Panini and the Signing of NFL Player Exclusives – End Times Ahead?

Today, something big happened that some of you out there may have missed. I want to talk about it here, because it is something that could spell enormous changes in football cards starting in 2016. According to the Panini blog, Panini has signed the first player exclusive to be included in their new NFL exclusive license starting in 2016. Starting then, Dez Bryant will only sign with Panini.

You might be saying, “Well shit, Dez isnt THAT big of a player to take away!” However I think its more about the practice of signing player exclusives rather than the player who signed them. Panini will be doing more and more of this as the year progresses, with targets like Richard Sherman, Andrew Luck and other Panini Authentic signers likely joining the slate. This has never been allowed under the current licensing situation, but now that Panini has the full boat, they can pretty much do what they want.

There could be a huge change coming for sets like this as well:

2015 Leaf Metal Draft Jameis Winston Purple Refractor Auto /25

2015 Leaf Metal Draft Marcus Mariota Auto Blue Refractor

2012 Exquisite Andrew Luck Auto RC

2014 SPX Premier Odell Beckham Quad Relic Auto

Regardless of who joins the evil empire from the current slate of NFL stars isnt as big of a coup as it will be when they start signing rookies. Once the 2015 year is over, start to watch for the rookie deals being signed. If Panini performs the way they do in the NBA, I would guess none of the main draft picks for 2016 will ever be available for anyone but them.

This is where the true method is applied to the madness. With an exclusive CLC (NCAA) License, combined with the growing potential of draft picks being exclusive as well, no one else will have an opportunity to make a viable draft product any longer. Companies like UD and Leaf, who have carved out a very sizable niche in this part of the year, will be unable to build their products the way they did in the past.

Right now, I am speculating as to how this is going to go down, but this signing today is likely indicative of their plans in my opinion. I sincerely hope they dont go this direction, but a potential monopoly type lawsuit may be in the cards if they do. I can definitely see that happening. Im not sure how it is going to go down, but this is something you should feel very uneasy about if you like any sort of competition in the Football space.

Side note: I found it a bit hilarious that someone with an autograph reputation like Dez Bryant is the person they chose to be the first exclusive. Just saying.

Is Upper Deck Inscriptions the Best Pre-Draft Product in Recent Memory?

Im going to be completely honest when I say that it is very difficult to make a pre-draft product that looks good and can hold value once the real licensed stuff comes out. Without the use of NFL teams or licensing, many collectors will tune out any set that they cant latch onto. Upper Deck has found ways in the past to keep things interesting, as for the last five years, they have been the only company to have college jerseys available for their use. Now that the license is transferring to Panini, they are going to have to start all over. That is not only terrible for the hobby, but showcases how Panini’s manifest destiny will continue to force out the best people.

When I saw Inscriptions, I was pretty intrigued by how Upper Deck decided to close out their license with NCAA. To aim to release a set that is so focused on on card autographs with added content is never going to be bad, and this has played very well as a result. Inscriptions is not only filled with some great cards, but they look better than anything I have seen in a pre-draft product, maybe ever.

Check out these cards:

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Jameis Winston Gold Wave Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Marcus Mariota Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Melvin Gordon Gold Wave Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Amari Cooper Black Prism Auto

2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions TJ Yeldon Red Auto

Each card has any number of varioations on what the players wrote, and continues to showcase that Upper Deck has not given up on their place in the hobby, even at the end of their time in licensed football cards. With autograph content being so common, there are no longer very many ways to keep content interesting and unique. For pre-draft products its even more difficult because collectors havent been able to identify with players quite yet, unless they are projected top picks. Adding inscriptions into the mix will add a lot of incentive to break boxes and buy singles, as the autographs are on a new level.

Some rookies take the signing a bit further than others, but overall this looks like a great group of signers. I am seeing some really nice prices for both Winston and Mariota, with guys like Amari Cooper, Melvin Gordon and others all getting some major attention as well. Upper Deck has a great set on their hands here, and I cant even begin to describe how angry I am that Panini has used their money to bully UD out of the marketplace in the second sport in 10 years.

As mentioned earlier, Panini is going to release two pre-draft products of their own, which will likely not even touch what UD managed to do with Inscriptions. In fact, Panini will have to prove that they know how to pull their heads out of their asses, because it is becoming more obvious by the day that they almost enjoy the comfort of their own rectum.

Bravo to Upper Deck, as this one is a winner.

On The Radar: 2015 Topps Football Takes a Final Bow?

This is a day I look forward to every single year, mainly because it is the first solicitation of the licensed products released after the rookie premiere. This is the first Topps product that features rookies in their NFL jerseys, and it is also the base design for Chrome and other aspects of the card year. Its bittersweet this year, because it may end up being the last licensed version of the Flagship Topps Set. Thanks to Panini, the set that everyone has known and loved for the last 60 years may be gone. In 2016, Panini is set to take over the NFL exclusive, which will make this set a lot different. I could not be more angry about that.

Check out some of the more iconic cards, which will likely get some time in the sun for this set:

1981 Topps Joe Montana RC BGS 9

1986 Topps Jerry Rice RC

1976 Topps Walter Payton RC

1956 Topps Johnny Unitas RC

Because this is the 60th anniversary, we already know Buybacks will be a part of the set, as are a number of other commemorative items. We could see some really fun surprises.

Base Design

I really like that they did not play it conservative, as this is a very different approach from what they have done in previous years. A bigger nameplate, more futuristic type of an approach, and definitely a modern take. It reminds me a BIT of 1993, but this is its own animal. They were right to preview the Odell Beckham card, featuring his now infamous catch, as the card looks absolutely stunning with that picture plastered across the front.

15TFB1_1167_Base_Vet_OBJ15TFB1_1145_Base_Parallel_Brady

Rookie Premiere Autographs

Last year, for the first time, Topps moved away from cards that featured photos taken at the premiere and then signed the next day. Instead, they used retouched photos used in sets like Inception, and did the rookie premiere autographs that way. The result was SO much better than it had been in the past, as the erratic arrival schedule didnt play into who got their photos done or not. This year’s design looks simple and sleek, which will make for a VERY good looking set. I have always liked this set, because they are on card and look cool – even with my pet peeve of studio shots.

15TFB1_3302_RP-AUTO

Base Autographs

I thought last year's base autographs were good not great. This year, I think the design looks so much better, as it plays into the look and feel of the overall product in a way that didnt happen last year. The team logo background separated by the different shapes is really cool, and I will definitely be interested to see who is on the checklist – especially if Aaron Rodgers is the cover boy. Topps has done great with checklists as of late.

3241_ToppsAuto_Rodgers

Retro Rookie Autographs

Let me say that they are just not going to beat last year's 1985 tribute, and its just as tough to beat 1984. Seeing that they went with 1987 is still a nice homage, but its just not on the iconic level that the previous two were. The cards will look nice, dont you fret, and I will buy the shit out of them, but 1985 is my favorite of all time.

15TFB1_3703_1987AUTO

Other inserts

During 2014, the insert quality skyrocketed over a dismal performance in 2013. This year, I think the inserts are especially nice again, especially with the retro cards celebrating the 60th anniversary of the set. Seeing the 1984 Lynch and the Emmitt Autograph make me remember how awesome those sets were, and how much I continue to despise Panini for ruining this sport for me. The other inserts are similarly nice, and it looks like this year is going to be pretty freaking solid for this set.

Like I mentioned at the top, this is a sad situation. But, as I have said a ton of times, the trading card industry is going down a path that benefits no one but Panini. Even then I question how much understanding they really choose to have, as their overspending for license on top of license is only going to hurt the hobby more when they cant make their money back. Seeing that this is the final year of a 60 year old set makes my blood boil, especially one that is responsible for some of the most iconic football cards of all time.

SCU Go Live Report: 2014 Topps Supreme Football

When Supreme first came out, I was not a fan in the slightest. It had a lot of reasons why was more a one pack version of Triple Threads, instead of a new product on its own. Since that time, Topps has really turned it into a fun late year product with a focus on veteran and high end rookie content. This year, it looks like we are definitely in for a big treat with Supreme.

Check out some of these big hits up so far:

2014 Topps Supreme Tom Brady / Peyton Manning Dual Auto Logo Book /15

2014 Topps Supreme Johnny Manziel Auto Inscription /50

2014 Topps Supreme Mike Evans / Kelvin Benjamin Silhouette Dual Relic Auto Book.

2014 Topps Supreme Johnny Manziel / Mike Evans Dual Auto

First off, the addition of on card rookie autographs makes this product much more appealing that it would have been with stickers. The cards look amazing, and this added element is something that makes me VERY happy.

Additionally, the product checklist of veteran autographs is very impressive, with guys like Manning, Brady, Luck, Wilson and a bunch of other guys. These are the same guys that will have 1/1 autograph logo booklets, which are some of the most coveted cards a player collector can chase.

I still think that the design of some of the cards has some improvements to be made, especially in the boxes that continue to be used to highlight sticker autos in the product. Although they dont look as bad as some of the trash Panini has put out, I think these cards could have been better with a different approach.

Seeing that the QB Drawn plays and the nickname auto booklets are also back makes this product even more attractive to someone like me. As someone who loves unique content like these cards have been over the last few years, I am looking forward to this product. The drawn out QB plays are a really nice touch, even though the other side is a sticker. I would love to see more cards with content derived from this part of the game.

With some of the bigger products still yet to be released in 2014, looks like Topps has stepped it up big time over the last few products.

Offseason Developments and How it Impacts Hobby Value

Over the last few weeks, we have had a lot of developments with quite a few big name players. Some traded to new teams, others moving through free agency, and even a few retirements. So the question becomes, what impact does this have on their potential hobby value? What about the guys who havent moved yet, but are likely on their way to a new team?

DeMarco Murray

As of last night, the Cowboys and Murray have been said to be in contact to work out a new deal. Let me reinforce that this is the BEST possible situation for Murray, not only because they are a highly collectible team, but because I think his success is more a reflection of the offensive line than the quality of his skills. If Murray leaves and goes to somewhere like Arizona, that will be a bigger hit than people think.

2011 Topps Chrome Demarco Murray Atomic Auto BGS 10

2011 Topps Demarco Murray Rookie Premiere Auto

2014 Flawless DeMarco Murray Jumbo Patch Auto

LeSean McCoy

Obviously the NFL is no longer a league that gives two shits about a running back, but McCoy moving to Buffalo is a big deal. Not only will he likely have to carry the offense behind a new QB, but he wont have the opportunity to get the kind of protection like he did in Philly. This is not going to be a good situation for him at all.

2009 SP Authentic LeSean McCoy Auto Patch RC

2009 Exquisite LeSean McCoy Auto Patch RC

Jimmy Graham

I was literally shocked when I saw that he was traded to Seattle. Although they got back a great player in Max Unger, Graham was easily one of the best TEs in the league behind maybe Rob Gronkowski. Now, in hobby terms, this is an upgrade, as the Seahawks are one of the more popular teams in the league. Playing with Lynch and Wilson is awesome, and it puts Seattle in a new position to be champs of the NFC west again by a mile.

2010 SP Authentic Jimmy Graham Auto RC

2010 National Treasures Jimmy Graham Auto RC

Sam Bradford / Nick Foles

Again a trade I was shocked to see, especially because I think Foles is MUCH better than Bradford coming off his second ACL. This could be fodder to move up in the draft to get someone else, but Philly basically gave away a serviceable starter. Foles will do well in St Louis, but his hobby value is not as high as it was in Philly.

2012 Topps Chrome NIck Foles Black Rerfractor Auto RC

2012 Contenders Nick Foles Auto Ticket RC

2010 National Treasures Sam Bradford Auto Patch Logo RC

Ndamukong Suh

Although he is the dirtiest player in the game by just about every standard, Suh going to Miami instantly makes the Dolphins a playoff team, as their 8-8 record will surely improve with one of the better DLines in the league.

2010 Contenders Ndamukong Suh Auto Ticket Lot

Jake Locker / Patrick Willis

Crazy to believe that Locker and Willis are retiring, as its clear that they are both very young and definitely not on the list of players I consider to be completely done. Locker was just drafted in 2011, but never really caught on in Tennessee. He has been injured for the majority of his career, but playing for the Titans will do that to you. Willis was among the better LBs in the league, and though injuries are forcing him out, this could become more of a trend than we could expect. Athletes just dont want to live the rest of their lives in pain.

Adrian Peterson

I am of the people who want to see Peterson in purple again this season, despite the despicable actions he was suspended for. He is a guy that makes the team better, and the Vikings dont have many options. There hasnt been a true understanding of what he is looking to do as of yet, but I expect that to come shortly. My guess is that he moves on and one of the RB hungry teams will pick him up. He still has a lot of hobby value because everyone thinks he is going to continue being a productive player.

2014 Immaculate Adrian Peterson Auto Patch

2014 Valor Adrian Peterson Dirty Patch Auto /25

This is only day one and its pretty cool to think this is only the beginning. Curious to see what happens over the next few days. Still a lot of guys out there to fall into place.