Since the beginning of the 2012 card season, Panini and Topps have been doing everything in their power to futher build out their followings in the baseball card markets, both in successful ways and other less successful ventures. Oddly enough, they are trying to do it by capitalizing on a part of the baseball market that has gone relatively unexplored over the last five seasons. With both companies having the ability to put out HOF inspired cards, high end autographs seem to be more relevant in Baseball than ever.
Today on Twitter, Topps released the first images of their recently signed Willie Mays cards from Gypsy Queen and Museum Collection. What many people dont know is that Willie has had vision problems over the last few years, and is no longer able to see clearly enough to sign the way he used to. The fact that Topps got these done is remarkable, considering that Mays has a limited window in which these will be possible. Not only do the cards look incredible, but they capture something that I dont think Panini can. Ill get to that in a second. The redemptions cards have been selling for crazy prices on eBay and after seeing them on Twitter, I might need to buy a few myself:
Mays is not the only one getting the HOF treatment this year from Topps, as guys like Aaron, Koufax, Musial and others are all featured on similarly stunning cards.
Check it out:
When you see what Panini has to offer in their products, its very easy to see that they arent playing with the same deck, and even if they were, it would be ridiculously tough to create on the level that Topps already has. Panini’s focus is all wrong, relying more on the words and background of the cards than the players themselves. Unlike the NBA and NFL, where jerseys and autographs dominate the market, baseball is a ridiculously different set of collectors who demand certain things. One part of that is nostalgia, and I feel as though Panini has almost completely ignored the reason that many collectors buy baseball cards, and I have a distinct feeling that it is why they are struggling so much without a license.
As we saw with 2008 Prime Cuts, a solid baseball product can be created without a license, but I have yet to see Panini make the right calls in both design or product structure / box configuration. Where Topps fell on their face last year, they have picked it up this year with amazing looking card after amazing looking card. This is even before Triple Threads and the eventual release of Five Star, which should be their two most popular high end products. Panini has already released Prime Cuts, which has traditionally been their highest end box, and from what the feedback I have gotten from people said, is that they agree it was a complete bomb. Again, it was just as much a disregard for the things that make baseball collectors salivate as anything, and with the upcoming release of Cooperstown, it doesnt look to be getting any better.
As with the NFL, Topps seems to be stepping up their game to meet competition head on, while Panini is just doing enough to cater to their loyal base of collectors. Without expansion, the splash they are hoping to make wont be getting any larger. Additionally, if they keep creating cards like the Yaz, pictured above, without a player on the front of the card, they might as well give up now. Put the Topps cards and the Panini cards side by side and it is easy to tell who has the better approach. In fact, I dont even think they would be in the same league if both had the ability to use logos. Topps shoots for majestic presentation and a player focus, while Panini seems more boxy, raw and scaled down. When a company is trying to make a good first impression, I dont believe this is the way to go. This is just laughable..
Again, with so few people really paying attention to what the cards look like, maybe people like me are the endangered species. People always accuse me of a bias towards Topps, but its always about the quality of design work over everything for me. When you compare Cooperstown with the sets released this year from Topps, I question anyone who doesnt develop a similar bias. This may come as a shock, but I would buy a CASE of Triple Threads over even the best Panini product so far. That’s how strongly I feel about this.