Product Review: 2011 Panini Prestige

Well, I’m FINALLY getting around to doing another product review. For whatever reason, things have slowed down on eBay but picked up at home, which means reduced cash flow and less time for busting wax. But nevertheless, we’re back at it with a few boxes in hand. First up is Panini’s 2011 debut, Prestige.

2011 Panini Prestige box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 24 8-card packs for a total of 192 cards. I dropped $82 for this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World, which translates into a moderate $0.43/card ratio. That is about right for a pre-season release, and is actually cheaper than the same product (and same card-per box count) last year. Perhaps the industry realizes the still looming lock-out will affect collector interest? Or maybe there’s just less value in a box. Let’s see if we can figure it out:

2011 Panini Prestige pack
Panini’s infatuation with Peyton Manning did not carry into 2011

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 145 (23 duplicates – 1 triplet)
   Rookies: 25 (5 free agent rookies)
Parallels
   Draft Picks (#/999): 2
   Xtra Points Gold (#/250): 2
   Xtra Points Red (#/100): 2
Inserts
   Inside the Numbers: 1
   NFL Draft Shield: 3
   Stars of the NFL: 4
   League Leaders: 1
   Rookie Review: 1
   Rookie Passport: 1
   Connections: 1
   Prestigious Pros: 7 (5 Red; 1 Gold #/100; 1 Black #/25)
Hits
   Base Jersey Parallel: 1
   Stars of the NFL Jerseys (#/250): 1
   Prestigious Pros Jerseys (#/90): 1
   Draft Picks Rights Auto: 2 (1 #/599; 1 #/299)

2011 Panini Prestige2011 Panini Prestige
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: typical. When I opened the first pack of the box and pawed through the first few base cards, I wasn’t exactly shocked. Granted, in the instant gratification, super up-to-date information age we currently find ourselves, nothing is all that shocking anymore. But my point is that the design of 2011 Panini Prestige is what I would expect it to be: fairly decent photography, ultra neutral color-scheme, fairly simple design, single-line statistics and short narrative on the back. Check, check, check, and check. And actually, there’s nothing wrong with that. The set isn’t a mere copy of last year, but it also isn’t a complete reinvention. If you really liked last year’s set, you’ll probably like this year’s set. If you hated 2010 Prestige, there’s a good chance you’ll hate 2011 Prestige. I do like that Panini didn’t make the rookie cards completely different this time, but I still don’t know that they did it right. By using ultra-tight cropping and nearly all air-brushed college helmet photos, there is absolutely no sense of action on the cards. If you want close head-shots, cool, but then get actual head shots and not 93% helmet shots. The faded team logo area (a.k.a. where the sticker is applied for the autographed versions) also gives the rookies just an “off” look. This is especially prevalent with the free agent rookies. (Side note: 20% of my base rookies were unsigned free agents — does that seem a bit high to anyone else?) To see a side-by-side comparision of the drafted vs. unsigned free agent rookie cards, click here.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: overkill. Similar to last year, I feel there are just too many meaningless inserts in this product. I remember when inserts used to be something special, now they are practically (or completely) less valuable than the base cards. Give me one or two insert sets, but then give me several in a box — not this 1 card per set per box crap. Panini also still has design issues when it comes to basic vs. “hit” inserts. It seems they either design a nice “chase” hit that then has an awful base design (backwards design) or they have a decent base card with an awkward floating swatch window. Hopefully they figure it out soon. One key: make hits their own insert set with a unique design. Design each type of card as its own card. It’s really not that hard…

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: blech. Last year, my hobby box came with 24 8-card packs and contained exactly 0 duplicates. This year, my hobby box came with 24 8-card packs and contained a staggering 23 duplicates, 1 of which was a triplet. That is terrible. And what caused such a turn around in just one year? Obviously machine-collated products can never be perfect, and this box may be an anomally rather than the norm, but yikes. The only saving grace was that I got 1 extra hit in my box than the four advertised. Granted, when that fifth hit is a base jersey of Mike Sims-Walker, it’s not exactly a huge payoff.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: decent. You can pretty much anticipate what you’re going to pull from pre-season releases like this. You’ll get the better-than-average base cards, the worthless inserts, and the slew of rookies that could turn out to be future HOFers or the next duds. As the first card release of the year to have NFL logos, Panini Prestige does have an advantage over the other early releases, but the lockout HAS to be affecting collector interest and perceived value. Even guys like Cam Newton and Mark Ingram may not get a chance to prove their value for over a year, the same as any other slum rookie. No season also means no chance for a draft sleeper to shock the world. It will be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks, not only from a sport enjoyment stance, but also in the hobby ramification perspective.

RED ZONE RESULTS: MISSED FIELD GOAL The base cards really aren’t bad and the final version of the autographed cards are actually pretty nice. However, the rookie cards, more or less the focus of a pre-season release like Prestige, still miss the mark. Couple that with the excessive insert seedings and absurd duplicate rate, and I just can’t give 2011 Panini Prestige any points. I want to like this product because the Prestige line was always one of my favorites when Playoff was still an independent manufacturer, but Panini just can’t seem to get it quite right. Prestige is supposed to be something special and prestine. The past few years however, have just been mediocre.

NEXT UP: 2011 Topps Rookies Rising

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