When cards were first invented back in the 1800s, it was all about the tobacco, the cards were the afterthought. When the hobby started to ramp up in the middle part of the next century, it became all about the gum, the cards were still an afterthought despite the golden age of Topps. Now in the new millenium, its all about the jerseys, and believe it or not, I still think the cards are the afterthought. We have become a collection of people who rarely care about the cards themselves, but instead want the biggestand most swatches of game used jerseys available. The look and composition of a card is secondary, even to the point where a company has to add a second attached card to pack more jerseys onto the front. Don’t get me wrong, I love when I can get a signed card with pieces of jersey in it, I just think that there are WAY too many people that have lost sight of what should be important in a good looking card.
As always, there are a few major offenders to my notions of what SHOULD be done, and yet, those offenders seem to be some of the biggest sellers around. The only explanation that I can provide is that collectors don’t care how a card looks anymore. As long as they get an eight color patch with a piece of logo in it, for all they care, it could cover up the entire player. In some cases, it actually does, and the card STILL sells for hundreds. If a card is low numbered, it can go for even more money, despite the fact that many altered cards exploit the serial number to help sell the fakes. Seriously though, I am horrified by the reactions some people have to poorly designed cards, as long as they feature a large or multiple swatches. So many people will forgive poor concept, theme, or design work just to have a larger piece of their favorite player’s jersey.
The worst, however, is the people who pay hundreds of dollars for a logo swatch off a jersey that was never worn in a game. I can understand that many collectors have the money to spend, but it will be a cold day in hell before I buy a non-autographed jersey card of a current rookie. Because none of the jerseys are game used, you are basically paying for something that has absolutely no connection to the player other than 2 seconds on their back. Because of this fact, I think we need to run down the list. Poorly designed card? Check. Oddly placed jumbo swatch? Check. Rookie player. Check. HUGE price tag. Check? Cmon. It would be one thing if these cards presented any redeeming factor in terms of design, but in most of these cases, the cards are so horrible that it makes me livid each time some Joe Collector shouts “OMG MOJOZZZ!!!11!” at the top of their ignorant lungs. If that is all it takes to sell a card, think about what someone could do if they actually took the time to make the cards look good in the process?
There is one thing that I will credit Panini with, and that is their recent preview of the die cut jumbos from Crown Royale. Although the design isnt all the way there, they have finally taken steps to include a jumbo swatch and not destroy the design of the card. It easily could have been a dime sized player picture on the card a la Triple Threads, but they found a way to get both on there without compromising the look. It’s a victory for them, especially considering how mind numbingly terrible some of their other stuff has been.
In the end its going to come down to public taste, and that’s where the wins are becoming fewer and fewer. The one company that had found ways around the intrinsic limitations of the jumbo swatch, is no longer producing licensed cards. Upper Deck may be a poorly run business with lots of ethical dilemmas, but they knew how to produce good looking cards. Topps is finally heading in the right direction with Five Star Football, but Panini isnt even on the same continent, let alone zip code. That means that collectors who function more on how the total CARD looks insead of how the PATCH looks, will be forced to endure set after set of cards that look ridiculously bad. On the other hand, the tides of collector opinions are starting to change a little, as more and more people are finally catching on to the tricks played by companies like Panini. Im just hoping it will reach a point where the bush league design team at Panini and Topps High End will have to take notice or lose the success of their products.