I am actually getting a bit of a breather in my day job (tax season is almost over!), so I figured we should keep this gravy train of 2011 product reviews rolling. The next stop on our tour de force is 2011 Press Pass Football. Another pre-draft product. Another unlicensed producer. There’s just something about this that makes me angry at Upper Deck… Side bar comments notwithstanding, let’s jump to the review:
Hobby boxes (supposely) come with 28 4-card packs for a total of 112 cards (although I pulled much closer to a 5-cards-per-pack ratio). I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $87, which translates into a moderate $0.78/card ratio. This seems to be about the norm for pre-draft sets. Personally, I feel that’s a bit high for unlicensed cards, but the market is what it is. Will my box prove to be worth its pricetag? Let’s find out…
As in the past, 2011 Press Pass features a multi-pack design
Base Cards: 122 (20 duplicates)
Base: 67 (14 duplicates)
Trophy Club: 6 (0 duplicates)
National Leaders: 23 (6 duplicates)
Banner Season: 15 (0 duplicates)
Graduating Class: 9 (0 duplicates)
Power Picks (short prints): 2 (0 duplicates)
Silver (#/299): 2
Gold (#/100): 1
Face to Face: 7
Class of 2011: 4
Bronze Autos: 2
Silver Autos (#/199): 2
Showbound Power Pick (#/25): 1
FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: With five subsets (six if you include the Power Pick short prints), there is not a lot of time for jibber-jabber, so let’s cut to the chase with these base cards. First up is what I’m calling the base base. These cards…aren’t stellar. In fact, they’re mediocre at best. My attention isn’t sure if it’s being drawn to the player photo or the gigantic jersey number. A card front should never have a confused focus. I could like the scoreboard design theme, but it’s just not doing it for me. The biggest turn off is the player name. For some reason, on a card with nearly all right-angles, the player name suddenly drops a curvy, scripty bomb and is oddly backlit. Strickly from a design standpoint, it’s actually a nice effect, but the dark letters on a dark background with a light glow just isn’t doing it for me. Oddly enough, the exact same letters are incredibly bright on the card back. And not to nit-pick, but I’ve never been a fan of the faux computer font, ticker type. Several sets have done this in the past (the first that comes to mind is 2000 Topps), but I’m just not a fan. Next was the Trophy Club. I really like this concept, but I’m glad there isn’t a whole set of it. Perhaps if the plaque was bigger and there was less wood it would be more attractive, but it really is pretty nicely done. The next subset was my favorite, National Leaders. I realize it’s not the most original idea, but for some reason, I really like images that pull together to look like notebooks or, in this case, clipboards. It’s probably because that was the concept of one of my first desktop publishing projects. So on a purely personal level, this works. My only comment would be that it would be nice to see different play diagrams behind the photos on each card. Next up is Banner Season. This subset was included in last year’s set as well, and honestly, it’s taken a step back rather than forward. Without taking a lot of time and space to figure out why, I’m just not feeling it. Unfortunately for the set, it only gets worse with the Graduating Class subset. I rarely like multi-player cards, especially if they’re not from the same team, and the lackluster design of these cards didn’t help. It just felt like a way to round a 91-card set up to a 100-card set. Lastly, the set does finish off strong with the Power Pick short prints. These cards just had that extra something to set them apart and were a nice addition to the checklist. Too bad they are short printed!
2nd Down, Inserts: While I was first busted this box, I thought this portion of my review would be a monstrosity. Then I figured out that a lot of what I thought were inserts, were actually subsets of main base set. The base parallels weren’t bad, and I appreciate that there were only two levels, but I wasn’t wildly impressed. I guess I like parallels that are simple yet distinct enough to easily tell the difference even on a substandard scan. The only two real “inserts” (besides the hits) were the Face to Face and Class of 2011 cards. The Face to Face cards have a nice feel to them. The design elements have that raw look that just conjures up a sense a conflict, which ties nicely to the theme. My problem with these cards? You guessed it. Multiple players. That is hedged a bit when you feature fierce rivalries, of which TCU and Wisconsin are not. At least there is a nice Rose Bowl tie-in for these two guys. The Class of 2011 inserts are very nice in person. They almost have a holographic look about them that is not captured well on my scanner. Lastly, the hits. Each box (on average) carries 5 autograph cards. What is the first thing you notice about the autograph cards in the scans above? If you answered, “they’re all on-card!” you are on the same wave length as me. As far as I know, all Press Pass autographs are inserted and are on-card. That’s quite a nice touch from a minor company (even though they’ve been around for a while). The raw design of the cards isn’t stellar, but there is also plenty of room for the player to sign. Unfortunately, there is a rapidly growing trend for even C-list athletes to just scribble their first initial and then a bit of a squiggle, rather than taking the time and effort to actually sign their names. That being said, the autograph space seems to rarely be fully utilized, but some blank space is better than cramming larger autos on stickers.
3rd Down, Collation: My first reaction was that there were way too many duplicates. Then, as I actually sorted through them, I realized there really weren’t THAT many, and I did pull the entire base set, sans Power Pick short prints. That being said, I still do not like duplicates and I’d rather have more inserts or parallels than duplicates. But if you’re going to give me the entire base set in just one hobby box, I’ll be willing to let you slide a bit more than I otherwise would. I also pulled the stated odds for autographs (5 per box), but did not pull any jersey cards. Interestingly enough, Press Pass seems to be the only company that makes jersey cards significantly rarer than autographs (of the companies that produce both). I’m obviously not complaining about that; I’m just making an observation. So overall, the collation was actually pretty darn good and hopefully my box was a good indicator for the entire production run.
4th Down, Overall Value: Despite the greatest efforts possible, an unlicensed set will always be just an unlicensed set. Even licensed college products get the nod over completely unlicensed sets, which is what Press Pass used to be. Unfortunately, Press Pass is just another victim of UD’s blatant disregard for sensible business practices and healthy hobby competition. One very strong case for this product is the on-card autographs. Player collectors in particular seem to be more focused on getting as many cards of their targets as possible, and are less concerned with worrying about for how much their collection should be insured. These pre-draft sets don’t become completely worthless once the first NFL licensed sets are released, but they definitely take a big hit. Ultimately, value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. YOU decide what is worth its weight in cardstock. Not me. Not the market as a whole. Certainly not some corporate suit. Just you.
RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL 2011 Press Pass had some good moves and took it right down to the goal line, but just couldn’t find paydirt, or even light up the scoreboard its base cards pretend to be. The on-card autographs and the flashy inserts are great highlights for this set, but ultimately the lackluster base card design and the piece-meal base checklist (5-6 subsets depending on whether or not you count the short prints) spelled doom for this product as a whole. In its first full year of not having a CLC license, Press Pass needed to come out with its creative guns blazing and its consumer appeal at an all-time high. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it mustered the energy. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a bad product and trust me, I’ve review far worse products in this blog’s short history. It just fell short on my personal wow-factor.
NEXT UP: 2011 SAGE Hit High Series