On the Radar: 2016 Panini Absolute Football Product Preview

There was literally no worse product to break than Absolute in 2014. It was an overpriced complete disaster of a product that offered ABSOLUTEL-y no reason to buy it. In fact, collectors responded in kind, and to this day, you can still find it at drastically reduced prices. Even the singles took a complete dive. Although the design is better this year, im not sure if it wont suffer the same fate as another sticker product in Panini’s bloated product portfolio.

I like the look of 2016 Absolute, actually. Yes, you can chalk that one up to a fluke, as Panini has done nothing but showcase this year how poorly they can make a football product look. The issue is that the memorabilia aspect that this product is built around is a dead issue, as it is becoming abundantly clear that no one fucking cares about relic cards like they used to. If you aren’t going to give us on card autos, it doesn’t really matter that the cards look good or that there is a 5th spot for a new relic piece in the design. Its like adding a faster rewind button on a VHS player. VHS is dead.

We know for a fact that Panini is literally going to scrape the shit off the bottom of the barrel to find products they can use to fulfill their quota with the league, and this is a beacon of that necessity above anything else. If they actually wanted to build good products, Absolute wouldn’t even be on the radar, much like last year’s absence from the calendar.

Again, these cards don’t look terrible, but honestly its not going to move the needle when there are going to be 30 other products released this year. They need to find us unique content and this just isn’t going to do it. I don’t have much else to say at this point, other than just wait for the nicer stuff that may or may not be coming.

Are Father’s Day Packs Worth Buying Stuff You Wouldnt Normally Buy?

A number of years ago, Panini started a program for Black Friday that has since been rolled out to a number of different other avenues. Father’s Day, along with the upcoming national convention in Atlantic City will all use a similar approach to moving product that no one can move. This begs the question for collectors – should you buy a box you wouldnt normally buy just because you get a pack or packs of cards?

There are bigger hits to be had in the packs, but good luck trying to pull them:

2016 Panini Father's Day Cristiano Ronaldo Auto

2016 Panini Father's Day Stephen Curry Auto

2016 Panini Father's Day Karl Anthony Towns Auto

2016 Panini Father's Day Cam Newton Plaid 1/1

Believe it or not, and I say this every year, this promotion isnt about Panini giving you free packs. Its about relieving the pressure for distributors who have taken on shitty unsellable product after shitty unsellable product, and now they cant sell it. Wow, who would have thunk?

Basically, Panini overprints a good portion of their print run above demand with the understanding that someone will eventually buy it if they mark it down enough on the dealer side. In fact, from what it looks like, many of the 2016 products that have been released are not sold out according to the distributors I talk to, and that means a program like Father’s Day becomes doubly important. Bottom line, with the garbage that Panini consistently puts on the market, seemingly every week, the prospect of selling as much as they are printing is becoming a daunting task. So daunting that Father’s Day exists.

Your shop just didnt get the packs for free. Far from it. They had to buy extra cases of product they likely already have a ton of just to get the packs. They know that if they get the packs, customers will come to buy product they wouldnt normally buy just to get the cards.

Funny thing is, the packs have gotten substantially weaker by the year, as Panini knows that free is free and why stack the deck more than you have to. It looks so sparse in terms of content that it has made the question I asked as the title of this post even more interesting. If you get crap in the boxes you buy to get the free packs and you get even less in the free packs themselves, why buy?

The answer is that most of us, myself included, are addicted to opening and though singles are CLEARLY the better play, we just have too much fun ripping through packs, even if the result has gotten more and more harrowing as the years progress.

It doesnt help that the cards in the program are some of the most hilariously ugly cards I have seen this year so far, including the ever entertaining "players in Panini shirts" set, hoards of Manupatch autos that were collecting dust in the warehouse, and a poorly executed blatant rip off of Topps Fire. In fact, Im pretty sure the Panini logo on those cards has to be the size it is just to prevent the Topps Fire logo from showing behind it.

I have said on a number of occasions that the practices employed by all the companies to keep the industry afloat are not sustainable long term. This promotion, though it works for enormous shops who still have a large base of customers, wont work for most. There are just not that many shops out there left that can sustain a big enough base of customers to participate in a way that is beneficial to them or to the customer. If you cant move shitty sets in week one, is it really worth taking on more shitty sets that you cant sell in week 19? Probably not. I guess the allure of being highlighted on Panini’s adver-blog is worth that agony.

Maybe, JUST MAYBE, if Panini used their resources to invest in better products, better content, and better loyalty programs for customers who inexplicably still buy their junk, this type of thing wouldnt be necessary. I would say the most obvious thing is to adjust print run to demand, but we all know that the deals they signed with all the leagues are such an overpayment and overstatement of their brand potential, that wont happen.

Panini’s First NASCAR Cards Are Freaking Weird

Over the last year, we have been preparing for Panini to launch brands in NASCAR, a license they acquired from the now defunct Press Pass, who had done the brand in a relatively unsuccessful manner over a number of years. Panini even did it the right way, only guaranteeing a small handful of products instead of going full out. Considering that the license drastically under-performed for its previous owner despite having a highly regarded brand offering, not surprising that they would only dip their toes in before diving head first.

Well, the first promotional versions of the cards associated with the new NASCAR license are upon us, and in typical Panini fashion, they look fucking weird as shit. Its not that the design is weird or even that their existence is unwelcome. Both are not the issue. The issue is the way they chose to present the photos, which look like they were lifted off of those self affirming portraits that amateur artists paint for people to hang above their toilets.

Here are the cards:

2016 Panini Father’s Day Kevin Harvick Red /50

2016 Panini Father’s Day Dale Earnhardt Jr Base

2016 Panini Father’s Day Danica Patrick Base

Instead of highlighting the cars or even the action of the race, they chose just to focus on the drivers. See, that is where NASCAR is just as weird as the cards Panini is producing here. The drivers are brands, but I dont think this is the way that most NASCAR enthusiasts are going to identify with them. The wheels are just as important here, and a picture of Kevin Harvick standing triumphantly like he just screwed the head cheerleader on prom night, is probably not the best depiction.

Of course, that’s where Panini often fails and fails hard. They dont seem to understand what a good card picture should contain. They focus so much on posed glamour shots instead of action photos because the people behind the production of these cards dont care about the action associated with the game the athletes play. They just want pictures of them smelling a bat or some weird shit like that.

NASCAR, like the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB all has some DRAMATIC and DYNAMIC photos that can be used. Obviously, these photos cost money to license, but that money is worth it. It creates a look that is far above what is being used in many Panini products. Similarly, when the company has the chance to get action photography, they instead choose to still go for the posed garbage, as we saw at the rookie premiere.

The result is goofy looking trash that could have been so much better. I have had discussions with Panini about their choices on Twitter and offline, and I just dont get the reasoning behind the choice to go this direction. These NASCAR cards are just the beginning I feel, and that’s not even talking about the rest of the train wrecks we see all over this promo.


SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Topps Series 2 Baseball Product Review

There are a few sets each year that the whole hobby stops and watches what happens. Both of the first two series of Topps Baseball are part of that group. Series 2 is live today, and it comes with some pretty fun surprises that have a lot of people talking. Thanks to some great performances from the rookie class, it adds a bit to the allure of ripping the set.

Here are some of the big hits up so far:

2016 Topps Series 2 Kris Bryant Auto Jersey Berger’s Best

2016 Topps Series 2 Bryce Harper Auto Pin On Card

2016 Topps Kenta Maeda Scouting Report Auto

2016 Topps Byung-Ho Park Scouting Report Auto

CaptureIn terms of the set, we get a continuation of the same design from Series 1, which I liked then and I still like now. Getting Maeda his first Topps RC is a big deal, as is the many cards for Ichiro’s chase for 3000 hit. Ken Griffey Jr also has a tribute set, which includes some buybacks of old Topps cards at really rare insert rates.

Similarly, the Titans Bunt redemptions are back for Series 2, and are garnering as much attention as they usually do. These cards are /25 and can get hundreds of dollars on eBay thanks to their availability and power in the app. Some of the redemptions from the first time around ended up as 1/1s in the app, which are some of the most valuable cards around. If you pull one, consider yourself incredibly lucky.

Photo variations from Jackie Robinson day are also included in the base set, and they turned out really cool. Having everyone wear the number 42 jersey is already an event in MLB, and bringing those commemorative jerseys to the set is a great idea for a photo variation. At least they arent sparkles, but this one definitely raises some eyebrows.

There are also a few sets with on card autos, both of which look awesome. The first are the laser books, which have intricate die cut covers to the cards, and have been upgraded from stickers in Series 1. The second is a historical look at the futures game, featuring hard signed cards with a pin from the game. They also have a continuation of the coin set and gold pin set we saw in Series 1.

I have also seen a few of the Double Play rip cards, which are new for this set, and are 1/1 for each version from what I understand. These cards function like the predictor cards, where the inside card has a feat listed for the player on the front. If the player achieves the feat, some sort of benefit will be granted. Im sure we will have to wait and see what that is.

Overall, Series 2 is a fun rip if you like boxes with a ton of cards and fun inserts. If you are looking for more high end content, this product has it’s share, but its something that you have to be crazy lucky to hit. Going to be interesting to see how things are added for round 3 and update coming later this year.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Topps Tier One Baseball Product Review

CaptureFor the last five or six years, Topps has really put a focus on adding on card autographs to their baseball products as the preferred way of building their sets. Its actually been quite refreshing to see how many products they get done, including ones that are on the lower end of the scale. Tier One was one of the first new products when that movement started, and has been a staple since. It mixes the normal autograph content with some really high end hits, and 2016 is no different.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2016 Tier One Corey Seager Clear Acetate Auto /25

2016 Tier One Mike Trout / Hank Aaron Dual Auto /25

2016 Tier One Buster Posey Jumbo Patch Auto /5

2016 Tier One Sandy Koufax Auto /50

2016 Tier One Mark Teixiera Bat Knob Auto 1/1

In terms of the look of the set this year, the cards continue to look very very good. All hard signed, save a few multi autograph cards, and a lot of interesting chase content like the ever popular Bat Knobs. I really like the overall design this year, as the theme features some nice action photos and a large space for the players to autograph.

There was an issue with one subset, as the design has a dark area for the players to sign and the pattern makes it very difficult to see the autograph. Other than that, most of the cards are some of the better looking single autograph cards around, and that has been what Tier One has been all about since its inception.

Bat knobs and bat barrel cards have been the featured chase element of the product for the last few years, and with the inclusion of Josh Gibson this year, things have gotten quite a bit more lucrative. Because bats arent exactly in short supply for the players of the modern era, the cards arent as big of a deal to me unless they are autographed. A lot of people really like them, and they are unique examples.

New this year are autographed cards that contain a piece of the pen used during the signing, which I find a bit “out there” in terms of relics. People seem to like them a lot, but I really think this is taking things a bit too far. Either way, there are 1/1s for a few top names, and they seem to be selling well.

From what I have seen from people ripping cases of this stuff, it is about as big a crap shoot as any of the one pack products that are out there. You get two autographs and a relic in each pack, but unless you hit a bigger name, its going to be tough making back any real fraction of your money. Tier one is great for group breaks, but picking up boxes here and there probably isnt the best approach.

If you want nice looking hard signed cards, you cant go wrong with Tier One. The stuff just looks great. I think its more of a singles paradise than anything to be honest, and that’s where things get a bit more comparable to this day and age.