2010 Panini Threads Is Live, Completely Stale

This year’s version of Panini Threads might as well be last year’s version, that’s how identical these sets are. They have the same looking rookie cards, a very similar base cards, and the main box hit lettermen autos have barely even changed one single bit. If I was a collector of stuff like this, having a continued rehash of sets like this would be EXTREMELY frustrating to me. Yet, as we do with seemingly every Panini set, the cards have not changed to a point where they are distinguishable from the previous year’s set. Its really unfortunate, especially when you consider that the lead dog in the card design and visual appeal world has bowed out of the licensed game rather ungracefully.

As with many of the Panini sets, there are highlights of cards that the design fits well with, but they are so low numbered that its going to be tough to see them as a factor in overcoming the failures. Due to the way these cards are always designed by the horrid design team over there, those successes will be greatly overshadowed by the parallels that look like someone forgot to affix the sticker. I mean, honestly, are we really supposed to be happy when cards like these are pulled out of our $100 box as one of the few hits? Give me a fucking break.

I don’t care how awesome Beckett thinks the horizontal card orientation is, the bottom line is that they are trying to draw your attention away from the train wreck hidden below. People continue to buy this product because they like spelling out weird shit with the letters, not because Panini decided that they were going to station the cards horizontally instead of the tried and true vertical. Eventually, manu-letters will lose their appeal (not sure why they havent already), and Panini will still churn out this set each year like its their brand new baby. Hopefully sometime in the future someone on their team will stop sleeping through deadlines and actually spend some time revamping each product to make it fresh again.

The first of the cards are showing up on eBay, and I guess its only a matter of time before we get a more in depth look at what Threads has (re)brought to the the table. Ill update this as more cards and big hits get posted.

Dez Bryant Rookie Collection Auto Jersey /25 – Compare with 2009’s Percy Harvin Auto Jersey

Joe Flacco Auto Jersey /10

Louis Murphy Auto Jersey /15

Dexter McCluster Letter Auto

Ndamukong Suh Letter Auto

Tim Tebow Rookie Jersey /299 – Ridiculous price for a jersey card!

Ryan Mathews Letter Auto /280

Tim Tebow Letter Auto /250

2010 Panini Crown Royale Confuses Me

There is one question I have been asking lately, and that is in regards where the Panini design team has been hiding. They obviously havent been designing good looking cards, so I was curious if they even actually existed. Well, I think I found the answer. They have been holed up trying to complete the design for Crown Royale football, a new product in the Panini line. Not that the cards are even that good, just that they are so utterly complicated that it must have taken them 10 minutes to design the cards instead of the usual 2.

All kidding aside, Im not sure how I feel about these cards. A few of them look like playing cards, and others look straight out of the 17th century due to their ornate designs. The problem seems to be that some of these cards are so busy and complicated in their border work that I don’t know where to look. The other problem is that these cards from the preview are the ridiculously low numbered parallels that feature both the autos and the jerseys, so what happnes when you subtract elements but don’t change the design, as Panini normally does? I think the single jersey cards of the Peterson and the Montana, as well as the Bryant and the Brady are going to look ridiculously unbalanced and top heavy.

As for the base design, I think its terrible. When you add in the auto, like on the Bradford, its worse. Im not sure why they are trying to stuff a sticker onto the card when it obviously has no place to go. That is poor planning and the base design should have been adjusted if that was the plan all along.

Im also torn on how I feel about the Royalty cards. I think they would definitely fit in a set like National Treasures, and the concept is interesting in the way the cards are designed. Again this subset plays into the overall theme of the product, and Im still not sold on that as a whole. I get that Pacific made these cards famous, but I don’t really see the appeal of creating a set based on a defunct brand that produced some really ugly cards.

This may in fact be one of the products that we need to see the finished product before we can pass final judgement, but right now, im still deciding if cards like the Peterson and the Gerhart have enough spunk to carry a product that doesn’t seem to pack a lot of punch. It is pre-selling at under $100 on ATLSportscards, and from the layout, it looks like it is going to be similar to Absolute with 1 hit per pack, 2 autos per box. Street date is set for the same week as Topps Chrome, so I guess its not a surprise that there hasn’t been much pub on it.

When it Comes to Rookies & Stars, Save Your Money

The upcoming Panini release calendar is packed with products. Threads, Absolute, Certified, Limited, they are all on the way, and are all sets that are not new additions to the slate. Panini uses this part of the calendar to bank on previous years’ success, mostly with a tried and true formula of a mid range price point and 3-4 hits per box. Rookies & Stars is beginning of the products I have dubbed the “Panini Blur,” as each of the products is so similar in the concept, that they actually are indistinguishable for lack of a better explanation. I stopped by Sports Cards Plus in San Antonio today to get a look at the latest batch of Panini splatter paint, and despite a nice pull from a customer there, the results were far from impressive.

Aside from the normal Panini cookie cutter of stickers, foilboard, parallels and busy designs, Rookies and Stars brings absolutely nothing of worth to the table. Its a product that rarely holds its value, the concept and content of the set hardly looks like it was designed by a professional, and it is full of rehashes that produced its share of groans from the peanut gallery at the shop. I opened a few packs after some prodding, and I was lucky enough to pull not one, but two of the stale and played out manupatch autos. Not only was one of them a redemption, but the one that was live was snooze worthy at best.

Because Topps is locked and ready to roll with the meat of their calendar, Panini desperately needs to pull their heads out of their ass to stay relevant. I mentioned in the post below this one all the reasons why I like the low end Topps products as much as I do, and I can honestly say that from what I saw, Panini did not deliver even one of them with R&S. If you can stand to save that hundred bucks you were going to spend on a box of this junk, you are going to have that much more fun opening what is coming on wednesday from Panini’s main competitor.

Personally, I love that the people at Panini use my posts as toilet paper, because it just shows the level of commitment they have to taking what people like me say to heart. I have loudly sung the same tune for 3 years, and over that time frame, Panini has gained its share of haters that function similarly to the way I do. Its funny the amount of times I have started to hear the boos on the boards, twitter, and blogs, when a product preview is posted, something that can easily catch up to your P&L statements. You cant churn out the same shit over and over again, and not expect your customer base to get tired of the apathetic approach. The brass at Panini doesnt seem to get that despite the numerous industry people letting them know how they feel.

I think that once the rest of the Panini Blur hits the shelves, we are going to start to see a lot of angry collectors start to make their voices heard. Its easy to overlook the “YES! LOOK AT THIS CARD I GOT!” when there are a lot of “Nice pull, but it looks like shit.” reactions right after it. I didnt even take the time to review this product last year because it was so terrible, and I am glad to see that Panini decided that one year of poop wasnt enough.

What We Can Learn From Unlikely Sources

I don’t think I speak with someone these days and don’t get the feeling that the card industry is playing on borrowed time. In general, people people have a negative opinion over where sports cards are going as a whole, myself being one of the neysayers. To me, its obvious that certain parts of the hobby are becoming disinterested with the products being released, and even more people are skeptical of the staying power of the manufacturers as a result of that feeling. When you have a situation like this, its pretty tough to ignore that maybe there is some re-evaluation that needs to be done.

Some collectors have cited that cards in general have become confusing to the point where they have stopped buying. Personally, I disagree, but that is me, not them. The companies seem to agree with the confused people, and have actually intiated programs to move away from the many products that promote said confusion. I actually see where they are coming from as cards themselves have moved so far into a closed demographic that there is no way out. This is where my discussion hinges, and it was actually brought to my attention recently by an unlikely source – my XBOX.

Think about this for a second. How many times have you seen a kid walk up to a Playstation and look for an instruction manual? Let me say, from the beginning, I know my brother and I have never even opened that package of materials it comes with. You can actually go to some of the most underprivleged areas in the country, places where the literacy rate is miles below the national average, and there are kids that are playing these games. Even though they cant read, they still know how to game. Its because video games have created and recreated themselves around an intuitive design, one that kids have infused into their DNA. It’s the reason that video games is one of the most profitable industries in the world.

Cards have gone in the complete opposite direction, and I am talking 100% independent of the “kids are the future” argument. Instead of moving towards an intutive layout accessible to the sports fans that drive this industry, Cards have imploded upon themselves. The sets are only well layed out to existing collectors, and its rare that a casual fan would look at cards and identify with what they see. The nitches where sports fans latched on previously have been replaced by endless parallels and terrible designs.

The reason I say that visual design is so important in cards, is because a good looking card is universal. Its why I love signed base cards so much. Simplicity. No stupid or lame subset name, no ridiculous parallel structure. Just auto on card. Because most base cards are well designed, the appeal becomes highly evident. If more sets focused on similar concepts and used visual appeal to drive the casual fans to card collecting, the hobby and industry would grow.

On the flip side of things, when you have products like some of the stuff that Topps calls its high end brands, it locks out the people that need to be brought in. If card companies produced cards with layout and design as the main focus, the confusion would become more invisible. I have heard the number of products produced as being the main source of confusion, but I actually think its more of the way the sets are approached. If you look back at a time where confusion was not part of the equation, it was not the number of sets that helped, it was the set content itself.

My solution is about focusing on the right things. We should not go in the direction of National Treasures basketball and pack products full of needless jersey cards and subsets that no one cares about. Instead, we need to go more in the direction of a product like the flagship Topps brand, even in high end settings. Topps, as well as Topps/Bowman Chrome is so straight forward in its approach, that even the most casual of collector can appreciate its merits. Forget something like Playoff Absolute Football, where every card has five billion parallels and nothing ever follows a pattern. That is wrong. Even sets like SP Authentic are perfect examples, because they are so extremely popular without being ridiculously expansive. ‘

Creating access is the most important thing that the manufacturers need to do, and the gate key is directly related to simplicity and good design. It has nothing to do with number of products produced, because if every set looked as good as SPA, we wouldn’t have an argument. Sets look so terrible, so much of the time, that the access that visual appeal provides is replaced with, “who the hell is at the helm of this sinking ship?”

Another Reason to Hate Panini – Peyton Manning Signs the First NFL Exclusive Deal

UPDATE: According to an alternate source MANNING IS NOT EXCLUSIVE FOR AUTOGRAPHS, just for packaging. Rovell was mistaken. Jason has forwarded me the official release, and it looks like Manning is just their new “Trading Card Ambassador.”

This is bad, and I didn’t even think it was allowed actually. From what I am getting, it seems as though Panini has secured the first exclusive license to a player in the NFL. In the past, the players of the NFL have not been encouraged to sign specific deals with card companies that prevent them from being used in other products, maybe even prevented from doing so. Although both NBA and MLB allow similar player deals, and those deals were responsible for exclusives like LeBron James and Ken Griffey Jr, the NFL has never had that type of situation. Leave it to Panini to open pandora’s box, if it has indeed been opened.

Exclusive deals are the succubus that drains the hobby of its lifeblood. I actually should have added them as number six to my list of terrible things going on right now. Even though Topps is seemingly doing a good job in baseball with their exclusive, I think its pretty obvious how terrible the Panini license is in Basketball. If you don’t believe me, go check out a video break of any of their products. Compared to Upper Deck’s track record on the awesome Basketball products they have made, Panini’s products might as well be NSA patch cards. Because LeBron and Jordan are Upper Deck exclusives to begin with, the whole exclusive license has a ginormous hole where they should be.

The bottom line is that exclusives suck harder than an IHOP waitress in Tiger Wood’s hotel room. I hate them in every way, especially player and league exclusives. Besides being completely counterproductive to the overall spread of the industry, they prevent a lot of the best things of the past from happening. We will never be able to have Jeter sign a card with A-rod because of the exclusives that are in place for both players. Michael Jordan will never be able to be on another card with Kobe under the current arrangement, even when Kobe probably breaks some of MJ’s records in the future. League exclusives are even more terrible because of the way it prevents some of the collector’s favorite products from being released. I may despise some of the products Topps makes in football, but I do not want them to be prevented from at least trying to improve them. Same with UD in baseball and basketball. Variety is the key to hobby success and from what we have seen, without competition, there is very little good that comes out of an exclusive.

Beyond all of this bullshit regarding league exclusives and player exclusives, the NFL has never been one to buy into it. Whether it was by force or by choice, they found NO reason to limit the exposure of their players. Now that Peyton Manning, one of the biggest draws in the NFL has supposedly signed an exclusive with Panini, its going to be a mad dash for the companies to scoop up whatever players they can. Then they are going to start in on the rookies, and then who knows. By the end of this year, National Treasures may have some players or rookies and Topps Triple Threads may have others. As much as I thought NT was eye burningly terrible last year, Triple Threads was worse, and I do not want to be forced out of getting autographs I could normally secure without need for consideration of exclusives.

All I can say is that this is not good for anyone. Fuck Panini and their stupid exclusives if they think this is good for cards. Ill just add it to the long list of reasons why they are the Kia of the sports card business. Hope all you Peyton Manning collectors love stickers and foilboard.