2015 NFLPA Rookie Premiere: Wrap Up For The End of An Era?

For the last decade plus, the Rookie Premiere has been an event where every card company who has a football license sets up their goods and prepares for the entire year’s worth of rookie cards. Signings, pictures, the works. Over the last few years, thousands of autographs are signed. It funds many products, and that doesnt even begin to talk about the photographs taken at the stadium on Saturday.

During the entire span of the event, there have always been multiple companies who are attending. This past weekend will unfortunately be the last time that happens. There is no guarantee that the 2016 event will be as big or as fun, especially when Panini is the only trading card company who has a license.

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Now, I fully intended to get on every night and write a post about the happenings at the premiere. Over the last 5 years, it has been a weekend filled with cards to be signed, autographs to be showcased, and pictures to be viewed. Instead we had Panini come and do nothing of the sort, and Topps literally blow them so far out of the water that the debris has yet to land. Social Media, Cards, Autographs, basically everything was in Topps’ corner, and that doesnt even begin to describe what is likely going to be coming in digital with the Huddle team in attendance for the first time ever. I really didnt even need to offer any opinion because the results were so clearly laid out.

This was really the Topps show all weekend, and as happy as I am to see them go out with a bang, I am sad because I know that that means for 2016. The football card hobby is about to go into a famine of unheralded proportions with Panini at the helm, and that scares me to fucking death. They literally walked into this event with the rookies available for FOUR straight days to sign cards. From what we saw, they spent that time signing non-card materials. Stickers, paper inserts, everything BUT cards.

When the cards they did sign ended up coming to the surface, they were some of the ugliest examples in recent memory. Panini either played everyone for a fool and showed nothing in their hand, or they really fucked up the biggest event of the year in a way that hasnt been done since 2010. For as good as 2014’s premiere signings were for Panini, 2015 was as bad, if not worse.

Their same day signature cards look so ugly there arent any words. Aside from the fact that the rookies arent even in their gear (because the shots had to be taken a few days before the reveal on Saturday), they put them in Panini t-shirts for some god forsaken reason. Add in some giant text and an inexplicable vertically signed autograph, and you see what happens.

Dont even get me going on the Pen Pals cards, which are back to head shots instead of retouched NFL jerseys like they were last year. Just ridiculous. Yes, we see that sketch cards are more important than hard signed NFL content like they have done since 2012.

Here are the types of things they did all weekend:

On the other side of things, Topps really did a great job with Inception, Topps Football and other sets taking center stage. As usual, Inception was the brightest star on the stage, as it has been since 2011. It was another year of great looking cards, and lots of inscriptions. The design this year looks very similar to previous years, but there is no reason to change a formula that always plays to the big time. Inception is a high end product in the disguise of a pre-premiere set, and that takes a lot of talent to pull off. Sure, the NFL took away some of the luster with forcing them to use 00 jerseys for players who had late jersey number assignments, but the set looks good enough to me that I will set that aside.

I also LOVED that they used the 1976 and 1987 Topps designs for the retro cards this year, as both have a long history in this industry. Being that 1976 was the same year that Walter Payton was a rookie, that was a perfect way to close out the run. Although 1987 was in the beginning of the junk wax era, that design was always a favorite of mine.

Oddly enough, the most convincing win of the weekend for Topps was in their social media. Susan Lulgjuraj kicked some ass and took some names. If it wasnt clear that she was a great hire, this is a perfect example. She did live chats, live signings, and gave fans all sorts of ways to experience the weekend. Topps’ twitter was easily where I spent most of the time watching for new cards, something that was a bit unexpected. Usually Panini is all over things, but not this time. This was a big win for the team from New York.

Here are some of the awesome cards that Topps had done:

Bottom line, people should be really pissed off. REALLY pissed off at Panini. Even if they have on card material with College jerseys for their first few products, that is not what this event should be used for. This event is not about those stupid fucking sketch cards that everyone laughs at. It is about getting some great looking cards done for use in the first products – NFL style. Topps has done that and done it well now for 5 years, Panini still seems to be fumbling their way through everything, focusing on setting up big events to make themselves look good, instead of delivering substance in their products.

This mentality will hurt the hobby and hurt in a way that might not be something that we can ever recover. Panini has always been a hot mess, and this is just the icing on the cake. Some how, if Elite, Prestige and other sets end up being stickers or on card autograph replacements, they deserve all the venom they will get.

2015 NFL Rookie Premiere: Things to Watch For This Week

Starting today and getting going tomorrow through Saturday, the top rookies of the year will be in Los Angeles for one of the biggest events of the football card year. For the list of players attending, here is my post from yesterday. Now that we know who will be there, there are a LOT of things that will be going down. Here are some of the things I am most looking forward to seeing.

Player Autograph Quality

The Rookie Premiere is a time where autograph content has almost become more important than taking the pictures for the cards. Each of the rookies will sign over 2500-3000 autographs in a weekend, some even more than that. As a result, we will get to see how much they decide to adjust their autographs to relieve some of the pressure of having to sign so many cards. From what I have gathered, not every rookie is excited about getting a million cards to sign put in front of them, but almost all of them find a way to get it done. Pretty remarkable in a lot of ways.

As mentioned earlier, some of the players have already started to shorten their signatures:

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Todd Gurley Auto Ticket

2015 Leaf Clear Melvin Gordon Auto Acetate

2015 Topps Inception Previews

Every year, there are a few products that are based on content received almost exclusively at the rookie premiere. In my opinion, Inception is at the top of that list, and I am beyond sad that this is likely the last year it will be in production in the same format. It has made a name for itself since 2011 with extremely high end on card content at a point in the year where the competition is just getting the ball rolling. Player collectors go nuts over the inscriptions (as do I), and it looks like there will be a big focus on generating unique content again this year. Cant wait to see how it turns out.

Here are some of my favorites from 2014:

2014 Inception Blake Bortles Drawn Play Inscription Auto 1/1

2014 Inception Sammy Watkins Booklet Letter Auto

2014 Inception Johnny Manziel Inscription Auto /10

2015 Topps Previews

Unlike Panini, Topps has been really good at showcasing a lot of the cards that will be signed at the premiere. We know that Inception is a big part of it, but the ever popular rookie premiere autos and retro throwback cards are also a big deal. I would guess that this is a time where Topps is going to do their best to set their early products up for success, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store. Being that this will be their last rodeo in a lot of ways, going to be interesting to see if they pull out all the stops.

2015 Panini Previews

Here is the thing. We know relatively nothing about Panini’s offerings at the event, and that really doesnt do much for people who are curious about what is going to be displayed. Im guessing there will be on card elements to Elite and Prestige, but Panini has weird obsessions with having players sign those stupid manu-patch autographs and oversized versions of their ugly Score cards. Last year’s Elite product was easily one of the best of the run, and I am interested to see if they can recreate the lightning in a bottle, or if we are going to see them fuck it up like they have so many times in the past.

Will Panini College Products Be A Focus?

We already know that they didnt really put as much work into Contenders as they should have, rehashing old designs and using sticker autos. Prizm is a bit of a different story, but we havent seen it in real life yet – only mockups. So, it goes without question that Panini is going to want to take their new toy and exploit it like a kid in a sweatshop, thus peaking my interest. Just how far will they go with it? From what we have seen so far, decision making on strengthening brands hasnt exactly been one of their strong suits.

How Much Will Collectors Respond to This Class?

The Premiere is really the first time we get to see the rookies on stage. Last year’s class was front and center, and during this event, they really looked like they were primed for the spotlight. In previous years like 2013, the buzz was almost non-existent. Curious to see how collectors react, and what this might mean for the upcoming NFL card year.

Will Topps Go Out With a Bang?

This is THE question I am looking forward to seeing answered over the course of the year. Topps has been in football for decades and decades. It was the brand I collected when I was a kid, and the same for my dad. To think that Topps is losing the ability to produce NFL licensed trading cards is so depressing that I think this industry will be impacted more than people think. With that in mind, im curious to see if they use this event as the start of their locomotive that will barrel down the track in 2015, or if they are not going to answer the bell for the final round. From previews we have already seen this year, looks like they are not going to go down without a fight.

Collector Reaction to the Event Used Jerseys

Each time the Rookie Premiere rolls around, there are a group of people who pull back the curtain and see what really goes on with the player worn material that is obtained at this event. Yes, we know that the players only wear the jerseys for less than a second, as it has been well documented. It is shocking that there are still people that are part of the online community that have no idea how a rookie jersey is obtained for their card released in July, despite the fact that they havent played in a real game yet? Here is the thing. Game used jerseys are a hot commodity for every player, ESPECIALLY rookies. Some teams dont use more than a few game used jerseys all year. Considering that the NFL has programs to resell the jerseys, as do the teams themselves, that doesnt leave much left for the collectors and the card companies to fight over. Therefore, if you want a patch card of your favorite rookie, the premiere is a necessary method to the madness.

Now, for me, I dont buy event used cards unless there is an autograph on it. Its my policy. I also put very little value in patch colors or logo patches, except for certain circumstances. Other people dont feel the same way. They dont care that the jersey is only worn for less than 5 seconds, and will assign enormous value to a card based on patch content. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you are aware of the methods. Bottom line, I actually like that Mark Ingram picture, because it means he wore the jerseys for a significant amount of time. Not like others who just put the collar over their head and take it right off (yes, that’s what really happens).

Pretty much, if you enjoy event used jerseys because they are player worn, like sausages, best to avoid watch them being made.

This weekend is going to be a treat. Its going to be fun, and there will be lots of action. Follow me @SCUncensored, as I will be following along very closely and adding comments to what is posted from the manufacturers all weekend.

2015 NFL Rookie Premiere List Announced

Each year, there is no bigger event in the football card hobby than the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. This is the time where the new rookies for each team get to debut their new teams and take pictures for everything – from sports cards to Madden and other media. Its also the time where card companies get autographs, patches and material to use in their cards all year long. If you werent already aware, rookie memorabilia is all obtained at this event, not from the games played during the season.

This is also a time where many of the initial on card autographs are signed, some 1500 plus over the course of a few days:

2014 Inception Odell Beckham Jr Auto Laundry Tag Booklet

2014 Topps 40 Player Rookie Premiere Auto Booklet

2014 Elite Sammy Watkins Rookie Premiere Auto

2014 Topps Mike Evans Rookie Premiere Auto

2014 Elite Blake Bortles Inscriptions Acetate Auto

In previous years, the attendee list has ballooned from 30 to 35, all the way up to 41 attendees this year. As a result, this means that most of the skill position players drafted during the first 3 days will be attending, regardless of their potential for production on the field. Believe it or not, this isnt usually a bad thing, as it means that the one sleeper guy who will break out during the year will likely be among this group. It also means that there will be that many more duds that can kill your box.

I am counting a number of guys that could fill that role, including 5-10 WR alone. At the same time, this is a pretty deep class in both RB and WR, which would explain the invite list being more bloated with those guys.

Bottom line, if the guy your team drafted isnt on this list, there will LIKELY not be material cards for that player over the year. They also are UNLIKELY to have NFL jersey photos that arent retouched from their college days, or feature a shot from the pro day/combine.

Because all pictures and material is produced at this event, so much of any player’s year depends on premiere attendance. Most of those event worn swatches are from the jerseys they wear for a few seconds during the week, although Topps has done a good job bringing on more rookies who emerge as the season begins.

Here is the list:

1

Sign Language: Looking at Autograph Quality in the 2015 NFL Rookie Class

Football is a bit unique, especially in what drives each of the different products that are released over the course of the year. Rookie cards dictate things almost as much as anything, especially the autographs that they sign for every single product that hits store shelves. The issue isnt that their autographs arent readily available, its that the quality of those signatures seem to be dropping with every new class. Gone are the days where signatures are a source of pride, becoming a more necessary evil of being a celebrity.

Although there have been some great examples of really nice autographs over the last few years, the overall quality of autographs seems to be on the decline. There are some definite cause and effects of having so many autographs that are needed to complete the products. Over the last 10 years, autograph content volume in each set has doubled or even tripled, only more representative of the changing desires of the collecting base.

2015 Nicer Autographs:

Marcus Mariota – Titans #2 Pick

Melvin Gordon – Chargers #15 Pick

Bryce Petty – Jets 103rd Pick

2015 Terrible Autographs:

Todd Gurley – Rams #10 pick

Leonard Williams – Jets #6 Pick

Vernand Morency Memorial Give Up Autograph of the Year:

Nelson Agholor – Eagles #20 pick

Because each of the rookies has to sign so many cards – 10,000 and up over the course of the year per company in some cases – its clear that the drop in quality might be a result of necessity more than anything. Now, I am not advocating that autograph content be sidelined, as that would likely do more harm than good. At the same time, its probably as harmful to see players continually decide that their autographs arent going to be a focus. I mean, that shouldnt be a surprise.

To be honest, there might not be much that the card companies can do, as the players hold almost every bit of leverage in the situation. The card companies need the players much more than many of the players need the card companies. With the celebrity of the NFL increasing in an exponential trajectory, the money that a rookie will make is in the millions as long as they are even reasonably good. Making a few extra thousand dollars over the course of a signing isnt exactly what it used to be. Even though the rookie wage scale has dropped the amount of guaranteed money each draft class has available, the money is no chump change, and hasnt been for a long time. That presents a very unique situation, at least as long as the NFLPA remains involved.

Every rookie IS required to attend the Rookie Premiere if invited, and all are required to sign according to their contracts. How much that actually influences a player to sign is dependent on the personality of the player. Of course, with only a SMALL handful of rookies not finishing their cards required, one could say the relationship with the card companies is contingent on the PA being involved. Every so often, you have someone like Julio Jones or Chris Johnson who refuse to sign. There are already rumors of Odell Beckham joining that group, as his redemptions for Panini look to be primed for a long wait.

This is likely going to be a situation that gets worse before it gets better, which is something that doesnt bode well. Hopefully someone turns it around.

Breaking Down the 2015 Bowman Twitter Packs

If you havent been on Twitter, this post might be something that gets you signed up. Although it goes without saying that social media mediums like Twitter have become a new hub of hobby activity, Topps has taken that hub to a new level in recent weeks. For the first time ever, packs of cards have been given away on Twitter that are not available any other place. Even though they are contest prizes and not available for sale, things have to start somewhere.

Here are the cards up so far:

2015 Bowman Carlos Rodon Twitter Auto 1/3

2015 Bowman Tyler Kolek Twitter Auto 2/3

2015 Bowman Austin Meadows Twitter Refractor /10

2015 Bowman Archie Bradley Twitter Refractor /10

For a product like Bowman, where parallels drive the product, creating a new one for this giveaway is a great way to leverage the power of the people who populate the Twitter landscape. The cards are light blue to commemorate Twitter's trademark color, and there are even autographs in the packs as well. Some of the cards are going for quite a bit of money, as there are only 150 packs of these cards.

Autographs are out of only 3, which shows how limited these packs really are. It also makes them the second rarest parallel available, just ahead of the red refractors at /5. In a very clever twist, some of the players have even signed their Twitter handles. I am curious to see how many players are on the checklist, as it could be limited to only a select few. We do see that Rodon, Kolek and a few others are already live, and surely more will surface as the packs are sent out.

I would love for stuff like this to be more of a focus in the future, offering more special content through the different outlets that exist. If they could offer other small runs of stuff for sale instead of just giveaways, I think that would work well too for the collectors, although cost to the manufacturer might be prohibitive. They have offered online exclusives before in all the sports Topps has run, and they only work under very specific circumstances. Chrome is a perfect situation because of the prominence of the parallels, and similar to the Blue Wave cards in 2012 Football, it could work with some controlled factors.

Overall, this hobby has a long road to getting back to anywhere close to where things were in the 1990s, and though promotions like this are minor, at least Topps is trying something new.

To get access to the promotion, follow @BowmanCards on Twitter, and look for posts mentioning the packs.