On the Radar: 2014 Flawless Football Previews Some Crazy Cards

If there is one thing I am happy about when it comes to Panini, its that Flawless is coming to Football with a reduced price tag. Anytime a product seems to be 100% on card is made, Im going to try my best to support it. Flawless does look pretty good, and I think we should definitely give it a look.

Flawless was created in Basketball because of issues that may come up when 2016 rolls around, and it did produce some pretty incredible cards:

2013 Panini Flawless Kevin Durant Auto Patch 1/1

2013 Panini Flawless Kyrie Irving Auto /10

2013 Panini Flawless Damian Lillard Auto Patch /10

2013 Panini Flawless Kobe Bryant Dual Patch Auto /25

2013 Panini Flawless LeBron James Jumbo Patch /5

Here is why I think this type of a set will do better in Football than it ever could in any other sport. First off, cards that feature game used swatches with crazy patches in football rarely come along. To make a set that brings well designed cards along with those crazy patches is going to be big. There has been a significant shift towards more logos and relics on event used rookie stuff, but not with vets. When the vets get nice patches that look good, crazy prices follow.

The same thing goes for on card autographs, as the only real autograph friendly NFL licensed product out there is Five Star. Everything else has sticker elements to it. Basketball hasnt really had this same issue, both on the patch side and the autograph side. Add in that no player exclusives exist yet, and it just spreads the wealth a bit more.

Basically, let me put it this way. Flawless may be the first product in a decade that will put a big focus on both relic content and hard signed autographs – IF EVERYTHING TURNS OUT CORRECTLY. I always put that disclaimer in there, as Panini has been known to fuck things up more than any other company. The checklist could suck, the redemptions could be plentiful, and the price tag could break the 800 dollar mark.

There is a big reason, im sure, that it hasnt been formally solicited to the dealers yet. Although I dont expect it to be 1200 a box, it could easily cost well above where it should be. Here is why I am saying that. This product was nothing special in Basketball, at least in terms of special and unique content. With such a high price tag, there should have been ridiculous patches and logos everywhere. Instead, the price tag looks to be high because of seeding rates of the top tier players. The fact that nothing in this product has broken the modern ceiling price, in a sport GOVERNED by high end, says a lot.

For me, as a singles buyer, its not as special when I can pull the same cards in other products. Its much more interesting when the cards are crazy, rather than giving breakers a better chance to make back their money. Of course, this is just personal opinion, based on my collecting habits. If I were a breaker, Im guessing I would feel differently. When you pay 1200+ per box, you expect something more like this.

For football, based on previews, it should be a different situation. Now, the bar is a lot lower, as I said above, mainly because of previous releases. Football cards have been horrendously awful for a long time. Though we get excited over great looking sets like Five Star, its only because our standards are so low after years of torture at the hands of sticker autographs and shitty content.

Will Flawless fix everything? No it wont, and though it solves some of the content issue, it will come at a HUMONGOUS cost to the people breaking it. Let us not forget that we had a calendar FULL of hard signed products with nice content from Upper Deck in 2009. None of those will even sniff half the box cost of what Flawless will sell for per case. Im sure the UD folks from back then would tell you how mouth watering a budget like Flawless’ sheet would have been.

Dont get me wrong, I am VERY eager to see how this turns out. On the same token, you wont find me in line to break boxes. I just cant see how this will work until we get a price. Even then, skepticism will be part of my DNA when it comes to any new Panini product.

What Does the Panini VIP Party REALLY Represent?

If you are a Panini fan or supporter, last night was one of the bigger nights of the year. The VIP party is basically a “reward” for either spending 10k on specific unsellable product as a dealer, or 7.5K if you are a collector buying from the same list. To be completely honest most of the products on the list are so bad, that they deserve a party like this for buying it. As you are well aware, that’s the point, as a party of this magnitude only happens because the distros cant move Panini’s crap without it.

Here are some of the giveaways from the VIP party:

2014 Panini VIP Party Johnny Manziel Signed 8×10 Photo

2014 Panini VIP Pack Set Mike Trout Auto 5/5

2014 Panini VIP Pack Set Aaron Rodgers Superfractor Auto 1/1

2014 Panini VIP Pack Set Kawhi Leonard Logo Patch

2014 Panini VIP Party Lebron James XFractor Green /5

For attending the party, VIPs get the chance to hob knob with players (autographs were pre-signed in the past), obtain specific VIP packs of wrapper redemption cards, and eat and drink with the top brass of the hobby. The guest list includes all the distrubtors, a who’s who of the hobby, and just about every group breaker there is. This year, players like Joe Namath, Tom Glavine and Kyrie Irving were scheduled to appear, only making things more lucrative for the attendees.

The cards are interesting as the look completely different than the ones included in the packs sold to the general floor. They also seem to have stooped to a new low, ripping off Topps’ Superfractors for 1/1s and autographs. Its basically like building a new brand of car and stealing the body design and look from a superior competitor to create additional value. The lowest of the low begets Panini, and I cant say that enough times. Panini is unable to cultivate anything of value on their own without stealing from the other manufacturers. Even then its still not even close to the real thing.

This party not only looks big, but it represents a lot of what Panini is going to bring to the table in 2016. Its clear that a lot of money is spent on an event like this, as many of the players are not there just out of the kindness of their hearts. To add in the cost of catering and production of all the giveaways, and its starts to make a lot of people wonder why this money is being spent in this fashion instead of being used to improve product that has been underperforming.

Considering so few people are actually capable of spending this kind of money to attend, having these types of parties only serves to flaunt the funds that Panini has. They are run more like a record label than a responsible manufacturer of consumer products, and that is a major issue. As I have mentioned before, you dont do stuff like this because you love the people that open your product. You do stuff like this to show the bankroll and what you can offer to the people who really run this hobby. If you really wanted to pay people back for the year long shit show of Panini products, you wouldnt make shops and collectors take on thousands of more dollars worth of horrid releases that they cant sell as it is. People might say you can sell the giveaways to make back the money spent to attend, but that is not the point.

Because Panini recently secured the NFLPA exclusive starting in 2016, I want to make sure everyone FULLY understands what the potential is to sweep the landscape of cards. I want you to think about what this list of products will be like when they have to create a dozen more products to fulfill the 200 million dollar licensing contract they signed through 2026. Will the hobby end? No, that will likely never happen. Yet, the environment, the cards and the people involved are going to get much worse without any competition to keep them honest.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 Bowman Platinum is a Rare Bust For Topps Design

Now that we are well into the 2014 year for Baseball, Topps is starting to release those products that I can tell are a result of having to produce too many sets each year. Collectors are soon going to be facing a very similar situation in football come 2016, especially as Panini tries to build out a nauseatingly huge calendar to make up the money spent on licensing.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2014 Bowman Platinum Byron Buxton Red Refractor Auto Jumbo Patch

2014 Bowman Platinum Jose Abreu Canary Diamond Refractor Auto

2014 Bowman Platinum Kris Bryant Red Refractor Auto

2014 Bowman Platinum Miguel Cabrera Cutting Edge Die Cut Auto

2014 Bowman Platinum Miguel Sano Relic Auto

Bowman Platinum is another prospect and rookie focused product that follows other recent releases that also have a very similar checklist. The difference is that unlike previous releases, this one is about as hideous as it gets. The design of some of the cards is so bad, that I am actually surprised that Topps put their name on it. Although concepts can get repetitive, you dont usually see ugly sets from them. Its just not like Topps.

In fact, previous years of Bowman Platinum have been a very simple design, although that doesnt necessarily support the need for this set to exist. There are already closer to 10 prospect products that Topps puts out, and I would argue this has been the weakest historically.

Funny enough, Panini actually put out a very similar looking concept back in 2009 with Limited Football, which was actually just as ugly save a few nice cards. This set literally is a complete fucking dog, and I really dont know how else to put it. Not only is the checklist strikingly similar to Inception, Finest and other rookie/prospect heavy releases, but it is literally hard to look at. The boxy lines and triangular type motif does not do the card any favors, and the jersey swatches are almost lost in the mix.

Inception had its issues, but for the most part the cards looked pretty clean and simple. These are literally some of the busiest cards of the year, and as most can attest, busier does not mean better.

Now, the base cards with on card autographs arent horrible, which is probably because they dont feature a lot of the same angular elements. However, adding colored parallels make the cards look like alien spaceships are hovering over the players, which looks really weird. The design is more simple, and it doesnt feel like I am looking at the Empire Strikes Back in baseball card format. The oddly composed die cut inserts and relic autos more than make up for this in horrendous composition, especially when the background is more prominent than anything on the card.

I sincerely hope you havent subjected yourself to this, as it is really, really not even close to good.

SCU Go-Live Report: 2014 National Convention Wrapper Redemptions

I posted yesterday on the pending release of the thousands of wrapper redemption cards that are flooding the market right now, and we are just starting to get a good look at what each company is doing.

Panini Booth

Basically, anything outside of the main new content they built for this program is complete junk. Manupatches and other stuff not worth your time. However, they did make some nice looking base and base autos. In fact, Im kind of pissed they wasted such a good design a on free giveaway program.

2014 Panini National Convention Johnny Manziel Auto Patch Ice /5 – Ugly. UGGGGLY.

2014 Panini National Convention Sammy Watkins Auto – These are pretty cool.

2014 Panini National Convention Teddy Bridgewater Glove Patch Ice /5

Topps Booth

I love the Ginter minis to begin with, and to add football players to the mix is awesome. There was a HUGE line at the booth from what people were saying on Twitter, so it might just be worth your time to buy the singles on eBay you want.

2014 Topps National Convention Johnny Manziel Ginter Mini

2014 Topps National Convention Jose Abreu Ginter Mini

Upper Deck Booth

Lots of nice autos and from what I am hearing, a lot more to come. The packs are pretty popular because they have potential Jordans, Lebrons and Manziel, where Panini doesnt have those. Not bad.

2014 UD National Convention LeBron James Welcome Home Commemorative Card

2014 UD National Convention LeBron James Auto /10

2014 UD National Convention Teddy Bridgewater Auto /10

As we head towards the VIP parties that will be happening in the next few days, Im sure we will get more cards to see too. Keep checking back for more coverage.

Panini Announces NFLPA Exclusive at NSCC

If you havent been on Twitter today, Panini made the announcement at the national convention that they had acquired rights to the NFLPA exclusive starting in 2016. We already knew that though, as the rumor had been all but confirmed on twitter over the last few weeks.

I have already posted two lengthy explanations of why this is bad, and you can read them at the links below.

Twitter Hints at Panini NFL Exclusive – Could This Be the Hobby’s Worst Nightmare?

Futher Implications of a Possible Panini NFL Exclusive

Similarly, there is a second part of this announcement that is floating around that Im sure will come either later this week or sometime in the near future. Dont worry, no more exclusives are coming – yet, but there is another license up in the air that Panini looks to have secured a part of. Scary thing is, it only puts them one step closer to their eventual goal of eliminating all competition in the market.

Here is what you need to know:

  • Starting in 2016, NFLPA exclusive rights will be given to Panini
  • Although NFLP License which controls logos and uniforms is not exclusive yet, its very difficult to operate without the full NFLPA cooperation
  • They have been granted room to expand their product line past the number they had in the last few years
  • Topps will likely be out of football cards for the length of the license
  • This is unusual in the way they went about doing this – as usually the PA follows the league license, not the other way around
  • Make your voice heard by tweeting @NFLPA, @NFLPlayersInc and @NFL

The scary thing is, I spoke about cash flow in a previous article (above), and how Panini presents a level of stability in that regard. With that stability comes the notion that they can spend enough money on licenses that it almost makes it a foregone conclusion that they will shoot for the stars when other licenses come up. Baseball will come eventually, and without NFL revenue and the things that come with it, its possible Topps may not be able to outbid them. Considering they are already in a situation where they need money, it could get worse earlier rather than later.

Everyone seems to think that Panini will want to buy Topps or buy Upper Deck, but I am not sure if its that simple – especially when the company value and worth can be cheapened through pot shots at their licensing situations. Panini’s people are rumored to be more concerned with eliminating them than buying them.

So, officially, 2015 will be the last chance you have to buy any Topps Football products licensed by the NFLPA. Although Topps Football isnt quite dead yet, its definitely on life support and I could not be more distraught about that.