On the Radar: 2015 Upper Deck Football

Let me start by saying I am sad that 2015 products are already being solicited, as it is the last year that Football will exist in the same manner before Panini's unwelcome dominating presence takes over all aspects of the game. 2015 Upper Deck football will likely end up being one of the last licensed Upper Deck products to exist in Football, ending a long run of over 20 years.

Here are some highlights from the last few years of Upper Deck Football:

2012 Upper Deck Football Andrew Luck Auto BGS 9.5

2014 Upper Deck Football Peyton Manning Retro Throwback Auto

2014 Upper Deck Football Teddy Bridgewater Auto Letterman

2014 Upper Deck Football Odell Beckham Photo Variation SSP

2014 Upper Deck Football Sammy Watkins Authentics Auto

Upper Deck was put in a tough position to end 2014, as CLC opted to stay UD exclusive at first, before Panini hit the war path. Basically, from what my sources told me, Panini was offered a non-excluive CLC license, granting them privileges to produce college uniform cards along side Upper Deck before the beginning of Q4. However, from what I had heard, they overplayed their hand, lobbying to prevent UD from producing any CLC licensed cards after the draft, as the players became "NFL property" instead of "NCAA." Upon being turned down, Panini slowly extended their middle finger to the license and started working with schools to opt out of the CLC partnership for trading cards. This allowed them to sign an exclusive deal with individual schools and eventually forcing CLC to renig and grant them full exclusive rights last week.

What this means is that Upper Deck is out of NCAA, and is left with no licensing in football for the forseeable future. This doesnt mean they are without the ability to produce cards, its just not the same methods. They have relatively become the new Leaf in that respect, and there is nothing wrong with that from what Brian has been able to do. Some collectors would already argue that UD already operates in that capacity since 2010 anyways. 2015 Upper Deck football is going to be one of the final ones they make with NCAA uniforms and logos in tact from what the solicitation looks like.

I have always liked Upper Deck football, even though the box breaks havent exactly been favorable over the last few years. Because of a LARGE checklist, its hard to pull the big rookies, but having a licensed opportunity prior to the draft is a big deal, and always signals the beginning of the new card year.

Im not going to say there arent big hits to be had from this set each year, as Upper Deck has always found a way to make their pre-draft sets very collectible. Based on what we are seeing here, the usual format will return for this next year.

The design itself is very much akin to what the previous sets have shown. Foil embellishments on a full bleed style presentation, with some great action shots in place. This is why collectors continue to love this set, and there is a high probability that it will remain this way even when they have to start retouching the logos.

Now, I hate autographs built around signed pieces of fabric, as it is clear that these cards never look right or stay preserved. Upper Deck Football has offered letter cards per box over the last few years, and they have remained pretty popular. I really dont like the cards, but collectors love them. Its not a surprise to see they are back. I guess people just love spelling shit out.

To close this out in a way that people can understand – 2015 is the beginning of the end for Football’s viability as a competitive marketplace. Panini will take over everything, and they will use their money to bully competition out of the landscape of things. I have said it before, this is not a good thing. Based on historical evidence in Basketball, Panini will not do anything that will reinvigorate collector interest in football, and all boats will be impacted by that lowered tide.

Ill pour one out for this set, because its seems more like a swan song every day.


NFL Playoffs Conference Championships: Best and Worst Case Hobby Scenarios

The playoffs are a weird time, because everyone involved can receive huge attention that can really help hobby values. With so few of the big rookies left in it, the Hobby shifts its focus to big veteran level performers for the first time. The Conference Title Game is where names can be made and hobby prospecting dreams can be dashed. Here is a breakdown.

Andrew Luck – “The Hobby’s Future”

Best Case Scenario: Plays great and beats one of the best QBs in History and becomes “the Present”
Worst Case Scenario: Plays horrible and remains “the Future”

Luck is one of those guys who is a no brainer if you are looking for someone to collect. Basically, even if he plays terrible, he will still maintain his rep as the hobby target with the most long term prospects. That means collectors will not give up, even if he takes a dive. They will likely lose, but Luck wont feel the effect.

His cards are already insane, but it could get nuts:

2012 Contenders Andrew Luck Auto Rookie Ticket BGS 9.5

2012 National Treasures Andrew Luck Jumbo Patch Auto Booklet

2013 Topps Archives Andrew Luck Mini Autograph /25

Russell Wilson – “Proven With a Ring”

Best Case Scenario: Wins and goes to his second Super Bowl in as many years
Worst Case Scenario: Loses and solidifies his rep that his success is not his own

The second 2012 QB to play today, adding allure to that class. Being that he won a title in his second year, you would think that prospecting hobby collectors would be putting him on a pedestal that is usually reserved for guys like Brady. Instead he was labeled a game manager that gained benefit from the best defense in the league. I dont understand this feeling, especially after seeing some of the plays he made this year, but a loss will not be good.

His cards sell well, but Luck outsells him despite not having a title:

2012 National Treasures Russell Wilson Auto Logo Patch RC

2012 Topps Chrome Russell Wilson Auto RC

2014 Flawless Russell Wilson Jumbo Patch Auto

Aaron Rodgers – “Future Hobby HOFer”

Best Case Scenario: Wins and closes out one of the best seasons ever, all while on one leg
Worst Case Scenario: Gets hurt worse than before and has to sit out

When it comes to the best QBs in the league, Rodgers is near the top if not THE top of the list. He had an MVP worthy season, which will likely culminate as such in a couple of weeks. He already has a ring, so its going to mean a lot for his hobby resume if he can get a shot at another. Im very interested to see what happens, because playing Seattle in Seattle is a tall task.

2005 Exquisite Aaron Rodgers Auto Dual Patch RC

2005 SP Authentic Aaron Rodgers Auto Rookie Jumbo Patch /25

2013 Topps Five Star Aaron Rodgers Auto Patch Gold

Tom Brady – “The GOAT?”

Best Case Scenario: Wins and proves he still has it
Worst Case Scenario: Loses and people start to think its over

We should all be painfully aware that both Brady and Manning are in the twilight of their career. Brady is already in elite company with 3 Rings, and another would put him further ahead. There was talk early in the year that he was losing it due to age, but a rebound showed that was far from the case. Best not to let those whispers back in.

Brady doesnt sign often, but when he does, his cards are ridiculous:

2014 Flawless Tom Brady Auto Encased

2010 Plates and Patches Tom Brady Auto Patch

2014 Topps Tom Brady SSP Variation Auto BGS 9.5

Davante Adams – “Hobby Newbie”

Best Case Scenario: Play well and rise from hobby obscurity
Worst Case Scenario: Continue in hobby obscurity

Although Richardson would have also been involved, Davante Adams is the only rookie from the shoot really left in it. Zurlon Tipton is also a consideration, but he likely wont get as many look. Being that Adams is the guy, it spells a lot of attention from collectors. Although guys like Boom Herron has not risen above his own obscurity, he isnt a rookie this year. Rookies are always more important in that respect.

Here is where they are selling:

2014 Topps Finest Davante Adams Auto Patch Red Refractor /75

2014 SP Authentic DaVante Adams Auto Tag Patch Inscription RC /10

2014 Topps Strata Paul Richardson Shadowbox Auto Relic /40

This is where we really get to find out who is ready for Prime Time in 2014, and I cannot wait to see who rises to the occasion. With guys like Eddie Lacy and Rob Gronkowski looking to establish themselves as worthy of being collected at positions where the hobby has lost favor, this could be bigger than just the QBs.

Either way, we are in for some awesome games, and I cannot wait to see what happens.

A Winner and Two Losers: Panini Immaculate Football Leads New Previews

We got a big truckload of Panini previews today, some very good, some horrendously bad. Panini, for all intents and purposes has been piss poor all year. Despite that, I continue to be pretty intrigued by some of their upcoming releases, while others make me reach for a large bottle of asprin to cure the headache. Its clear which products will be design winners overall when you see the cards and set influences, while others look about as bad as they ever have.

Immaculate Collection

Despite my objections to the name, this set has made a name for itself in Basketball. It looks to be just as good in football, even better than Flawless ever could. Its clear that the person that built this product has an eye for what a luxury brand should look like, something I rarely see in other Panini products.

Check out these beautiful cards from other versions of Immaculate:

Panini Immaculate Kevin Durant Jumbo Patch Auto

Panini Immaculate Ken Griffey Jr Patch Auto

Panini Immaculate Mike Trout Auto Relic

Panini Immaculate Larry Bird Auto Patch

Each design looks simple and high end, which is EXACTLY the way it should be. Fluidity in the look of the card improves the visual appeal, instead of the usual nauseating separated box look that Panini ALWAYS chooses. Notice, even when the GIANT TEXT is used, it looks better than it has before. You NEVER get that with Panini. Its always a veritable dumpster fire, but not with Immaculate so far. It all looks really, really good.

My favorite cards are definitely the patch autographs that feature an acetate style stock on the front of the card, as it adds pop to the presentation. The cards would have looked great regardless of the stock, but the acetate plays it up. This was well done in basketball too, and I am glad it is coming to football.

I also have to give Panini credit for a second product that is 100% hard signed, as that deserves praise. This one looks a million times better than Flawless did, which is concerning for the previous set, but great for this one.


I dont get Panini’s mindset with Spectra, but that shouldnt be a surprise. They have the business sense of an Enron executive. Spectra was a dismal failure last year in Football, and yet, they want to bring it back? Wonderful. They modeled the product after Bowman Sterling, which is a train wreck in its own right, thus telling you how bad the set idea was. The 2013 cards didnt look SO bad that I had to avert my eyes, but they werent good either. I still see 2013 Spectra rotting on shelves, despite hard signed veteran/HOF autographs.

What does Panini do? Change the format to a one pack 250 dollar product, and use one of the worst looking designs they could possibly choose. Unlike Immaculate, where the product's signature areas and jersey swatches integrate perfectly with the look of the card, Spectra is the opposite. Big fucking boxes for every last element of the card, leaving the player to be squished into a tiny area at the top. I laughed when I saw these cards, and I mean that. Card designs should never illicit a reaction of laughter.

Black Gold

Lets be serious here, as its becoming more obvious with each passing set that Panini cannot build a brand without A) falling miserably on their face B) Ripping off another company or C) Both. Black Gold is a combination of Gold Standard and Black, which featured elements taken from other dead Upper Deck brands.

Here is UD Black for reference:

Upper Deck Black Michael Jordan / LeBron James Patch Auto

Upper Deck Black Peyton Manning Auto

Like the sets it was taken from before, Black Gold is a hideous excuse for a set, save one type of card. That card, which is a well executed copy of the Strata Clear Cuts, looks awesome.

Strata is one of my favorite products, and the “Sizeable Signature” cards are a sweet looking rip off of the box hits from that set. I have always said that if you are going to face bite another company’s work, you better do it well. Prizm was always Diet Chrome, done so fucking poorly that I couldnt take it. This is different.

As for the rest of the cards, they are the typical design turds that Panini is famous for. My absolute favorite cards in the preview are these "cut autograph" cards that were used in Immaculate baseball. For the longest time I thought they were actual cuts, which is unacceptable in its own right, but they are actually hard signed. Yes, Panini actually designed a card that looks like one of the ugliest cut autographs in history, only it is put in front of the player to sign after it is produced. They could have at LEAST just made a gold box in the design for the players to put their autograph, but this is beyond hilarious. They think this shit looks good, and that is so scary to me.

So much of what Panini does in visual appeal of their sets is against my card design religion, that is why I hate so much of what they do. When looking at the cards they preview I have a wretch worthy reaction more times than I can count, but as we see, a broken clock is still right twice per day.

2016 looks more and more bleak with each passing day.

On The Radar: 2015 Bowman Football

From what distributors have been saying, it looks like 2014 Bowman was actually one of the more successful products of the year, releasing some of the first autographs of the new class. Because everyone goes NFL Draft crazy, card companies salivate at trying to capitalize on the early buying cycle. For a class that has huge draft potential, and no on field production to screw up prospecting, this is prime time.

Here are previous editions of the product and what they looked like:

2014 Bowman Chrome Odell Beckham Gold Refractor Auto /50

2014 Bowman Chrome Teddy Bridgewater Red Refractor Auto BGS 10

2013 Bowman Chrome Eddie Lacy Xfractor Auto BGS 9.5

2013 Bowman Chrome Le'Veon Bell Auto Refractor BGS 9.5

Last year’s Bowman product was great as long as you dont care about rookies in retouched college pictures. Its very similar to a Leaf style product, in that respect (here are those cards for reference). The difference is the brand loyalty and availability, as well as the fact that the Chrome name carries certain value elements along with it.

This year’s design looks better than 2014 in my opinion, going for a more boxy type look and less curvy space type. Although I was a fan of the design of and ripped a ton of 2014 Bowman, this looks better to me. I like the boxier type of design.

In previous years of Bowman, there was a focus on a lot of color autographs, sometimes multiple per box, and a ton of base with lots of parallels. In jumbo packs, this is the recipe for success, and adds perception of value in a lot of ways. Although auto checklist will all depend on the deep parts of the class, its a crazy fun rip.

There is one thing to consider, and it is a VERY big thing. Panini has acquired the CLC license, which means that all their pre-draft products can potentially have college uniforms involved. Im still reaching out to see if you can include NFL logos or NFL cards in a product that also feature CLC, but I have yet to hear back.

If Panini decides to use College Uniforms in their initial offerings, it will have an effect on the success of a product like this. Although prior to 2010, this was the norm, nostalgia makes the heart grow fonder.

Bowman struggles to wrangle in the people who wont buy the retouched photos, despite having great looking cards with hard signed autographs on chrome technology. Dont get me wrong, it has been successful both years they have done it, and I think we have every reason to believe that it will continue. However the manifest destiny plan of Panini will lower tides for all boats without their logo on the side. Beware.

Here are the 2015 cards:

Diving Deeper into 2014 Contenders Football

Everyone who has been reading the site over the last few days has seen how much I have dissected the botched set that Panini is labeling as Contenders. Its really no better than many of the other trash they put out, just with a logo that makes people drop money they shouldnt drop. Slap another logo on this product and it heads straight to the bargain bin to join it’s brothers and sisters. Contenders has a legacy, an undeserved one at that, but its still a legacy.

The Good

As I have mentioned before, the Rookie Ink set looks really good. It should have been the ticket design, and that’s no freaking joke. Not only does it have a ticket style presentation, but its a good ticket style presentation. Im pretty sure someone at Panini fucked up with the same reckless abandon that they usually show, so it doesnt surprise me that this dumb ass move was made.

Here is what I mean:

2014 Contenders Mike Evans Rookie Ink Auto

2014 Contenders Sammy Watkins Rookie Ink Auto

2014 Contenders Johnny Manziel Auto Rookie Ink

I also like the Rookie of the Year Contenders set, as the design is functionally laid out in a much more visual appealing fashion. The issue I have outside of design is what happens when you get an autograph in this set that is not Odell Beckham? When Beckham wins the ROY, does it devalue the rest of the cards in this set? I dont know, but at least they look good.

Here is what they look like:

2014 Contenders Teddy Bridgewater Rookie of the Year Auto

2014 Contenders Jimmy Garroppolo Rookie of the Year Auto

Although the player himself is a joke, its cool to see more buy backs in Contenders. This needs to happen with more frequency and with better players who didnt get the real ticket treatment. Hell, even if they did, its still worth having more on card autos from non-rookies. The Sherman RC auto from last year still remains a top card to chase.

It should be noted that the NFL Ink set looks cool, but I am wholly against calling a sticker set "INK" in any way shape or form.

The Bad

Im sure you are wondering why I would be putting the ticket design in this part of the post, instead of the last part – considering my reaction. There are so many other horrible parts of this set that I had no choice. Basically, the ticket design is a crime scene of design flaws, including a general lack of attention to what made Contenders’ top card what it is. For a card that is called a ticket, it has no discernible elements of a ticket look, and that’s just the start.

First off, we get the typical bullshit that Panini is infamous for using in a nauseating fashion. GIANT TEXT? Check. Huge logo? Check. Separated area for a signature? Check. Its all there. Even worse, now that one of my readers mentioned that the logo and text is not centered on the card, I cant unsee it. Its just a noticeable tad to the left. The anal card collector in me cringes a little more each time I see it.

The Ugly

The variations in this set are so bad that im pretty sure they are being added to the ballot in 32 states to be criminalized for possession. Not only are there now so many that its impossible to keep them straight, but each variation has its own parallel structure. As far as I can tell, that would mean that each has its own cracked ice and 1/1s? I have no idea. The fact that we have to think like that makes it even more stupid.

Funny as all the parallels might be, it means that Panini cranked the shit out of the production run this year, and that doesnt even factor in retail. The only good thing is that many of the top rookies have a lot of autos, although value will be hurt by that more than helped.

Panini also found it worthwhile to add studio shots to one of the variations, and I cannot even put into words how retarded that decision is. Wait, let me try.

“Panini has their heads so far up their own asses, that they fail to realize how much of a dumpster fire each card with a studio shot becomes. I would rather watch offensive lineman play quarterback in the Super Bowl than collect these horrid excuses for trading cards. We are all dumber for having to endure this stupidity, they are awarded no points, and may god have mercy on their souls.”

Nope, still not enough.

Adding to the pain of getting cards like described above in your box break, is getting rewards points in 7-8 boxes of every case. It allows them to say, “HOLY SHIT YOU GET 6 AUTOS PER BOX! MOJOZ!”, when in reality its the equivalent of giving a collector something worse than a redemption. Currently collectors still have to pay for their cards to be shipped to them, and for 150 points you can buy nothing of worth. Even if you save all your cards, and accumulate a ton of points, enjoy your Michael Floyd score auto.

Points cards cost nothing to produce and allows them to market their product as having added value and content. It is nothing of the sort. Even if you were to pull a scrub auto instead, there are set builders who might need that card. Instead you are left with a reach-around handy that basically serves as a reminder you didnt get what you thought you were getting.

Bottom line, this year’s Contenders is not the worst its ever been, but it might as well be. With such a deep class, this is the kind of shit that this set is known for. Instead we are left holding our dicks and praying that someone at the NFL will realize they made a huge mistake in giving them the exclusive, and determine the money isnt worth it. Its getting to the point where I would rather no one produce football cards than Panini.