I just picked up on something that scares me a little bit, especially because of the slippery slope it could entail if it ever caught on. For the first time in any set, as far back as I can remember, Panini has changed the way stickers are done in their products. Collectors (myself included) have often complained about the limited size a sticker has to offer in terms of a signature space. Rather than use this limitation as a reason to move towards extended hard signed content – Panini just created bigger stickers:
This presents a unique situation, as it definitely has the potential to be something that carries over into sports that I care about. Panini has already ruined basketball by the standards of a lot of long time collectors, but this has to be one of the most odd decisions made in a long time. I understand the point is to provide more area to sign, but we arent looking for improvement in stickers, we are looking for them to be eliminated all together. Instead of fixing problems with the stickers, dont use them!
Adding area in the stickers seems to have the opposite visual effect that I am sure Panini would like. The purpose of using labels is to hide the fact that the player didnt sign on card. This does not serve as a good way of doing that with over a third of the card covered by the label. It also seems to present design challenges for Panini to boot.
Now, I understand that sometimes, using stickers is inevitable, as players arent always available to sign when products are released. I dont think this gives a pass to the companies to try to eliminate their usage. Both Topps and Panini have found innovative ways to address some of this situation in football, but they both continue to rely heavily on using labels for autographs.
The main issue is the number of products that are required to be produced to maintain cash flow and requirements of having a league license. I think all of us would be remiss to believe that each company could find time to schedule signings with players for up to 18 products at numerous times during the year. Although I support the presence of 10-15 products on the calendar, I still believe further review of autograph practices needs to be addressed.
Let me reiterate my point here, just so that all of this should make more sense. I am more complaining that we are working to improve stickers than to eliminate them. Although I dont think that its a bad idea for stickers to get bigger, I do think it signals more and more that we will never find ways around them. Its a crutch that every company with a large slate of products has come to depend on at one time or another. Im just hoping that one day we can have more of a balance for those players that fall outside the normal usage. Topps has done a great job with this in baseball, and I am just waiting for it to transfer more to Football and beyond.