Yesterday we got a preview of Playoff Conenders Basketball that is magically changing into Playoff Contenders Patches Basketball according to the release from Panini’s blog. As you can probably tell, these cards will be vastly different than anything that has ever been released in any Contenders set from any sport. Instead of the rookie tickets that everyone collects and is used to, Panini seems to think that adding a jersey swatch would be a good method of improving lackluster sales on their basketball lines. They arent the first or the last to try this tactic, and personally it makes me feel bad for the collectors that love these cards they way they were. After viewing the design, it looks like Football got the long end of the stick for the first time in a long time. That makes me extremely happy. Because the Football rookie tickets look great, Im QUITE glad this looks to be a basketball only product.
Contenders, like some of the other products that have a storied history, has built itself on its autographed cards, all while being one of the only products to remain jersey card free. I have no problem with a lack of memorabilia as can be expected, and I definitely have a problem when the manufacturers try to force jerseys into a product that doesnt really need them in the first place. If the sales are struggling, its probably because the design is terrible (which it was last year) or that the pricing and content of the box is less desirable (again, it was last year). Personally, they should always change those incremental problems before adding jerseys to a product to boost sales.
Panini is only the most recent example, as both Topps and Upper Deck has fallen into this trap on a few occasions, much to my anger. The first was in 2008 Topps Chrome, where a product that had NOTHING wrong was tainted by the addition of a Patch parallel to the rookie autographs. In Topps Chrome, the rookie autographs were some of the most popular cards in the entire hobby. Topps thought that adding memorabilia swatches to the product would add to the set’s popularity, but with a vertical card that also has a giant foil sticker, its tough to find a spot for a big enough window. The cards ended up looking terrible, and have not improved at all since their intial inception. The same tactic was then added to Bowman Chrome as well, only the cards turned out twice as terrible. Bowman Chrome was recently cancelled and folded into 2010 Topps Chrome, so maybe adding jerseys wasnt enough to help maintain one of my favorite products of the year.
Speaking of one of my favorite products, in 2008 Ultimate Collection, Upper Deck tried to add jersey swatches to the base rookie autographs that had always been jersey free. In the midst of a complete format change for the product, the jersey swatch rookies looked great with a jumbo swatch and on card autograph, but the product’s overall success was damaged because the cards were not thought of with the same value as they once were, prior to the memorabilia addition. Where Reggie Bush and Adrian Peterson had very valuable Ultimate Rookie Autos, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan were left with subpar values due to the new add on. For 2009 Ultimate Collection and subsequently in 2010, Upper Deck went back to the normal format without the jersey, but the value had already left for good at that point.
It doesnt ALWAYS turn out bad, as with the addition of Patches to the rookie autos in SP Authentic at the beginning of the 2000s, but Upper Deck had the advantage of on card autos rather than stickers, and a nice design that became iconic. Panini Contenders Patches basketball, has neither. Ill wait for 2010 Contenders Football and be completely content with it not being diluted with unnecessary jersey swatches.