Product Review: 2010 Donruss Elite

When Panini bought out the struggling Donruss/Playoff company last year, certain product offerings changed names (i.e. Panini Prestige and Panini Classics). However, they decided to allow a few longer tenured products to keep their namesake, such as the recently released Donruss Elite. While this is the second product from Panini on the 2010 release calendar, this is the first to feature photos of rookies in their new pro uniforms, something for which collectors always look forward.

2010 Donruss Elite box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $111 (I added some supplies to get free shipping), which translates into a $1.11/card ratio. That is a little high for my usual liking, but it matches the style of this product with its rookie focus and mid-shelf feel. It’s not low end like Score and it’s not high end like Exquisite, but you also get a lot more in a box than you will with Score and (most likely) a lot less than you would from Exquisite, so it’s appropriate.

2010 Donruss Elite Pack
Tim Tebow was on the side of the box, too (not Sam Bradford?)

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans (#1-100): 85 (84.0% with 1 duplicate)
   Rookies (#101-201): 4 (all #/999)
   Super Bowl XLIV: 1 (#/999)
   Elite Series: 1 (#/999)
   Chain Reaction: 1 (#/999)
   Zoning Commission: 1 (#/999)
   Stars: 1 (#/999)
   Prime Targets: 1 (#/999)
   NFL Shield/Team Logo Rookies: 2 (#/999)
   Aspirations Die Cut: 1 (#/90)
   Prime Targets: 1 (#/299)
   Down & Distance Prime: 1 (#/50)
   Turn of the Century Rookies: 2 (#/399)

2010 Donruss Elite2010 Donruss Elite
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: The base design is not bad. There is a fair amount of stuff going on in the design, but it doesn’t come across as busy or crowded, which is something Panini/Donruss has struggled with in the past. I like that there is some color to the front of the card (Prestige, you might remember, was all ultra neutral with a grey/silver design). I would prefer to see a team color scheme, but as you can see with the Aspirations Die Cut and autograph cards, the design color helps to distinguish parallels. In the past, Donruss forced collectors to figure out which color foil stamp was used and the serial numbering to determine parallels, which was awfully annoying. The back of the card is decent, although I’d like to see more stats and a photo, as long as it’s not just a cropped version of the photo on the front. Lastly, the base cards (as well as most of the inserts) are on ultra shiny foil board. Normally I’m all for shiny, but these are REALLY shiny. And when almost every card in the entire box is ultra shiny, it loses some of its lure.

2nd Down, Inserts: Where to start? It seems like Panini took every good insert from the past and threw them all into this product. When I buy an entire box and there are so many inserts that I’m only pulling one of each, you may want to reconsider how many inserts sets you’ve created. And that does not include the plethora of parallels of each set that were produced, something for which Panini is infamous. Also, you can once again easily tell where the jersey swatch and/or autograph sticker would be placed if you had received the relic/auto parallel. Granted, they filled in those empty spaces better than in the past, but it is still there. Individually, no particular insert is oustanding or awful, but overall, there are just too many. I’d rather get a few more rookie cards than yet another worthless insert. One small change Panini has made this year might be minor, but I really like it. On their jersey cards, they are indicating directly on the card front whether or not the jersey swatch is prime. Before, you had to hope you got dual colors or stitches because otherwise you had to rely on the serial numbering to tell what you got. On a side note, this is probably the first time I’ve pulled a jersey card that I could definitely tell what part of the jersey it came from. If you tilt the card a little, you can see more white beyond the small red stripe, so it’s obviously the very far left portion of the Patriots logo. Pretty cool stuff.

3rd Down, Collation: The collation was pretty good. Out of 85 base cards, I only pulled 1 duplicate, which really isn’t too bad of a ratio. I also feel like I pulled a good sampling of the various inserts, rookies, and hits (you are “guaranteed” 4 hits per box with at least one being an auto). My only issue with collation is more related to my comment above about inserts. I would have been much happier if Panini had cut several insert sets from this product, if only to allow more room for rookies in each box. When half of your base set is rookie cards, I should be able to pull more than 4 from a single box. If you really want to limit each base rookie to just 999 copies, produce a few fewer cases to get more rookies in each box. I know this sort of product doesn’t really appeal to set collectors anyway, but even from a singles-focused collector, it would be much nicer to get more rookies from each box.

4th Down, Overall Value: It is what it is. Any time a product’s per card ratio exceeds $1, I start to get really leery. With a rookie class that has quite a few big names like Bradford, Spiller, and Tebow, there is certainly the potential to pull way more value than any individual box or case may have cost, but that tends to come down to luck of the draw (as is the case with any box break). One definite positive point here is that this is the first 2010 product to feature rookies in their new pro unis. One thing that really concerns me though is how quickly the box prices are falling. I bought my box for $111, but if I had waited less than a week, I could have paid $107. That’s not a huge dropoff, but for a brand new product that is less than a week from its release date, that seems rather significant to me. If I had gone the eBay route, I could have gotten a sealed box for about $85, although then you are at the mercy of disreputable sellers who open product to find the case hits and sell anything they didn’t open. As always, it boils down to knowing what you want. If you want a big base set to hand collate and a low per card price, wait for something like Score or Topps’ flagship. If you want super valuable and low numbered autographed patch cards, wait for something like Exquisite (oh wait…). But if you’re looking for something in the middle, Donruss Elite can be a good way to go.

RED ZONE RESULTS: Defensive penalty resulting in a FIRST DOWN Overall, this box break didn’t necessarily “wow” me, but it also did not disappoint or bore me. I didn’t pull any spectatular rookies or hits, including any of the case hits, but that is to be expected as not every box can be the best from the pack out. Given more time and a much larger budget, I definitely would not mind busting a case of this product. I think the base set would look really sharp in a binder and the new pro unis and various chase cards can be a great find. One slight personal bias that may come out is that I am all for any product that includes Emmitt Smith, and Panini did include him in their higher end autograph insert sets for Donruss Elite. So while I’m not ready to give this product any offensive points just yet, it definitely deserves another shot and further consideration, hence the defensive penalty and a fresh set of downs from inside the 10 yard line.

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 Upper Deck NCAA Sweet Spot


4 Responses to Product Review: 2010 Donruss Elite

  1. jswaykos says:

    I liked the Elite baseball product from 09, which looks similar to the 2010 football offering. I’m also looking forward to the NCAA Sweet Spot… when does that come out?

  2. CPAdave says:

    UD NCAA Sweet Spot is currently set to release next Tuesday 6/29/2010, less than a week away!

    BTW, you can see all of the 2010 release dates (and reviews if available) on the right-hand panel of any page on my blog. I know you rely on my humble offerings for football insights, so you may want to refer to that box when you feel that NFL itch creeping back…

  3. CPAdave says:

    Bah…nevermind. It looks like it was pushed back. I am getting conflicting reports of 7/29 and 8/10 now for NCAA Sweet Spot, but either way, we’re over a month away at this point.

  4. jswaykos says:

    I thought I’d seen August release, too. The good news is that by that point I’ll be so juiced up for college football that I’ll dump my life’s savings on this product! I’m loving the hit-per-pack set up like baseball. Makes relics extremely expensive, but the promise of a sweet spot auto is too tempting to resist.

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