SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Topps Tier One Baseball Product Review

CaptureFor the last five or six years, Topps has really put a focus on adding on card autographs to their baseball products as the preferred way of building their sets. Its actually been quite refreshing to see how many products they get done, including ones that are on the lower end of the scale. Tier One was one of the first new products when that movement started, and has been a staple since. It mixes the normal autograph content with some really high end hits, and 2016 is no different.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2016 Tier One Corey Seager Clear Acetate Auto /25

2016 Tier One Mike Trout / Hank Aaron Dual Auto /25

2016 Tier One Buster Posey Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2016 Tier One Sandy Koufax Auto /50

2016 Tier One Mark Teixiera Bat Knob Auto 1/1

In terms of the look of the set this year, the cards continue to look very very good. All hard signed, save a few multi autograph cards, and a lot of interesting chase content like the ever popular Bat Knobs. I really like the overall design this year, as the theme features some nice action photos and a large space for the players to autograph.

There was an issue with one subset, as the design has a dark area for the players to sign and the pattern makes it very difficult to see the autograph. Other than that, most of the cards are some of the better looking single autograph cards around, and that has been what Tier One has been all about since its inception.

Bat knobs and bat barrel cards have been the featured chase element of the product for the last few years, and with the inclusion of Josh Gibson this year, things have gotten quite a bit more lucrative. Because bats arent exactly in short supply for the players of the modern era, the cards arent as big of a deal to me unless they are autographed. A lot of people really like them, and they are unique examples.

New this year are autographed cards that contain a piece of the pen used during the signing, which I find a bit “out there” in terms of relics. People seem to like them a lot, but I really think this is taking things a bit too far. Either way, there are 1/1s for a few top names, and they seem to be selling well.

From what I have seen from people ripping cases of this stuff, it is about as big a crap shoot as any of the one pack products that are out there. You get two autographs and a relic in each pack, but unless you hit a bigger name, its going to be tough making back any real fraction of your money. Tier one is great for group breaks, but picking up boxes here and there probably isnt the best approach.

If you want nice looking hard signed cards, you cant go wrong with Tier One. The stuff just looks great. I think its more of a singles paradise than anything to be honest, and that’s where things get a bit more comparable to this day and age.

More Panini Origins Previews Show More Inception Rip Offs

The photocopy is rarely as sharp as the original. This looks to be the case with Origins as a literal rip off of Topps’ extremely popular Inception product. Now that we are getting more of a preview of the way the rest of the set looks, it becomes extremely concerning just how far they went.

Here is why its concerning.

Panini needs to create a number of new products to fulfill the 31 flavors they promised to the NFL. We all know that Panini’s brand development track record is about as clean as a dilapidated house riddled with squatters, so that is what gets us to this point. To see that they are opting to bite a Topps brand down to the name of the set, shows how little creativity there is to go around over at Panini HQ. They couldnt even think of a way to build a brand on their own. When they do, well, we get garbage like Unrivaled.

Similarly, if Panini is going to need to fill out a calendar to make up for the products the NFL lost from Topps, they are going to need to invest significant resources in their team. They will need more designers, more production, and more autographs. NONE of these things are cheap, and some – like high quality talent for designing trading cards – are like unicorns. We already know Panini hasnt exactly done a bang up job building their design team as it is. Just look at the way Prizm Draft Picks turned out.

When we first saw the cards for Origins being signed, they looked really good. Collectors were interested because the cards had some good looking designs. Considering how much they took directly out of Topps’ bag, this should not be surprising at all. Topps is great at building a loyal following across their brands, and a lot of it has to do with the way their cards look. Panini has yet to come within the same continent in that type of quality. When you see how far their products drop on the secondary market, that type of thing isnt going to help.

The NFL didnt consider anything other than money when assigning an exclusive, and to them, trading cards likely means about as much as a flea on a dog. Sometimes you gotta scratch where it itches, but other than that, completely insignificant. In fact, I would argue that moving to an exclusive shows that they have so little desire to interact with cards, that they just want one entity to deal with. The problem is, they chose the company with an inferior product all the way around. Money talks, and that I get, but we are the ones that suffer.

Origins will sell, but it might be the first set to do so on their calendar. Funny how the ideas that Panini comes up with are slashed in price as soon as possible, but Origins probably will have no issue. Mainly because it isnt theirs. So far, we have had a bunch of sets that have no reason to buy. Lots of stickers, lots of college uniforms, lots of junk that hasnt held in the slightest on the market. Again, based on Panini’s shitty track record, this isnt surprising at all.

They dont have a Father’s Day or Black Friday promotion because things are selling great. They have those promotions because the distributors are stocked full of rotting product that no one wants. If Panini really knew how to design their own brands, not run the presses overtime, or even negotiate a license that doesnt overpay the market by millions, we might have a shot. Of course, all of those things dont apply thanks to Panini’s terrible approach, but I guess thats what happens when Fleer minds take over.

Origins is just the first straw in Panini showcasing how outclassed they are, and I doubt it will be the last. Cant wait to see what product they steal next.

SCU Go Live Report – 2016 Panini Prestige Football Product Review

As of last year, Prestige was a dead brand. Like, it was so dead that it had already been embalmed and was ready to be buried. The grave would need to be deep, and likely lined with concrete, because with 31 plus products needed for the NFL license this year, zombie products might be the norm. Regardless, Panini decided that rather put this brand out of its misery, it was better to change the configuration and put it out again. They should have let it die.

Here are some of the hits already up:

2016 Prestige Carson Wentz Auto RC /50

2016 Prestige Jared Goff Auto RC /50

2016 Prestige Ezekiel Elliott Auto On Card Draft RC

2016 Prestige Jameis Winston Sophomore Auto /25

2016 Prestige Andrew Luck Auto /5

I will say, the design isnt terrible. Its a design that really isnt a big deal either, though. This product is not ground breaking, it is not unique, and it serves very little purpose on the market. In fact, this is another college uniform sticker product that should have waited for rookie premiere photography. However, as mentioned above, because Panini is hard pressed to hit the MASSIVE minimum guarantees they promised to the league and NFLPA, we get Zombie Prestige on the calendar again.

Although there is an element of hard signed content, it is NOT pro uniforms retouched on previous game photos as Panini has used in the past. Nope, they just lazily slapped together a boring and relatively ugly design that features the rookies AGAIN in their college digs. Its lazy, unprepared, and showcases how poorly the team is set up for being the only game in town.

In fact, some of the inserts would have been such a better choice for being one of the only sets that Panini had signed at the premiere. Blue Chip Recruits is a dumb idea for a set, but it looks better than the one they chose. Same with the big board cards. Instead we got the garbage design they went with, featuring the giant box Panini loves to use.

Oddly enough, the CLC license exclusive for Panini was probably the worst thing to happen to cards in a long time. Instead of using the logos and uniforms for pre-draft products like we saw Topps do with Bowman Chrome, they have literally infested every last release Panini does. EVERY GODDAMN PRODUCT. Enough is enough. I mean, they could at least get the cards hard signed, but instead they want the rookies doing photos on the field holding an instagram cutout. Maybe doing sketch cards with markers is important to Panini’s warped sense of what collectors want, but I can guarantee the guy who gets a redemption for a sticker auto is going to be pissed that the time at the premiere wasnt used more wisely.

The scariest thing is that Panini has given us NOTHING to get excited about so far this year. Its been sticker after sticker after sticker after sticker after sticker. Leaf is literally making them look like the bush league idiots that they are, and that says something.

Prestige doesnt look bad, as I have already said. The full bleed photos are better than they have been in the past few years. At the same time, who gives a flying fuck? This crap will be half price by August, which shouldnt be surprising based on what we have already seen with the other stuff out there not protected by MAPP. I hope Panini figures this shit out, because it has been REALLY easy to save money so far this year.

Hey, it could have been worse though. We could have gotten 2014. Isnt that wonderful? When the best thing you can say about as set is that its better than the watery turd of a set that was released in years past? Yay 2016.

Muhammad Ali’s Lasting Impact on Trading Cards

I remember walking into the theater for “When We Were Kings” expecting to be educated about the era of Boxing where the heavyweight title still mattered. When Boxing matches were worldwide events, and the promotion of the fight was just as important as the fight itself. Instead of an education, I was wowed by the presence and personality of Muhammad Ali, someone I knew was more important to the sports youth of my dad than me. I was a fan of his bravado, and up until this past weekend, I was in awe of his contribution to everything sports – including trading cards.

Here are some of his better cards:

2000 Upper Deck Master Collection Muhammad Ali Dual Relic Auto

2000 Upper Deck Master Collection Muhammad Ali Relic Auto

2010 Sport Kings Muhammad Ali Auto BGS 9.5

2011 Leaf Metal Muhammad Ali Auto 1/1

Unlike other fighters, including Floyd Mayweather, Ali LOVED to sign for fans. He considered it an honor, and it showed in his desire to be a part of trading card sets going all the way back to his 1992 Pro Set card, which was one of the first real crazy chase cards in a football product. In fact, it was one of the first pack inserted autographs of the modern era. Be careful when buying one, however, there are A LOT of counterfeits.

Since then, Ali has made a truly deep connection with his fans through trading cards, including a fabled Master Collection from Upper Deck, which might be one of the best sets ever created. He has signed for all sorts of products, most recently for Brian Gray and Leaf, who put together a few entire products built around Ali and his colleagues.

As big of a loss as this was for the sports world, the loss has ripple effects that hit close to home for us. There arent many people left whose autograph is still worth as much as Ali’s autograph continues to be worth. People like Jordan, Brady and Tiger are up there along with others, but its rare for a boxer to carry the value Ali carries, despite how much he signed.

Fame is a huge thing in sports memorabilia, and that is no joke. Being that he was one of the most recognizable athletes in the world, it goes to show how much his career impacted both fans and the world. His charitable presence has been something that won him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but it also solidified such a huge legacy that extends into why so many people want his autograph in the first place. Ali was a giant, and he will be missed greatly by the trading card world.

Panini Instant Aims to Launch a Copy of Topps’ On Demand Trading Card Program

CaptureWith the success that Topps has had with Topps Now, it was only a matter of time before the copycat police decided to get into the game. To accompany their recent rash of taking a successful Topps and repackaging it under a similar name, Panini “Instant” will be their version of “Now.” We havent gotten many details, but Im guessing it will be their version of Topps’ program with Basketball and Football rolled in. They recently announced on Instagram that their coverage of the Copa America soccer event will also have an on demand component.

On demand trading cards from Topps have sold well, some even going above the 10 dollar purchase price after the fact:

2016 Topps Now Trevor Story RC #6

2016 Topps Now Bartolo Colon Home Run #57

2016 Topps Now Nomar Mazara RC #12

The reason Panini is even thinking of doing something like this, stems from the national news coverage that Topps has had with their baseball version. Their Bartolo Colon was trending on Twitter for half a day, when they printed a card of his Home Run that made him the oldest player to do so. Panini seems to think they can replicate that success, even though their brand has maybe 1/100th the recognition that Topps does with trading cards.

As we see with anything that any trading card company tries to do, it takes much more than just an idea to make it work. That being said, if you are going to directly rip off a competitor, you better bring the heat. As we can see with their foray into digital, I dont think we are even in the same zip code of effort that is needed to show potential for any real competition with Topps.

Instant might turn out to be a great counterpart for Panini, as their Football and Basketball licenses will allow them to avoid direct competition with Topps’ already established and successful idea. They might be able to improve upon it as well, which is the advantage of being late to the party.

If they think that this is going to be a cake walk, and they can just do exactly what NOW is already doing, I will be standing there waiting to laugh in their face. On demand trading cards has been great for Topps only because national news has picked up their efforts. Collectors have been relatively mid range in excitement for everything else. I think that is exactly what is going to happen with the NBA and NFL as well, and they have to hope the money they overpaid for the licenses will grant them access to coverage from their partners. Remember, for most of America, Panini are grilled sandwiches, not trading cards.

Overall, its clear that the industry is shifting towards a way to get people connected to cards as quickly as possible, something that I have been desiring for a long time. Im interested to see how this plays out, because there could be a lot of ways to make this more than what Topps has already done.

If I am Panini, Im finding ways to incorporate loyalty and set building into the allure of buying regularly. That means offering checkpoint “awards” similar to what is done on the digital side for people that complete the run. Similarly, I would offer special parallels of the on demand cards for buying in bulk.

Autograph content would also be great, and though the cards may not be on demand, I would offer the option for special cards to be autographed. Either apply a sticker, or wait redemption timeframes for hard signed availability. If the card is purchased, the buyer will have the option at Panini’s discretion for autographed versions. Obviously not every player is available, but as we saw with eTopps years ago, its a way to get people interested.

I would also see if there is a way that the instant cards can be transferred to COMC ports for reselling purposes. With a COMC fulfillment option, there is a much more attractive secondary market for the cards that can be controlled by Panini and their partners.

These are off the top of my head, and Im sure if anyone actually put some thought into this, they could think of a million other things worth talking about.

Either way, Panini needs to innovate, because right now using Topps as their source for creativity just makes them look weak and unoriginal. Not great traits for your brand image. Sure, many ideas are ripped off in many different ways – but they are usually minor elements of a larger idea, not the entire umbrella concept itself. Taking Topps’ Inception set and copying the look and name is not being shy about it. Taking Topps NOW and rebranding it “Instant” is way too blatant. Even before the details are laid out, we know they are just renaming the existing stuff from Topps.

I cant wait to see how Panini Khrome and Panini Phinest turn out if this trend continues!