Exquisite Signature Kicks Drop the Brand to a New Low

Earlier this year, Panini released Immaculate basketball with game used shoe relics of popular players in a few different formats. Even though I am not a fan of the design, its clear that collectors were drooling over the cards, paying a ton of money to get the best ones. Today, 13-14 Exquisite Basketball was released, containing their own version of these cards – with one major difference.

Check out the auctions and see if you can spot it. Here are Panini’s shoe cards:

2013-14 Panini Immaculate Kobe Bryant Jumbo Sneak Peak 1/1

2013-14 Panini Immaculate LeBron James Jumbo Sneak Peak 1/1

Here are Upper Deck’s:

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite LeBron James Signature Kicks Auto

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite Michael Jordan Signature Kicks Auto

2013-14 Upper Deck Exquisite Grant Hill Signature Kicks Auto

In case you missed it, Upper Deck’s language on the back makes it very clear that no player has ever touched these shoes. In fact, I wouldnt be shocked if someone trucked it over to the local Foot Locker and picked up a few pairs to make the cards.

The back of the card says “From a shoe brand typically worn by” as the defining statement. This is accompanied by an official disclaimer language at the bottoms stating that the relics are not player worn, event worn, or game worn. Im sorry, but this kind of takes manufactured relic cards to a new level. Upper Deck is not hiding what these cards are.

Previously we have seen that there are embroidered patches and relics that are used to make cards, but just cutting up and inserting shoes without purpose is something I am questioning big time. I have never liked the manu-patch format to begin with, but to take it to the level of manu-relics is a odd and comical. I mean Exquisite planning is done a year in advance and no one thought to get the players to slip on the shoes for a second or two during a signing? Cmon.

Yes, I realize I just advocated for more event used material, but that is the nature of my thought process these days. Gotta love when our standards are that fucking low. I love what Upper Deck has managed to do in terms of design for many of their products, continuing to surprise me with what they put out. However, not only do these cards look like they are straight out of Panini Design School 101, but the relics have zero meaning. None. Exquisite has always been about the best of the best, but these are just horrible.

Im sorry, but this just takes the cake. In next year’s Exquisite, I hear they are planning relics from “Lids store purchased hats typically worn by XXXXXXXX.”

Where is Adrian Peterson’s Place if He is Reinstated This Year?

Im going to try to avoid the obvious shit storm that could start if we start talking about whether or not Peterson got off easy for what he did to his son. I dont support his actions, and I definitely think he has done irreparable damage to his career. His hobby value has taken a hit too, but now that he has avoided jail time, what does that mean? Can he regain hobby value if he plays again this year?

Here is where his cards currently are:

2007 Exquisite Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Patch /99

2007 SP Authentic Adrian Peterson Rookie Auto Patch

2010 Topps Five Star Adrian Peterson Auto Inscription

2009 Exquisite Adrian Peterson Retro Rookie Auto Patch

2013 Topps Five Star Adrian Peterson Auto Patch

Peterson has been the focus of my personal collection since he was drafted back in 2007. To this day he is one of the best, if not THE best, Viking to ever put on the uniform. There is no denying he should have some value in the hobby for what he has accomplished. Up until this point, his continued value was in jeopardy if he was going to spend up to 2 years in prison.

With his plea agreement today, he may have a shot to play again in 2014, regardless of any PR disaster the Vikings would endure to put him back on the field. The jury is still out if they are just going end speculation and cut him. He could be picked up, and he could make an impact, which all speaks to how the hobby would react to him getting another shot.

Other players in the hobby remain valuable despite their actions, including Ray Lewis, Michael Vick and others. If Peterson returns to his former production, can the hobby forgive?

Here is my take, and it is only what I think WILL happen, not what SHOULD happen.

If Peterson returns to glory, his actions will be forgiven. There is no doubt in my mind, especially when you consider how many people dont think what he did is any of their business. Peterson's value hasnt taken a nose dive because of how much of America understands the practices he used, and that will contribute to his eventual return to success in this hobby.

Were the Vikings to release him, I doubt it would make much of a difference either way. If he plays and does well, he will be popular again.

Not only does the hobby have a short attention span, but it also loves redemption stories. Think about what might happen if the Vikings make the playoffs with Peterson as their starting back? Hell, im sure Teddy would love a running game behind him.

We are always taught to give people a second chance, and its up to them to prove that they deserve the results. If he has truly put this behind him, it will be better for everyone if his hobby value also returns. You never know. You. Never. Know.

Panini Adds to Their Stable of College Exclusives

It should be clear to everyone that Panini is moving ahead full steam without a CLC license to produce NCAA cards. By signing exclusive deals with universities who opt out of CLC, they are circumventing the exclusive license currently owned by Upper Deck. Although no major dominoes have fallen YET, I think we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Today they announced that after signing deals with 3 major schools in October, they have reached a deal with LRG who owns 200 more. Although most of the schools are worthless in terms of trading cards, the message is sent. Panini is coming, and there is nothing UD can do to stop them.

I posted a long piece on why this is bad for cards, and I stand by my earlier sentiments. If Panini were to secure deals with schools like Alabama, UNC and Duke, that would be the relative end of Upper Deck’s hold on the NCAA market. Now, there is still opportunity under the group licensing agreements for UD to continue producing unlicensed cards similar to Leaf, Press Pass and Sage, but it wont be the same.

With rumors circulating that Upper Deck is already too far in debt to climb out, it might be time to wonder what the plan looks like. The situation remains, if Panini is able to secure exclusive deals with the schools that represent most of players on the upcoming checklists, UD will have to abandon plans to do a CLC set. The current license with CLC does not allow airbrushed cards to be in the same set as a licensed card, so a choice will have to be made.

Its clear that Upper Deck can make successful products. Its also clear that unlicensed products CAN be successful under the right circumstances. There is no guarantee that the choice to move away from CLC will kill UD, but a sky is falling mentality among collectors might add to the issues they already face.

As I mentioned before, Panini is currently the only trading card company that has the money to spend to acquire and support licenses of this sort. When Topps’ baseball license expires, Panini is certain to make a play to take away exclusivity and/or get the exclusive for themselves. If that happens, they may be the only company with an ability to create any licensed trading card for the 3 major sports. If UD cant stay afloat, it may be all four.

I dont like the cards Panini makes, and I dont think this strategy is a healthy one. It might solidify Panini, but I refuse to believe it will breed health into the industry either. When you also consider how much money is involved in many of these deals, it could present a further challenge surrounding what happens when new products are needed. So far, their track record has been dismal at best.

Panini likes to show that they have the money to do these things, but I truly wonder if they can find a way to make it profitable. So far, the exclusive in Basketball has been anything but, and yet acquiring a few companies might change some of that.

I see very small amounts of silver lining that could be available, and to be honest, this type of news only cements things further. Its rare that something like this gets me to the point of no return, but we are slowly approaching that area of the plan.

Get ready, because more is coming. Mark my words.

Here is the release:


Going Deeper Into 2014 Flawless Football

After we have seen a few days worth of flawless, I think that the conversation has enough ammunition to really break down where the product got it right, and where the product went quite wrong. I was excited to pick up some singles from the set, as its clear the cards look pretty amazing. However, the singles arent the only thing that need to drive a product that costs over 1300 a box.

The Good

Panini needs some major credit for getting a product of this magnitude done as quickly as they did. I know that the veteran signature gathering process started at the end of last year, which is exactly the way products should be done. When you plan out your calendar and you plan out your best for the year, why not get going early so you know you have time to get everyone signed. I have yet to see a redemption, which is crazy awesome in its own right, but having the caliber of players sign on card like they did is quite impressive.

Here are some of my favorites so far:

2014 Flawless Peyton Manning Dual Patch Auto /15

2014 Flawless Dan Marino Auto Jumbo Patch /10

2014 Flawless DeMarco Murray Jumbo Patch Auto

2014 Flawless Andrew Luck Auto SP

I really like the clean white look of a lot of the cards. You cant go wrong with white when its a product like this. I also need to thank the lord that they realized cracked ice probably wasnt the best program to run in a set like this. That doesnt mean there arent stupid looking cards, but very few for a Panini product. Although I dont think the cards look as good as Five Star, or have some of the pop that Five Star can offer in some of its cards, its the best Panini has done. Its basically a copy and paste from Basketball, but it looks great.

Getting guys like Brady, Manning, Emmitt, Wilson, Luck, Montana and the rest of the bigger names is big. You cant sell a product of this magnitude without tentpoles like this to make it work. We see that some of the rest of the checklist wasnt even close to where it should be, but at least we have the big names.

The jumbo patch cards that come two per box turned out nicely. The continued use of dirty jerseys and logo type patches are cool, and even though they arent selling like hotcakes, they are still a nice touch. Kind of disappointing that the good players are usually out of 5. Because GU jerseys from a 16 game season can be tough to get, the jumbo patches from non-rookies rarely happen. Flawless does a good job getting them done.

The Bad

I have already railed on the box price, which is a bloodbath in its own right. There is just no value in this product at 1350 per box, when its clear that so many of the boxes can be duds. I am aware that it was very easy to open a box of Exquisite and get killed too, but its a lot more justifiable when the box wont set you back as much. When Manziel isnt selling as well as he used to, and he is your rookie marquee, that is going to further impact the value of the set. This goes especially so when it looks like not all the rookies are going to have amazing seasons like 2012.

The chase element is a huge part of this product, and when there are no logos, no multi sigs, and only a few major 1/1s to supplant the box price, you are going to get some very frustrated high end collectors. In treasures, you literally can have up to 8 logos per player, more so in immaculate, and it should be easy to figure out why Flawless needs them. I stand by the fact that there is nothing here that cant be found somewhere else, which is beyond disappointing for a box that costs even 1000 bucks. Think about what could have happened if Exquisite costs this much. What crazy concocsions would UD have come up with at that price? Insane to even think about. Flawless has none of that.

The Ugly

Parts of this checklist are so awful, it looks like they called every agent and asked if the player was available to sign before Oct 1st. If they said yes, they were in. I mean when you have Danny Woodhead in a product like this, something is very wrong. No? Not enough? How did Tim Wright make it in? Checklist is such a huge part of a proudct like this that you have to take it all into consideration. They hit home runs with Brady and company, but these other guys are strikeouts and then some.

I find myself watching breaks and see 2013 all over this set like a virus. Manti Te'o, Montee Ball, and Jordan Reed are everywhere, and it is a literal box killer. Hell, they even dusted off Doug Martin’s autograph deal to get him some reps. Ouch. Its one thing to add a fan favorite old timer like Jan Stenerud, but completely different when you have a checklist with Danny Amendola in a box like this.

Panini made the right decision to bank roll the middle of the 2014 calendar with a money product like flawless, but making the choice to avoid holes in the run with absolute turds in terms of value is a bad choice. I would almost like to pull redemptions instead of a guy like Cordarrelle Patterson who doesnt even look to have signed most of the cards bearing his picture.

The box price on this is going to come down until the rookies pick it up. When you build the first ultra high end product in a sport, you shouldnt have to bank on something like that.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Flawless Football

The day of reckoning is here for all those Panini fans who are salivating over the release of Flawless football. This is the first time in football that a box of this nature has been released, and from what the early results are showing, singles arent white hot like we expected. In fact, I have no reservations in saying this may be one of the better singles products of the year. However, I still think it is a pending disaster to put it at 1350 a box.

Here are some of the hits up so far – BIN prices seem awfully low for first day:

2014 Flawless Tom Brady Auto

2014 Flawless Drew Brees Auto Dual Jumbo Patch /15

2014 Flawless Brett Favre Auto Patch /10

2014 Flawless Johnny Manziel Auto Gold /10

2014 Flawless Jerome Bettis Auto Patch /10

2014 Flawless LeSean McCoy Auto Jumbo Patch /15

2014 Flawless Jerry Rice Auto Jumbo Patch /15

There are people who are going to cite the fact that there are some cards in the product that will sell for above 1350. That is true. These same people will cite success in basketball as an indicator for success in football. This is not true. When you consider the complete checklist, and the normal shelf life (or lack there of) for football products, the prices for the boxes and singles will not meet the hype at all. A price tag of this magnitude puts Flawless in a category that is usually reserved for mortgages and car payments. Basketball’s international market and hobby composition is much more suited for this type of release, and in its second year, it is already failing to meet expectations. That should say a lot about prospects for football.

High end has always been a huge risk. Always. Since 2005, you could open a box of Exquisite football and lose your ASS on the cards inside. However, that was a 500 dollar bath, not a $1350 bath. Those are two very different things. In all reality, with a case, you could end up losing on the ROI so badly that it would be equal to a case of 95% of the other products on the calendar. That is just insane, especially in a sport where there is no international support or as many collectors with deep pockets.

The bottom line is that contrived scarcity, or purposefully limiting supply, can only take something so far. There has to be a level of chase above all that, and Basketball is reeling this year from that situation. Football is in a bigger jam with a rookie class that isnt playing up to the expectations set early in the draft year. Obviously, Panini has ZERO control over these factors, and from what I am hearing, they are also not the ones to jack up the price upon release.

Dealers were able to purchase flawless at 800 dollars per. Mock distributors like Blowout and Dave and Adam’s likely got it even cheaper. Panini intended this to be a 1000 dollar product, which is still insane, but not "toss you in a padded room and throw away the key" insane. For whatever reason, one of the distributors decided it was a good idea to arbitrarily mark up the price 350 dollars above the intended price and set it at $1350 per box, effectively RUINING the potential it had.

I think if you set the price at $1000, and let demand climb to a 1350 tag, you create a different perception of what the VALUE of the box really is. An increase of 350 dollars from MSRP suggests that there is something worth DEMANDING in those boxes, so much so that the price has gone up. If you start it at 1350, the perception is different. It changes things. Look at 2012 National Treasures, which climbed to about 150-200 dollars above the release price at one point. Everyone was clamoring to get it, because Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and RGIII were playing out of their mind. It was STILL moving at 650 a box. If the dealers had started it at 750? Not a chance would it have performed the same way.

It is abundantly clear that the on card autographs for this set are incredible. The cards look great, save this stupid "Team Panini" bullshit. That has value in itself. However, the market at its current point cannot sustain a product like this. I HOPE I am wrong. I want to be wrong, because it will be a sign that the market isnt in as bad a shape as I thought. All signs so far point to the fact that Flawless was not done the right way after the cards were already in the boxes. I cant blame Panini for that. At some point you have to try to make Flawless work in another sport. Your 20 million dollar license depends on creating brand equity that Panini does not own anywhere but Contenders and Treasures. On a calendar of 24-30 products, you had better fucking figure out how to build a good set.

When the dealers take it into their own hands, with borderline collusion to make it work, that’s bad for everyone.