Product Review: 2011 SAGE Autographed

In exercising my editorial powers as sole owner and administrator for this blog, I am making an executive decision to change the lineup of my product reviews. I’m skipping 2011 Upper Deck for now because I can’t decide what else I should add to my online order and am jumping ahead to 2011 SAGE Autographed.

2011 SAGE Autographed box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 14 3-card packs for a total of 42 cards. I got this box directly from SAGE Collectibles, but current online prices are around $126, which translates into a tidy $3.00/card ratio. Anything beyond $1/card branches into my discomfort zone, but SAGE promises one autograph in every pack, so let’s see what’s in there:

2011 SAGE Autographed pack
1 auto in each of these bad boys

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 26 (0 duplicates)
Inserts
   Through the Lens: 2
Autographs
   Red Autos: 2
   Silver Autos: 2
   Gold Autos (#/200): 8
   Platinum Autos (#/50): 2

2011 SAGE Autographed2011 SAGE Autographed
Click image for full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a product that is dominated by autograph inserts, its tough to have a base card worth caring about. Most times, the base card either comes off as an autograph card that just didn’t get the autograph or a unique but half-hearted design that could just be left out of packs and collectors would be just as happy. 2011 SAGE Autograph doesn’t completely break that mold, but it definitely puts some substantial cracks in it. The base card is very similar to the autographed card, but subtle differences like the length of the diagnoal background lines and in which layer the player photo is give it a distinct feel. Once again, SAGE has trumped most other companies by having three different player photos on the same card (two on front, one on back). And speaking of the card back, the stats and bio are arranged nicely to tie in strongly with the theme on the front. So in summary, the base card isn’t the greatest design I’ve ever seen, but it is very solid. And as I said, that is (sadly) pretty rare for an autograph-focused product.

2nd Down, Inserts: I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled the first “Through the Lens” insert, particularly since I did not realize there would be any inserts besides the autographs. This mini set is actually a really nice concept and captures the photographer’s perspective on things. As someone who has a fairly strong interest in photography, that definitely piqued my interest. It was a nice way to break up what could have been a monotonous stack of base cards after the excitement of the autographs died away. Speaking of the autographs, we’ll finally get to the point of this product. I like that SAGE distinguishes its autographs cards from the non-signed base cards. Too often we see great designs diminished when the execs decide to just slap on an autographed label. The movement of the player photo from in front to behind the diagonal panel allows the autograph to be the main focus of the card without making it feel like the photograph then becomes an after thought. Also, and I say this while admiting that I don’t have the cards in front of me, I believe the player photographs were even different from the base to autograph versions, which is another great feature. Lastly, this is how parallels are done right. The only differences are a change in graphic element color scheme and hand-written serial numbers. Nothing over the top but nothing so minute that it goes unnoticed.

3rd Down, Collation: It’s tough to argue with a product that has a very simple configuration and delivers exactly what is promised. I was supposed to pull 1 autograph and two base cards from each of the 14 packs in this box, and that’s just what I got. It is interesting to note, however, that I pulled way more Gold autographs than anything else combined. It leads me to believe that just because Red and Silver autos aren’t serial numbered, doesn’t mean they are super printed. Obviously I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t pull any Master Edition 1/1s, but with only 60 cards in the checklist, the odds of pulling one are pretty slim. The only issue I noted with collation was that I pulled both of the Through the Lens inserts within the first three packs of the box. I’m not really sure what that might say about the collation of the entire packout; it’s just an observation.

EDIT: SAGE President Tom Geideman just informed me that the rare autographs (Triple Autographs #/5, Aspire Autographs #/5, Draft Cam Autographs #/2, and Master Edition Autographs 1/1) were all case hits with nearly every case of 2011 SAGE Autographed containing just one of those.

4th Down, Overall Value: In any product that’s over the $1/card mark, it gets awfully tough to have a very solid overall value projection. Given this set’s obvious autograph focus, looking strictly at the autograph card values may prove more helpful. If the going rate for a box is about $126, that gives each boxed autograph a $9 pricetag. Are you going to get $9 for every auto in the box? Obviously not. But hopefully, as in my case, you pull at least one great card to offset that problem. Blaine Gabbert’s autos seem to sell in the $30 ballpark, meaning he alone is covering almost 1/4 of the box price. Unfortunately, the value of your box of 2011 SAGE Autographed will come down to which cards you pull. But then again, isn’t that true of any product? I wouldn’t call buying a box a lottery ticket like I do with really high end stuff, but I also can’t say buying a box is a sure way to get a return on your investment. There is literally value in every pack of this product though, so that gets a huge nod in my book.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, FAILED PAT I’m going to run the risk of sounding like a broken record this year, but I feel like 2011 SAGE Autograph also finds paydirt yet muffs the PAT. The design is solid, the collation appears to be spot-on, and the value is definitely present. Unfortunately, this whole licensing issue is a drag. One aspect that is really helping SAGE however is the fact that they are going out and getting exclusive photo sessions with the players and really making an effort to present something unique, rather than simply airbrushing logos off helmets. In its first full year of being without a license, SAGE, in my opinion, is truly going the extra mile to give the fans products that are worth collecting, and 2011 SAGE Autographed is no exception.

NEXT UP: 2011 Upper Deck (unless I make another last minute executive decision)

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