SCU Go-Live Report: 2015 Score Football

Back when I was a kid, Score was the brand you bought when you didnt have enough allowance left to buy Upper Deck or Topps. To me, it was an inferior brand back then, and its an inferior brand now. Doesnt help that some of the ugliest cards of the modern era have come from this set. That hasnt stopped Panini from trotting it out year after year, like its some event to have ugly cards with a brand name that should have been axed back in 2005.

Some of the cards are live already, potentially retail:

2015 Score Kevin White Red Zone Auto /20

2015 Score Duke Johnson Auto RC

2015 Score Ameer Abdullah Showcase Auto RC /50

2015 Score Sammy Coates Auto RC First Down /10

Nothing can touch last year’s awful format, which might have been the worst idea Panini has ever come up with. They released Score in a retail only format, and stamped foil onto the score cards (literally) for a new hobby set called Hot Rookies. I cant make this shit up. They took the score design, and literally printed foil on top of it with a new logo, except for the fact that you could still see that it was a re-purposed card. For reference, Hot Rookies is now selling at about 30% of dealer cost, and even that is a rip off.

This year, Score is back to being a hobby and retail release, and uses Panini's new NCAA exclusive to the fullest. In fact, this is about the best thing they could have done, as it actually serves the product well to have action shots from College instead of the HORRENDOUS airbrushed sideline shots from last year. This is where the NCAA exclusive actually pays off.

That doesnt change the fact that Score is still a piece of shit set. Panini once marketed the product as a way to get kids back in the game, which only further shows how delusional they are. Kids are long gone, and the money it would take to get them back isnt worth even thinking about spending. Using Score football as a half assed attempt to attract children back to the hobby is like trying to use tofu as a vehicle to get people to stop eating meat.

In terms of the design of the set, it isnt a horrible one. The base design isnt actually that bad, especially considering how bad it has been in the past. What is truly horrible are the inserts, which bear the signature Panini GIANT text in spades. Its laughable how bad these cards are. Im starting to believe there is a meeting where the people present designs, and someone at the table rates the design on how big the text is. If its not big, the design is rejected. That is literally the only explanation I can muster for cards of this sort.

I think that if you are going to spend the money on this crap, save it for later in the year when you can get boxes at half price. This will stand up about as well as a piece of paper in a light wind.

On the Radar: 2015 Topps Platinum Football Preview

I am a big fan of Topps Platinum and have been since 2011. The years before that were a tad more suspect, but after 2011's changes stuck for the long term, Platinum has been a set to look forward to each year. Its the first set with on card autographs on non-retouched photos, and that has always prompted my excitement.

Last year was a combination of some really cool looking cards combined with a box hit patch auto design that really didnt work as well as I thought it would:

2014 Topps Platinum Odell Beckham Superfractor Patch Auto 1/1

2014 Topps Platinum Johnny Manziel Superfractor RC Auto 1/1

2014 Topps Platinum Blake Bortles Colossal Patch Auto /5

Previous years have had their fare share of sweet cards too:

2012 Topps Platinum Andrew Luck Die Cut Gold Refractor Auto On Card

This year’s Platinum design is a definite departure from previous years. Instead of the nameplate being the most interesting part of the card, the entire design is going pretty out there, with a feel that has me thinking of those cool outer limits universe pieces. Its kind of smoky, with a space like presentation, and it works really well in the base and the base autographs. Adding the team logo in the background is a really nice touch, especially when it isnt presented as a focal point.

As for the patch autos, there are some changes that I really like, and a few non-changes that linger from 2014. I really like that the player is much more up close in the design this year. Last year, they were too far zoomed out, which led to a pretty awkward look. I also like that they have incorporated a rectangular swatch for the patches to go along side the hexagonal or shield shaped swatch from previous years Рas we see on the Winston card. On the other hand, I really dont like that faded out area behind the sticker on the colored refractors. I think it just never looks right and draws the eye there immediately. The colors should be made light enough that it doesnt matter. Instead, we are going to get that white area for the second year in a row.

Overall, this year will continue to be dominated by the quality of the class, as I think there is a big bust potential in many of the rookies at the top of the draft. If the rookies light it up, you can assume that products like Platinum will be hot, especially with the Chrome stock. If not, we can see that the boxes will fall. The box break has always been tougher with Platinum because of the top player SP list that is always in place, so that could play a big part as well. For singles buyers, this looks like a fun product, for wax breakers, it can be a wait and see situation.

Either way, Im pretty excited to see how it turns out.

On the Radar: 2015 Panini Clear Vision Football

About a year ago, I would have told you that I am a fan of anything acetate. Its a great medium to use when producing trading cards, as many times it highlights all the right things about the product. Since that timeframe, acetate has become a feature in so many sets, so much so that we are reaching a point of oversaturation. This is none more clear than with Panini’s recently solicited product High Tek Clear Vision Football. Sometimes I wish there were a rule that prevented Panini from abusing a cool technology.

Dont get me wrong, Acetate can be a powerful tool when used correctly:

2012 Strata Signature Relic Russell Wilson Auto Patch /15

2014 Black Gold Teddy Bridgewater Sizeable Signature Relic

2014 Topps Hi Tek Mike Trout Auto

2013 Tier One Hank Aaron Clear Rookie Reprint Auto

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1997-Barry-Sanders-Pinnacle-Inscriptions-Auto-Acetate-Lions-/281707303831?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4197105397

Of course, it can also be a complete train wreck:

2014 Playbook Johnny Manziel Auto

Believe it or not, the product’s design is actually NOT the weirdest thing about this product. That designation belongs to its format, which for the first time in many years, is highlighted by a one autograph per CASE outline. Yes, Panini is going to attempt the impossible – create a product, in an autograph dominated hobby, with barely any autographs. Not only is it beyond risky, it might actually be something more than that. To me, if the one autograph per case format holds, it serves more as a test product for 2016 than anything.

Here is why I think that is the case.

Basically, when Panini drastically overpaid for the NFLPA exclusive, they set themselves up for a very difficult task. Not only would they have to absorb all the calendar slots from Topps, but they would have to make those products VERY successful to even entertain the prospect of breaking even. After hearing some musings on the minimum guarantees that Panini will have to come up with just for the NFLPA, there are a few things that will have to be accomplished.

One of those things is creating products that dont rely on autograph content as much, as it seems like the autograph deals that many players will sign are going to have to get a lot larger. To fund 30-35 products per year, their team is going to have to come up with double the amount of autographs they would normally do, unless those new products some how create value without adding additional autograph content to the pool.

Clear Vision looks to be a product that could end up being the first of those sets that focuses more on content outside of the autographs. Funny enough, I have heard that distributors revolt against products that want to move away from relic content. I have heard the same is true on the autograph side. Im not sure how Panini plans to sell this to the only customers that matter to them, if that indeed is the case.

They might tout on card signatures with this product, but I think its clear that they are stretching the definition of what “on card” really means. This looks to be those ever-horrible manupatch autographs, but with an acetate insert instead of a signed piece of embroidered cloth. That isnt on card, people. That is a sticker replacement device.

There is a big potential for this set to explode in their face, but it all depends on their ability to execute on all those elements that speak to customers. Even though its 50-60 bucks a box, and features the first Panini cards with rookies in their NFL uniforms, I really dont see much potential here. Football is the wrong sport to be in the conundrum that Panini put themselves in. This sport is autograph dependent, and I think they are going to have a very tough time hitting sales numbers for the PA in general. Releasing products like this will only make it tougher, but then again, Panini isnt known for their hobby intelligence.

Personally, I see this as a knock off of Hi-Tek Baseball and Football, which featured a set comprised mostly of acetate cards. In football, Hi-Tek offers true on card autographs, and does it in a normal format for a similar price. I cannot understand why Panini wants to try to compete with that. This set seems destined for below cost prices on boxes, especially after the allure of new rookie cards wears off.

I guess we will have to wait and see how the collectors react to something like this.

2015 NFL Rookie Premiere: Things to Watch For This Week

Starting today and getting going tomorrow through Saturday, the top rookies of the year will be in Los Angeles for one of the biggest events of the football card year. For the list of players attending, here is my post from yesterday. Now that we know who will be there, there are a LOT of things that will be going down. Here are some of the things I am most looking forward to seeing.

Player Autograph Quality

The Rookie Premiere is a time where autograph content has almost become more important than taking the pictures for the cards. Each of the rookies will sign over 2500-3000 autographs in a weekend, some even more than that. As a result, we will get to see how much they decide to adjust their autographs to relieve some of the pressure of having to sign so many cards. From what I have gathered, not every rookie is excited about getting a million cards to sign put in front of them, but almost all of them find a way to get it done. Pretty remarkable in a lot of ways.

As mentioned earlier, some of the players have already started to shorten their signatures:

2015 Contenders Draft Picks Todd Gurley Auto Ticket

2015 Leaf Clear Melvin Gordon Auto Acetate

2015 Topps Inception Previews

Every year, there are a few products that are based on content received almost exclusively at the rookie premiere. In my opinion, Inception is at the top of that list, and I am beyond sad that this is likely the last year it will be in production in the same format. It has made a name for itself since 2011 with extremely high end on card content at a point in the year where the competition is just getting the ball rolling. Player collectors go nuts over the inscriptions (as do I), and it looks like there will be a big focus on generating unique content again this year. Cant wait to see how it turns out.

Here are some of my favorites from 2014:

2014 Inception Blake Bortles Drawn Play Inscription Auto 1/1

2014 Inception Sammy Watkins Booklet Letter Auto

2014 Inception Johnny Manziel Inscription Auto /10

2015 Topps Previews

Unlike Panini, Topps has been really good at showcasing a lot of the cards that will be signed at the premiere. We know that Inception is a big part of it, but the ever popular rookie premiere autos and retro throwback cards are also a big deal. I would guess that this is a time where Topps is going to do their best to set their early products up for success, and I cannot wait to see what they have in store. Being that this will be their last rodeo in a lot of ways, going to be interesting to see if they pull out all the stops.

2015 Panini Previews

Here is the thing. We know relatively nothing about Panini’s offerings at the event, and that really doesnt do much for people who are curious about what is going to be displayed. Im guessing there will be on card elements to Elite and Prestige, but Panini has weird obsessions with having players sign those stupid manu-patch autographs and oversized versions of their ugly Score cards. Last year’s Elite product was easily one of the best of the run, and I am interested to see if they can recreate the lightning in a bottle, or if we are going to see them fuck it up like they have so many times in the past.

Will Panini College Products Be A Focus?

We already know that they didnt really put as much work into Contenders as they should have, rehashing old designs and using sticker autos. Prizm is a bit of a different story, but we havent seen it in real life yet – only mockups. So, it goes without question that Panini is going to want to take their new toy and exploit it like a kid in a sweatshop, thus peaking my interest. Just how far will they go with it? From what we have seen so far, decision making on strengthening brands hasnt exactly been one of their strong suits.

How Much Will Collectors Respond to This Class?

The Premiere is really the first time we get to see the rookies on stage. Last year’s class was front and center, and during this event, they really looked like they were primed for the spotlight. In previous years like 2013, the buzz was almost non-existent. Curious to see how collectors react, and what this might mean for the upcoming NFL card year.

Will Topps Go Out With a Bang?

This is THE question I am looking forward to seeing answered over the course of the year. Topps has been in football for decades and decades. It was the brand I collected when I was a kid, and the same for my dad. To think that Topps is losing the ability to produce NFL licensed trading cards is so depressing that I think this industry will be impacted more than people think. With that in mind, im curious to see if they use this event as the start of their locomotive that will barrel down the track in 2015, or if they are not going to answer the bell for the final round. From previews we have already seen this year, looks like they are not going to go down without a fight.

Collector Reaction to the Event Used Jerseys

Each time the Rookie Premiere rolls around, there are a group of people who pull back the curtain and see what really goes on with the player worn material that is obtained at this event. Yes, we know that the players only wear the jerseys for less than a second, as it has been well documented. It is shocking that there are still people that are part of the online community that have no idea how a rookie jersey is obtained for their card released in July, despite the fact that they havent played in a real game yet? Here is the thing. Game used jerseys are a hot commodity for every player, ESPECIALLY rookies. Some teams dont use more than a few game used jerseys all year. Considering that the NFL has programs to resell the jerseys, as do the teams themselves, that doesnt leave much left for the collectors and the card companies to fight over. Therefore, if you want a patch card of your favorite rookie, the premiere is a necessary method to the madness.

Now, for me, I dont buy event used cards unless there is an autograph on it. Its my policy. I also put very little value in patch colors or logo patches, except for certain circumstances. Other people dont feel the same way. They dont care that the jersey is only worn for less than 5 seconds, and will assign enormous value to a card based on patch content. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you are aware of the methods. Bottom line, I actually like that Mark Ingram picture, because it means he wore the jerseys for a significant amount of time. Not like others who just put the collar over their head and take it right off (yes, that’s what really happens).

Pretty much, if you enjoy event used jerseys because they are player worn, like sausages, best to avoid watch them being made.

This weekend is going to be a treat. Its going to be fun, and there will be lots of action. Follow me @SCUncensored, as I will be following along very closely and adding comments to what is posted from the manufacturers all weekend.

2015 NFL Rookie Premiere List Announced

Each year, there is no bigger event in the football card hobby than the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. This is the time where the new rookies for each team get to debut their new teams and take pictures for everything – from sports cards to Madden and other media. Its also the time where card companies get autographs, patches and material to use in their cards all year long. If you werent already aware, rookie memorabilia is all obtained at this event, not from the games played during the season.

This is also a time where many of the initial on card autographs are signed, some 1500 plus over the course of a few days:

2014 Inception Odell Beckham Jr Auto Laundry Tag Booklet

2014 Topps 40 Player Rookie Premiere Auto Booklet

2014 Elite Sammy Watkins Rookie Premiere Auto

2014 Topps Mike Evans Rookie Premiere Auto

2014 Elite Blake Bortles Inscriptions Acetate Auto

In previous years, the attendee list has ballooned from 30 to 35, all the way up to 41 attendees this year. As a result, this means that most of the skill position players drafted during the first 3 days will be attending, regardless of their potential for production on the field. Believe it or not, this isnt usually a bad thing, as it means that the one sleeper guy who will break out during the year will likely be among this group. It also means that there will be that many more duds that can kill your box.

I am counting a number of guys that could fill that role, including 5-10 WR alone. At the same time, this is a pretty deep class in both RB and WR, which would explain the invite list being more bloated with those guys.

Bottom line, if the guy your team drafted isnt on this list, there will LIKELY not be material cards for that player over the year. They also are UNLIKELY to have NFL jersey photos that arent retouched from their college days, or feature a shot from the pro day/combine.

Because all pictures and material is produced at this event, so much of any player’s year depends on premiere attendance. Most of those event worn swatches are from the jerseys they wear for a few seconds during the week, although Topps has done a good job bringing on more rookies who emerge as the season begins.

Here is the list:

1