On the Radar: 2016 Spectra Football

It literally hurts that Spectra was brought back. BECAUSE OF COURSE THEY DID. Its Panini and they need 31 products to hit minimums. This one should have been canned. Not only was Spectra priced in such a ridiculous way that even with good design it would have been tough to stomach. Then you factor in what might have been the worst looking set in modern memory, and you see where my suffering begins. Neon pens on sticker autographs, horrible background patterns that made my eyes hurt, and a design that used more big boxes for the stickers than ever. WHAT A DUMPSTER FIRE.

These are just fucking horrible:

2016 Spectra Amari Cooper Blue Auto Patch RC

2016 Spectra TJ Yeldon Pink Auto Patch RC

2016 Spectra Marcus Mariota / Jameis Winston Dual Patch Auto Blue

2016 Spectra Todd Gurley Auto Patch Green RC

Because Panini cant ever come up with an idea on their own, Spectra was born out of their desire to copy Bowman Sterling. Prizm was Chrome, Select was Finest, and this was Sterling. Topps axed Bowman Sterling in football because it was stupid to build a set like that in a sport like football. Panini obviously missed the memo.

As if this needed to get more complicated, the product seemed to have sold well above its prospects. People seemed to have bought into the group break side of it, mainly because they could avoid the hilarious price and get easier access to the good players, but that was far less than enough to get me on board. The design was just horrendous. Panini loaded up the boxes with autographs of guys like Winston, Mariota and Gurley, which softened people’s stance on this train wreck, but I feel like it shouldnt have mattered with how poorly the set was conceived. Some collectors look back at the late 1990s with happiness, including all those overly gaudy designs, but I was never a fan. I like simple. I like clean. Spectra is the complete opposite in all the worst ways. Getting better hits doesnt matter if the cards look like shit.

This year’s spectra does look a bit better in the approach, but I have such a poor taste in my mouth from last year, im not sure I can get past it. The boxes around the stickers are gone, and the baseline design patterns do look improved. The problem is that the crazy fucking patterns and ugly neon pens are back, and that is going to ruin it. They are also likely going to continue ripping off the Topps superfractor design, and that just seems so wrong to me.

I still laugh at cards in this preview like the dual auto patch, because that is just as bad as we saw in 2015, and that Treadwell relic design is similarly terrible. Overall, Spectra had potential to be much better. It had on card autos in 2014 and 2013, and offered more reason to pay the stupid price people are being forced to stomach for what ultimately ends up as garbage. As expected, those crazy secondary market prices fell considerably when better stuff came out last year, and that will SURELY happen again in 2016. If you feel so compelled to kick yourself in the nuts, buy early on this. If you are smart, like with everything Panini is putting out this year so far, waiting is the BEST play. That isnt even a question anymore.

Sad that we have gotten to this point.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Panini Certified Football Product Review

To put this frankly, this isnt the best time of year. We are beyond the pre draft junk, which is really good, but we are not to the point where on card stuff is happening either. Without Topps in the mix this year to spark interest with their flagship products and perennial winners like Inception, im bored out of my mind. Unfortunately, Panini's best effort to cure that boredom is Certified Football, which for the last few years has been deader than ever as a viable product line.

Here are some of the cards up so far:

2016 Panini Certified Jared Goff Auto Patch /75

2016 Panini Certifie Carson Wentz Auto Patch /149

2016 Panini Certified Ezekiel Elliott Auto Patch

2016 Panini Certified Tim Brown Auto /25

The problem, as we will see with most Panini products this year, is that this is just one of many releases that really offers nothing in terms of compelling content. In previous years, this set had been on card, but even then it wasnt anything special. Not only is the look of the set riddled with foil and stickers, but nothing really wows me enough to actually go out and buy some. What seems to be more frustrating is that Clear Vision is still fresh off release, and here we go with another set that brings nothing to the table.

To be fair, this is SIGNIFICANTLY better than Clear Vision, but that’s like saying this 1987 Ford Fiesta is better than that burning wreck on the side of the highway. Neither are really that attractive as a viable option for transportation.

I have said time and time again, if every set is just going to be sticker after sticker, blah design after blah design, what is the point of even continuing to collect new products as 2016 moves on. Each week there is going to be another entry in the calendar, and each week there will be something else that will fall drastically in price as the season progresses. No one really cares about products like this long term, and I would even go as far as saying that this stuff isnt on people’s list in the short term either.

The base card autographs really dont look bad, but as mentioned before, I am just getting to the point where stuff like this doesnt do it for me. Ive seen it 30 times a year for the last few years, and its getting boring. Seeing that the designs havent improved to be more compelling, or even offered some sort of on card autographs is a huge detriment. People wonder why the hobby buying public of new products is shrinking so much? This is a big reason.

Funny to mention that we arent even a handful of products past the end of the premiere, but we are already seeing redemptions in play. Considering that the players spent so much time taking goofy photos with instagram cutouts, and drawing sketch cards that arent good looking in any sense of the word, you have to wonder what Panini was thinking.

Overall, things HAVE to change. Panini overpaid way too much for this exclusive deal to waste it churning out cookie cutter bullshit that didnt sell last year, the year before that, or the year before that. I dont really have a solution, but holy fuck this is bad news.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Allen & Ginter Baseball

Today is a holiday for most baseball collectors, as Ginter has become a yearly event for all the people out there who have come to love the brand for last 10 plus years. Over that time, Ginter has become one of the top selling products for Topps, mainly because of a combination of a retro look and continuously compelling content. Every year there is a new twist for the product, and this year looks like there are a number of cool cards worth checking out.

Here are some of the bigger hits:

2016 Allen & Ginter Ty Cobb Oversized Box Topper Cut Auto 1/1

2016 Allen & Ginter Michael Phelps Auto

2016 Allen & Ginter Maria Sharapova Auto

2016 Allen & Ginter Mike Trout / Bryce Harper Double Rip Card

2016 Allen & Ginter Carlos Correa Black Auto /25

For the last few editions, Topps has really done a great job keeping the set close to its roots, while still making the cards look really fucking beautiful. On card autographs and nicely executed quirky themes tend to keep people running for the shop to get their hands on a box. Unlike the other modern legacy set in Triple Threads, I have always been drawn to the creative approaches taken by the Ginter team since it was first released.

The best part is that there is a huge part for set collectors to chase, but also a number of high end autographs and booklets for the collectors who want the big hits. The marriage of the two has always been a big reason why Ginter is successful, and that doesnt even take into consideration the different fun things that seem to pop up after the product hits shelves. A few years ago, it was 1/1 glossy cards hidden in box toppers, and we still are waiting on mass case breaker reports to see if there is anything similar for 2016.

With the Olympics rolling around, its cool to see Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin get their due, along side other cool autographs in Maria Sharapova and Steve Kerr. The Kevin Coster/Susan Sarandon tour continues as well, both of whom will bring high dollars on the secondary market.

Lastly, there are a few REALLY crazy rare base cards, in the form of a Julio Urias base card and a Greenland Explorer mini. Both are inserted at literally astronomical odds, and are getting some major asking price inflation as a result. The oversized box loader autographs, metal minis, and all sorts of other subsets are also pretty cool, and this is only day one.

If you buy one box of baseball a year, Ginter is definitely worth the consideration.

SCU Go Live Report: 2016 Panini Clear Vision Football

Last year, Panini announced their version of Topps High Tek, a combination of acetate cards, and a bunch of sticker replacement autos that looked about as vomit inducing as ever. If that wasnt enough to kill this rip off, they made sure that the configuration did even more harm, with only one autograph per case. Although 2016’s configuration is a bit more in the collector’s favor, this product is still as much of a dog as it was last year, if not worse.

These are a visual train wreck:

2016 Clear Vision Laquon Treadwell Auto Relic /10

2016 Clear Vision Ozzie Newsome Auto

2016 Clear Vision Sammy Watkins Jumbo Patch

2016 Clear Vision Eric Dickerson Dual Tag Patch

2016 Clear Vision Jared Goff Jumbo Patch

Personally, I think acetate is awesome when done well. Hard signed, good design, with an objective to make a statement. High Tek had some great looking cards, all hard signed, with a VERY inexpensive rate to go in on it. At 65 bucks a box, you got some nice parallels, a fun pattern variation chase, and a hard signed card. The issue was that no one gave a shit. Clear vision offers literally none of that, with rip off versions of the High Tek look, signed acetate scraps instead of hard signed autographs, and two autographs per case. Although the box price is a bit cheaper compared to 2015, the autograph checklist is significantly less attractive as well. I had fun with High Tek, even after it tanked. The set was really cool in hand, and really made use of the technology very well.

You could buy a case, and walk away with two autographs that wont buy you back a box, let alone a case, and that is a huge problem. Its a reason why both High Tek and Clear Vision from last year are at 50% of their initial pricing. Acetate is dead in that respect, and with Panini also about to inexplicably release Black Gold college edition for some stupid fucking reason, it dilutes the potential even further.

Panini might have found that ripping off their competition is easy, but it isnt a way to be a leader in the industry. If they are positioned to represent the sport for the next however many years, Im growing increasingly frustrated with their ability in developing their own ideas. Panini Instant (Topps Now), Panini Origins (Inception), Panini Optic (Chrome), Panini Clear Vision (High Tek), their entire digital portfolio, and other aspects of their product line all showcase their lack of creativity, and it should worry people. It should also be insanely worrisome that they dont seem to know how to better execute any of the shit they rip off.

Clear vision is fucking terrible, and off center signed acetate scraps are going to do nothing to help anyone move the needle. No one gives a flying pile of crap about this product in the long run, and the same goes for just about every other one of their pieces of garbage we see rotting on shelves as it is. Whether its Prizm Draft Picks that no one can sell, or this trash that no one can sell, they all have one thing in common – they are hard to move. Panini better figure out something fast, or they are going to find out very quickly that having all the money in the world wont matter if no one buys your product.

Ben Simmons and Upper Deck Take the NBA By Storm

There has been an awakening. Can you feel it?

Well maybe not Star Wars level, but one that should make Panini a little nervous in the ability to sell their basketball products when the new class takes the reigns from Karl Anthony-Towns and crew. Upper Deck decided it was time to make some serious waves in the sport where they are STILL the top brand in the game, despite being without a license to produce any real NBA licensed cards.

Recently, they announced an exclusive autograph deal with top pick and hobby whiz kid Ben Simmons, who is slated to be one of the top prospects in a number of years for the NBA. His cards have been selling for crazy amounts:

2016 Goodwin Champions Ben Simmons Sport Royalty Auto

2016 Goodwin Champions Ben Simmons RC SSP

2016 Goodwin Champions Ben Simmons Auto Sport Royalty w/ BIN

2016 Goodwin Champions Ben Simmons Goodwin Champions RC w/ BIN

Panini may have had the exclusive for a number of years now, but collectors have been flocking to the the Upper Deck sets of old to get their fix more and more. If UD were ever to get a license again, all those strides Panini has made would clearly be lost when the loyalists jump ship to rejoin the mother ship. Exquisite remains the top brand in the hobby, and its clear that UD wants that to remain clear.

The signing of an exclusive deal with Simmons is a step in a direction that is quite interesting. Even though UD cant produce licensed cards, the fact that there is nothing else available for him should make waves. It cant make Panini very happy, and that’s just an added benefit all together. I really dont like exclusive agreements in any sense of the word, and this is a huge middle finger right in the face of the people that seem to be taking over all the ones they can get.

Although Im sure that isnt why UD did this, it still has to feel good. The question remains, if UD doesnt have a license to support Simmons, what is the play they are trying to make? I hope they find ways to ensure that Simmons is utilized in a way that keeps collectors interested, and I think that is where sets from companies like Leaf may provide some wonderful inspiration. Leaf has found ways to make extremely attractive unlicensed cards, and it becomes an exercise in retouching photos to make the designs pop.

Overall, Simmons is probably one of the biggest gets in a while for a company like UD. Not only is he ESSENTIAL to reaching potential of products released by the competition, but it opens the door for added coverage of a calendar of products that Upper Deck is ready to release.

This is going to be pretty interesting over the next few months, hopefully it ends up being a positive thing for Upper Deck, a company I have identified with as long as I have been involved in the Hobby.