More Prizm Previews: Wait, What?

When Prizm was first released in 2012, I almost had an allergic reaction to the way it looked. Just awful in so many ways. When you thought it couldnt get any worse, it did by a lot in 2013 and more in 2014. I always have called it Chrome Zero, because calling it Diet Chrome puts shame on a soda brand that I actually love. Now that the nice sell sheet is turning into real cards, the time has come for me to say something I really didnt think I was ever going to say.

I like 2015 Prizm Football. Most of the previews look great. Still some major flaws, but so much better than any other version.

You may ask why I am saying that it looks great, and that is a very valid question. It has to do with a few things that all speak to my pet peeves in card design, all present in 2012-14, and gone in 2015. Its not close to Chrome yet, mainly because of a few AWFUL parallels and sticker autos still in play, but its getting a shit ton better than the dumpster fire it was in previous years.

Sticker Layout

Every year to date, Prizm has had a separated area for the sticker. Whether its a GIANT white box that makes me want to bathe my eyes, or a silver box, or whatever it was in 2014, its all been horrendous. This year, the ghost fade is in play, and it looks like a chrome card should. HALLELUJAH! As mentioned above, if they get on card autos next year with a similar look, im on board.

Previous years Prizm autos are hilarious to look at:

2014 Prizm Auto Design

2013 Prizm Auto Design

2012 Prizm Auto Design

Verdict: Improved!

Player Photos

Unlike 14 and 13, there is a lot of photo on the cards. Not only that, but the photos are pulled out in zoom, and the player is shown more in the environment they are playing in. Although there was some of this in 12 and 13, the border, nameplate and typeface were intrusive. This year, the photos are unimpeded. As far as I can tell up front, Im not seeing any posed glamour shot type variations, although they could still exist like last year. I am praying to the card gods that they dont.

Verdict: Improved!


This was especially bad in 2014, when the whole fucking card acted as a border. The player was set against a background, with the colors changing with parallels. This year, the true border is back, and it looks great. The hippie-fractor tie dye cards dont look half as ridiculous as they have previously, mainly because less of it is seen.

Verdict: Improved!

New Die Cut Cards

Prizm has ALWAYS gone waaaaaaaaaaaaaay overboard with the die cuts. Last year I said that just because you can use the die cutter, doesnt mean you SHOULD use the die cutter. This year, it looks to be similar to last year, even though we really havent seen the full slate of inserts. Many of the die cuts seem have been created just so they exist, without much of a thought into making the card look unique or special. I mean, a helmet cut out? Havent seen THAT one before, amirite? The Sherman “Intros” card would have been perfectly reasonable to not be a die cut, and adding the die cut makes no discernible difference to the appeal of the card. In fact, keeping it whole might have offered more space for the design. I think the HOF Namath really doesnt do much for me either, its just kind of like they didnt know what to do with it, so they added the die cuts to make the card more interesting. Nothing screams “played out” more than just doing something because you need filler. At least I can hope this batch of visual diarrhea wont come back.

Verdict: Still Bad!

New Parallel Patterns

This is where the subjectivity comes back into play, because for some fucking reason, Spectra seems to sell on the open market despite the hideous parallel patters and disgusting usage of neon pens. The tire mark pattern is back for prizm, and they went and jacked the Superfractor Pattern again from Topps. Completely unnecessary, and distracting as a whole. That tire track patterned stock needs to be gathered up, burned, and then the ashes need to be jettisoned into space. That way, no one can take them and try to reconstruct any semblance of this stock ever again. Just NO. Also worth discussing that the Superfractor pattern is /5, which wont confuse a single person at all. Just leave that one in the graveyard when Topps is out of football please. The black pulsar dot pattern stock used for the 1/1s looks perfectly fine. At least the Panini-fractors are one and done. Good god those were shit.

Verdict: Kill it with fire!

Overall, this still feels like a rip off of Chrome, which would have been a terrible thing if Topps wasnt completely out of the game for Football starting next year. At least this year shows that they can produce a Chrome style set without making it look like a bloody crime scene. I hope this continues.

On the Radar: 2015 National Treasures and Immaculate NCAA Multi Sport

Over the last few weeks, Panini has previewed two products that have produced a very polarizing reaction from what I have read from collectors on different message boards and twitter. For the first time, Panini is looking to release super premium products, that are mixed sport focused, under their NCAA exclusive license. Although I think the cards look very good, design isnt what I have issue with.

There have been high end releases that UD has done under their licenses:

2012-13 Exquisite Michael Jordan Exquisite Dimensions Shadowbox Auto

2011 Exquisite Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch

2012-13 Exquisite Lebron James Auto /30

2014 Exquisite Marcus Mariota XRC /125

My biggest question is the long play and what Panini plans to do. I already believe that they have overused their college licenses, with cards inserted in many products that were pro focused. Although product sales havent dipped quite yet, secondary market values of many of the college based cards have dipped considerably. There are arguments to be made that all secondary market values dip over time, but I believe this is a losing battle, especially with introducing two new collegiate themed products like this.

To me, the hobby is on a downturn in terms of population, and money is slowly drying up when looking at cards being purchased on ebay and the like. Although group breakers continue to have no issue selling slots for any, and I mean ANY product, the bubble bursting cannot be that far away. There is only so much money floating around, and I dont see products like this bringing more people to start collecting cards. There will be people who will disagree, obviously, but I point to Upper Deck as a historical reference. Panini and UD are different companies, with different budgets for publicity, but UD has one thing that their successor does not. UD had/has brand recognition outside of cards. When the hobby was BOOMING, UD was producing cards. Panini in name, was not.

When UD took over NCAA in 2010, they limited the releases by sport, and even then, it was clear that things got too watered down. Although they struggled to use current NBA rookies in college gear, they had full access to the NFL rookies and the most valuable premium card brand in Exquisite. Product performance didnt respond the way they wanted, and people grew tired of their presence. They also had Michael Jordan and LeBron James signing for their products (Panini doesnt), and it only helped for so long.

To this day, I dont think anyone believes that NCAA made any considerable amount of money for them. Adding multiple sports into a single product spreads this thinner than it already would be, and I fail to see why Panini would want to dilute their popular existing brands with a product that is marketed to a small population of college collectors within a greater shrinking population of pro collectors.

To me, Panini is banking on luring pro collectors into trying their NCAA stuff, and they might succeed initially with collectors who chase players or teams. However, let us not forget that rookies from the NFL will already have premium cards released, thus making these a choice rather than the only option available (which was the case for pre-season rookie content like Contenders). The Treasures brand will hold weight, but the question is more surrounding continued viability in a market where college collectors are severely outnumbered, and pro products are sitting next to these on the shelves.

To make matters worse, there will be college themed subsets in the pro versions of Treasures and Immaculate, which only further dilutes the choices put in front of collectors. I personally do not want to open a pro product and get a college card, especially if there is a college dedicated product that houses the same cards. Redundancy, in this case is a terrible thing for someone like me. Its like the collectors out there will not be able to escape college content, even though most of us could give two shits about NCAA branded cards. To us, you are just taking away hits that would normally fit more seamlessly in with our collection.

As an exclusively pro collector myself, Im not going to chase cards from this product, even though the designs are very nice. I normally buy a lot of premium cards and a set like this in pro uniforms would definitely have some targets on my list. Based on what it looks like, I am the type of person Panini wants to convert, and yet I am not ready to even give it a thought. That’s not saying there wont be converts, but how many will come back for year 2 and 3 if they see the cards arent performing the way the pro cards do? How many will keep buying year 1 with that scenario in play?

Either way, there is a place for a product of this nature, I believe that. However, I am not one who would be ready to risk brand dilution the way Panini is with Immaculate and National Treasures. This would be a chance to launch a new brand with a new title, free from the shadow of the pro products. If the cards look as good as these do, a limited run could do very well with the niche collectors. Putting it under NT is not the way I would go. Using Immaculate is not how I would work this angle. However, because of the cost of the license, I would guess that isnt something they can do.

World Series Heroes Finally Becoming Hobby Stars?

In my best post championship Sports Illustrated commercial announcer’s voice: “CONGRATULATIONS Royals Fans! Your Team is World Champs!” All those years of waiting for your prospects to come through are over.

After a great game 5, and another come from behind victory, the Royals showed how their hitters can manufacture runs better than any team in the league. They went up against the Mets best pitchers and came out with a convincing Series win in five games. Not too shabby. Lucky for us, many of their players are not hobby superstars, but are definitely hobby vets in signing cards and appearing in sets. Because the Royals were terrible for so long, they had lots of high profile draft picks that were featured in card sets for a long time. Yesterday we finally saw the culmination.

Salvador Perez

Although he won Series MVP, the award could have really gone to any number of players. Perez just happened to be the guy that got the honor. His single started the rally in the 12th, and he batted over .360 for the five games. He is the one guy that doesnt get much fanfare in the hobby compared to his teammates, and he definitely deserves more.

2012 Gypsy Queen Salvador Perez On Card Auto

2015 Topps High Tek Salvador Perez Auto 4/5

2015 Immaculate Salvador Perez Auto Patch Logo 3/5

Lorenzo Cain

As the face of the Royals, give or take, Cain was on the hook to have another whirlwind playoffs, much like he did in 2014. He didnt disappoint, and his four WS RBI helped the Royals come away with key wins. Cain was a relative nobody coming into last year, and he still doesnt have much to choose from in the hobby. That will likely change.

2011 Topps Lorenzo Cain 60th Anniversary Auto SP

2006 Bowman Chrome Lorenzo Cain RC BGS 9.5

2015 Topps Update Lorenzo Cain All Star Game Relic

Eric Hosmer

Hosmer didnt exactly have the best series overall, hitting .190 with an error in the field, but he had some memorable plays that people will remember for a long time. His sac fly to win game 1 was awesome, and it doesnt stop there. In the deciding game, he knocked in a run in the top of the 9th and scored on a base-running play that was incredibly heads up. Those two runs sent it to extras, where the Royals won on a big 12th inning. His Bowman Chrome and Topps Chrome rookie autos have already started to come up in value, and that will likely continue for a few weeks.

2011 Bowman Chrome Eric Hosmer Gold Refractor Auto BGS 9.5

2011 Topps Chrome Eric Hosmer Auto RC

2012 Topps Tier One Eric Hosmer Auto

Alcides Escobar

The ALCS MVP came down to earth a bit in the World Series, but was still a big factor in the win with an RBI in game five that continued the huge rally. His cards were already spiking after his MVP win, and he has signed enough over the last few years that his cards arent hugely expensive.

2011 Triple Threads Alcides Escobar Auto Triple Relic

2012 Gypsy Queen Alcides Escobar On Card Auto

Mike Moustakas

When Moose was drafted and his rookies hit in 2007, we thought he would be an anchor in the Royals lineup. He never really had the career that people thought and struggled for a while. This year was his first year playing like an All Star, and he played quite well in the WS as well. Maybe his cards will finally rebound.

2011 Bowman Sterling Mike Moustakas Gold Refractor Auto

2008 Bowman Chrome Mike Moustakas Auto RC

Alex Gordon

Remember back when Alex Gordon was the hottest thing in the hobby? Seems like the Royals have had a few rookies like that. Like Moustakas, Gordon took his time getting up to form, but over the last few years, he has been great. His home run in the bottom of the ninth in game 1 was pretty memorable, and gave some nice lift to his value. That will likely continue much like his teammates now that they are champs.

2015 Topps High Tek Alex Gordon Auto 4/25

2006 Bowman Chrome Alex Gordon Auto Xfractor RC

The playoffs in any sport always lead to nice spikes, more so in the championship deciding games. Going to be interesting how the Royals’ cards do, considering they are coming back for a second WS in a row, and really have no one that can be considered a hobby superstar by any stretch. Hopefully we can see some nice movement.

Go Live Report: 2015 Topps Valor Football

Valor has had a past that isnt without its bumps. In 2012, the product was a late release with a lot of experimental elements, from the box to the format. Due to a number of things, including a high box price, the product was a relative failure. It was revamped for 2014, where it was released around the middle of the season, with a much better performance overall.

Here are some of the 2015 cards up so far:

2015 Topps Valor Jameis Winston Auto Patch /50

2015 Topps Valor Terry Bradshaw / Jerome Bettis / Antonio Brown Triple Auto

2015 Topps Valor Amari Cooper Patch Auto Green /25

2015 Topps Valor Odell Beckham Patch Auto Green /25

For 2015, the set is back in relatively the same format as last year, with four hits per box and a price tag under 90 bucks. The design is similar to what we saw for 2014, with sticker patch autos and a sticker auto base per box. I think the cards actually look really nice in person, as the player is glossy against a matte background, making everything stand out. The battle of the gridiron theme, akin to the 300 movie from a few years back, still rings as relatively out there, but the set works.

The only problem is that this set still doesnt have the following or loyalty of the collector base, and will likely never have that chance because of the exclusive. Im starting to wonder how many of these mid year products the population of collectors will latch onto, as the four hits for 100 bucks is just getting really boring, no matter how cool the cards look. The original Valor had on card autos and a unique format, whereas the last two years have just been another product with sticker autos and a cool design. Not much to write home about, especially if you are a casual collector who doesnt really buy many boxes unless its Chrome or Contenders.

Two cool elements to the set look to have been done at the 2015 Rookie Premiere, with eye black inscription cards and battle anthem cards. Although they are rare hits, they do offer some on card type of autographs that stand out among the stickers. I really like the design of the eye black ones, especially if the inscriptions are interesting.

With Finest out next week, I would enthusiastically say to wait before opening this, as those cards will be much more buzz worthy and hold value over the course of the season. Although the design and concept is cool and the cards are nice, its just not going to hold up over the season.

Panini NFL Exclusive: Five Main Things They Need to Fix

Ill be the first to admit that I am completely bitter about the fact that Panini got the NFL all to themselves starting next year, and I dont think I am far from alone in that sense. Based on the Beckett report that they will need to produce at least 30 products next year, all by themselves, I think its worth offering some feedback instead of just complaining. They have more to fix than I could ever hope to write down in any way, here are the main things I want to see them fix first.

Get Rid of Studio and Posed Photos

Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me want to run away from a product than Panini choosing those goofy fucking runway model posed pictures. Football is known for non-stop action and some of the most iconic game photography in the history of sports. Considering that Panini will now be able to run the NFLPA rookie premiere the way they want, especially with Topps out of the picture, there is no more excuses not to use the whole day for getting some amazing photos of the rookies in action. This does not mean constructing a makeshift photo studio where the players can pantomime screams and other lame ass poses, it means putting them on the field to make their cards look like real game action.

These are by far my least favorite cards around:

Blake Bortles Looks Like an Idiot

Johnny Manziel is standing like a starlet on the red carpet

Teddy Bridgewater gets high from smelling footballs

Get it? Initial STEPS? LOL.

No More Sticker Replacement Gimmicks

Whether its signed scraps of acetate or signed scraps of paper that are embedded in the cards, either use a sticker or get the cards hard signed. The gimmicks are ugly and do nothing but showcase how much we miss hard signed cards like the other sports have ad nauseum. At least if they are going to use a sticker replacement, make it more a part of the design instead of obscuring a large portion of the card’s design space. Stickers, when done right, blend in and hide themselves. Sticker replacements are completely the opposite. Also worth mentioning that putting plain boxes behind the stickers or walling them off from the rest of the design is just as bad as a replacement gimmick.

Here are the worst of the worst:

Sticker on an acetate window

Signed acetate scrap instead of a sticker

Signed scrap of black paper instead of sticker

Signed scrap of cloth with a manufactured patch

Update the Rewards Platform

If Panini gave collectors the choice of waiting for redemptions instead of forcing them to use the points system, I would have a lot less negative things to say. The rewards store is not something I would ever voluntarily choose to use, and though some people have found success camping out and waiting for new loads of inventory, its a joke for the majority of users. Its even worse when you are opening a super premium product and one of your cards is REPLACED with a points card. That should never happen. Panini needs to realize quickly that redemptions are inevitable in many cases, and welcome in some cases. They are not the problem. The problem is what happens when someone pulls one they dont want, or dont want to wait for. This is where the choice to wait or get the points would be much more helpful.

Give Us Unique and Compelling Content

I dont know how Panini is going to create 30 compelling products. Ever. I dont know how its going to happen in any fucking stretch of the imagination. People can argue that no company has ever had a perfect calendar, but at the same time, no company has ever released a flaming ball of suck like Spectra either. The Panini Football team have yet to cultivate a brand of their own, and most have been such miserable failures that collectors laugh at them. Expecting them to build 30 products plus is just crazy talk. Its like asking a Patriots fan to give back to back coherent sentences on deflate gate’s impact for the 2015 season. So many of Panini’s products blur together or are bad to the point of being immortalized, that they are going to have their work cut out for them. Black Gold had some serious potential to be a unique product, but disastrous design choices prevented that from being reality. The Sizable signature relic cards were some great examples of unique content that should return. Same can be said about silhouettes and other Panini programs that are always well done.

Avoid Diluting Pro Products With College Cards

In the preseason and before the draft, using college photos over combine and pro-day crap is preferred. For everything else after the Rookie Premiere stuff is done, keep your oil and water separated. They dont need to be in the same product, even more so if a planned college only product is coming later on. There is college content in almost every Panini product these days, and collectors are overwhelmed and sick of it. There is very little reason to combine the two genres in my mind. College is a niche audience, and it seems like more people would be fine with it disappearing from NFL post-premiere products than sticking around. Letting College products stand by themselves gives collectors who dont want any NCAA materials the opportunity to avoid those cards.

Again, there are so many fucking problems with what Panini does with their card design that I could write forever and still not encompass everything. Im hoping they get their shit together because I really dont want to be out of football cards to buy next year.