Despite what I feel is a very spotty history of good looking cards, the release of Contenders is an event each year. Personally, I feel like this product has delivered some of the worst looking cards I have ever seen, and people seem to love it regardless. Luckily for us, this year's ticket design actually looks pretty damn good.
Here are some of the top hits up so far:
I really like the way the ticket design went back to being much like 1998, where the ticket actually is present on the front of the card. The full player picture looks great, and the on card signatures work really well. I still dont like the cracked ice or foil versions of the cards, but people go fucking ape shit over them. They are back this year, and thankfully, it looks like the busy stock isnt as prominent this time around. I can actually focus on the card, without straining my eyes. Thats a good thing.
As for the subsets, these are where things have usually been the worst of the worst. This year isnt great, but it isnt as bad as we have seen in previous years. To be honest, no one really buys Contenders for these cards, so I dont think a mediocre showing takes away from the success of the set. These inserts are relatively boring, but I would much rather have boring instead of absolute hideousness.
I also dont like that the college ticket variations are back for the first time since 2009, as it has already been done early in 2015 with their awful draft set. I dont see the point of watering down the pro product with further reminders that Panini now has a college license. Although the autographs are on card, it is another exercise in whipping out the NCAA cards whenever they can.
With on card autographs come redemptions, and I am starting to be curious why they didnt delay the set even further. There are an absolute ton of redemptions for the top players in the product, with missing cards from Gurley, Winston, Cooper, and a large number of other rookies. Although I would definitely expect many of these to be filled quickly now that the season is over, some of them had live cards in previous products released within the last month. Im curious what happened, but I am sure its a priority thing.
There is a new element to Contenders that I am quite intrigued with, especially with the coaching carousel going down as we speak. The Coaches Ticket set has some pretty big names, and not all of them may be with the same teams next year. I hope this is back next year with an expanded list, especially if they can get guys like Belichick (not part of the coaches association), or Carroll.
Overall, I feel like this is finally a good class to match a good Contenders design, and I will be eager to see the way it performs. After seeing how much some of the cards dropped last year after a few weeks, hopefully we will see more people respond to better looking cards.