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.

More Panini Origins Previews Show More Inception Rip Offs

The photocopy is rarely as sharp as the original. This looks to be the case with Origins as a literal rip off of Topps’ extremely popular Inception product. Now that we are getting more of a preview of the way the rest of the set looks, it becomes extremely concerning just how far they went.

Here is why its concerning.

Panini needs to create a number of new products to fulfill the 31 flavors they promised to the NFL. We all know that Panini’s brand development track record is about as clean as a dilapidated house riddled with squatters, so that is what gets us to this point. To see that they are opting to bite a Topps brand down to the name of the set, shows how little creativity there is to go around over at Panini HQ. They couldnt even think of a way to build a brand on their own. When they do, well, we get garbage like Unrivaled.

Similarly, if Panini is going to need to fill out a calendar to make up for the products the NFL lost from Topps, they are going to need to invest significant resources in their team. They will need more designers, more production, and more autographs. NONE of these things are cheap, and some – like high quality talent for designing trading cards – are like unicorns. We already know Panini hasnt exactly done a bang up job building their design team as it is. Just look at the way Prizm Draft Picks turned out.

When we first saw the cards for Origins being signed, they looked really good. Collectors were interested because the cards had some good looking designs. Considering how much they took directly out of Topps’ bag, this should not be surprising at all. Topps is great at building a loyal following across their brands, and a lot of it has to do with the way their cards look. Panini has yet to come within the same continent in that type of quality. When you see how far their products drop on the secondary market, that type of thing isnt going to help.

The NFL didnt consider anything other than money when assigning an exclusive, and to them, trading cards likely means about as much as a flea on a dog. Sometimes you gotta scratch where it itches, but other than that, completely insignificant. In fact, I would argue that moving to an exclusive shows that they have so little desire to interact with cards, that they just want one entity to deal with. The problem is, they chose the company with an inferior product all the way around. Money talks, and that I get, but we are the ones that suffer.

Origins will sell, but it might be the first set to do so on their calendar. Funny how the ideas that Panini comes up with are slashed in price as soon as possible, but Origins probably will have no issue. Mainly because it isnt theirs. So far, we have had a bunch of sets that have no reason to buy. Lots of stickers, lots of college uniforms, lots of junk that hasnt held in the slightest on the market. Again, based on Panini’s shitty track record, this isnt surprising at all.

They dont have a Father’s Day or Black Friday promotion because things are selling great. They have those promotions because the distributors are stocked full of rotting product that no one wants. If Panini really knew how to design their own brands, not run the presses overtime, or even negotiate a license that doesnt overpay the market by millions, we might have a shot. Of course, all of those things dont apply thanks to Panini’s terrible approach, but I guess thats what happens when Fleer minds take over.

Origins is just the first straw in Panini showcasing how outclassed they are, and I doubt it will be the last. Cant wait to see what product they steal next.

SCU Go Live Report – 2016 Panini Prestige Football Product Review

As of last year, Prestige was a dead brand. Like, it was so dead that it had already been embalmed and was ready to be buried. The grave would need to be deep, and likely lined with concrete, because with 31 plus products needed for the NFL license this year, zombie products might be the norm. Regardless, Panini decided that rather put this brand out of its misery, it was better to change the configuration and put it out again. They should have let it die.

Here are some of the hits already up:

2016 Prestige Carson Wentz Auto RC /50

2016 Prestige Jared Goff Auto RC /50

2016 Prestige Ezekiel Elliott Auto On Card Draft RC

2016 Prestige Jameis Winston Sophomore Auto /25

2016 Prestige Andrew Luck Auto /5

I will say, the design isnt terrible. Its a design that really isnt a big deal either, though. This product is not ground breaking, it is not unique, and it serves very little purpose on the market. In fact, this is another college uniform sticker product that should have waited for rookie premiere photography. However, as mentioned above, because Panini is hard pressed to hit the MASSIVE minimum guarantees they promised to the league and NFLPA, we get Zombie Prestige on the calendar again.

Although there is an element of hard signed content, it is NOT pro uniforms retouched on previous game photos as Panini has used in the past. Nope, they just lazily slapped together a boring and relatively ugly design that features the rookies AGAIN in their college digs. Its lazy, unprepared, and showcases how poorly the team is set up for being the only game in town.

In fact, some of the inserts would have been such a better choice for being one of the only sets that Panini had signed at the premiere. Blue Chip Recruits is a dumb idea for a set, but it looks better than the one they chose. Same with the big board cards. Instead we got the garbage design they went with, featuring the giant box Panini loves to use.

Oddly enough, the CLC license exclusive for Panini was probably the worst thing to happen to cards in a long time. Instead of using the logos and uniforms for pre-draft products like we saw Topps do with Bowman Chrome, they have literally infested every last release Panini does. EVERY GODDAMN PRODUCT. Enough is enough. I mean, they could at least get the cards hard signed, but instead they want the rookies doing photos on the field holding an instagram cutout. Maybe doing sketch cards with markers is important to Panini’s warped sense of what collectors want, but I can guarantee the guy who gets a redemption for a sticker auto is going to be pissed that the time at the premiere wasnt used more wisely.

The scariest thing is that Panini has given us NOTHING to get excited about so far this year. Its been sticker after sticker after sticker after sticker after sticker. Leaf is literally making them look like the bush league idiots that they are, and that says something.

Prestige doesnt look bad, as I have already said. The full bleed photos are better than they have been in the past few years. At the same time, who gives a flying fuck? This crap will be half price by August, which shouldnt be surprising based on what we have already seen with the other stuff out there not protected by MAPP. I hope Panini figures this shit out, because it has been REALLY easy to save money so far this year.

Hey, it could have been worse though. We could have gotten 2014. Isnt that wonderful? When the best thing you can say about as set is that its better than the watery turd of a set that was released in years past? Yay 2016.