Product Review: 2011 Donruss Elite

Here is a pop quiz for you: What has two thumbs, buys football cards, and then waits well over a month to post a review? THIS GUY. I don’t know what my deal is recently. Other than all of the time constraint complaints I’ve listed before, there really is no excuse for this. The lockout is over. The release calendar is heating up. This is when I should just be gearing up, not slowing down. I’ll work on that. While I do, here is a review of 2011 Donruss Elite:

2011 Donruss Elite box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 20 5-card packs for a total of 100 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $93, which translates into a reasonable $0.93/card ratio. Donruss Elite has been one of the more stable products in terms of price and expectations. It seems like it has always been the quintessential mid-shelf, pre-season release. In an NFL off-season full of so many uncertainties, it was nice to have a familiar product to open. The only problem is now half of the players have the wrong team logo on their cards…

2011 Donruss Elite pack
AD…as in “Advertising Demon”…he moves products

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans: 86 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#/999): 4
   NFL/Team Logos (#/999): 3
   Hit List (#/999): 1
   Craftsmen (#/999): 1
   Power Formulas (#/999): 1
   Legends of the Fall (#/999): 1
   Rookie Aspirations Die-Cut (#/85): 1
   Craftsmen Jerseys (#/299): 1
   Power Formulas Jerseys (#/299): 1
   Turn of the Century Rookie Autographs (#/499): 1
   Rookie Aspirations Die-Cut Autographs (#/49): 1
   Printing Plate (1/1): 1

2011 Donruss Elite2011 Donruss Elite
Click each image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: retro. I’m not talking about the faux retro that has been all the rage the past few years, I’m talking about mid- to late-90s awesomeness. Maybe that’s not retro to very many collectors, but it definitely takes me back to a simpler time. But not simpler cards. When I peeled back the wrapper of the first pack and saw this year’s base design, I may have actually said out loud, “That’s actually pretty cool.” It definitely reminds me of a lot of sets in the 90s that had bold player images on top of a shiny silver backgrounds (that still don’t scan well appreantly). I still think the Panini brethren could have built in some logos or team colors on the card front as they are still terribly sterile, but at least the base design is solid. The card backs are…well, they’re Panini card backs. I swear one day they’re just going to say “Eff it, let’s just copy and paste the card backs for all our products this year” because they’re definitely moving in that direction. One side note, I still don’t understand the idea behind making base rookie cards completely different than the base veterans. I’m cool with some sort of “rookie” designation, but the entirely different design just seems odd to me. It takes most of the box until I figure out if I’m pulling base rookies or some special serial numbered insert, especially when I’m only pulling 4 RCs in an entire box.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: meh. The whole “let’s cut the player out of a great action shot and put him on a designed background with a whole bunch of lines and shapes” is starting to get trite. It’s actually getting to the point where I don’t like pulling basic inserts. And that makes me sad. Really sad. Because there was a time when I LOVED inserts. But that was before pack-inserted autographs, jersey swatches, and ultra low numbered parallels took the Hobby Throne. I’m also not sure what the point of serial numbering everything out of 999 is. Granted, this comes from a guy who used to be stoked to pull a card #1596/3100. The times they are a-changing. But not always for the best. Panini did an alright job here, and their insert concepts seem to be getting better, but it’s still pretty glaring when your insert doesn’t have the jersey swatch or auto sticker…even though there is a convenient slot waiting for them. I also don’t really get the NFL/Team logo cards. Let’s just make it glaringly obvious there is a better version of this card out there that I’ll never pull. I will say the Legends of the Fall backdrop is cool. I’m a sucker for awesome sunsets. The rookie Aspirations are a nice set. Pretty basic design and die-cut. I like that.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: adequate. I didn’t pull a single duplicate, which was good. Granted, I would be livid if I had some with just 100 cards in a box. I also got all of the “hits” I was told I’d get, so that is a plus. My only concern here would be the lack of true rookie cards. Like it or not, the RC still rules the day. And in a product where I’m only pulling 4 RCs, there’s just not a lot of ruling going on. I’d rather them not serial number the crap out of the product and just print more rookie cards. Maybe they wouldn’t be worth as much that way, but when most of them are selling for less than $2, I don’t think it really matters. So called quality is not always preferred to quantity. Ask the folks who buy Score.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: solid. I didn’t pull that one showcase card, but I feel like most people don’t. If every box supplied a showcase worthy gem, we’d need an awfully large showcase. But I would say I’m fairly happy with the results. I don’t expect that I’ll be able to recover my entire $93 on the secondary market, but it was certainly fun opening a product that reminded me of younger days. I also have some very nice cards to put into team lots now, so folks don’t wind up getting 25 lame base cards for $5. I try to add value to each lot, and these will certainly help.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL I don’t know what else to give this box. I already admitted earlier this year that I’ll probably be more generous with my red zone results this year than in the past, so this is par for the course I suppose. It’s also becoming tough to give incredibly unique final results in this template. Maybe if I had a 0-100 scale I could be more specific, but for now, this product gets lumped in with the rest of the boxes that could survive in the Big Ten. A lot of potential, a little flash, definitely some hype, but at the end of the day, it just settles for a field goal so it can get back on defense.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score


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