SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Allen & Ginter 10th Anniversary Edition

I remember back in 2006 when Ginter was first released, it actually was a pretty bi-polar reaction to the set. There were a LOT of people who loved the content of the product, combining the typical baseball stuff with other non-sport material similar to the original pre-war Allen and Ginter cards. It gained a cult following over the next few years, with hit chasers and set collectors alike buying into the product in a big way. Now, for its 10th edition, the formula remains relatively the same. Much like it was back in its inception, its still one of Topps’ most popular sets. It has inspired copy cats in every corner of the hobby, which only speaks to its influence.

Here are some of the big hits up so far:

2015 Allen & Ginter Aaron Paul Framed Autograph

2015 Allen & Ginter Val Kilmer Framed Autograph

2015 Allen & Ginter Adam Jones 2009 Mini Buyback Auto /10

2015 Allen & Ginter Danica Patrick 10th Anniversary Framed Autograph

For 2015’s set, there is a huge focus on delivering the normal things that Ginter is all about, combined with a huge buyback program that runs through the whole product. The base set contains the normal mix of sport and non-sport subjects, ranging from the usual Mike Trout to the unusual “Incredibeard.” This is what makes Ginter so attractive for everyone who loves it – the set literally offers something for everyone.

In terms of high end content, there are on card autographs galore – much like every year. There are also highly valuable non-hits in the set, which has always been something that has been a struggle for many manufacturers. Because so many people build Ginter sets, there are a lot of people who will pay through the nose for rare parallels of the base and minis.

As for the buyback cards, there are a lot of interesting uses of the program, ranging from the common base cards with a special stamp, to framed buyback minis, all the way to framed mini buyback autographs. The buyback autographs are a cool idea to incorporate, especially if the checklist ends up being strong. The rest of the buyback content is pretty low end, similar to the stamped “originals” in 2015 Topps products like Series 1, Heritage and Archives. Sometimes there will be an interesting card, other times, its pretty much stamped junk.

I am always interested in the non-sport checklist, which has reached a level of infamy in the hobby with its growing creativity. The Rocky commemorative cards are awesome, especially with Stallone and Lundgren signing cards as their characters from the movie. I mean, who doesnt love Carl Weathers as Apollo Creed? The Stallone autos should sell for a shit ton, and there will be a number of people who will want to get one of each. Expect huge prices.

There is one other element that should be discussed with this year’s Ginter, which is the inclusion of Ichiro Suzuki, including signed content. Ichiro’s international appeal and resume are undeniably a huge draw, which will only get more valuable over time. He is undoubtedly a 1st ballot HOFer, and will likely be the first Japanese player of this generation to be inducted. Although I would have liked only Mariners content in the set, there are cards from all the teams he has played for.

Ginter’s release will always be a hobby event as long as it exists, and I hope that Topps continues to figure out interesting ways to keep it fresh. I think its only a matter of time before their other licenses like Star Wars start to creep in, and I cannot wait for that to happen. This set will always have a place, and it will always be fun.

Early Go-Live Report: 2015 Clear Vision Football

Im going to preface this review by saying that Clear Vision Football isnt set to come out until 7/24, which is this week. However, my shop in San Antonio was given a sneak peak of the product by Panini, and the cards from that break have started to show up on eBay. As expected, the results are not pretty.

Check out this garbage:

2015 Clear Vision Marcus Mariota Jumbo Acetate Auto /25

2015 Clear Vision Amari Cooper Acetate Relic Auto /35

2015 Clear Vision Johnny Manziel Acetate C-THRU /50

2015 Clear Vision Bryce Petty Jumbo Acetate Auto /50 – Case hit everyone!

Clear Vision looks to be a type of experimental product that only makes sense in the warped mind of the Panini brass. Instead of experimenting with cool technology and interesting design work, Panini wanted to see how much content they could remove from a box before people wouldnt buy it.

A box of Clear Vision is set to retail at around 60 bucks per box. For that 60 bucks, you get a bunch of acetate cards and one hit. That hit, 8 out of 9 times will be a non-autograph. For that 9th time, you will get an autograph that has around a 40-50% chance at being a top tier guy. The remaining autographs are still good, but not great. For the 8 boxes that are not autographs, the majority of them will be shitty relic cards, some of which include some pretty laughable names.

To put this in perspective, this is like opening packs of Absolute Football. Well, its like opening packs of absolute football that cost 20 dollars more, and have autographs less than 50% of what is available in the four pack format. Worth noting that Absolute was one of the lowest selling products of the year. Unlike Absolute, to pull an autograph from Clear Vision, you could end up spending 480 dollars and still not get lucky. You could end up with boxes full of this junk.

What Panini is banking on, is that their other cards in the product will make up for it, and that the people buying it and buying it in bulk are going to ignore that they are being taken to the cleaners in the process. Yes, you can spend 240 bucks, get four boxes (which is where I draw the line between diving in head first and just sampling what the product is all about), and end up with relics that will not sell for the .99 cents plus 2.50 shipping come three weeks after release. Yes, Panini actually built a product that wont be able to be broken unless you get it on day one – or in this case, a few weeks early.

Its worth mentioning that the initial prices for Clear Vision singles are high – but this is for a few cases broken so far ahead of release. I think its kind of funny that someone paid what they paid for Tony Romo – when you can buy an on card auto patch from a better looking product for much less. As well all know things get crazy for previews. When something is exclusive, holy shit, collectors will go nuts trying to be the first and fastest person to get their hands on the cards they want. We are so obsessed with posting mailday threads on Blowout that we will pay through the nose to get the cards.

Clear Vision “boasts on card autographs“, but they are only telling half of the truth. On card to me, is the player having the card and signing it. Panini had them sign acetate sheets, which are then inserted into the cards at a later date.

For all those rookie cards, Panini took so much time getting these acetate inserts signed at the 2015 Rookie Premiere, that they avoided actually getting hard signed autographs for their main sets. This could lead to a few situations, including a metric shit ton of sticker autographs for rookies in Panini products this year, and potential redemptions down the road.

What we are left with is a product where half of the card is obscured by a window needed hold the acetate window, and done in a way that looks really odd and unbalanced. Some of these cards are actually a bite on a design from Topps Triple Threads, of all places, believe it or not. Shocking, I know that Panini would copy something and blow it out of proportion.

The transparency cards from Triple Threads were done in a horizontal way, where you didnt have to slice the player off at the waste like Panini is doing here. Regardless, these cards sold terribly, and never really were a hit with collectors. People just dont see value in these types of sticker replacements – even when Topps does a better job incorporating the acetate into the look of the card. They also didnt use goofy ass posed head shots as a background.

Panini has struggled mightily with this over the last few years and it continues to baffle me why people continue to support the sets at release, only to abandon them once better looking stuff is released from other companies. There is a reason why Panini’s stuff tanks as it ages, which is only more in the cards for a product that offers such a huge deficit in content.

There are people who cite “Well, I would rather get a big auto per case, than a bunch of extra rookies that no one cares about.” I completely and wholeheartedly reject this. This mentality requires multiple purchases of boxes, up until the point of buying until you hit the autograph. We are slowly losing people who have the desire and the means to do this – especially when it usually costs less just to buy the card you want. Secondly, if content outside of the autograph were more special, instead of just another bloated excuse to use acetate, maybe things would be a bit different. Panini does not provide that in this product AT ALL, save one design.

I personally believe that adding more autographs per box adds a perceived value that doesnt exist in the other content. Chrome can put out a one autograph per box set, because it has built years and years of legacy around the value of low numbered refractors. Clear vision has none of that brand loyalty.

Lastly, slotting autographs at one per case, should free up a ton of money to spend on other aspects of the set. Relic content should be insane. Technology should be better. Everything can take a step up. Panini chose to use the money to print every card on acetate (which is expensive and superfluous) and pack it out in needless plastic boxes (same). Its worth mentioning that adding additional content of top signers may have overtook all the money saved by removing scrubs, but we will never know.

Everything about this product pisses me off. It shouldnt. I shouldnt feel disgust and rage over a product, I should be able to just choose something else to collect. The problem is, I see this type of product development and I am constantly reminded that next year, there likely wont be a choice. I wont have the option to get the personal enjoyment of that choice. Panini has stolen that joy from me. Panini is cultivating a environment that builds product to end up below dealer cost. They arent even shy about it. Hey local shop – you know that collector that just walked away with the auto from the case? Now you have to sell the rest of the boxes knowing they are likely going to be crappy jerseys. Have fun! By the way, we will be asking you to take on more cases of this when you want to order a product that actually sells well.

Panini is a virus. I have no reason to think that pending exclusive wont end up in a spectacular flaming wreck, mangled on the side of the highway. Multiple casualties likely.

On the Radar: 2015 Spectra Football

Spectra might be the worst formatted product that Panini makes, save maybe Absolute football. It was so bad in 2014 in both design and format, that distributors had to literally use it as a bargaining chip ultimatum for allocations of Immaculate Basketball. Just to have access to Immaculate allocations, you had to take on cases of Spectra FB. It was fucking horrendous. If that happens with a product, it should automatically be considered for removal from the calendar.

Leave it to Panini to want to bring it back again. I literally laughed when I saw they were going to trot this shit out again for 2015. I thought to myself, they had better find a better design than the visual abortion from last year. Then I looked at the cards. My jaw dropped. Here is the gallery, just so I can show you how big of a turd this is going to be.

Here is the train wreck that was 2014 Spectra:

2014 Spectra Teddy Bridgewater Horizontal Auto Relic Blue – Worst looking design, quite possibly of the year

2014 Spectra Kelvin Benjmain Gold Auto Relic

2014 Spectra John Elway Sticker Auto Red

2014 Spectra Tony Romo Leading Men Auto Relic – Leading men? What is this, a chick flick?

At least, above all else, Panini had on card autographs for Spectra in 2014. This year, those are gone. What makes this even more hilarious is that they are going to get color matching ink for the stickers, as if Neon was a color that people wanted to see on trading card signatures. Maybe I should pick up a few boxes before popping some pills and heading to a rave. That’s about the vibe I am getting off this crap.

Even if Panini decides to take down the price tag from around 300 (not making that up) to a more reasonable price, it wouldnt matter. This has to be one of the ugliest looking sets I have seen in a long time, and this is coming from someone who just watched them solicit 2015 Certified. They have opted to put giant boxes around all the stickers that obscure the design, something that should NEVER be done. The overall look, with the crazy neon colors mentioned above, could not be more ridiculous looking. The dual autograph, dont even get me started. You know why Panini puts so many logo patches in their cards? They need incentive to buy them considering how vomit inducing their designs are.

Topps rightfully axed Bowman Sterling this year, because even they couldnt justify putting out a set that offered literally nothing special for as much money as Sterling cost. Panini? Obviously not as willing to admit defeat on their failures. Dont get me wrong, this was a MISERABLE failure, all 3 years. I will give them credit for on card non-rookie autos in 2013, but the price and pack format was terrible then too. Switching to 1 pack for 300 last year was a complete joke.

I just dont even know what to say anymore that hasnt already been said. Im pretty sure I will be done buying new cards once 2016 rolls around, and this shit show is the only game in town. Kill me now.

More Panini Previews with 2015 Prestige

Panini previewed its second product this week, after earlier posting a bunch of pics from Clear Vision. 2015 Prestige started coming off the line yesterday, being the first Panini set of the year that many collectors have a history with.

In case you forgot, last year’s Prestige was easily one of the worst looking products of the year, as Panini inexplicably combined airbrushed pre-draft shots with content obtained at the rookie premiere.

It ended up being a prime staple on all the closeout sales:

2014 Prestige Odell Beckham RC Auto

2014 Prestige Johnny Manziel RC Auto

Wait, doesnt that look exactly like the diarrhea that was Hot Rookies? WHY YES! It does!

2014 Hot Rookies Odell Beckham RC Auto

2014 Hot Rookies Johnny Manziel RC Auto

If you are wondering how someone could have fresh pro-uniform content available AND STILL opt to use airbrushed pre-draft shots that look horrendous, you are not alone. These are the types of decisions that Panini is infamous for making, and though this year’s set is a million times better looking than 2014, all on card content from previous years is gone. Its like you cant have your cake and eat it to with them, as 2012, 2013 and 2014 all had multiple sets with hard signed rookie autographs.

For everyone who is unfamiliar – since 2011, getting cards hard signed at the premiere has almost become the focus of the event. Although Topps and Upper Deck had gotten cards signed in previous years, most of them were completed DURING the weekend to be signed. With Inception, it was one of the first times that a company had brought a pre-fabricated set. In 2012, Panini followed suit and brought a ton of stuff to match their competition. It has been the standard up until this year, where Panini decided that sheets of stickers and acetate windows were more important – leaving Prestige with its fourth set of the year with all sticker content.

The rookie base design this year actually isnt bad at all. I dont mind it one bit, and even with the standard GIANT text that Panini has incorporated into every set, its a good looking base set with some nice full bleed photos. On the veteran side, this isnt the same situation, as Panini has crowded some really nice action shots with needless amounts of text.

Autographs arent terrible looking either, but there isnt any confirmation that there will be pro-uniform sticker autos as has been the case in previous years. One can only long for the days of 2012 Prestige, which still remains my favorite set Panini has done with the brand.

As for the inserts, saying they are busy and cluttered doesnt even begin to describe how bad they really are. Panini has had a history of making really obnoxious design decisions, like the giant text mentioned above, and this product is packed to the brim. On the micro etched cards, the name plates obscure WAY too much of the surface area. Text is everywhere, and completely disorganized. It looks awful and rushed.

Here is the bottom line. Without the on card stuff, I really find no reason to dive headfirst into this product, as the boxes will be below dealer cost by mid year. Panini is banking on the fact that you are bored with airbrushed and college stuff, and wants you to ignore some great products from Leaf that have recently been released. I would advise against that. Nice cards from Prestige come very infrequently, and its close to impossible to walk away with top rookie content unless you hit the jackpot.

Wait as long as possible for the good sets to start coming out, and you will not walk away as disappointed.

Clearly Lacking: Panini Gives 2015 Clear Vision Preview

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When it comes to Super High End sets and products like Contenders, collectors are on the Panini bandwagon for the long haul. Even though I believe the loyalty is only partially earned, and somewhat by default due to Upper Deck’s departure from the NFL market, it is what it is. Now, any other product that doesnt fall into the bucket I just described above can only be described as a complete and utter clusterfuck, with varying levels of clusterfuckage included. There are sprinkles of success here and there, but over all, Panini’s track record is that of career practice squad running back.

Clear Vision is looking to be right in line with a history of crappy early year products for Panini. The only difference is this time, autographs are only 1 per case. Yes, you heard that right. They are going to trot out a new product with no brand loyalty, and try to rock the boat in a sport dependent on autographs. Although I support trying new formats and new ideas, there is a way to do it, and there is a way NOT to do it.

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At the very least, if you are going to try to create value in your product, do it with some GREAT looking cards, or at least some really cool technology. Dont expect me to get excited over a reformatted piece of shit from other unpopular and terrible products. Clear Vision has very few elements to get excited about, to say the least. Not to mention, when the Autograph content does pop up on its “AMAZING ROZDIUCKULOUS CHECKLIST OF TOP GUYS!” its a manupatch auto design with an acetate signature instead of signed shitty pieces of embroidered fabric. YAY! Sign me the fuck up for 8 cases.

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Outside of that, Clear Vision is akin to Topps High Tek, which will be making its debut in football this year after making waves in Baseball last year. Just to recap, they are a similar price point, but Topps is offering TRUE hard signed acetate cards for their product, and the autograph content is a normal structure. Here is my preview. Panini thinks that relic content and tired rehashes of acetate designs will make up for a lack of an autograph per box, forgetting that relics mean nothing anymore, and acetate is everywhere.

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When they actually do get a card design right as they did with the jumbo patch layered acetate cards, they fuck it up by choosing posed goofy photographs instead of the action shots they should have used from the Rookie Premiere. That’s Panini in a nutshell. They dont know their ass from a hole in the ground on this stuff.

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Back during the rookie premiere when they first released the sell sheet for Clear Vision, I saw some ulterior motives at play. Being that Panini overpaid so drastically for the exclusive licenses they have acquired over the last few years, minimum guarantees required in payments to the league will dictate a BLOATED calendar of sets that they will need to build if Topps does in fact get bullied out of their license. That means autograph deals in place will have to be completely re-imagined, which might not be as easy as one would think. They will need a PLAN B to have in case, and a 1 per case autograph content product could be that stop gap until new deals are done. However, we should all have a hearty chuckle if they think Clear Vision is the right way to roll that plan out. Hell, let us not forget that they chose to NOT get any of these cards truly hard signed at the rookie premiere. They barely got ANYTHING hard signed at the premiere. What a fucking joke!

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Either way, it looks like this set is going to have a more limited run, which might be the only saving grace that it has. Panini is notorious for printing the shit out of their early sets, expecting them to eventually sell WELL below dealer cost, and this might end up in that group regardless of its seemingly lower case run. I mean, from the looks of these cards, it definitely deserves to be in the bargain bin at the release. However, we know there are collectors that will bust anything, and the group break contingent will eat up some of the cards.

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Clear Vision is a joke in the funniest possible sense, and its scary that Panini thinks this should be a set on their calendar. Although it is better than trash like 2014’s Hot Rookies, or even Score, but outside of that, I fail to see its value. You will have people who will say “WELL, IM GOING TO GET A TOP AUTO IN EVERY CASE.” This is a true statment. However, not every collector is going to open that much. Most collectors will bust one box of it, run for the nearest trash receptacle, lose their lunch, and walk away.