There is no denying that Panini has really taken high end very seriously this year, albeit with some very mixed results. Some of their stuff has been quite impressive, while other stuff has been far from mediocre in the way it looks. But, without a doubt, their two biggest high end sets of the year have been Flawless and Immaculate, and its time to break down who did what better. Because both sets are a direct port from Basketball, it shouldnt be too hard to see how they made the transition. I have often said that Flawless lacked the punch that Immaculate had, and I guess this is the opportunity to compare side by side.
Base RPS Rookie Autos
Im not really interested in comparing scrub vs scrub, because Flawless really didnt have any of the non photo shoot guys. However, they did have relatively the same slate of rookies when you get higher up, so we should go that direction.
Here are Flawless’ Base Rookie Autos:
Here are Immaculates Base Rookie Autos:
From a visual stand point, I think Flawless is more clean, but I definitely dont necessarily believe that being clean actually sets it apart here. Immaculate definitely has a more dynamic look to it, and that almost always leads to a better looking card. I dont like that either has a separated area for signatures, but unlike Flawless, Immaculate makes it part of the design. Huge difference in look.
The rarity of Flawless’ base autographs for the rookies should be taken into consideration, but it doesnt matter enough to sway my vote. So many cards are rare these days that it is no longer the attractive situation it used to be.
Verdict: Immaculate 1, Flawless 0
Rookie Insert Autos
Flawless and Immaculate really have a lot of insert sets for rookies, and I think they did a really nice job in both sets making the cards look really good. Immaculate does have an advantage in some ways because of how many swatches they used, but that doesnt always mean its going to be a runaway victory.
Here are some of Flawless’ Rookie Insert Autos:
Here are some of Immaculate’s Rookie Insert Autos:
Flawless again went with as clean a design as possible, and for the most part, it worked out very well. Immaculate has a few sets though that look better above and beyond, and its kind of insane that they were able to make Flawless almost look boring.
Flawless only has one type of rookie swatch with ink on it, and it was one of my favorite looks for the set. However, when you consider that all of the rookie relic content is event used anyways, it becomes more about making the card look good.
Immaculate has more focus on relics, and copying from Exquisite’s design archive makes the cards look pretty damn good. I think that in many of the examples, Immaculate made better use of the autographs and swatches to make the cards look better and more interesting.
Verdict: Immaculate 2, Flawless 0
Veteran Auto Content
Because the sets had different focuses it seems, this could be quite the contested category between the two sets. Both had a plethora of autographed veteran content, but I think its pretty clear which sets had the main advantage.
Here are some of Flawless’ Veteran Autos:
Here are some of Immaculate’s Veteran Autos:
Bottom line, Flawless was all on card and had a very succinct approach in building checklists. Although there were some MAJOR duds on the list, getting them all done in the beginning of the year is almost worthy of a freaking medal.
Immaculate was hugely disappointing in seeing that some of the vets were sticker autographs, almost a complete taboo for a product that costs as much as Immaculate does. Though the jumbo patch autographs in Immaculate look better than Flawless’ design, the stickers just kill it. Most were on card, but Immaculate should have had the same attention as Flawless did with hard signed cards.
Verdict: Immaculate 2, Flawless 1
Here is the thing. Flawless had a shorter run than Immaculate, so there wont be as many subsets to create more boxes of the product. This is where it has a distinct disadvantage just in quantity over quality. Either way, its worth talking about it.
Here are some of the top patch cards from Flawless:
Here are some of the top patch cards from Immaculate:
Let me start off by saying that Flawless’ run of patch cards is more simple, but looks better than 95% of the patch cards in Immaculate solely because of the design. I know that isnt what collectors think about for some stupid reason, but I definitely bring it in for consideration.
However, that’s where the advantages end, as Immaculate has some crazy shit in it. Just insane patches all over the place, and they are not all rookies either, which is only more intriguing. The problem is that they just slapped a border on many of the cards, which I think is lazy and cheap. They should have done booklets, regardless of cost, instead of trying to pack the product with Nate Washington and Anthony Fasano crap.
The checklist for Immaculate is so diluted on the patch stuff, . Flawless is significantly more compact, and the checklist reflects that.
Also, the stupid content of hats, jackets, and locker name plates for rookies is just dumb. Stick to the stuff they play in – gloves, shoes and helmets. Lucky for Panini, those all turned out nice.
That being said, there are so many duds in this product, especially the signed rookie letters, which are about as stupid and lame as it can get. I should take away a point for how bad these turned out. Just a stain on this product, right next to the stain already left by the sticker autographs.
You just cant argue with Immaculate’s chase appeal to the general collector base, so it gets the point. It also goes without saying that the fiasco surrounding the authenticity of game used material used in Flawless should never be understated. Just a completely disgraceful situation that Immaculate has YET to face. Yet being the key word, right?
Verdict: Immaculate 3, Flawless 1
Both products decided to keep base cards in the mix, and I am actually surprised by how much people actually want these. To me, base cards in a high end product seems to be a dumb way to add more cards to the box, but they sell well, so whatever.
Here are the base cards from Flawless:
Here are the base cards from Immaculate:
Personally, I understand why they wanted to go with base cards that had gems in them. Flawless illicit that type of context. However, that doesnt excuse how asinine of an idea it is to put diamond chips in cards. Adding in that the authenticity of the diamonds has been questioned on the forums, and diamond melee is REALLY cheap, I dont understand the appeal.
Immaculate’s base cards look awesome. Simple and dynamic just like the rest of the set. I almost dont need to say anything else because they look that good.
Verdict: Immaculate 4, Flawless 1
This was always my main complaint. How do you put out a box that costs as much as Flawless does and not have any chase content. I mean, no shields, very few logos, and no multi-signed cards at all. It makes no sense.
Here are some of the chase cards from Flawless:
Here are some of the chase cards from Immaculate:
When you bust a box of Flawless, you almost are paying for a better checklist, which is about as bad as it gets. Its sad that we have gotten to a point where you have to pay three times as much to get a better chance at a good hit. Content has really become an issue.
Immaculate has some insane chase cards. Logo patches, quad shields, shield autographs, logo 1/1s, the craziness is everywhere you look. Every other set has some really ridiculous cards in it, and people are going gaga over them.
It should be mentioned that watering the chase down with so many cards is an issue, but that’s why people buy high end. Im all about it.
Verdict: Immaculate 5, Flawless 1
This is where it gets really dicey, as I think both products have a horrific box breaking format. You either pay through the nose and get SOMETHING or you pay less and get burned about 75% of the time, and come out poorly another 20% of the time.
Flawless has one of the worst MSRPs to ever been put on a product, but it delivers more times than Immaculate could in five times the cases. Even though some of the encased main hits were so bad that it made me want to barf, it came through with nice stuff frequently. Immaculate has points cards in it, which is a such a fucking slap in the face that it should be disqualified from even being considered for a point in this category.
Add in that when you bust a box of Immaculate, and one of your cards could be a 400 point card, your autos could be 2 scrubs, and you are still only going to get 2 other cards in the break, and its over. Flawless wins, and I cannot believe I am saying that.
Verdict: Immaculate 5, Flawless 2
Im not saying that Flawless is a bad set in any way here, even though it had some huge issues. Flawless does have some really nice looking cards, but in the end, Immaculate has the more attractive cards that will inevitably outsell anything Flawless has to offer. The chase element HAS to exist in a high end set, and when you take that away in the name of a smaller checklist, that is bad for business. I shouldnt have to pay 1500 dollars to ensure I get a good card. Flawless should have the insane content that Immaculate has, and that is the deciding factor in many ways for me. If you cant give me something special for 1500, im not touching it.
All in all, both products have enormous holes that I dont expect Panini to have the intelligence to recognize or the willingness to fix. That’s the biggest price to pay, and I remain petrified for 2016 as a result.
Final Score: Immaculate 5, Flawless 2