When Panini announced this set at the end of 2014, I could not believe the decision to dilute the Contenders brand in a way like they did. Not only were they going to reuse a HORRIBLE 2014 Contenders design, but they were also choosing to use sticker autographs instead of hard signed cards. It was literally the worst type of retread there was, bringing absolutely nothing to the table in terms of a product worth creating, let alone buying for the same price as regular Contenders.
The excuse I was given for no on card autographs, despite EVERY ONE of their competitors (including Topps) releasing hard signed sets, was time. I was told the timeframe of the acquisition of the NCAA exclusive license didnt give them enough time to make it work. Well, we just got our first look at 2016 Contenders draft, and absolutely nothing has changed despite the extra time. The delay of regular Contenders into January makes this even worse. I am left literally scratching my head, wondering why they would choose to start off the first year of their widespread football exclusive, with more retread trash, just like last year.
I have said a hundred times since Panini signed away the fate of the Football category, that they will need to innovate to ensure that we dont for the door as fast as possible. They cant just sit back and hope that collectors will put up with their previous set construction models, and not want to set their collections ablaze with frustration. This is the opposite of that notion, as it is clear that this set exists outside of any fresh ideas what-so-ever.
Instead of using a new design, a new perspective, or even just a new level of quality, they trot out exactly the same formula as last year. I just cant make sense of why they would consciously choose to take one of their most important brands and take a huge watery dump all over it. When you see how far the secondary market has tanked on the 2015 set, and how far the box price has fallen, some sort of change was needed. Obviously that didnt happen.
Im not saying that the pre-draft space isnt ripe with collectors who are so thirsty for new draft picks, that they will drink the proverbial sand in the desert they are walking through, I am saying that a commitment to quality is something that seems to be lost on Panini’s brand team. They want to churn out as many sets as possible, with as little effort and cost as possible, without realizing that short term sales numbers may end up hurting them long term.
Regular Contenders was just released this week, with College variation tickets. Considering that the same thing will likely happen this year too, I question how much of this niche market the pro collectors will stand for. Upper Deck found out first hand how much having too many sets can impact the way people respond to their products, and Panini is already far beyond that point in their calendar scheduling.
When we look at the way 2016 is going to shake out, I am fucking frightened as to how many of these types of sets are coming. Sets that do nothing but put another product on the shelf, knowing that closeout and group breaks will help float the boat. Its sad, and people wonder why collector attrition percentages are in the double digits over the last five to ten years. If you want to go out and support garbage like this, you lose the right to complain when nothing progresses to a better state for the industry.