As I mentioned before, the football hobby has changed drastically since 2009. With the loss of Upper Deck’s license in the NFL, Exquisite's greatness has been curtailed over 2010 through 2012. By default, National Treasures has taken over as the top valued product of the year for rookie cards, despite the fact that it had really done nothing to deserve the title.
Since that time, Topps Five Star has boasted similar specs to what Exquisite used to bring, all on card autos and high end quality. However, collectors were unfamiliar with the brand as a major player in the high end game, leading to less success overall. Even though Five Star offered everything Exquisite was known for, collectors still went to the lower quality NT product out of sheer confusion, from what it seems. Until 2012, NT offered ZERO on card content for non-rookies. Even when 2012 boasted the first cards, they were in such short supply that collectors became frustrated. Of course, the historic 2012 rookie class, combined with the best design work of the product’s history led to record sales, even though the product was still predominantly stickers.
Here are the on card autos from 2012:
Now that we are seeing previews for 2013 National Treasures, it looks like things are changing. The constant badgering for on card veteran and HOF autos looks to have worked, as Panini seems to have caved somewhat. The product’s design continues to be gaining steam, building on previous elements of the product into powerhouse sets that entice drools from the people who gaze upon them. Although there looks to be a significant commitment to on card content this year, it still seems as though this is only a piece of the puzzle. Will the legacy of NT compared to Exquisite continue to be tarnished by stickers that should have no place in a product of this pedigree?
The booklet cards, rookie patch autos, and colossal patch autos previewed in this post are some of the best looking NT cards I have ever seen. That goes without saying. However, have collectors lowered their standards so much that we will overlook so many other wrongs as to really take this for what it is. The rookie hat cards are absolutely horrendous, with a stupid theme, horrible look, and awkward player pictures that are posed to look deep into your soul. I know that is exactly what every collector wants in their cards, right?
No doubt, Topps’ lack of a social media presence continues to be a detriment to the buzz of upcoming products, although it isnt clear how much effect it has on final P&L for each set. In fact, I would go so far as saying there is no information available. Either way, appearances are not good, considering how much water cooler talk these types of previews generate. Back in 2010, when Five Star first was released, we got weekly updates on cards as they were completed. It caused quite a stir as collectors got first hand experience of how amazing the product looked. I miss those days, and I miss Topps taking a stand.
National Treasures exists in an odd dichotomy with Five Star, as the aim of both products tends to be different. Treasures is about jumbo swatches – design and composition be damned. Five Star is about beauty of the signature, creating high end autograph cards for the autograph collector. Now that we get this preview of what Panini is planning, I think they are looking to stampede into the territory Five Star is trying to stake out.
The 2013 Rookie Class will be a complete train wreck for any high end product. That goes without saying. Its also clear that Panini has opted to slack off for most of the year, reserving the big guns for the last few products of the year. Topps has taken a more balanced approach, delivering some great looking and well performing products all year long. The question remains, is it better to play well all year, or end with a bang? Collectors have short memories, which means Panini’s approach may not be incorrect. That doesnt mean their other 2013 products wont remain a stain on their brand for years to come.