The Wait is Over for 2012 Upper Deck Andrew Luck Trade Cards!

WIth the release of 2013 Exquisite already in full swing, including new autographs from Andrew Luck in the product, it should have come as no surprise that Luck’s autos from previous trade cards are starting to ship. Luck is easily one of the most valuable current player signatures around, and it was a huge win for UD to get his cards signed after all this waiting.

Here are all the Trade cards:

2012 Upper Deck Exquisite Andrew Luck Trade Card RC Auto

2012 Upper Deck SPX Andrew Luck Trade Card RC Auto

2012 Upper Deck Andrew Luck Trade Card RC Auto

2012 Upper Deck SP Authentic Trade Card RC Non-Auto

Luck should continue to be one of the brightest rising stars in the game this year and beyond, as its clear he has the tools to be an elite QB in this league. Now that he has already been to the playoffs twice in two years, with a team poised to go deep once again, collectors are taking high expectations a step further.

Luck was never cheap to begin with, as he was one of the highest rated college prospects in history. Collectors still crave his cards to this day, and when Luck’s exclusive with Press Pass ran out, there were lots of crossed fingers that the Trade cards from UD products would end up being him. Press pass had created a ton of issues with keeping him out of other companies' non-NFL products, and the trade cards were UD’s answer. After a lot of hemming and hawing, they got the deal done and announced the cards last year.

Now after months of waiting, there are a lot of happy collectors – especially when their trade cards are selling for what they are.

2014 Panini Hot Rookies Is A Steaming Hot Pile

Im beginning to think that Panini has decided that their talents are better spent in places other than football, or at least I hope that decision has been made. After seeing their preview for Hot Rookies football due out this week, it looks more and more like no effort at all was put into this product.

For reference here are some of the cards we are already seeing from 2014 Score – basically the same product:

2014 Score Johnny Manziel Auto Blue Parallel

2014 Score Teddy Bridgewater Auto RC

2014 Score Bishop Sankey Hot Rookies Auto

2014 Score Michael Sam Auto Blue Parallel

2014 Score Andre Williams Hot Rookies Auto

Here are some of the major issues I want to discuss, which should prompt you as a collector of products that dont suck ass, to stay far away from this watery turd of a product.

1. Foil Stamping Does Not Create a New Set

Somewhere, late in the creation of 2014 Score, Panini thought it was a wonderful idea to separate the retail and hobby release into two products. You know, because if there is one product worth building on, its fucking Score, right? However, instead of changing the printing plates to reflect the new product, they just decided it was a better idea to leave some cards as Score, and foil stamp “HOT ROOKIES” over every logo in the set. As a result, the cards not only look horrendous with a big foil overlay, but the old logo still shows through. Not cool. Sad, because I acutally like some of the designs in this year’s score.

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2. Foil Does Not Make a Set Better

Maybe if this was one of Panini’s Justin Bieber sets, or something like that, foil would make it better. But the market who buys this crap isnt into Disney princesses, they want football. Foil doesnt make football better, and in most cases, it only looks more cheap than ever. Of course, being the purveyors of fine foil cards like Panini is, they didnt get the memo. Add in the issue from above and we have a train wreck of a product that was already crap to begin with.

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3. Sticker Autos Do Not Make a Set Better

All of these cards were previewed as relatively complete prior to the Rookie Premiere. They easily could have been brought along to get some signatures done on card, but alas we are left with stickers. Not saying that on card autos would have made all the difference in the world, but at least some. Right now, its just Score with foil stamped over the logo.

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4. A Weird Configuration Does Not Make a Set Better

Lets travel back to 2007, when Upper Deck first did Elements baseball, a product set up similar to Hot Rookies. 3 different packs with 3 different inserts, all housed under one product heading. It was a flop and never returned. Rather than giving collectors an opportunity to sample from a box of Hot Rookies in a normal fashion, we are forced to endure this new configuration. It has 3 different packs with 3 different types of content. That is not a good thing for a product like this. It prevents collectors from really just investing a few bucks to see what it looks like.

5. A Terrible Brand Name Does Not Make a Set Better

Score is synonymous with inferior quality product. Its the Fiesta of the Ford line. It should never be expanded, and if it werent for this weird obsession with providing super low cost cards to kids that have long moved on from the hobby, im guessing it would be gone. Naming this product “Hot Rookies” is even worse, as its clear that there is probably a better way to designate a rookie’s status as “hot.” I would have maybe called it Score Select – and remove the Select product from later on in the calendar. But, because Panini is hell bent on copying Topps’ entire chrome line, product for product (Select = Finest, Spectra = Sterling, Prizm = Chrome, etc), they wouldnt dream of it. Poor choice.

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Its been a while since I have had this type of disgusted reaction to a product, but I am definitely in that zone. Just a horrible excuse for a product that is trying to be first to market. Not a good situation to put yourself in, especially if product quality is compromised this much.

2014 Panini Father’s Day Packs Are Live – But Do They Cover Up Ulterior Motives?

Over the last few years, Panini has sought to improve certain holidays of the year with collector friendly giveaways that promise free cards when buying certain products. Over the last few years, Fathers Day has become a day where people who love Panini will get their due – somewhat. This year, from what I can tell is no different. The packs sure sell for a ton of money, considering what is in them.

Here are some of the bigger cards from Father’s Day already up:

2014 Panini Father's Day Andrew Luck On Card Auto

2014 Panini Father's Day Johnny Manziel Logo Patch RC

2014 Panini Father's Day Kobe Bryant Jumbo Nike Logo Patch

2014 Panini Father's Day Michael Carter-Williams Jumbo Logo Patch

2014 Panini Father's Day Russell Wilson Manu-Patch Auto

Here is why I like Father’s Day packs – they are free. They get you something back when you have to stomach break after break of some of the worst products that Panini has to offer. Other than the fact that they are free, they really dont offer much outside of the normal stuff you would usually find in packs. In fact, I would go as far as saying that they offer somewhat worse stuff as to what you would expect from packs. However, because they are free, its not that big a deal.

What most people dont understand is that Father’s Day, and Black Friday/National Card Show by association, are nothing more than ploys to clear out the stock of the distributors that Panini has chosen to get into bed with. Dont believe me? Check the list of products the shops had to buy cases of to get the packs sent out to them. Because so many of their products tank beyond belief, the distributors are left with huge overstocks of product that many card shops refuse to take on. Being that 2013 Football was easily one of the worst years of product in recent memory, these packs need to provide some incentives for the shops to load up on boxes that they likely already have collecting dust on their shelves.

This isnt saying that Topps and UD dont have the same problem, but this is such an obvious situation that its hard to look the other way. Rather than shouldering a lot of the issue that they themselves have created, the people that ultimately feel the brunt of the burden is the shops. Now, IT DOES help that collectors have begun to latch on, and some shops do a much better job taking care of their customers than ever before, but this wreaks of desperation each and every time it is done.

All things considered, Panini could have just said – sorry distros, you bought it, you keep it, but many of their “partners” have already reduced Panini products well below cost to begin with. Not a good situation. Yet, instead of just admitting that the system is broken in the first place, and trying to make some better products along the way, programs like Father’s day come to be.

You are going to get card shop owners come on here and say “IM HAPPY TO BUY THE JUNK PRODUCTS BECAUSE MY CUSTOMERS LOVE THESE PACKS!” which isnt necessarily false. However, if this were a TRUE program to help the shops that supported Panini all along the way, they would not need to buy extra product to get the packs. The only entities that truly benefit from this program are not who you think they are. It surely isnt the collector and it surely isnt the shop.

2013 Exquisite and 2014 Score Football Give First Real Look at New Class’ Hobby Value

With 2014 Exquisite and 2014 Score, we are getting the first cards of the new class in two categories – NFL branded and Super High end. So far, there has been only a few cards worth talking about in both capacities, but as expected, this new breed is getting some major attention before any pre-season snaps have been taken.

Exquisite

These cards should be the rookie auto patches to really get some great potential in the early season releases. At least they are autographed this year, which has led to higher prices than we normally have seen in the XRC cards from this product. Not only do the cards look good, but they give us a first look at how the class is going to perform. Not bad at all.

2014 Exquisite Johnny Manziel Auto XRC /49

2014 Exquisite Blake Bortles Gold Auto XRC /10

2014 Exquisite Sammy Watkins Auto XRC

2014 Exquisite Mike Evans Auto XRC

Score Retail

I think this product is about as deserving of the axe as any product, but like we see with both companies, they want to keep affordable options on the table for some reason. Its different this year, because Score is only retail, even though some hobby stores will likely have it. Aside from a nice base design, the sideline shots kill any appeal this product had in the first place. I would much rather have retouched action shots with on card sigs in Bowman later this month.

Here are some of the cards:

2014 Score Blake Bortles Hot Rookies Auto

2014 Score Johnny Manziel Auto RC – Boring and stupid sideline shots ruin a nice score design

2014 Score Teddy Bridgewater Auto RC – see above

Next week marks the release of Hot Rookies, a product that we know VERY little about, only further questioned by the fact that Panini seems to think the “Hot Rookies” set is one worth replicating multiple times as a label. Not only does that not make sense to me, as Score represents an inferior brand altogether, but it only shows how much stock they put in bad ideas. We will see how it works out, but I am not holding my breath. Hopefully we can be pleasantly surprised now that Karvin Cheung has taken over, a guy with UD in his background.

Here is to the beginning of the 2014 card season, welcome to the thunderdome.

2013 Exquisite Football Is Live – But Will It Exceed Expectations?

I wrote yesterday about how important of a brand Exquisite is to sports cards. There is likely not a brand name out there that carries the same amount of weight – even after the loss of all major league sports licenses.

The set is now live, and some of the cards have definitely been quite impressive:

2013 Exquisite Peyton Manning / Andrew Luck Dual Auto

2013 Exquisite Sammy Watkins XRC Auto Base

2013 Exquisite John Elway Shadowbox Auto /25

2013 Exquisite Drew Brees Legendary Signatures Auto

2013 Exquisite Eddie Lacy Rookie Auto Patch /125

Being jam packed with big hits is not the issue at hand here, its what happens when you dont pull a big card to make up the enormous box price that Exquisite has carried since day one. Base Lacy auto patches are already being listed at about half the cost of a box, which means you can pull the best rookie in the product and still have more than half of your box to make up with fees in play.

That is a scary thought.

More importantly, this might not be a product that is worth breaking in single boxes, which has been the case in many high end releases for years. A scenario that calls attention to lack of resale in one box is common among big price tag wax, even more so in a year like this. Im not trying to be a Exquisite apologist, its just the nature of high end in general.

All that being said about the quality of the product itself, this release date undermines so much of the quality of the cards, that nothing else really matters. Its just impossible to justify waiting this long to release college licensed cards that can be produced the second an NFL rookie signs with an agent.

I love Exquisite, dont get me wrong, but this year may not be the best release. It definitely is the best looking run in years, but there are just too many things wrong.