For the last decade plus, the Rookie Premiere has been an event where every card company who has a football license sets up their goods and prepares for the entire year’s worth of rookie cards. Signings, pictures, the works. Over the last few years, thousands of autographs are signed. It funds many products, and that doesnt even begin to talk about the photographs taken at the stadium on Saturday.
During the entire span of the event, there have always been multiple companies who are attending. This past weekend will unfortunately be the last time that happens. There is no guarantee that the 2016 event will be as big or as fun, especially when Panini is the only trading card company who has a license.
Now, I fully intended to get on every night and write a post about the happenings at the premiere. Over the last 5 years, it has been a weekend filled with cards to be signed, autographs to be showcased, and pictures to be viewed. Instead we had Panini come and do nothing of the sort, and Topps literally blow them so far out of the water that the debris has yet to land. Social Media, Cards, Autographs, basically everything was in Topps’ corner, and that doesnt even begin to describe what is likely going to be coming in digital with the Huddle team in attendance for the first time ever. I really didnt even need to offer any opinion because the results were so clearly laid out.
This was really the Topps show all weekend, and as happy as I am to see them go out with a bang, I am sad because I know that that means for 2016. The football card hobby is about to go into a famine of unheralded proportions with Panini at the helm, and that scares me to fucking death. They literally walked into this event with the rookies available for FOUR straight days to sign cards. From what we saw, they spent that time signing non-card materials. Stickers, paper inserts, everything BUT cards.
When the cards they did sign ended up coming to the surface, they were some of the ugliest examples in recent memory. Panini either played everyone for a fool and showed nothing in their hand, or they really fucked up the biggest event of the year in a way that hasnt been done since 2010. For as good as 2014’s premiere signings were for Panini, 2015 was as bad, if not worse.
Their same day signature cards look so ugly there arent any words. Aside from the fact that the rookies arent even in their gear (because the shots had to be taken a few days before the reveal on Saturday), they put them in Panini t-shirts for some god forsaken reason. Add in some giant text and an inexplicable vertically signed autograph, and you see what happens.
Dont even get me going on the Pen Pals cards, which are back to head shots instead of retouched NFL jerseys like they were last year. Just ridiculous. Yes, we see that sketch cards are more important than hard signed NFL content like they have done since 2012.
Here are the types of things they did all weekend:
On the other side of things, Topps really did a great job with Inception, Topps Football and other sets taking center stage. As usual, Inception was the brightest star on the stage, as it has been since 2011. It was another year of great looking cards, and lots of inscriptions. The design this year looks very similar to previous years, but there is no reason to change a formula that always plays to the big time. Inception is a high end product in the disguise of a pre-premiere set, and that takes a lot of talent to pull off. Sure, the NFL took away some of the luster with forcing them to use 00 jerseys for players who had late jersey number assignments, but the set looks good enough to me that I will set that aside.
I also LOVED that they used the 1976 and 1987 Topps designs for the retro cards this year, as both have a long history in this industry. Being that 1976 was the same year that Walter Payton was a rookie, that was a perfect way to close out the run. Although 1987 was in the beginning of the junk wax era, that design was always a favorite of mine.
Oddly enough, the most convincing win of the weekend for Topps was in their social media. Susan Lulgjuraj kicked some ass and took some names. If it wasnt clear that she was a great hire, this is a perfect example. She did live chats, live signings, and gave fans all sorts of ways to experience the weekend. Topps’ twitter was easily where I spent most of the time watching for new cards, something that was a bit unexpected. Usually Panini is all over things, but not this time. This was a big win for the team from New York.
Here are some of the awesome cards that Topps had done:
Bottom line, people should be really pissed off. REALLY pissed off at Panini. Even if they have on card material with College jerseys for their first few products, that is not what this event should be used for. This event is not about those stupid fucking sketch cards that everyone laughs at. It is about getting some great looking cards done for use in the first products – NFL style. Topps has done that and done it well now for 5 years, Panini still seems to be fumbling their way through everything, focusing on setting up big events to make themselves look good, instead of delivering substance in their products.
This mentality will hurt the hobby and hurt in a way that might not be something that we can ever recover. Panini has always been a hot mess, and this is just the icing on the cake. Some how, if Elite, Prestige and other sets end up being stickers or on card autograph replacements, they deserve all the venom they will get.