Product Review: 2011 Panini Rookies & Stars

Here at 1st and Goal Sportscards, I reserve the right to make any last minute changes that I feel are necessary. One such change is being exhibited here. The past two product reviews have advertised that 2011 Score would be the next product to be reviewed. I have, in fact, purchased and busted a box of 2011 Score. But due, in part, to my laziness, I have not yet completely organized and scanned the cards, so that product review is on hold. To take its place is 2011 Panini Rookies and Stars. Enjoy.

2011 Panini Rookies & Stars box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 24 8-card packs for a total of 192 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $82, which translates into a $0.43/card ratio. Panini Rookies & Stars is pretty solidly a mid-shelf product and this average card cost backs that up. So you know what you should get: a lot of decent base cards a small sampling of nice jersey or autograph cards. Last year, Panini failed to deliver on the promise of the once great Rookies & Stars line. Were they able to improve on their efforts? Let’s find out…

2011 Panini Rookies & Stars pack
A very teal Blaine Gabbert joins AD for the packaging

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans: 158 (10 duplicates)
   Rookies: 24 (0 duplicates)
Parallels
   Longevity (#/249): 2
   Longevity Holofoil (#/99): 1
   Longevity Gold (#/49): 1
Inserts
   Rookie Revolution: 1
   Rookie Revolution Gold (#/500): 1
   Studio Rookies: 1
   Studio Rookies Gold (#/500): 1
Hits
   SP Rookies Signatures (#/299): 1
   Rookie Autographs (#/300): 1
   Statistical Standout Jersey (#/299): 1
   Dress for Success Jersey (#/50): 1

2011 Panini Rookies & Stars2011 Panini Rookies & Stars
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: improved. In two words: VASTLY improved. Last year’s design was terrible. Panini had once again churned out an ultra-neutral and paint splattered set that was forgettable. This year, they redesigned almost the entire product and produced a set that has a certain simple elegance we don’t often see in the hobby anymore. The background of the player photo isn’t completely cut out but isn’t distracting. The surrounding design elements are subtle and have a minimalist quality to them. The card fronts still aren’t overly team oriented, but the quiet look makes the team logo “pop” much more than last’s year busy design. It’s not quite a perfect comparision, but this set really reminds me of older SP Authentic sets. And that’s a good thing. The card back is fairly standard Panini fare, but is also much better than last year. It’s just an overall much cleaner and more attractive product. One interesting note was the rookie card photographs. There was a fairly even distribution between three concepts: 1) ultra close-up to avoid showing college logos, 2) combine/training photos, 3) “look at my new jersey!” poses. I realize the lockout meant no NFL training camps prior to this product’s release, so I guess Panini did the best they could. I would have liked to see more Draft or Rookie Premiere shots though. Oh, and good call [sic] with including Terrell Pryor. Though maybe that’s just my Penn State bias shining through…

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: tired. Panini products really show cohesion in this department because every line of inserts feels the same. I’ll never understand having multiple parallels of inserts. Never. And can we ever have jersey or autograph cards that are specifically designed to be auto/jersey cards and basic inserts that are designed to be basic inserts? I hate when the auto sticker or jersey window are either hanging out in no man’s land or blatantly missing. I do like that Panini stuck with the Studio Rookies concept. They are pretty cool. I didn’t think to scan the back of one, but I really like that has a different photo, and the back of the player at that. Nice idea. I’m still not sure how to feel about the big name rookies only having a short print manu-patch auto for a base card, but the cards themselves are nice.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: conflicting. This has more to do with the comparision to last year. Last year I pulled 186 base cards with 27 duplicates. Abysmal. This year I pulled 182 base cards with 10 duplicates. Much better, but still pretty bad. As I said last year, I don’t know why half of the base set has to be short printed. The product is ROOKIES and STARS, not STARS & A FEW ROOKIES, which is what you actually pull. You want to short print the big names to drive market value. Fine. I won’t agree with it, but it’s not the worst marketing tool. But why are all rookies short printed? Give me fewer veterans and more base rookies and I’ll be happier.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: decent. I definitely could have done worse with my hit pulls, but I also could have done much worse. I do feel like I got a Patriots hot box, though. I opened this box with a buddy who is a huge Ravens fan, so he was definitely disappointed with that fact. The base cards may not have huge value from a resale standpoint. However, from a purely collecting view, they are fantastic because they are well designed and overall attractive. If you’re sorting through a stack of sleeved cards in your player collection or paging through a binder of your team collection, these cards are going to stand out for good reasons. And really, let’s keep in mind that this is a HOBBY. You may not make a fiscal gain buying a box of 2011 Panini Rookies & Stars, but your enjoyment and pleasure with your beloved hobby should profit.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL This product doesn’t quite have what it takes to find paydirt, but I really think it was the collation issues on third down that was the shortfall. I cannot say enough how pleasantly surprised I was with the base cards. The inserts could still use some work, but are by no means the worst I have seen. With a bit of a tweak to the veteran to rookie base card ratio, this could be a very solid product. So we’ll say 2011 Panini Rookies & Stars only managed a field goal, but did so in a very tight defensive battle where every point counts. It certainly doesn’t guarantee a victory, but could still be the difference maker at the end of the game.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score (if I feel like it…)

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