SCU Go-Live Report: 2016 Panini Elite Football Product Review

Elite is an interesting product, if not only because of its place in the hobby, measured against the lack of true changes to anything regarding the set in many years. It has been around forever, going back to the previous eras of modern cards, and in football, the same is true. The problem is that in many cases, the product isnt really as relevant any longer because of the shift towards higher end releases in recent years. This year's set is the same configuration as it was prior to its disappearance in 2015.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2016 Panini Elite Jared Goff Auto RC /25

2016 Panini Elite Derek Henry On Card Auto

2016 Panini Elite Joey Bosa/Braxton Miller/Cardale Jones Triple Auto

2016 Panini Elite Bo Jackson Gold Tire Track Pattern 1/1

I dont actually mind the base design all that much, but it seems like Panini is trying to rebrand the look of the set without really putting much effort into it. It has always looked more along the lines of what we saw with other pre-season sets and less about crazy patterns and stuff. The low numbered cards and parallels have always been a fun part of the set, and with a few major exceptions, Elite has been nice. The die cuts that have become synonymous with the set are even tasteful and not gimmicky.

My one complaint here is that there is a college element AGAIN with this set. Stickers and college jerseys are becoming the Panini M.O. and it is fucking annoying. We have premiere photos in the set, so I know Mini camp stuff and retouched action shots with pro uniforms are available. Im not seeing a lot of it.

The main box hits are the Pen Pals this year, and they literally make me want to claw at my eyes to make the pain disappear. Its retouched NFL profile pics, and the players look about as goofy as ever. They are borderline mug shots, and it is complete fucking garbage. Considering how good some of the on card stuff has been in the past for Elite, this is a giant slap in the face.

Overall, Elite will be forgotten by the time things really get going and Panini should be ashamed of themselves for that reason. Elite is a big brand for them and thanks to poor planning and product positioning, its a joke. Really too bad, because I was excited when I heard it was coming back. Then again, all products are coming back, including the shitty ones, as Panini needs all the help they can get to make their exclusive work.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Panini Flawless Baseball

CapturePanini seems to want to bring ultra premium formats to all sports they have a calendar, and Flawless Baseball is the next in line. It is basically a direct port from basketball and football, right down to the design. On the Basketball and Football side, Flawless hasn’t done as well as im sure everyone had hoped, for the NFL especially. Singles prices have tanked basically across the board, as it is becoming more and more clear that collectors continue to see National Treasures as a more collectible offering. I believe this will be even more drastic of a drop off for baseball, a set they don’t have rights to the big names, and no logos either.

Here are some of the bigger hits up so far:

2016 Panini Flawless Baseball Joe Jackson Quad Bat Relic

2016 Panini Flawless Baseball Kris Bryant Auto RC

2016 Panini Flawless Baseball Mariano Rivera Auto Dual Patch

2016 Panini Flawless Baseball Corey Seager Auto Jumbo Patch RC

2016 Panini Flawless Baseball Felix Hernandez Auto Patch

Right now, the prices are still high on singles, as they always are. There will be a contingent of collectors who will utilize group break formats to break, and that will keep prices at MSRP for a while. As more and more people see how far the prices are going to drop, especially in a sport that has a hard enough time supporting high end WITH Trout and Harper, things are going to be very difficult to maintain on any real level.

The design itself was good for NBA and NFL, as I said back when it was released for those sports, and save some ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE looking dual patch cards, the rest of the stuff looks good. That really isn’t the point here, because anytime when the cost of the box is as high as it is for Flawless, the product has to deliver unique content that isn’t available anywhere else, which Panini has failed to do with every Flawless edition in its history. Paying more money for a box just because the player checklist offers a more likely shot at a nice autograph, isn’t enough anymore, and that is exactly what we saw with the NFL this year. Way too many boxes led with a card that doesn’t cover the cost of a slot in a group break, and that makes the product look pretty fucking shitty.

Flawless is a valuable brand for now, if not only because collectors are starting to understand the ultra premium market that Flawless exists in. That being said, Baseball is a hobby contingent on a good mix of set and hit in each release, and when Topps has tried to bridge that gap, they have only really been successful a few times. I don’t think a logo-less Panini product without Trout and Harper can do that as well as it maybe can in the NBA.

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.