Just How Bad is Donruss Signature Series?

In terms of bad products, there are two ways something can be bad. The first is design, which was definitely something that made 2015 Spectra one of the worst products of the last 10 years. The second is box content, which can take a nice product and make it horrible, similar to 2014 Chrome Football. Signature Series isnt good looking to the point where it can overcome being one of the worst box breaks I have ever seen. It has some nice cards, but the dud hits are like a virus that has infected every box. Being that this was always supposed to be a sticker dump, we knew it would be bad. We did not know it was going to be THIS bad.

Here are the “top” hits so far:

2015 Donruss Signature Series Jameis Winston Auto NFL Shield 1/1

2015 Donruss Signature Series Tom Brady Pro Bowl Auto SSP

2015 Donruss Signature Series Emmitt Smith / Barry Sanders Dual Auto Booklet

2015 Donruss Signature Series Todd Gurley Auto Relic

In terms of design, Panini couldnt even figure out a way to differentiate the product. They basically took the 2013 and 2014 Supreme design and stripped off a lot of the elements that made it attractive. Textured backgrounds, foil stamping, high end type color scheme? All gone. Instead we get a very bland card with a single color background and a player photo. Im not even sure you can call it a “design.” Thus, the product is boring, but not ugly. Boring is really the best way to look at this. Dont even get me started on those horrid lava flow foil cards. Shudder.

Then we get to the content, which features rookie relic autos in a box with 3 other autographs, including some booklets. Actually, I really like the design of the booklets, especially the dual player ones that open vertically to showcase both players. That isnt the issue. The issue is that the checklist is 400 players deep on the veteran side. I cant even name 400 football players, and that is the main issue here. What we are left with is a box that you open to find some of the worst autographs from Panini old inventory, including many players who washed out of the NFL over a year ago. Some of those dud rookie and vet autographs are in booklet format to boot.

What all of this leads to is opening a box and potentially pulling a dud rookie relic, followed by 3 autographs of players who should never have been on a trading card after their rookie year. The reason Panini is doing this type of sticker dump is because of the cheap signature content that these stickers represent, and because they are collecting dust. This isnt actually the first time this has been done in a product format, as every company has done this type of thing at least once. In fact, it looks like Topps is going ot be doing a similar type product as their football license ends in the form of Field Access.

Our expensive thirst for autograph content in the hobby leads to this type of situation, but its the stickers themselves that perpetuate it. Because its easier to get sticker autos done and use them through the year, companies opt for this type of practice with scrub signers who arent worth organizing on card signing sessions. Not only can they be used as filler, but in any product as well. When the NFL burns through players at a rate that most wouldnt believe, many companies have tons of stickers left that were never used. Thus, a product like this has to be done to clear out the inventory that is unusable in a normal product.

When you think about it, this is pretty interesting of a setup. Not only do they get cheap autos to stuff a product like a thanksgiving bird, but collectors will buy it! Insane that we allow ourselves to be taken advantage like this. The bigger issue at play is that Panini put a price tag on these boxes above 100 dollars. Not just 100 bucks, but 125 dollars in some shops from what I have seen. That is ludicrous.

Bottom line, dont waste your money on this hot garbage, as you will surely regret it. Even though the 8 player booklet is enticing as a hit, this product will eat you alive before you get to it. If this isnt on a list to receive 1000 National Convention packs per box before the start of the giveaway, we have failed as a collector base. Just think, this is just one of the many new products Panini will have to build to hit contractual obligations next year. You think this is bad, you aint seen nothing yet. Soon, Im convinced they arent even going to bother designing a set at all, just put sheets of stickers in a box and have collectors build their own cards! Even then, im still not sure how they will have the resources to create as many products for NFL, NBA, and NCAA.

Panini’s Super Bowl Promo is Back… and I am Running for the Barf Bag

For the last 4 years, Panini has ran some sort of Super Bowl promotion to clean out the rotting product that they cant sell. One of the main reasons they cant sell the product is because its fucking horrible, but the other reason is because their prices reflect MSRP and not the severe dropoff that almost every Panini product experiences. If you want to pay double the cost of a box, and spend 150 bucks this year, you can get a free promo signature.

These “Private Signings” have been going for a while, and rarely do they sell well. They fall somewhere below the National Convention stuff, as many collectors really dont care about promo cards. Here are what they look like in previous years:

2014 Panini Private Signings John Elway Auto

2014 Panini Private Signings Peyton Manning Auto /5

2014 Panini Private Signings Steve Young Auto

2013 Panini Private Signings Emmitt Smith Auto

Regardless of prior performance, Panini’s design this year is about as bad as it can get. Not only does every card carry a sticker auto (common for promos), they are affixed with a GIANT FUCKING WHITE BOX behind them, just in case the seizure inducing hyper plaid wasnt enough to burn your retinas beyond recognition.

Each card is uglier than the next, and considering how far some of the prices on the boxes have dropped, you are literally paying double for a box of hot garbage, and getting a dry handed reach around with delivery. These cards dont look good, they dont sell well, and the product you are busting is overpriced. Explained to me again how this isnt a horrible promo?

I have often said that Panini’s license next year will be bad because it puts a company that designs horrible products in power. This promotion is just the icing on the cake. Shitty Panini products are built frequently KNOWING that they will be at half dealer cost and required for closeout. Now we are seeing that Panini cant even sell the boxes at full price on their own website. Just a fucking failure on so many levels. BUT PLEASE! Give them 10 years longer to figure it all out.

Upper Deck Launches ePack Digital Hockey Cards


Today, as you might have heard, Upper Deck launched e-pack, which is the sister program to their physical hockey products, including a way to sell the physical version of the cards pulled in the digital packs on COMC.com.

I will start by saying this program is not anywhere close to the experience that Topps has built on their apps, and that might not be a bad thing for some of you. Instead of focusing on digital content that is exclusive to the app like Topps, they have opted to pair the digital offering with physical content that collectors can actually possess. Being that the app isnt live yet, and everything is done through their site, I cant comment on the full capacity of what the program is about.

What I do know is that Hockey cards sell well on the secondary market, more than many would guess:

2015 Upper Deck Series 1 Connor McDavid Young Guns

2015 Upper Deck Master Collection Wayne Gretzky / Mario Lemieux Dual Auto

2005 Upper Deck The Cup Sidney Crosby RC Auto Patch /87 BGS 9.5

2013 Upper Deck The Cup Nathan MacKinnon RC Auto Patch /29

I messed around with the site, including purchasing one pack just to see what everything is about. At the moment, from my experience as a physical collector, the program is very interesting. It provides access to real cards without leaving your house. You can buy the pack at any time and theoretically realize the physical version of what you pull.

From the side of the digital collector in me, I cant say Im that interested in its current state. Purchases, at the moment take a lot of info. Maybe that will be different on the app. Similarly, the cost per pack is equivalent to the physical side, which means that money spent per pack is much higher at the base level. Again this could change.

Being able to access the “game” through the computer is nice. Its one thing that I wish Topps could figure out some how. Being that right now, things are bare bones, its hard to judge the full perspective of what is going to be coming. Trading is likely on the way. Selling is fully supported. However, I just dont see why Upper Deck is choosing to operate a digital format (which could exist with very little if any overhead other than license and app costs) and link it to a physical manifestation at its core. For a company that is teetering on oblivion from what people in the industry are saying, this seems like a huge investment with more investment clearly needed.

The partnership with COMC is a big deal for a site that has gained some major traction over the last few years. Because this exists kind of as a “big redemption program” as some have said, this opens up a lot of big notions that havent been available to date. Imagine this. You pull a redemption in packs. The redemption goes unfulfilled. Instead of the company choosing your replacement, you get an equivalent in COMC dollars to shop on the site. Not only does this do exactly what Panini Rewards SHOULD have done, but it puts some of the power back in the hands of the collector to get something THEY want.

Being that the audience for digital can be enormous, and hockey has a global audience, bringing this dual set up to the table seems very limiting. That isnt saying they cant cut ties on the physical side eventually, but I would guess catering to a shrinking audience of card collectors who will want to go through the process of acquiring real cards, cant be super attractive.

Topps Digital is successful for a few main reasons. First, they have attractive licenses. Second, they produce daily content, including on demand. They dont have to deal with players to get signatures, employ or pay for warehouse space, and they dont have to worry about finding a vendor to print the actual cards. For a hobby bent on instant gratification, this is a recipe for success that I dont think ePack can even come close to.

As of now, they look to be anchored to the physical product, including scanning and uploading all that information into the app. Server space is expensive in its own right, and Topps dedicates theirs to supporting the users’ growing existence instead of storing card images.

Additionally, there are a ton of unanswered questions. Do they pre-print the physical cards or are they printing on demand? If pre-printing is in the process, they will need to store, ship and process the orders. That seems pretty limiting and expensive, even if COMC is the vendor. If they print on demand, it could be a sour note for people whose pack pulled real cards were rare and become less valuable with each new printing. Also, that seems overly expensive and not practical considering what goes into printing cards. Im also very curious how you tell a collector base that a part of the print run is being held back for digital in a pre-printed format?

As a hockey fan but not a hockey collector, I doubt this is up my alley long term. However, this is the second company to try to build a format to compete with Topps, and so far the only reasonably successful one is the kittens app that recently launched. Try that one on for size, haha.

You can access what is available at www.upperdeckepack.com

Here is the official release: http://upperdeck.com/Corporate/News-And-Events/2016-01-28.aspx


Chasing Cam: Best and Worst of 2011

When Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl two years ago, the hobby went freaking bananas over his cards. They have stayed strong with good season after good season, despite his odd public persona and give up signature structure. He definitely looks like a legit player, and his success is bleeding a bit into Cam Newton’s cards as well. The issue is that 2012 wasnt a bad year in terms of finding good looking cards. Wilson’s cards are helped in that manner. Not the same for Cam. Unfortunately, in my opinion, 2011 might be one of the worst looking years of cards in recent memory. Here are the best and worst.

A Note About Cam Newton and His Autograph

For 2011 through 2013, Newton has displayed 2 autograph types simultaneously. As a result, there have been a lot of questions raised about the authenticity of some of Newton’s signatures, as they dont match his confirmed real signature at all. Although the autographs look SIMILAR, they feature such significant differences in structure and content, that many have said that someone else signed the stickers in Newton’s absence. Although no new confirmations have been obtained, its best just to stay away. In support of this theory, I have yet to see any authenticated in person autograph with the questionable structure. Every in person signature I have seen bears the correct look.

Examples of “good” autos:

2011 UD Legends Cam Newton Auto On Card

2011 Topps Red Zone Cam Newton Auto

2011 Crown Royale Cam Newton Silhouette Auto Patch

Examples of “questionable” autos to avoid:

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Dual Patch Auto

2011 SPX Cam Newton Auto Relic

2011 Topps Cam Newton Variation Autograph BGS 9.5

Keep in mind, the sellers have NOTHING to do with this, so dont go reporting auctions. Instead, I would encourage communication with the companies themselves, as Newton is far from the last person with these questions in play.

None of the on card listings from this point forward will feature this “bad” signature, just as an FYI.

2011 Topps Chrome – WINNER!

For the first time ever, 2011 Chrome featured on card autographs. Not only that, but it was the first year that the Bowman refractor parallel setup was used in the football brand. Not only was the Superfractor from this set the top card of the year, but the exceptionally low numbered Red and Gold autos were insane in value too. This was the last year that baseball’s design was ported over to football, but it worked very well. Adding in the hard signed Bowman Chrome autographs and other chase content, and this set was a beast. One of the best of the year without much competition. Newton’s cards sell for a crazy amount, as Topps used an SP list of top players to limit the costs on the massive deals needed to get Newton to sign.

Check it out:

2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Refractor Auto /99

2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Gold Refractor Auto /10

2011 Topps Chrome Cam Newton Rookie Recognition On Card Auto

 2011 Contenders – LOSER!

There literally could not have been a more ugly design used for this set. There is a reason that top players dont sell in this set, and it has to do with the stupid layout and terrible variation gimmick used in the production of the cards. I put this set on my worst sets of the last 10 years posts for a reason, and it all has to do with how terrible the ticket design was. Not only did it use a big white box, but the color scheme and layout of the card is beyond horrendous. Hard to appreciate a card that looks this bad.

Here is the damage:

2011 Contenders Cam Newton Rookie Ticket Auto

2011 Topps Five Star – PUSH

I was one of the few people that actually loved Five Star in 2011, as I thought the approach was really nice and very sleek. I actually dont think the design was the problem, more that the patch size on the card was about 1/4th the size of Treasures. As a result, the bottom fell out on the secondary market. Although Newton’s cards, especially his inscriptions still sell well, they are no where near where they should be. Considering how disgusting the Treasures design was in 2011, im still shocked that no one cares about this much more pretty looking set.

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Quotable Inscriptions

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch /55

2011 Topps Five Star Cam Newton Rookie Auto /110

2011 National Treasures – LOSER

This was still before the time where NT had a lot of on card content, so there were a ton of stickers everywhere in this set. Not only that, but the rookie patch auto design was among the worst of the entire run of National Treasures. It featured an overly ornate belt buckle shaped patch window that left about 1/2 an inch of space for the player to sign. Add in some terrible looking colored foil, and you get the gist. For some stupid reason, people ignored the lack of quality in the design in favor of a large patch, which was maybe worn for 3 seconds (if that) at the rookie premiere. It was bad enough to see Contenders put up a bubbly fart for their design, but Treasures was the icing on the cake.

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Panther Logo Patch Auto

2011 National Treasures Cam Newton Reebok Logo Patch Auto /10

2011 Topps Inception – WINNER!

The brand that has spread to every sport and digital in Topps’ universe started in Football. This was the first time Topps used retouched college photos to create cards to be signed at the rookie premiere, and boy did they knock it out of the park. Although the booklets and inscriptions werent there until later, this set was stunning at the time. It was also before the NFL required 00 jerseys for players without assigned uniform numbers, so those were gone too. There was an issue with chipping that caused some big problems on some cards, but the legacy cant be denied.

2011 Inception Cam Newton Silver Signings Auto /25

2011 Inception Cam Newton Green Auto /50

2011 Prime Signatures – WINNER!

Cheap box? Check. Simple and nice design? Check. On card autos for the top rookies? Check. This was a surprise, and I dont think that many expected it to do as well as it did. From what it looks like Panini wanted it to be a sticker dump, but found a way to make it work. The white bordered cards with dynamic action photos looked awesome with on card autos. Much like Five Star, collector appreciation was so so, which meant that the prices on the cards remains affordable. If you are looking to pick up a Cam card that looks great and doesnt cost much, this is it.

2011 Prime Signatures Cam Newton Auto

2011 Gold Standard – LOSER!

Oh man this set was bad. Not only did it cost a ton, but you only got two autographs per box. The likelihood that both autos were no name scrubs was quite high, and that doesnt even speak to the horrid design for most of the cards in the set. Panini must have wanted to try out some of their silver pens, so they added a big black box area on the rookie patch autos to use them. Inexplicably, they didnt use Gold pens in a “GOLD Standard” product, which was a funny twist of stupidity in its own right. Go look at some of the singles. BARF.

2011 Gold Standard Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch

2011 Gold Standard Cam Newton NFL Logo Patch Auto 1/1

2011 Topps Finest – LOSER!

I thought this set had some potential because it featured on card autographs on the case hit rookie cards. Those were nice. Everything else about this set wasnt as lucky. The card design was overly simplified to the point where nothing really stood out. The patch autos featured posed photos and an odd layout. Although the jumbo relic design was nice, the SP list was insanely limited, meaning bad pulls were the norm. Overall, this just wasnt Topps’ “Finest” Finest set.

2011 Finest Cam Newton On Card Auto Mosaic /10

2011 Topps Finest Cam Newton Auto Patch Gold Refractor BGS 9.5

2011 SP Authentic – LOSER!

Although Exquisite was nice in 2011, SP Authentic was terrible. The patch design went completely off the SPA reservation, and the results werent even close to expectations. Higher numbering on the cards didnt help, and neither did the patch content. Of course, both are secondary to the look, which resembled more of what Press Pass was famous for, than the storied history of SPA.

2011 SP Authentic Cam Newton Rookie Patch Auto

2011 Exquisite – WINNER!

I was actually pretty shocked at how nice Exquisite turned out to be in 2011. The design was bold and big, and the gold signatures added a nice touch. Considering how odd the previous year was, this set helped to solidify Upper Deck as a continued viable option after the loss of their NFL license. Many logo patches brought in big money that was comparable to Treasures, something I doubt Panini was happy about.

2011 Exquisite Cam Newton Rookie Auto Patch Logo /99

2011 Timeless Treasures – LOSER!

Another set that might be one of the worst sets ever released in the modern era. Whether it is the signed white(?) pleather cuts that just look goofy, or the design work on the subsets, I dont actually need to diplay much before your stomachs will start to churn. Did I mention one auto per box at a pretty high cost? Yeah, it was bad.

2011 Timeless Treasures Cam Newton Pleather Auto

Again, 2011 wasnt the best year as a whole. Almost every one of the big sets was terrible in both design and execution. Hopefully this doesnt happen again, but with Panini at the helm for the foreseeable future, who knows? Without sets from Topps or Upper Deck, it might very well be a bloodbath of epic proportions.

Hobby Headlines: Five Reasons Why Things Are Good Right Now

A few days ago, I wrote about five reasons why things are bad right now in the industry and hobby. To be honest, that was a MUCH easier article to write, because at the moment, things arent all that great. Im pretty upset that the industry has been so mismanaged that we are where we are, as I really dont like seeing my favorite past time flushed down the toilet.

That being said, there are still a lot of reasons that say some things still ARE working well, im just not as enthusiastic about these reasons when considering the five things talked about in the previous post.

Sorry to start this off on such a downer, but reality is reality.

Reason 1 – Online Communities / Social Media / Blogs

Although not as vibrant as it might have been five years ago, the online hobby presence is still pretty much the way to get all the news that you can. Not only that, but it provides some amazing ways to communicate with other collectors and operate within the hobby itself.

Not only are collectors on Social Media, but the card companies, distributors and even players are online as well, which makes for a very fun experience for most collectors. Of course, there is a negative side to this as well, as not everyone engages social media as a tool for furthering their own hobby existence. Even with this element, I still say that the Hobby is better because of this method of communication.

Hobby message boards and communities are also a big part of the population of collectors online, and they still function as a hub of news, commentary and all sorts of fun stuff. Selling on the message boards is usually done fee free, and can be a bit more postive as a whole than ebay.

Similarly, blogs are still popping up every month, as more and more collectors are finding a reason to get online and write about their experience in the hobby they love. SCU is coming up on its 7th anniversary this year, and I dont see any reason to stop writing in the near future. The more people that lend their voice, the more feedback exists, and hopefully the more that gets done.

Reason 2 – Digital Cards

I get it, not everyone can understand the concept of digital cards, especially paying money for a “card” that you dont own. Believe it or not, nothing could be better for the industry, especially when you see just how many people are getting exposed to cards through Topps’ apps. Their Star Wars app has hundreds of thousands of registered users, with many checking in daily. Bunt, Huddle and Kick (Baseball, Football, and Soccer) also have huge numbers in the population that supports their apps, and it is growing by the day.

Panini also has a Basketball and Football app, but the functionality is terrible at the moment. As they make a greater investment, im sure things will improve, but I am guessing that many of you are surprised that another company is diving in and spending major bucks on digital.

Seeing that something in the industry having an up arrow in terms of potential, is definitely a huge deal. In my previous post, I talked about the relic card being the last big thing to hit the hobby, and it is from a physical side. However, overall, Digital is doing things to this industry that we saw back in 1996, and that should be exciting.

Even if physical card collectors dont identify with what the app does on a daily basis, they are far in the minority. If you are smart, you would familiarize yourself with what digital is all about, as it is primed to be the main method of collecting for the future.

I have long argued that kids are gone from the hobby for good, and there is no way to compete with XBOX and PS4. There really isnt, other than their smartphone, which many people carry with them 24/7.

Add in that there are no redemptions, no printing cost, no distribution cost, no players you have to hound to sign cards, and content can be produced on demand and in real time? That’s a lot of benefit in one sentence.

Right now there are huge issues in the hobby with card production, player relationships, product construction and product distribution. Shops are closing each and every day. Luckily for digital, none of this is a concern. In fact, digital may even play a part in exposing non-collectors to cards. That is quite the acquisition tool.

Reason 3 – Group Breaks

Just talking about group breaks will illicit a negative reaction from some people. Because of a few bad apples, and a general change in the way the hobby participates, group breaks have developed a stigma. Some of it is rightfully earned, but I would say that group breaks are actually a good thing for the hobby.

Even though the AMOUNT of group breakers that are active is insanely high, they offer a service to collectors in a world where cost is quickly accelerating. Similarly, individuals who normally would not be able to have access to super premium products are now able to participate. Because so many boxes are growing in MSRP, there are more people that can buy the cards through these formats. Access is a big thing right now.

Additionally, as more of the companies look to set up a group of approved breakers who they trust, I would guess that the market for the vendors will become more and more focused on these people. The guy operating a group break store out of his garage is not going to fly forever, if not only because people will stop trusting them over larger “companies” with actual storefronts.

As secondary market values continue to sink, group breaks provide a lower risk entry into the product pool. Breaking a 500 dollar box and walking away with a top card can can now be had for a fraction of the money, and that is a good way to float premium products to a group of people who are quickly becoming disenfranchised.

On the negative side, it can make poor quality products look far more successful than they would have been without group break formats involved, but the benefit outweighs the counterpoints.

Reason 4 – Technology

When you look at what cards look like today vs what they looked like even as recently as 2005, its clear that the technology and methods for building and constructing cards for packs is getting better by the year. Although some of these methods, like Acetate, have saturated the market lately, its not necessarily bad. In fact, I would argue that finding new ways to construct and produce sports cards is a necessity to keep things fresh and profitable.

Honestly, the worst thing that can happen is a company tries something and fails once. I want them to continue taking huge risks on this front, especially with how far things continue to come in terms of available methods.

Similarly, things like 3D printing, and other innovations like it, will continue to offer intriguing ways to keep sports cards from going the way of VHS. Even on the photography front, better cameras and better editing software should make cards more beautiful – as long as they are used correctly. Panini is a prime example when you consider the photos they choose on a regular basis.

The funny thing about technology is the cost to use and obtain, which has always been a severe limiting factor in a lot of ways. Hopefully the drop in pricing that is associated with the increasing age of an invention will spell good things for the industry.

Reason 5 – Company Access

As mentioned above, Collectors live in a unique era of access. At any given time, any person can see what is going on with any given company. Through Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, and similar media, frequent updates are provided throughout each business day. This is unheard of in the past, and renders the print media of the past relatively useless. It also allows for quicker temperatures on releases and better access to provide feedback instantly.

Similarly, with the National Convention, and other events across the nation, collectors can choose to interact with the card companies directly in person, which is something that has become a very big deal. If a company goes to NSCC without staff to support collectors at their booth, good luck.

Because so much access is available, its becoming more and more essential for the companies to take it seriously, which over the last few years has come very far. Card companies are FINALLY hiring the right people to handle their online presence, and collectors demand that responses are available. Sometimes, it works in an adverse fashion because of how passionate and invested people are with the hobby, but that comes with the territory.

The next post in this series will be about suggestions for the future and how I see things shaking out. I realize its one thing to state a problem without a way to potentially fix it, but in some of these cases, a fix might not be available. This is why my outlook is slightly right of moderate on the industry’s future potential.