Yes, it’ March. Yes, it’s officially college basketball season (and has been for several months for those of you who have been hibernating since the Fall Classic). Yes, I’m excited (ESPN3.com is both the greatest and worst thing ever when you’re spending 60+ hours each week in a fabric cube). And yes, there is still time for a review of a product that was released well before Christmas. Enjoy.
The Box – Click for Detail
Hobby boxes come with 18 8-card packs for a total of 144 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $87.40 (there must have been some sort of discount for an odd price like that), which translates into a moderate
$0.97 $0.61/card ratio (who needs math anyway?). Considering the time of year, that is actually rather cheap. It’s nice to see a low- to mid-shelf product being released in December (I told you this was another late review). Certainly beats all of the ridiculously overpriced crap that usually crops up this time of yer.
Peyton sure does make a good a poster boy
Base Cards (#/499): 132 (5 duplicates)
Rookies: 18 (included in the total above)
Silver (#/250): 4
Gold (#/100): 2
Platinum (#/25): 1
NFL Nation: 1
NFL Nation (#/250): 1
Crash Course (#/250): 1
Rookie Orientation: 1
Rookie Auto (#/299): 1
Rookie Orientation Prime Jersey (#/25): 1
NFL Nation Auto Jersey (#/15)): 1
Rookie Gridiron Gems 3-Piece Relics (#/50): 1
Click image for full-sized scan
FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: Are you ready for this? Brace yourself. I don’t think your ready. Take a deep breath and bear down. Alright. Here goes: I LOVE this set. It is a shame it took Panini so long to figure things out, but they absolutely NAILED the design for Gridiron Gear. There are definitely graphical design elements, even mildly intricate ones (they aren’t just solid color shapes or paint splashes), but they are subtle. There are team color schemes AND team logos. Holy crap! There are easy-to-read player names. There are nifty ghosted fade zones. There is a distinct yet quiet set logo. Even the player photos have a little embellishment that really adds something. You may remember I noticed a similar thing with 2010 Panini Rookies & Stars and thought it looked “off” there. Without closely examining the cards side-by-side, I’m not sure why it works here and not there, but it does. There are two points, however, on which I am not completely sold. The first is why the rookie cards have a different design. I like the simple “ROOKIE” text on the side of the card. That is a classic way to distinguish an RC, without using a repetitive RC shield logo (*cough…Topps…cough*). But I’m not sure why the player names are in larger font, the team helmet circles are replaced by plain team logos, and the ghosted side bar is completely gone. Even the card backs are slightly different, but only in where the card number is. Odd. That brings us to the other item I wasn’t wild about: the card backs. I like the use of team color, but all Panini card backs start to look the same after a while. Give me a different player photo. Give me more stats. Even give me a cartoon (anyone else miss those days?). But overall, Panini smashed this base set out of the park, even if it was just a solo-shot in the top of the third.
2nd Down, Inserts: Unfortunately for Panini, all of the great ideas may have been spent on the base cards for this set. The inserts are definitely lacking that special pizzazz. The base parallels aren’t bad in that Panini didn’t get crazy carried away with tons of parallels, but a smidge of colored foil seems like a weak parallel concept. The serial numbers were pretty low, though, so that was a saving grace. Next we have the “Crash Course” insert. Not a bad concept, although I don’t know that I’ll ever be a big fan of multi-player and multi-team cards. One way to make this better would have been to have the helmets smashing into each other like Fox used to do before game broadcasts. That would really have sold the “crash course” theme. Next is the “NFL Nation” insert, which once again shows that Panini may never know how to effectively design cards that have different levels (basic, jersey, jersey/auto). Even the Matt Ryan that does have the jersey and autograph label still looks lackluster. The jersey window is haphazardly placed and the team text logo is trying awfully hard to over shadow the actual autograph. The “Rookie Orientation” on the other hand is pretty decent. I like the look of these cards and even taking away the jersey window leaves you with a pretty nice insert card. Unfortunately, we’re right back to Panini’s old ways with the “Rookie Gridiron Gems” because it is so glaringly obvious that there is an identical version of that Sam Bradford that has a sticker auto. At least they designed one really nice insert for this product.
3rd Down, Collation: When you get close to 150 cards in a box, you start toeing the line of having to worry about duplicates. Unfortunately, I did pull 5 in my box such duplicates in my box. I am certainly not a huge fan of that, but I also realize that no machine packed product can be perfect. The duplicate to base ratio was less than 5%, so while it wasn’t ideal, it certainly was not the worst I’ve seen. I did pull all of the hits I was supposed to and had a decent ratio of rookies. All in all I’d say this was a pretty solid box and was hopefully a good indication for the production run as a whole.
4th Down, Overall Value: I guess like most things, it depends for what you are looking. If you want a great looking set without tons of useless inserts at a decent price, this is a great box to bust. If you’re looking for super valuable hits that will turn a pretty penny in a classic flip, this is a pretty lousy product to pick. Fortunately, I place more emphasis on good design than straight resale value (which may not be the best business model for a poor schmuck who’s trying to start a business), so I thought this was a relatively nice set. I also did get pretty lucky with my hits in that I pulled an auto jersey of one of the league’s popular young guns and a three-piece relic of the top 2010 rookie. I sold those two cards alone for $82.50 + shipping, which very nearly covers the price of the box. Add in a Ndamukong Suh prime jersey card and a few parallels, and I definitely recouped my money on this box by selling a very small percentage of the cards. I realize that not every box has a Sam Bradford relic though, so not everyone will be so lucky. But I was, and that will inevitably add some bias to my review. I’m sorry, but I’m human.
RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, FAILED TWO-POINT CONVERSION Hopefully I made it clear enough that I thought the base design of 2010 Panini Gridiron Gear was stellar. For once, Panini fit all of the pieces of the design puzzle together and presented something really worth collecting. The inserts were rather disappointing (although the resale value of my pulls helped ease the pain), but it is easy to sit here and rip a product apart nearly three months after I busted it. If I go back to when I opened all 18 packs, I remember feeling I was opening a great product. Hot chase cards can create buzz, but only a solid base card can convey an air of a superior product. This probably wasn’t the set of the year, but I would say it should be in the running. Panini may not have put the game away, but it finally found paydirt, and that is something worth noting. Congrats, Panini. You finally made me appreciate a set you produced.
NEXT UP: 2010 Topps Magic