2014 Flawless Football: Breaking Down a $1350 Price Point Disaster

I have never been a huge fan of Flawless, as said before. I have never really seen the point of spending over 1200 dollars per box to get cards that you can get in just about every other high end product. It needs to be special, and I dont see much other than player selection in packs that drive a price that high. The cards look great, but that alone doesnt make up for the money spent to enjoy them.

In basketball, the cards are nice, but really nothing special outside of rarity:

2013 Panini Flawless Larry Bird Auto Patch

2013 Panini Flawless Kyrie Irving Auto Patch /10

2013 Panini Flawless Kevin Durant Auto Patch /10

2013 Panini Flawless Kobe Bryant Auto Dual Patch /25

With the transition to football, I was and am still positive that no FB based product can support a price point at 1250 – even more so at the 1350 price that Flawless is being solicited at. Not only is football not basketball, but there are different rules involved to making products. For 1350 per box, they had better be adding pieces of Joe Montana himself, because otherwise its going to be a disaster.

“Sorry Joe, going to need a finger this time, not just the jersey. Ill let you choose which one, but ill let you know we cant get that much yield out of a pinky. Thanks for your cooperation!”

I can already hear the counter-arguments to my vomit inducing reaction to this price point. They are going to have stellar players in every box! Its going to be great for group breakers! It did awesome in basketball! Yeah, not a single one of those things SHOULD play into it when things are said and done.

At first, you are going to have a lot of excitement over what the product could be. Expect those first few boxes to generate some buzz – and that will be intentionally created by Panini. Once people start to realize what they have gotten themselves into, the tide will turn.

Im not sure if anyone understands the stark difference between what is required in a Basketball product and what is required in a Football product. At the very least, Flawless Basketball had VERY little rookie content (which allowed for a lot of the configuration success we saw). This is NOT possible in football, and you can bet that there will be cards that will be box break killers. With 7 hit cards, you will need to average close to 200 bucks per card. If one of those cards is an Allen Robinson auto, things are not going to work.

Lets also run down the big names in football, because these names are going to dictate what is going to be possible, along side the required rookie element – Montana, Emmitt, Rice, Brady, Peyton, Favre, Rodgers, Marino, Russ Wilson, Luck, Elway, Manziel, Bortles, Watkins, Bridgewater. Outside of that, you are going to need to fight after initial release to crack 100 bucks on an auto or relic. Most of the big names will have to sell at DOUBLE their current average selling price to make a difference. Even with the players mentioned above, prices can struggle after the first few weeks. In all reality, there will likely be needed inclusion of multiple players from that list PER BOX, not just on a case hit basis. With the consistent devaluing of every position outside of QB, value is going to be stretched pretty thin as it is.

In Basketball, the list is may not be longer, but the big cards sell for SIGNIFICANTLY more money due to the international market that the sport has. That means when you hit Kyrie, Durant, Kobe, Lillard etc, they will sell for more than any of the big names from the attached football list. The only thing that other sports have going for them stems from the lack of products in this space over the last few years. Especially when it comes to on card autos.

Think about it from this perspective – VIP bottle service at the club is a common amenity for nice venues. Considering you can get the liquor at the store for a LOT less money, there should not be much appeal to it. They are literally charging you for the experience, and the visibility of your spot among the high rollers. Here its basically the same concept, because what you pay for is definitely not what you are getting. You are paying for the experience, and I dont understand how anyone can support that. It has never been acceptable to do so in cards before, and yet here we are.

“I dont know if you are seeing this, but my cards came in a metal briefcase. That means something bruh.”

Without a huge return from those big names, especially in terms of cards that are going to sell for over the cost of the box itself, you are just not going to have the same return as basketball. Remember, these big cards will be sitting next to Jamaal Charles, Cordarrelle Patterson, and other players/rookies that will dilute a checklist that cannot support that price tag. I love me some CPatt, but man, he is not someone that is worthy of a 500 dollar ebay bid. Seeing that he is going to be joined by the likes of Terrance Williams, AJ McCarron, and Paul Richardson? The storm clouds are a brewin!

Group breakers may have a field day with this product, regardless of the price tag, and that might end up being the saving grace of Flawless Football. Without a group break element, this product could not be sustainable.

The other element that has to be considered is the release date (10/31), as there could be potential for a shit ton of redemptions with the way Panini has been running as of late. That doesnt even begin to factor in the lack of time for rookies to have success. No guarantee that Manziel will have even hit the field by then. No guarantee that there will be ANY breakout rookie by that point. There isnt so far.

From what pictures have been showing, the cards are all hard signed, which is awesome, but the release is a month away! They had better get their fucking shit together if they expect people to walk away satisfied. Nothing like opening a box that costs the same as a mortgage payment and getting 3 redemptions for your biggest hits, right?

Bottom line, even if you are pulling a Brady or Manning in every box, their cards are not going to sell for the kind of price that will allow for a big enough return. In fact, the trend in football is pretty apparent – as the player collectors get their chase cards, the price can drop by up to 50%. That goes doubly so for guys like Odell Beckham, who will be all over this product.

I hope I can eat my words here, because collectors are a weird bunch of people. The things they support on a regular basis tend to baffle me, and it could potentially work out well if the checklist isnt as watered down as it looks. Maybe they have found loop holes in the licensing to allow them to work around the lower tier rookies that are destined to plague a product like this.

Regardless, I love the way this set looks, as I think the cards are awesome. But I think Panini has made some decisions as of late that show that they have no fucking clue how to maximize their reach. They have also found out the hard way that what works in Basketball doesnt always work in football, and vice a versa. At some point someone is going to realize that its a good idea to start including coupons for lube and astroglide with their products. Maybe then, things can get better.

Dont just look at the cards – LOOK AT THE PLAYERS:

The Legacy of the Superfractor – Is Football Ready for Life Without its Biggest Card?

Topps may not exactly have had the best track record in a few areas of the hobby over the last few years, but there remains one thing that they do better than any other company. They have found a way, amidst the hobby’s change to relic and autograph focus to create value in rare parallels that lack those elements. So much value that it literally defies my understanding. It all reaches up to the pinnacle that is the 1/1 Superfractor. I would go as far as saying it is currently the most important type of card in any sport in any brand.

Under the search for 1/1 in football right now, the top sold card listed among all others is a Superfractor:

2014 Bowman Johnny Manziel Superfractor Auto 1/1

Other cards are similarly impressive:

2013 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Superfractor Auto 1/1

2013 Topps Finest Sammy Watkins Superfractor Auto 1/1

2014 Bowman Derek Carr Superfractor Auto 1/1

2012 Bowman Sterling Andrew Luck Superfractor Auto Patch 1/1

2013 Topps Platinum Eddie Lacy 1/1 Auto Patch Superfractor

Years ago, I tried to fight against the tidal wave of Superfractors that were flooding the market in just about every single Topps product. Topps Chrome, Finest, Bowman, Bowman Chrome, Bowman Sterling and others all had a Superfractor element, and in some cases, a large contingent of them. It was getting to be overwhelming. especially considering how little I really liked the golden hexagon pattern that adorns each of the examples.

Since that timeframe, I have just come to terms with its aura and legacy among hobby collectors of every sport, and how much it really means. At this point, a world without Topps Superfractors is almost as unwelcome among collectors as a world without Topps. That is a powerful concept. It is so powerful that other companies have even tried to copy Topps’ formula down to a T, most of the time with very limited success. Panini has even recently tried to make identical replicas for the first time, which only shows how much even they covet the success of these cards.

Just adding the Superfractor pattern to a card makes it more valuable thanks to Topps’ consistent success in this space:

2014 Panini VIP Party Andrew Wiggins Superfractor Clone

2014 Leaf Metal Draft Teddy Bridgewater Superfractor Clone

2014 Panini VIP Party Kevin Durant Superfractor Clone

Football's best card of the year comes from a box that usually costs about 70 to 80 bucks, and I cant even understand how that has come to be. In all the different sports that they exist, the biggest sales of the modern era have all been Superfractors. Luck, Strasburg, and others all dominate the top selling lists of the recent years.

The Topps Chrome autographed Superfractor is so valuable, that it will outsell any other chase card for bigger players, even those that come from boxes that cost five times the price. Logos, ridiculous patches, and other tactics are no match, and each year only comes to show how much that gap is growing. EEven the cheap lower tier players still sell for significant money.

This only serves to beg the question of what might happen when Panini takes over football in 2016? The answer isnt as clear as you might think, as the top selling products of the year all come from Topps. Add in that the worst selling products of the year are almost all under the Panini umbrella, and that is not good for business. Even if Panini were to find a way to get to the level of quality that Topps has consistently shown in their Chrome brands, they would struggle mightily to build their own comparable element that the Superfractor represents.

Just adding these cards to products makes them more valuable, which makes me wonder why a product like Topps Five Star was never thought of as a candidate to have Superfractors despite not being a chrome product. Bottom line, a world without these mammoth chase cards is going to be a tough one for many to stomach, and I think its worth considering what that might mean for some of these horrendously bad Panini products. Will the floor continue to drop out, now that there is no incentive for the products to improve? How many more years of Panini Prominence can everyone tolerate before the vomit inducing designs are just too much? Will the Superfractors of the past be that much more valuable? Who knows. The only thing I have to warn is that people better be ready for a big change, and if what people are saying is true, its not going to be good.

Examining the Peaks and Valleys of 2014 Topps Finest Football

After seeing some of the mysteries surrounding Topps Finest be revealed, and getting more acquainted with the set, I am starting to see some very big wins here, along with some bigger losses. I want to take a look and break down my thoughts on one of the bigger in season releases of the year.

Autograph Base Rookie Variations

These were some of my favorite cards in the previous versions of Finest since 2011, and I think that they took a major hit this year with the sticker autos. Hard signed autos on Chrome stock are a very easy way to cultivate value in any set, and using stickers this year took that away. We will have to see how Platinum turns out to see if Topps gets it right. Scary thing is, the Johnny Manziel Superfractor has already been pulled and listed, which is likely the biggest cards in the set. Either way this one doesnt sit well with me.

2014 Topps Finest Blake Bortles Pulsar Refractor Auto /5

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Auto Red Refractor 5/15

2014 Topps Finest Mike Evans Auto RC Refractor

Verdict: DOWNGRADE

Rookie Auto Patch 

I think this year’s design is nice, although the need to include a jumbo patch parallel adds a lot of negative space on the card that could have been shrunk down with the use of additional printing plates. Regardless, I think these look better than last year, and better than 2012 as well. Its a cool tech style look, and I have gotten more attached as I have seen more cards.

2014 Topps Finest David Carr Blue Refractor Auto Patch /99

2014 Topps Finest Kelvin Benjamin Red Refractor Auto Patch

Verdict: UPGRADE

Rookie Auto Jumbo Patch

These are my favorite cards of the entire set, and wish that they were more common. With the negative space from the previous design replaced with a bigger swatch, the card looks more complete. I am really liking that they didnt compromise the size of the player picture to include a larger swatch, which I think many releases struggle with. Compared to 2013, its night and day.

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2014 Topps Finest Jadeveon Clowney Pink Refractor Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Brandin Cooks Jumbo Patch Auto Pulsar

Verdict: UPGRADE

Fantasy’s Finest Autos

This year, finest moment cards were replaced with a set that commemorates the biggest fantasy performances in the last few years. I like the idea of celebrating big games, but I am not a fan of using fantasy as the way to do it. The design is nice, but again, its a lot of negative space for design elements to make up for the patches that are present on some of the cards. Being that I wasnt a fan of the finest moments to begin with, Im not to concerned with Topps going a different direction and not executing fully.

2014 Topps Finest AJ Green Fantasy’s Finest Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Julius Thomas Fantasy’s Finest Pulsar Auto

Verdict: PUSH

Jumbo Relic Autos

Since 2011, these have been my favorite part of the set, and for the first time, I think they fumbled this version. There is too much focus on the borders surrounding the different elements of the cards, and not enough on the general aesthetics of the final composition. By shrinking the corner designs, and the side borders, the card would be much more focused on the right things. I dont know, maybe it just looks weird to me.

2014 Topps Finest Eddie Lacy Gold Refractor Auto Jumbo Relic

2014 Topps Finest Sammy Watkins Camo Refractor Jumbo Patch Auto /10

Verdict: DOWNGRADE

Overall, Finest will still be around for its final year next year, and I welcome it back. This is still a fun set, and its rare that you can find a box under 100 bucks and get TWO relic autos. That just doesnt happen, and its why this product has rocked as much as it has. I will be sad to see it go come 2016 when the Panini exclusive kicks in.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Finest Football Falls Short of Past Years

Before 2011, I would have put the Finest brand on life support. Over the last few years, it has risen back to the top of the football market with high end cards early in the year. It has been a true resurgence, with really nice autograph content and some really killer design work. After seeing the first few cards from the sell sheet and initial eBay auctions, Im not sure this should be considered even close to what it was last year. Its unfortunate, because I think Topps had a real winner before.

Here are some of the initial cards up:

2014 Topps Finest Johnny Manziel Jumbo Patch Auto X Fractor /15

2014 Topps Finest Teddy Bridgewater Jumbo Patch Auto /15

2014 Topps Finest Brandin Cooks Red Refractor Patch Auto

2014 Topps Finest Jordan Mathews Auto Patch Refractor

2014 Topps Finest Alshon Jeffrey Gold Refractor Jumbo Relic Auto

The biggest drawback to the 2014 edition is the change from a lot of on card rookie content to none. Topps obviously had a choice, and I dont think they made the right decision. The first option was to go with college pictures retouched to be NFL, much like Inception and now 2014 Topps Football as well. This would allow enough lead time to get on card autos this early in the season. The second option, which they went with, was to do stickers with RPS shots from the Premiere. It doesnt make Finest as nice, but it avoids ANOTHER set with the same pics from Inception.

Anytime you take stickers and use them in place of a hard signed autograph from previous years, you are going to face some backlash. Look at how Certified and Absolute have done since they swtiched to stickers. The buzz was and has been a complete disaster.

Secondly, I dont like the jumbo relic autograph cards as much this year, as I think the card is way too heavy handed with the complementary design elements in the background of the card. Hell, the border around the swatch window is so unnecessarily thick that it touches the nameplate at the bottom. Terrible decision again.

Although the checklist is nice, and the other cards are relatively on par with previous Finest sets, I cant help but think this stuff will be significantly less successful due to the bad decision making that was made on the main cards for the set.

On the Radar: 2014 Panini Playbook Football

I have been a fan of playbook since it was released back at the beginning of 2011, and has evolved into a set that really has the potential to deliver some great looking cards. I want to say that last year was easily the best year of the run, with a focus on adding some really nice looking non-rookie autograph content. Now that I see the preview for 2014 im not sure I like this version.

Here are some of the really cool cards from previous years:

2012 Playbook Andrew Luck Auto Patch Booklet

2012 Playbook Russell Wilson Auto Patch Booklet

2013 Playbook Peyton Manning Nike Logo Patch Booklet 1/1

2011 Playbook Aaron Rodgers Auto SSP

Immediately the darker borders added to the Playbook cards take away from the nice presentation from previous years and the white borders. Secondly, Panini returns to their ungodly obsession with the goofy and lame studio shots that are inset behind the action photo on the front. Not only does this add an unneeded element of horribly odd photography, but it takes away something that was much better last year. Overall a complete downgrade. Even though the studio shots have been present before, they were seemingly hidden more by lighter design work. The move to different borders highlights them more.

This down grade is completely overshadowed by the absolutely horrendous design work on the Richard Sherman auto relic, which might be the ugliest card we have seen from Panini all year. The base autos were already a complete and utter eye sore last year, but this is worse. I dont understand who thinks its a good idea to obscure half the layout with this box for the autograph, even if it may turn out to be acetate. It looks awful. In the past, Playbook has a knack for great looking cards combined with terrible ones. This year is no different.

In terms of the good elements of this preview, the Down and Dirty relics return. Much like they did in their debut last year, look awesome. Coupled with the full scale style lunging Endzone card, these two should be more of a focus for the set. Instead they will be a tiny element to the product. The RGIII card is truly impressive, all joking about recent injuries aside.

When it comes down to it, Panini consistently makes poor choices when it comes to the look of their cards, and its looking like an easier and easier choice to just avoid their products completely in the future. I understand that some people do end up liking their stuff, but I cant help but feel like maybe those people just like the focus Panini puts on their marketing strategy and not the actual cards themselves.