card autographs and an easy to digest configuration. Since its first run in Football back in 2011, it has expanded into prospect baseball, and now for 2017 it is switching to a traditional product. We had some veteran presence last year, but it was still dominated by players who would still be considered prospects. This year could be different now that it has been retitled “Topps Inception” instead of Bowman.

Here are some of my favorites from previous years:

2014 Bowman Inception Kris Bryant Auto Green RC 25/25

2015 Bowman Inception Mike Trout Silver Signings Origins Auto /5

2016 Bowman Inception Bryce Harper Flashback RC Auto BGS 10

2016 Bowman Inception Kyle Schwarber Silver Signings Origins Auto

2014 Bowman Inception Byron Buxton Inscription Auto RC

For a lot of us, this is long overdue, as we have seen some great looking cards in Bowman Inception, but with prospects being so Chrome focused, its hard to see long term value in the format. Now that it has become a professional level set, it adds a level of collectability that hasnt been there for the veteran side of the product.

We are still getting a traditional Inception look, with on card autographs, booklets, and new silhouette type auto relics, which look absolutely fucking amazing. We also seemingly are getting a checklist of players that looks to combine some of the top rookies with autograph subjects from the normal list.

I absolutely love the look of this set, and though it still rings clearly with the original football set, the addition of some of the new subsets continue to make me want to dive in headfirst. The issue in baseball and football previously has been the box break, where it becomes extremely hit and miss. One pack products always have that element baked in, and with prospects and NFL rookies that was double. With a bit more of a robust checklist coming, hopefully the dud factor will be reduced significantly.

Topps has always done a good job providing top quality cards at more reasonable prices, and Inception has been the flagship example of that. They have had a growing commitment to providing on card autographs in products that cost 100 and less, something that Panini has failed miserably at providing. Resetting expectations that on card is the rule and not the exception is a welcome step forward, and I hope it continues to be profitable enough to continue.

Cant wait to see what is coming with this, definitely in for a few boxes.

2016 Contenders Rookie Ticket Preview Cards are Selling Large

Over the course of the Contenders line, it has always been a set that collectors fawn over. Although I dont think the set deserves the level of collector attention that it consistently gets, I know that any time something has the set name with Contenders in the title, its going to sell. None of this is more clear than when you see just how horrifically awful the sets look in many of the years it has been on the market.

This year’s design isnt great, but it isnt bad either, which is a relief. Its a relief because its going to be used for a number of sets, including a needless college version that will likely be released next year. In what looks like a VERY good move, and one I have suggested before, Panini has inserted preview tickets into the fold. Smartly, they added them to a set that is pretty much a dud, but now looks like a better buy knowing you can pull one of the tickets numbered to less than 25.

Check out the ones already up:

2016 Contenders Preview Dak Prescott Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Ezekiel Elliott Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Carson Wentz Ticket Auto /22

2016 Contenders Preview Jared Goff Ticket Auto /22

We have only seen a few surface, but like previous editions of the preview tickets, they are selling for insane numbers if you pull one of the better guys. Im actually surprised this hasnt been done in previous years recently, as sets like Playbook or Absolute might benefit from a chase like this.

Panini needs to find ways to add value to their products, as its clear that sets like Infinity, Gala, Phoenix, Unparalleled, and other garbage they developed this year are so bad that Blowout is already knocking them down close to 50% and less than cost.

2016 Panini Black Friday Packs are Hitting Early

Well, even with a historically popular rookie class in Football, and a pretty solid class in Basketball, and Panini still has to clear all those products off dealer shelves by making shops order their shitty products rotting in the warehouse. To do so, the Black Friday giveaway is back for another year, even though content seems to be reduced again for the umpteenth year in a row. Collectors, for some god forsaken reason, feel like these garbage packs are worth buying the crap they wouldnt normally buy, and that’s why this still happens.

Here are some of the okay looking cards:

2016 Black Friday Eli Manning Base Auto

2016 Black Friday Richard Sherman Base Auto

These on the other hand, make me want to claw my eyes out with dirty fingernails:

2016 Black Friday Ezekiel Elliott Santa Hat Relic /10

2016 Black Friday Aaron Rodgers Manu-patch Logo

2016 Black Friday Kenyan Drake RC Auto

The packs are up early, as they always are, and like we see most years, the cards range from looking meh to looking like OH MY GOD KILL IT WITH WHITE HOT FIRE bad. Some of these cards look so fucking hideous that I dont even think I would want them out of free packs. That’s how bad this gets.

There are some redeeming qualities, as the Super Bowl cards always look good, and some of the base veterans arent horrible. That being said, the rest of the content isnt worth even THINKING about buying random crap to get the packs.

A word of warning – DO NOT BUY BLACK FRIDAY PACKS ON EBAY. They are easily searched and easily separated so that every hit is taken out.

Overall, you will see Panini pimp this giveaway like its the best thing from sliced bread. You will see shops try to justify the cost of taking on excess garbage when they already have a stock to begin with. None of that should need to happen. If products were built and printed the way they should be, these types of programs wouldnt be forced by dealers sitting on heaps of trash they cant move.

Just say no to Black Friday, and dont force your shop to participate. Buy product that deserves to be bought, and try to get them to use their voice to explain to Panini that overprinting the worst products of the year cannot be a method if shops are expected to continue buying new wax.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Black Gold Football

Its really quite unfortunate that Panini already has released a college version of this set, as I think that it has some of the best cards that they make each year. For whatever reason, they seem to think that diluting a product with a worthless NCAA branded high end product is beneficial overall, while I contend that its a waste. Although Black gold has some seriously ugly cards combined with the winners, the college version hurts the splash that this makes.

Here are some of the nicer looking cards from last year:

2015 Black Gold Marcus Mariota Sizeable Signature Auto Patch RC

2015 Black Gold Stefon Diggs NFL Shield Auto Patch RC 1/1

2015 Black Gold Dan Marino Jumbo Patch Auto /25

2015 Black Gold Jerome Bettis Auto

But, as we have seen with Black Gold, the garbage ruins the rest of the product:

2015 Black Gold David Johnson Auto RC

2015 Black Gold Jeremy Langford Metal Auto RC

2015 Black Gold Davante Adams Jumbo Patch Auto RC

Last year’s set was an improvement, but the absolutely horrible box configuration and pricing was prohibitive to opening this stuff. It made it another in a long line of group break products, to the point where there are very few singles available. Very few people opened 2015, and with a college product added this year, it could be even more of a bloodbath. Bottom line, Panini’s products dont really measure up to people breaking alone, as the quality of the box content just never comes to fruition unless you hit the top guy. If you dont, good luck.

The Sizable Signature cards are among my favorite sets that Panini makes, as I love the acetate approach with a silhoutette style design. I also like a lot of the other cards in the preview, as the similar type of acetate design works really well as a way to get the relics and autographs together without interference in the presentation.

As good as those cards are, OF COURSE we have the typical posed photograph shit show that Panini has made their trademark. I cannot understand why this is a thing. I just cant. I hate it so much as the players look stupid, and therefore the cards look stupid. Panini needs to fucking stop trying to make the players look vulnerable. This is the goddamn gridiron, not the Victoria’s secret fashion show. I swear to god, I will continue to be a harsh critic until Panini’s design team decides to pull their fucking head out of their fucking ass.

Similarly, why are these stupid ass hood ornaments back for another year? They are poorly designed and the gimmick isnt even that good to begin with. I mean, I dont understand the lame ass metal symbols to begin with, and the giant boxes that obscure 75% of this card makes little sense.

All in all, this is as close to a pure singles product as you can get, as its clear that boxes will be a kick in the nuts for a breaker. Im sure Dak and Zeke will continue to carry the hobby for this year, but could you imagine what might happen if Panini actually made great content and great products? Yeah, me neither.