Up until this year, it was rare to lose a company in a sport, either by choice or by force. This past year, it has happened twice in football, with one company luckily getting another shot at making football cards. Upper Deck, obviously wasnt so lucky with the ability to produce licensed NFL cards, and we have yet to see how their NCAA products turn out. With that in mind, there are some spots that Panini and Topps will be looking to fill (hopefully effectively), and that is what I want to go over here.
Exquisite – Upper Deck has already confirmed that Exquisite is out for 2010, and personally I think it was the right call because of the situation. Most people would expect National Treasures to fill the void left by the industry’s best high end product, but Im not so sure it will actually happen. Last year’s National Treasures set was terrible, looking more like a 400 dollar box of Donruss Threads than a box of high end goodness. That will not be able to happen this year, and it looks like Panini is already taking steps to better the product by adding on card signatures for some of the big chase cards. It still looks as if the rest of the product will be stickers, something that is completely unacceptable, so Im not sure how far their efforts will take them.
SP Authentic – SPA was the premiere product for Football cards, and has been since its inception. Collectors eagerly await the release of this product every year because of its consistent great designs and amazing box content for about 100 bucks. This year, the SPA we know and love will be revamped for the NCAA exclusive, and I am still confident that it can live up to expectations. However, that wont stop Topps and Panini from gunning for it. Topps Platinum was supposed to be the answer in 2009, however it failed to even come close to delivering. The same was said about Topps Unique, but it was anything but Unique with boring designs and terrible content. At this point Leaf Limited is the only product that could possibly live up to SPA, but it will take a huge improvement and a huge push towards the concepts that made SPA so popular. Im not sure if they will be able to make that jump.
Ultimate Collection – I loved Ultimate Collection this year, and I dont think it will be making a comeback for 2010. I think that this particular segment of the product calendar will be left behind, though Triple Threads may take a shot at it. Obviously, you all know my feelings on what I think is one of the worst product ever created, so I dont really need to elaborate on that. Ultimate could come back with a focus on bringing more inscriptions and stuff to compensate for the lack of logos, but im not sure it would be enough to get some of the collectors to buy into the new format.
SPX - I actually think that the NCAA license fits SPX more than any other product in UD’s early product line. SPX has always been about rookies and getting deep into the draft class, and this is the perfect opportunity to exploit that. The price point would need to come down, but there is a definite possibility of making this a banner product for the early calendar. Obviously Topps is taking notice of the lack of good products in the early part of the year with the release of Platinum in September, so I would think that UD should do the same with getting SPX out as quickly as possible.
Flagship Upper Deck – Topps has had this part of the calendar since the early 60′s so I dont think that a lack of Upper Deck low end is going to be missed all that much. Topps’ flagship product is looking so ridiculous at this point, that Im not sure Panini will even be able to compete at all. Elite will be featuring a Rookie Premiere Signature set for the first time, but it is one subset in a complete product filled with headshots of college players due to a lack of an ability to display college jerseys.
Honestly, if you asked me a few months ago if Upper Deck would be able to compete without a license, I would have said you were nuts. But because of the holes their phenomenal products leave behind, its not as big of a gap anymore.