New Competition in the Digital Collecting Market On the Horizon?

Over the last few years, digital cards have gone from an experiment, to a lucrative future in the trading card game. Thanks to the ability to print on demand, not deal with redemptions or even card condition, and have interest from new corners of the hobby, digital cards are now a top priority at Topps. Ever the follower and never the leader, has Panini FINALLY decided it was time to dive into the game? Hobby tweets are saying that is a possibility.

If you remember, Topps is even bleeding their digital lines over into physical, with the release of Topps Series 2 and Topps Update. The ultra limited player code cards have become the top selling inserts in Series 2 as a result, and the coin reward cards are still selling well too:

2015 Topps Series 2 Felix Hernandez Bunt Player 5x Boost /25

2015 Topps Series 2 David Price Bunt Player 5x Boost /25

2015 Topps Series 2 Aroldis Chapman Bunt Player 5x Boost /25

Digital cards from Topps in general can have huge value, even without physical equivalents:

2015 Bunt Miguel Cabrera Variant Signature Series Card

2015 Bunt Chris Sale 3x Black Boost Card

Topps has even expanded into the pop culture realm of non-sport collecting with the recent release of Star Wars Card Trader, which has become one of the most productive apps in their portfolio. They have digital down to a science, and to hear that Panini wants into a market dominated by the existing apps? Makes me curious to see if they can even make a dent in what Topps has been able to accomplish over the last 3-4 years.

That’s not saying they cant figure out a way to eek out an existence, but its going to be extremely difficult to make it work on any level close to what already is there. The one thing that Panini has going for it is the sticker licenses that their parent company has in their back pocket, but it would take an immense effort to make money in a consistent manner without structuring their apps exactly like Topps’ pre-existing games.

Now, there is not an NBA game currently, and with Panini's long time NBA exclusive on the books, that is a logical first step for them to delve into digital. I could also see digital sticker collections becoming their main focus. They could spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars to design and launch their games, but their lack of proficiency displayed in creating the Panini rewards app and rewards program brings any potential success into major question.

Digital is a growing area of the collecting market, and its interesting how small of a percentage is made up by physical card collectors. Bringing a license like Star Wars to digital was possibly one of the best moves they could have made, and it has paid off in spades. Topps also made the right call by initially integrating fantasy sports into their games, and its still unclear what or even if Panini is going to try the same thing. They dont have the data on the market the way we see with existing games, and apps have been proven to be a money pit if you dont know what you are doing.

Like I have said in numerous posts prior to this one, competition is welcome in my book. It gives a reason for everyone to keep running at full speed. I just dont see a near future where Panini is even in the same continent as Topps when it comes to digital, but you never know when a company has a blank check in a lot of ways. Panini could outspend Topps and not even blink an eye, much like they have in overpaying drastically for exclusive licenses in physical.

Regular collectors should take notice of what is going on, even if they dont plan to want to pay money for digital cards. This is an aspect of the collecting world that is here to stay, and I am curious to see how it plays out.

2015 Goodwin Champions – Cool Subjects and Inscriptions Add Chase

Ill be completely honest in saying I have rarely even put thought into buying a box of Goodwin Champions. I am not a set collector, and the non-sport elements of the product really werent too attractive to me. However, once I started seeing some of the cool autographs that were in the product, including some with fun inscriptions, my ears perked up. Although Im not a huge fan of the design or the look of the cards, I am a sucker for unique autograph content.

Check these out:

2015 Goodwin Champions Tony Hawk Inscription Auto

2015 Goodwin Champions Jerrry West Inscription Auto

2015 Goodwin Champions Stan Lee Auto

2015 Goodwin Champions Sid Meier (Game Designer) Inscription Auto

2015 Goodwin Champions Miki Sudo (Competitve Eating Champ) Inscription Auto

To me, if you are going to do a non-sport autograph checklist, it has to be filled with famous people that appeal to a wide range of collecting tastes. Allen and Ginter has been doing this for years, including some of the subjects that have signed for this year’s Goodwin set. No one is really going to scoff at pulling another really nice non-sport auto in a different set, so its cool to get another shot at some of the guys that would normally be prime fodder for Ginter.

Bottom line, autographs are no longer really that interesting. Its the low numbering and patch content that has become the chase element for most collectors. Even ugly autograph cards can be highly valuable, even if designs are poor. I mean, Panini continues to churn them out by the dozens. But, with inscriptions added, autograph content becomes much more desirable, and that is where Upper Deck has had success along side Topps in recent years. Panini is still very late in catching on. SP Authentic Football was so much more successful with added parallels with autograph inscriptions.

Its not going to be long before someone figures out how to do it the right way, and inscriptions arent necessarily the answer to all the problems. In fact, the logistics of getting them done are almost always limited by the players, who really dont like signing hundreds of them at a time. Im curious if there will be some other way to keep this content fresh without slapping another 1/1 on the front.

Elite and Goodwin Champions Compose a Slow Holiday Release Week

This week was pretty slow for both baseball and football, although 2 unlicensed sets both hit shelves. Elite Baseball is back for another year, despite a really lackluster year last year, and Goodwin Champions is returning as one of Upper Deck’s more popular sets. Both cater to different crowds, and both are sets that really dont look like ones I would ever open.

Elite Baseball

Although Elite has had a strong following in Football for a while, in baseball, its not even close to that brand. Licensing in Baseball seems to play much to the disadvantage of Panini in most of the sets it releases in the sport, and it is doubly so for a product like this. It doesnt help that the design features a pretty awkward presentation, with a chevron looking very awkward with the sticker overlaid. If the V shape was smaller, or if the sticker was higher, it might not be as awkward, but this way looks incredibly off.

Not really sure how I feel about these:

2015 Panini Elite Kris Bryant RC Auto Base

2015 Panini Elite Archie Bradley Jumbo Patch Auto

2015 Panini Elite Jose Canseco Auto 3/5

2015 Panini Elite Joc Pederson RC Auto Base

It features a mix of prospects and veteran players, but Topps owns the exclusive to all the top grossing names in the sport at this point. Its like going into an a fight with your hands in cuffs and wearing a blindfold. Good luck walking out of that situation unscathed. Kris Bryant may be available at this point for them, but Trout is gone, and so is Bryce Harper. Not good.

Add in that Panini is continuing to trot out the tired and awful manupatch autos, and Im pretty much done with this product before even wanting to bust a single pack. These cards and those fucking hideous black construction paper gold autos all need to be axed and burned.

There are so many issues with the product, that anyone who chooses to open this over a much better Diamond Kings product is beyond me.

Goodwin Champions

I think this is almost identical in presentation to Gypsy Queen, but the choices Upper Deck makes in the weird pictures of the players completely ruins it for me. I would think this product could be a lot more successful if they retouched some photos and removed logos from action shots. Using players in candid pictures is really unusual.

Here is what I am talking about:

2015 UD Goodwin Champions Barry Sanders Patch

2015 UD Goodwin Champions Lebron James Mini 1/1

2015 UD Goodwin Champions Ray Bourque Patch

Of course, this is a set collectors product, and the redemption relics are always highly sought after by some of the collectors who like things that arent sports related. You may think its pretty niche, but in reality this is one of the reasons the product is as successful as it is. These cards usually sell for well over what one would expect, and there are always surprises.

I think its pretty much a perfect representation of how important licensing is in a lot of these types of products, as it is something that can mean the difference between really awesome cards and a forgettable product. Both of these products are pretty forgettable, to be honest. Its unfortunate, because even without a license you can still produce good looking cards. I dont think either of the products really did a good job there either.

On the Radar: 2015 Panini Certified Football

I remember back in 2007, Certified was such a big deal that there were people lined up at my local shop to buy boxes. Over the last few years, Certified has become a complete joke of a product, a shell of its former popularity. Each year seems to get worse and worse, with Panini constantly tweaking things to seemingly make the product just above the line that people wont actually vocally laugh at. Last year was so bad that it landed on both the Black Friday and Father’s day list for this year, and it shouldnt be a surprise.

Here are some of the terrible cards from this product over the last few years:

2014 Panini Certified Teddy Bridgewater Auto Relic

2013 Panini Certified Eddie Lacy Auto Relic

2012 Panini Certified Andrew Luck Auto Relic

2014 Panini Certified Mike Evans New Generations Auto

This year’s design has literally put me at a loss for words when looking to describe how bad it is. I literally cannot even describe the laugh inducing results that Panini expects collectors to shell out their hard earned money for. The patch design is fucking busy as hell, with overlapping design elements, and out of place locations for the stickers and swatch. If you remember back as early as 2011, Certified was on card, and yet, here we are with more stickers.

The funniest part of this whole preview has to be the base autographs, where the Melvin Gordon easily looks to be surrounded by a bunch of lines that makes no sense. I would say the only thing missing from the design is “SPIDER MAN WUZ HERE” in giant Panini sized text. It really makes you wonder what the fuck is going through their heads in creating cards that look this bad. Its one thing to experiment, its another thing to just straight up make terrible looking cards.

Topps has already started previewing a bunch of different products from later on in the calendar, and we havent even gotten a look at Elite yet from Panini. There is a strategy that Hollywood uses with movies that will never go anywhere. They wait until the last possible moment to let critics screen the film, as to prevent the copious amount of horrible reviews from getting out. This is almost a very similar approach, as its clear that Panini doesnt have much confidence in their sets.

Again, Certified used to be something to look forward to. Since Panini has taken over the Leaf and Donruss brands, its become a laughing stock.

14-15 Panini Preferred Should be the Template for Panini Football

Panini sucks at making football products. They suck really bad. I could go on and on about their suckage, but that would require too much effort.

As mentioned earlier, there is a reason why promotions like Father’s Day and Black Friday need to happen. They are so awful at creating a product that people will buy in a sustained matter, that they have to bribe customers to buy them after they complete the move to the bargain bin. Preferred Basketball is one of the only Panini products, that really presents the cards in a way that should move to football. In fact, it works so well in the design and on card autos, that it should be the template.

These cards can be pretty freaking awesome:

2014-15 Preferred Kevin Durant Silhouette Logo Auto /25

2014-15 Preferred Andrew Wiggins Silhouette Auto RC

2014-15 Preferred Jabari Parker Dynamic Debuts Auto /20

2014-15 Preferred Kobe Bryant Die Cut Auto

Right now, Panini's Football formula is so tired that people have all but given up on products not named Flawless, Contenders, or Treasures. Preferred presents some good looking cards, with a lot of chase value, and would make dog products like Crown Royale obsolete. Although some of the designs are the Panini par for the course horrendous, most of the cards, especially the silhouettes continue to be some of the best ones that Panini makes.

I would go as far as saying that Panini has recognized how important the silhouette style is, bringing it to a bunch of other products in a few different mediums. What I dont understand is the need to continue printing the Crown Royale logo on them, despite the fact that the product is dead in Basketball. It just shows me that Panini is so afraid of collectors running for the hills that they wont even brand the cards appropriately.

Something isnt working when it comes to Panini Football, and I am continually scared shitless when I see how many products they will have to build if Topps does end up getting kicked out of the market due to Panini’s pending NFL exclusive license. The bottom line is that brands that Panini can make in Basketball never transfer over in a meaningful way to football, leaving us with a 100 dollar box that has 4 hits and 1 sticker auto. We have seen preview after preview from Topps showing their prediction that they can do on card for most of the products they are releasing. So far, Panini cant even be bothered to have on card autographs when they have a captive audience to sign them at the premiere.

I like Preferred basketball’s designs, I like the chase cards, and I like that they are all hard signed. Panini Football needs to get off their ass, remove their head from between their cheeks, and figure out how to do something similar in a sport they are going to be overpaying much more for the license than they did in Basketball. Otherwise, we are headed for a bigger problem than which of Panini’s terrible sets should populate the latest Black Friday box dump.