Over the course of a calendar year, there is one gap that is only partially filled during the course of the football card season. On card autos for non-rookie players are so sparse, that they have almost become a fleeting ghost. Topps did the right thing when Upper Deck left the licensed NFL market, releasing Five Star – the only product that has 100% on card autos. Panini, up until this point has not caught up. National Treasures remains a sticker filled product, despite an EXTREMELY late release date and a 500 dollar price tag. Unacceptable.
This year, for the first time since 2006, National Treasures is offering on card autos of non-rookie players in two subsets of the product. Although this is FAR from a fix, its is no doubt a start, over absolute junk like this card from previous years. That being said, it is nothing less than shocking that Panini cannot make more of an effort to fix the one thing that has put National Treasures a step below every other high dollar product since its inception.
When National Treasures was first announced during the biggest year of rookies during the 2000s, people already wondered why it couldnt be done like 2005 and 2006 Exquisite, which had (and still has) some of the most valuable non-rookie cards ever done in football. Since that time in 2010, it has been wholly outshined by Five Star in both design and autograph content. The stickers make a product like National Treasures out to be a more expensive version of Gridiron Gear. It takes the special content down a notch, because on card autos USUALLY look better than stickers. I say usually, because the 2011 Rookie Auto Patches were a disaster.
The question then comes into focus. Where is the commitment to making a top of the line product? Upper Deck was able to do it for a product that cost 80 dollars a box in 2008 and 2009. If Panini is already getting some on card autos this year, what is stopping them from doing it for all autos? I honestly have no idea, and that is both frustrating and annoying. They still have not offered any indication that shows they will offer relic content with on card autos. I cant help but feel we will continue to see boxes of National Treasures filled with worthless and ugly jersey cards like this, while ignoring everything but the rookie patch autos. Not the way to do a high end set.
Panini previewed cards from both sets on their blog Friday, and they got two different reactions from me. One of the sets, the Virtuoso signatures look great. They look classy and composed, designed to be a high end signature card. I am a big fan of white dominated cards, and the cards in this set definitely fit that bill. In terms of the retired set, I dont have close to the same positive reaction. Panini put a big white area for the signature to be done, but covered up every other part of the card. I would much rather have a ghosted player behind the area, the way Upper Deck and Topps have done it since 2005.
Overall, this will be the 6th consecutive year where I will dump all of my funds into a product OTHER than National Treasures. The design, theme and content still does not seem unique and special enough to differentiate the cards from the 17 other products Panini has put out. This situation is tremendously damaging to the appeal of these cards to me, and its only a matter of time before collectors catch on too. They have already started voicing their disapproval in the main water cooler areas of the hobby.