SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Prime Signatures Football Product Review

I was not expecting them to bring back Prime Signatures as a pre-premiere product, mainly because the previous versions of the product basically tanked at release. I actually thought that as a gambler’s product, a cheap box with a relatively simple design wasnt bad, especially when on card autos were used for the main rookies. This year, all of the cards are stickers, and the on card autos have been replaced with a manufactured patch auto that looks so fucking terrible, it is sad. Yes, we have reached the point of pity. I actually pity Panini for being dumb enough to flood the market with ANOTHER college product that doesnt have on card autos.

Here are some of the early hits already up:

2016 Prime Signatures Carson Wentz Manupatch Auto /49

2016 Prime Signatures Josh Doctson Manupatch Auto /199

2016 Prime Signatures Tyler Lockett Patch Auto /49

2016 Prime Signatures Donald Driver / Bubba Franks Dual Auto /49

2016 Prime Signatures Emmanuel Sanders Auto /10

In fact, Panini has had players sign everything BUT the card in recent years. I mean, when you look at last year’s product calendar, they didnt have a product with predominantly hard signed autographs until Immaculate was released! You are probably thinking that I am not telling the truth, but go look! Stickers, stickers, acetate, stickers, stickers, stickers, stickers. Its nuts. They must be fucking allergic to quality hard signed content.

Just for fun, here is a list of things that they have had players sign instead of the card:

Most of these asinine gimmicks are sticker replacements, used in place of hard signed autographs. The reason being is that they can take a stack of them to the premiere or a workout, and get them signed without the card being done. We know that on card is available because Leaf and Topps have both offered 100% hard signed sets leading up to the premiere in late May. To think that with some planning and effort, Panini could actually do that. Of course with no competition, what is the incentive?

I havent even started discussing the product, mainly because its so boring it is borderline sleep inducing. It also looks like its an enormous run, with rookies numbered quite high. On top of that, when they do try to jazz it up late 1990s style,the cards just look overly busy and the patterns hurt your eyes. This whole product is a snooze-fest, and it has no reason to be on the calendar other than to contribute a small amount to the massive check Panini will have to write to the NFL for their exclusive. I say a small amount, because this product will be below 50% of where it is now come a few months from now. If the run is even close to what I think it is, it could take a tumble VERY fast.

This shit has black friday packs written all over it. I hope the shops enjoy selling it, because they are going to get stuck with a multitude of cases when the promotions roll around. No other way Panini is going to be able to move this garbage.

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Have Event Used / Player Worn Swatches Ruined Relic Cards?

Im sure some of you read the title of this post and not really understood what I am talking about. Because of this unfortunate fact , I think its worth bringing up some additional thoughts on event used material again, especially with the rookie premiere coming up in a few weeks. Im not totally against using them as a rule, but in a lot of ways, the advent of the practice has changed the hobby DRASTICALLY over the last decade and a half.

Background

Have you ever wondered why relic cards exist of the NFL rookie class before they get on the field? I think that should be a clue. For reference, it can take months to create a card from scratch, which means that any card you see in packs started being produced well before it was packed out for you to rip. They have to print the cards, obtain the relics, insert the relics, build the card, and then, in many cases have them signed.

The way that ALL card companies have handled this situation, is to have players “wear” jerseys at the NFL rookie premiere each May in Los Angeles, sometimes in upwards of 50 at a time. These “event used” jerseys, which are also now called “player worn,” are then cut up and inserted into trading cards through the whole year.

You might expect that the “player worn” relics are the ones pictured in the photographs taken at the rookie premiere for use, but that is also a common misconception. The jerseys in all trading card pictures are provided by the league and players association, and are not used in trading card production.

In reality, the companies set up stations and players are handed one jersey at a time to slip their arms into, and take off immediately. The jerseys dont even have to be the same person trying them on. Some jerseys just have number 88 with “Player” as the nameplate. I have heard Panini using blank jerseys with no patch material to increase yield of relics they can get. Its an assembly line of relics that I would say are even a stretch to be called relics, let alone player worn. That is the reason the issue exist.

Even worse, players who have game used material available are now being sent through the same process in some cases, as relic content is so expensive to obtain, but thanks to this process are now diminished significantly in value.

Back in 1995 and 1996, relic cards were the new hot thing, and some sold for hundreds of dollars. Now that every product released has relic content, and every rookie has insane patches in just about every card, the base relic game has slowed considerably.

Impact of Event Used / Player Worn Material

Bottom line, what is done at the NFL and NBA rookie premiere impacts all sports. Because relic content obtained through player worn means is exponentially cheaper and easier to get, companies can offer better quality patches in their cards. Seeing a one color patch in any premium product is so rare these days, that collectors have devalued lower “quality” patches to the point of worthlessness almost.

Non-patch cards without signatures in football almost dont exist outside of Panini products these days, and that is not by accident. Some products have hype lines in the sell sheet that talk about the quality of every patch card. Its not because the content has changed, its that people’s perception has changed. Because cards that feature player worn relics are so readily available from the rookie premiere, no one wants the game used stuff unless it is of the same quality. The problem is, that is a much taller task than people expect.

I would guess that the card companies noticed quite quickly that logos and multi colored patch cards had a premium, and that usage of the valuable parts of the jerseys was more consciously approached during 2008, 2009, and 2010. Before that, it was less deliberate outside of the league logo patches, which in their own right didnt find official recognition in 1/1 cards until the mid-2000s.

To give you an example, Panini used so many logos per rookie player in products like Black Gold and other premium products that the cards no longer sell for a huge amount more than the other versions might sell. That would never have been the case in 2003 or even 2007.

You can find logos pretty cheap just about everywhere too:

2015 National Treasures Stephon Diggs Logo Auto /25

2015 Spectra Karlos Williams Logo Patch Auto /10

2015 National Treasures Melvin Gordon Booklet Logo Auto /2

The flood of top quality patches has driven down prices so much that wax as a whole has been hurt as well. Product shelf life is shorter than ever, as mentioned many times before, and this is a contributing factor. The ancillary relic hits in any box have so little value that Topps has almost stopped using them in premium products, instead opting for other types of “value added” inserts.

Panini even tested a product last year that didnt offer anything more than parallels and a relic for 8 out of 9 boxes within the case. Within months, it was at half of MSRP. Of course, that didnt stop them from bringing it back again for another run, but this time, more autograph content was added.

My argument is that the increasing number of crazy logo patches from player worn sets is the reason this has happened.

Education

Adding fuel to the fire is easy, especially when you see how few people understand what player worn relics really are. They are not game worn, they are not practice worn, and they are barely touched at all. Event used footballs have more contact with a player in most cases than the jerseys.

With a lack of education comes a valuation that might be mistakenly influenced. If there are people out there who still think these relics have any real connection to the player, they will assign value differently than those who might be educated as to their source.

Its worth speaking about the aesthetic of a logo patch card versus a plain relic card, and how some value the look of a patch against the plainer versions, but I just dont see that being as big of a deal. If Panini is going to have rookies put on 50 jerseys at the premiere, plus another 50 as the season progresses, are those logo patches that much more rare anymore? Not really.

I also want to worn people that the solution to the problem isnt as clear cut, because without the rookie premiere, there are no more rookie relics to be had. First off, not every rookie gets on the field, or even on the sidelines. If they do get on the field, many times there are a lot of interested parties who want the jersey, including the player. As the season moves on, card production timing just doesnt fit well with including game used swatches, and that means products are much less intriguing for many collectors.

As invaluable as relics have become, a lack of relics could be more disastrous to a calendar of products that is 30 strong. Eventually autographs just dont do it as much, and without player worn relics in play, that means more expense has to be dedicated to filling the checklist through other means.

Clearly, the number of people buying products is on the decline, so fewer and fewer risks can be taken without someone losing their job. Im curious how long it will be before relics arent even player worn, as it almost doesnt matter in the first place. If people just want a patch because it looks cool, just give them a patch, right? Things are not looking good in that respect.

Sure, some relics still have value, especially older players. We can all understand within reason how that well is not deep enough to be sustainable forever, and how much history could be damaged through the cutting up of these pieces.

Where do we go from here?

At some point the industry will reach a crossroads, as mentioned previously. At some point, a change will be forced. We have all been curious as to the next big thing, but it might never come in physical form. Over the last 20 years, relics have gone from real , rare and valuable to “kind of” real, common and worthless.

As the digital medium ramps up, this could change – especially as the apps use relics in the aesthetics of the designs for their cards.

That being said, im not holding my breath. The toothpaste is out of the tube, and its going to be hard to get it back in.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Gala Football Product Preview

After seeing Panini taking their normal bowel movement on the Certified preview today, it reminded me I still have a few other dookies I have to talk about. Certified is fucking terrible, but it has absolutely nothing on how much of a disaster Gala Football is.

After a DISMAL performance on the NBA side, combined with a desperate need for products to fill their insanely oversaturated product calendar, Panini settled on bringing Gala to football. Its so bad I have no words. Yes, I “just cant even.” Its true, when talking about Gala, I have been reduced to a high school girl talking about her ex boyfriend on Facebook.

Here is what the finished cards look like in Basketball:

2014-15 Gala Dikembe Mutombo Silver Screen Autograph

2014-15 Gala Harrison Barnes Cinematic Signatures

2014-15 Gala Kyrie Irving Starring Role Auto

2014-15 Gala Tony Parker Award Winner Auto

The theme of the set is the beginning of our journey into darkness, as Panini has chosen to use movies and Hollywood type elements to build around. Not only are they so odd that they illicit a laugh, but the design doesnt do them any favors. Are we really supposed to think that Starring Role Signatures is something people will want in their 180 dollar box? I guess Panini’s product team sure thinks its the answer to everyone’s problems. Who needs razor thin margins when you can have COMING ATTRACTIONS MEMORABILIA AND ACTION AUTOGRAPHS! Im not kidding, they actually named a set “Action Autographs.” It sounds like a name that is used as a placeholder while you think up the real name for the set.

Continuing into the design of the rest of the cards, the looks range from blah to train wreck, including the standard usage of acetate, which they cant make a product without. Why they decided this was worth continuing to produce is beyond me, but like I mentioned before, they are HURTING for ideas.

Bottom line, this product is like watching a bad movie. One that is almost deliberately bad. This is the Sharknado 3 of the hobby, and that isnt singing the cult classic song the way SyFy wants us to with their purposefully bad movies.

If you buy a box of Gala, my thoughts are with your family. I honestly have no clue what the fuck they were thinking. Great job NFL, thanks for dooming us to the dark ages of Panini garbage.

On the Radar: 2016 Panini Certified Football Product Preview

After seeing the preview for 2016 Certified Football, I am walking away with one quesiton:

WHAT THE FUCK IS PANINI DOING WITH THEIR TOP BRANDS?

That’s about it. You would think they would want to invest in their legacy products, but nope, they leave them to rot with the worst designs around:

2015 Certified Marcus Mariota Auto patch /5

2015 Certified Jameis Winston Auto patch /15

2015 Certified Amari Cooper Auto /10

2015 Certified Todd Gurley Auto /10

For the last few years, Panini has run their most important brands of the year into the ground, or in the case of Elite, just took it off the calendar all together. With 2016 so far, they have done nothing to show they are interested in creating good looking trading cards, instead opting for lazy design work with even worse thematic choices for the programs.

I havent even gotten around to writing a preview for Gala, but holy fuck balls, that shit is ugly. Of course, Gala means about as much to football as Johnny Manziel means to the Cleveland Browns at this point, so its not as big of a deal when they set that product ablaze before it even hits the production line.

Certified on the other hand, has been around for over a decade, and though it has delivered some of the most hideous examples of modern card design in history, people love it. Sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut, and they get something right, but not in the last few years.

Panini is obsessed with two things in the way they build their cards, and both of them make me sick. Sick that they were given the reigns for my favorite sport, and sick that even with a guide dog, this blind squirrel is still starving for visual appeal. They love separated areas for each element of the card and those goofy ass posed pictures. You can imagine why they need Fathers Day and Black Friday to clear product now.

Much like the rest of the products they do during this time of year, Certified is a certified disaster. The main box hits look terrible. They used a big white box to house the sticker, which is being used instead of on card for the 19th product in a row for them. Aside from a lack of hard signed autographs, the card looks like the player is being sliced off at the waist. I have no idea why anyone thinks this looks good, as a faded area would be much easier to stomach. Alas, this is the way Panini builds their shit, and it bothers the hell out of me.

The fabric of the game looks better than last year, as does the gold team, but considering how much of a dumpster fire they were over the last few years, Im not sure that says much about the product’s potential.

Panini will literally put out 20 of these types of sets this year, and all 20 will not be good. I can already tell you that. If it isnt a super premium product that is designed by the basketball team, the cards will be shit. That’s just the way it works. Topps had their duds too, but they rarely fucked up twice in a row. If something didnt work, they axe it, with Fire being the only exception to the rule.

I can assure you that I am inching ever closer to giving up on football all together, and I dont think I am alone in saying that. The days of Upper Deck and Topps are gone, and here we are, left with the garbage. Someone needs to take it out to the curb, because it smells to high hell.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Leaf Q Product Review

I like what Leaf has been doing as of late. A lot.

First, Leaf Metal draft is the best looking pre-draft set of the year so far, and Trinity hasnt even come out yet. Both make and will make Panini look so silly in their horrid looks, that is embarassing. Value seems to be creeping upwards as well, which is always something that Leaf has competed with against the bigger companies. Q is the first product that they have taken the super premium approach on, outside of repacks, and I like it just as much as the other stuff they have been doing.

Check out some of the cool cards:

2015 Leaf Q Babe Ruth Bat Relic

2015 Leaf Q Tom Brady Auto /5

2015 Leaf Q Al Pacino Auto

2015 Leaf Q Chevy Chase Auto

2015 Leaf Q Lionel Messi Auto

The look of the cards is very Exquisite-esque, and I dont think that is by accident. I like the foil embellished simple design, and the on card autographs for some of the top names of all sports is cool. Although not every autograph is on card, the stickers are from people that normally dont sign much, or are a big enough name that it doesnt matter.

I especially like the checklist, which is a hodge podge of big names from all over the world of sports, including some fun autographs from Al Pacino and Chevy Chase. If you remember back to the Oliver Stone movie Any Given Sunday, Pacino played head coach Tony DAmato, a role that seems to follow him around more than many of his parts. I loved the movie, and this card is a must have for me.

Overall, if Leaf wants to keep putting out products like this, they are definitely going to get my attention. Its hard to produce a super premium product without a license, and its clear to me that Leaf is definitely swinging for the fences. I see them try things that most of the card companies arent going to try, and so far it looks like a success with a small print run.

Really good work all around.