Greatest Business Cards Ever?

07.31.2012

In helping to build hype for the 2012 National Sports Collectors Convention, Panini has been previewing items that will be available as part of their wrapper redemption program. Today’s sneak peek is an interesting one. Available exclusively via instant redemption cards are these “gems”:

That’s right, those are authentic Panini America emlpoyee autographed “work-worn” relic cards.

Not impressed? Well, consider these facts: 1) they are being offered as part of the wrapper redemption program exclusively at the National – they will not be inserted into packs of normal product, 2) they are free – Panini doesn’t OWE you anything for opening their product, this is just a freebie perk, so get over it, and 3) Panini itself is poking fun at the idea of having these cards produced. You can read the entire “reveal” blog post here.

At the very least, it gives collectors a chance to meet some of the top “insiders” at Panini America and serves as a conversation starter…a conversation which will no doubt lead to topics such as “What do you like about our cards?” or “How can we better serve your collecting interests?”

Most interesting, to me at least, is the video Panini posted of the making of. Obviously it focuses on these employee cards, but I assume this is pretty indicative of how all relic cards are producedand is pretty cool to watch.

Now, maybe I need to revisit my business card design…

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Bravo, Panini

07.13.2012

Yes, it’s been a while. I know. Busy, busy.

Work.
Baby.
House.

Plus, the business side of 1&G has been doing great recently. That’s good, but it also means a lot more time and effort. Time and effort I used to spend on the blog side. I have been meaning to post for a while and have had several topics come and go without any writing. So instead of waiting for that magical moment when the stars align and I suddenly have tons of time and material, I’m going to try to ease back into this as time allows.

One of my thoughts on cards over the past several months has been the surprising improvement of Panini. After buying Donruss/Playoff, LP to enter the sports card market, Panini seemed to just pump out set after set of crap. Lots of uber-neutral and ho-hum designs. Nearly all sticker autos. Obvious backwards design flaws. One of the leading examples of these trends was always Prestige, the very early football release.

Let’s do a quick recap:

In 2010, Prestige featured all grey base cards, super close up photos of rookies with no uniform colors or logos showing (due to the set’s early release and Panini’s inability to show NCAA branding), and an overal blah feel to the product.

In 2011, Prestige added a bit of color to the card fronts and tried to make team logos more prevalent, but the rookie photos were still awful and despite the improved effort, the cards still felt very neutral and not particularly appealing.

Now, take a look at this:

Wow. What is this? Bold team colors. Prominent logos. Fantastic photo. Clean design. Instead of just taking a tired and old design and slightly tweaking it, Panini essentially threw away the Prestige of yesterday and completely redesigned the set. I’m not doing a full product review (and sadly, 1&G reviews may be dead for the time being), but I will point out that inserts were also pretty attractive and even…gasp…featured on-card autographs! Not every autograph, but some is better than none.

Is this a perfect card? No. Is it the end-all, be-all for early set releases? No. Would I be happy if every Prestige set in the future looks like this? Obviously not.

But it’s progress.

And that is very refreshing…


Product Review: 2011 Score

10.17.2011

Well, after much anticipation (or, perhaps, just a whole lot of delay and skipping around), we’re finally going to review 2011 Score. If procrastination was an art form, I’d be the next Picasso. Or at least Monet. Perhaps Howson? Anyway, here it is. Enjoy:

2011 Score box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with a whopping 36 7-card packs for a total of 252 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $26, which translates into a $0.10/card ratio. Score has consistently been the bargain bar setter in Football for many years, and 2011 is no exception. Keep that in mind when setting your expectations for the product.

2011 Score pack
Americana much?

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 174 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies: 36
Parallels
   Glossy: 36
   Gold Zone: 4
   Scorecard: 3
   Red Zone: 1
   End Zone: 1
Inserts
   Hot Rookies: 8
   Millennium Men: 5
   Complete Players: 6
   In the Zone: 8
Hits
   Signatures (base parallel): 1

2011 Score2011 Score
Click each image for a full-sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: In a word: improved. Last year, I gave 2010 Score a fairly positive review, but I did note that the “kindergarten art table design elements” weren’t really doing it for me for the second year in a row. This year, Panini remade Score. The result reminds me of early 90s sets like Pro Set. It’s a very clean and simple design and I really like the use of team colors and those almost old school helmet images. The card backs are also really colorful and fun and tie in nicely to the design of the card front and I do like the little extra treatment the photo got (rather than simply copying and pasting from the front image). Overall it’s a great design for a low end set. There is one issue though. While white card borders are nothing new or even anything I typically complain about, the solid white border at the top of each base card seems a bit overkill. This area is effectively used for the parallel card notations (we’ll get to those), but is just far too wide on the base card. I noticed it with the very first pack and it stuck out like a sore thumb straight through Pack 36. It’s really a shame because it does take away from an otherwise solid card design.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: Overkill. The parallels are what really hurts this area. There are just far too many. In a product like Score, collectors aren’t going bonkers trying to collect all of the various parallels like they might with Topps Chrome or Finest. Parallels can be fun, and this is supposed to be a fun product, so keep 1, dump the rest. Especially the Glossy cards, which are barely distinguishable from the base cards. The other inserts aren’t all that bad. They might be a bit busy, but again, this is geared for the kiddies. And while I would normally be happy to pull a rookie autograph, I question if there should be any in this product. Score is low end. It has a big base set. Why does it need “hits”? These aren’t exactly highly prized autographed cards, so I’d rather Panini just not have any hits and reduce the price of the box even further. But that’s my opinion.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: outstanding. In 252 cards I pulled exactly zero duplicates. There are much higher end products that have well less than half of the cards per box that can’t boast a zero duplicate rate. That is a huge kudo for Score. You may not like the Jake Long base card you pulled, but at least you only pulled one.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: expected. I feel like I could just copy and paste my analysis from last year. Score is Score. You know exactly what you’re getting. You’re simply not getting a lot of raw value, but you also didn’t pay much. This is a great entry-level product and something that you could give to friends and family under 12. If you manage to turn just one of them into a lifelong collector or get to spend a few quiet moments sorting through cards with the TV off, 2011 Score just may be the most valuable product available.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL 2011 Score isn’t a great product, but it’s also not terrible. There is definitely a lot of potential in those packs. Not necessarily monetary potential, but certainly priceless potential. I wouldn’t think twice about giving a stack of these cards to my son if he were a bit older (it’s hard to appreciate football cards when you’re three weeks old). They can teach colors, shapes, numbers, and organizational skills. They also don’t require batteries. In an age when everything makes noise or pleads for attention, a box of 2011 Score might be the best understated gift you could give a child this holiday season. I think that’s worth at least three points…

NEXT UP: 2011 Panini Threads


Product Review: 2010 Panini Classics

08.03.2010

As another example of a long-tenured mid-shelf product that Panini has recently acquired, changed, and slapped its name on, 2010 Panini Classics was recently released. I have been sitting on this box for several days now and am finally getting to review it. I’m not sure if that says something about the product or not.

2010 Panini Classics box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 18 5-card packs for a total of 90 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $100 (I yet again added some supplies to get free shipping), which translates into a $1.11/card ratio. It certainly isn’t a product that’s going to break the bank, but it does cross that $1 per card level that tends to make me nervous.

2010 Panini Classics pack
Peyton must be the official spokesman for Panini now

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans (#1-100): 73 (73.0% with 0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#101-200 SN#/999): 4 (4.0% with 0 duplicates)
   Legends (#201-250 SN#/999): 2 (2.0% with 0 duplicates)
   Overall: 79 (31.6%)
Parallels
   Timeless Tributes (#/100): 1
   Timeless Tributes (#/25): 1
Inserts
   Team Colors: 2
   50th Anniversary Team: 1
   Membership: 1
   Sunday’s Best: 1
   Classic Singles: 1
   Classic Singles (#/100): 1
Hits
   Dress Code (#/299): 1
   Monday Night Heroes Jersey Prime (#/50): 1
   Significant Signatures (#/499): 1
   The Dreaded Redemption Card: 1

2010 Panini Classics2010 Panini Classics
Click images for full-sized scans

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: The base card for this set is pretty decent. There is a clear focus on the player, the name plate is easy to read and although there are several design elements going on in the border, it doesn’t look too busy or cluttered. At the very least, it is leaps and bounds above the base design last year. I do like the new Classics logo, but it becomes a little obvious that Panini just grabbed the design from their basketball line. Why else would a football product say “09-10” on the front. In the world of football products (like baseball), only one year is used for sets while in basketball (and hockey), the years are split to better associate with the sport’s season. I like that the back of the card very closely ties into the front with the addition of team colors. It does make wonder why there are new team logos on the front though. Apparently Panini loves ultra neutral card fronts. I would also like to see more than one stat line on the back, but I realize that has not been the case for this type of set for a long time.

2nd Down, Inserts: This is where this product really starts to go downhill quickly. First, why do we need so many insert sets? Remember when a product was just one huge set with maybe a season highlights subset? Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED insert sets in the mid-to-late 90s, but they have lost their luster in recent years. There are no longer innovative designs or general scarcity without stamped serial numbers. 2010 Panini Classics epitomizes this perfectly. Not only are there a bunch of meaningless inserts, there are also a boat load of parallels of every card. Again, completely unnecessary. And in what has become an absolutely laughable trend, Panini has once again designed all of their inserts backwards. This means the “base” inserts look awful (see Classic Singles above). But beyond that, they didn’t even get the jersey and autographed cards right. The Dress Code swatch looks like it was just thrown on there (it makes me wonder if my swatch came directly from Brandon’s crotch) while the Significant Signatures desing, with it’s glorious sticker auto, makes the actual autograph, the point of the entire card, almost impossible to see. And trust me, it doesn’t look any better in person than it does in the scan above. The only insert I actually liked was the Team Colors. This mini set has been drastically improved from prior years and although it’s a little loud, it looks great in person, especially compared to the rather drab base design. But other than that, the rest of the inserts lacked any appeal for me. Oh, and I don’t want to sound like such a Debbie Downer, but redemptions suck.

3rd Down, Collation: Collation for 2010 Panini Classics was exactly what you would expect. I got exactly the stated odds for hits, rookies, legends, and inserts. I did not receive any doubles, which is obviously good, although I thought my Chris Johnson Timeless Tribute was a base double until I looked through the stack a second time and noted the slight color difference. My one gripe here would be related to my discussion of the inserts above. Cut the crap with so many inserts and just give me more rookie cards. I know this isn’t a set builders product, but honestly, pulling just 4 of 100 rookie cards is a little weak.

4th Down, Overall Value: I feel like a broken record for all of the products so far this year. The value is what it is for 2010 Panini Classics. At $1.11 per card, you are getting beyond a bargain product where raw quantity helps make up for a rough resale value. With this product, you’re probably not making a killing with individual cards, unless you happen to pull a great legend auto from the likes of Joe Montana or Emmitt Smith. Unlike prior years, Classics was not the first product to show rookies in their new unis (thanks, Upper Deck and your NCAA exclusive), so even the base rookies are not going to have the same pull they did before. Also, as you can see from my box break (and many others surfacing on the web), the overall value is pretty poor from this product. This was the first box of 2010 that I lost interest in while still opening the packs.

RED ZONE RESULTS: INTERCEPTION on second down, returned for a touchdown 2010 Panini Classics is generally uninspiring. The base set is decent, but with the inserts and parallels, it just doesn’t make sense to bust this product for the base set. And not only are there too many inserts, they are pretty terrible in and of themselves. In my opinion, not only did this product fail to get on the board, but it also made other products look that much better. I loved the Classic brand in the past, but this time around, it just doesn’t work for me.

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 Topps Attax


Product Review: 2010 Score

07.15.2010

One of the longest tenured brands in football, Score is back once again for the 2010 season. Despite several ownership changes (Pinnacle Brands, Score, Donruss/Playoff, Panini), one aspect of Score’s offerings has remained constant: it’s cheap. If there is any one set that will help get kids interested in collecting cards again, it’s got to be Score on the football front. I know when I was a kid I wanted quantity for my dollar and quantity is what you get with Score.

2010 Score box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 36 7-card packs for a total of 252 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $27 (I once again added some supplies to get free shipping), which translates into a $0.11/card ratio, and that’s rounding up. Like I said above, this is the ultimate cheapo set. It’s also a set collectors set with a 400-card base set and no guaranteed hits driving the prices up. There are certainly no secrets with this product, as has been the case for 20+ years.

2010 Score pack
1 RC and 1 Glossy Parallel in each of these

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans (#1-300): 152 (50.7% with 0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#301-400): 36 (36.0% with 0 duplicates)
   Overall: 188 (47.0%)
Parallels
   Glossy: 36
   Scorecard (#/499): 2 base
   Gold Zone (#/299): 2 base, 1 NFL Players
   Signatures: 1
Inserts
   Hot Rookies: 7
   Franchise: 5
   All-Pro: 6
   NFL Players: 4

2010 Score2010 Score
Click images for full-sized scans

NOTE: Please keep in mind throughout this review that this is a very low-end set and I am going to review it as such. If you only collect super high end products, you’re never going to buy this product anyway, so don’t piss and moan if you think my opinions listed hereafter are soft or too forgiving. Get over it. You’ll sleep much better tonight if you do.

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: Honestly, it’s not terrible. To start, I like that Panini went with the team color scheme for the card fronts. I’m not necessarily a fan of the kindergarten art table design elements, with the paint splatters, water drops, and random burlap shreds, but it actually sorta works. Panini is staying true to the feel of Score through the years as this has always been a mediocre product with slightly behind the times designs. There is a certain charm in that. I like that the card back ties to the card front very strongly and although I’d prefer to see a headshot, I can pass on it if the only option was a further cropped copy of the front image. The only thing that really makes me cock my head in confusion is why the player position is so much larger than the player name. With some of the color schemes (like the Posluszny above), it sticks out even more. I realize some players have really long names and there is a desire to have all of the cards be uniform, but this probably could have been done a little better. One thing I really like is that now that mini camps are underway, there are very few rookies who are not in their new pro uniforms, which beats out earlier products that had airbrushed college unis and combine jerseys. Overall, for a super low-end set, it works. Kids might even like it. If you are an OCD adult who cannot stand clutter, looking at a binder full of this set might be overwhelming though. My biggest gripe? It looks almost idenitcal to last year’s set, including the inserts.

2nd Down, Inserts: To start, I will offer my quick insight into the various parallel sets included with Score: drop them. There are 6 parallel sets (Glossy, Scorecard, Gold Zone, Red Zone, End Zone, and Artist’s Proof) and none of them are worthwhile. The Glossy set is hardly distinguishable from the base set and the others simply have a stamp in the upper left corner of the card front and a serial number stamp on the back. What’s the point, really? Score has had the Scorecard parallel for years, so I get the desire to keep that one. But seriously, lose the rest next year, Panini. The insert sets overall weren’t bad. The Franchise and All-Pro sets feel very similar, although it’s kinda cool seeing a mini set with almost all Pro Bowl jerseys. The Red Hot Rookies set doesn’t do anything for me. Just give me another base RC instead. Some people may hate the NFL Players inserts because they are a little tacky, but I actually like them. It really reminds me of something Collector’s Choice would have made in the late 90s, and I know for a fact I would have loved these cards when I was first collecting as a wee lad. I really like that inserts do not weight the box down and although most people will only buy products with guaranteed hits, I enjoy that there were only a few autograph inserts to avoid pushing the price up. Cheap and simple. There’s a theme here if you haven’t noticed.

3rd Down, Collation: This was very good. Out of 252 cards, I did not pull a single duplicate, which is great. The collation of individual packs was very predictable: 4 base cards, 1 insert (or 5th base card), 1 base RC, 1 glossy parallel. It was in that exact order every time. Although I guess that just goes to show there was a method to ensuring the 1 RC and 1 Glossy parallel per pack promise. And actually, I appreciated that because like I said above, the Glossy parallels were VERY difficult to distinguish from the base cards. Once I had my entire stack, I went through and removed every seventh card to pull out the glossies. But really, for the quantity of cards included, this was very good collation.

4th Down, Overall Value: The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is definitely true in the case of 2010 Score. These cards, including the highly touted rookies, just aren’t going to pull a lot of interest on the secondary market. It is the nature of the beast. But on the flip side, you also aren’t paying very much with a $0.11 per card average. If you are a set collector, you could probably complete the 400-card set with just 3 hobby boxes and still pay less than you would for one box of most other products. If you are on a really tight budget or have some kids in your family, this is a great entry-level product to pick up. Hell, you could even kick it old school and put some of these in the spokes of your bike and not feel like you just wasted $50. So in summary, if you look at a raw dollar value, this is one of the worst products of the year; however, if you look at a value to price ratio, it is right up there with any other product on the calendar.

RED ZONE RESULTS: Four consecutive rushing plays netting 6 yards, resulting in a TURNOVER ON DOWNS 2010 Score decided to play it very conservative this year. The design was nearly identical to last year, the price point is very low, and the inserts and parallels were very predictable. Much like a smash mouth run-first football team, this product is probably more suitable for the 70s. But with conservative offenses usually comes stingy defenses (I love Big Ten football), so turning the ball over so deep in the opponent’s territory sets up a very good safety situation. In a colossial conservative battle, those two points could be huge (I was at the 2004 Penn State/Iowa game in which Penn State lost 6-4…2 field goals for Iowa, 2 safties for Penn State…and Penn State had a third safety called back on a phantom “forward progress” ruling).

NEXT UP (tentatively): 2010 Panini Classics


RIP UD

04.08.2010

The landscape of football trading cards continues to change at a dizzying pace. Just a few months ago, long-time NFL champ Topps was forced to exit the football market. Now, the top producer, especially of high end releases, is also exiting stage left.

If you have not yet read on SCU, Upper Deck has lost its NFL license after failing to secure a new agreement with NFL Properties. I first learned of the story through this article, passed on to me by an executive at another card company. UD has officially announced it will not be producing any NFL sets for the 2010 season.

The NFL now has just one official license, granted to Panini, a company few had heard of before they also received an NBA exclusive license about a year ago. After buying the rights to the Donruss, Playoff, and Score brands, collectors will still be able to recognize NFL products this year, but there will be an obvious hole left in the release calendar. If competition is the root of creativity and prosperity, the football card market as a whole may be in grave danger sooner than later.

I think I just lost my dream to own my own hobby shop someday…


Product Review: 2009 Donruss Threads

11.06.2009

Of the three retail boxes I recently purchased, this was the one I was least excited about. I had seen card scans on other sites when the product went live and wasn’t real wild about them. I guess the allure of buying fresh wax was too much for me to turn away.

2009 Donruss Threads
2009 Donruss Threads – Retail Box

2009 Donruss Threads is available in retail boxes of 8 packs of 5 cards. I paid $19.99 (plus 6% sales tax) for my box from K-Mart, which calculates into around $0.53 per card. Not the cheapest per card rate out there, but by no means high-end either. Let’s jump to the breakdown:

Base Cards: 38
Rookie Cards: 1 (#150 Jason Phillips)
Inserts: 2 (College Greats Shonn Greene and Gridiron Kings Darrius Heyward-Bey)
Hits: — (none)
Duplicates: — (none)

2009 Donruss Threads
Click image for full sized scan

FIRST AND GOAL’S FOUR DOWNS:
1st Down, Design: How would be the best way to put this? Awful? Dreadful? Just down right bad? This certainly is not the worst base card design, but it will never win awards to beauty, either. The very bold diagonal lines really draw attention away from the point of the card, the pictured football player. The player name plate cutting straight across the picture is also distracting and adds needless barriers. The one nice part? I like how the player pops out of the top of the design and then fades into and behind the design on the bottom. That nice subtle touch is lost, however, by the overall needlessly loud design elements. One last thought, I know serial numbers are all the rage now, but do we really need to number every rookie card produced? It’s great that I pulled one of 999 copies of Jason Phillips’ Donruss Threads rookie card, but honestly, who cares? If it’s more than 250 or so, don’t bother serial numbering these things.

2nd Down, Inserts: The College Greats insert is interesting. The design ties in nicely to the base card, although in this case that is actually a bad thing. I know that a lot of football collectors hate seeing college uniforms and logos in their NFL sets, but I do not mind it as much. What I do mind is having a set called “College Greats” and showing rookies. Granted, some of the rookie class of any year could be considered to have had great college careers. But why not show old time players? When the early football sets are released, collectors are excited to see the rookie class in their new uniforms and numbers. If you absolutely need to have a college themed insert, don’t use the rookie class. Period. In a nice contrast is the Gridiron Kings set. I have aways really liked these inserts, and this year’s effort is actually well designed. I like the painted image, the silver accents, and the overall clean appearance. Again, I don’t know that rookies should be included in sets like this (case in point Hey-Bey who has done absolutely nothing to be considered a king, even in lowly Oakland). At least he is in his new Oakland uni.

3rd Down, Collation: It’s tough to gauge a product line’s collation when you are only getting 40 cards. The biggest indication of a problem would be duplicates, which I did not have in my box. I only got two inserts, which is a little disappointing, but again, there were so few cards that it’s just too hard to say if the collation was good or poor.

4th Down, Overall Value: Retail boxes will never deliver great “value” as it is usually defined in the Hobby. The lack of good inserts and very rare “hit” pulls (that are not rare at all in hobby boxes and are therefore not valuable in and of themselves) makes resale value tough. Donruss Threads did add Brett Favre’s very first Vikings card as a retail exclusive. Those base cards sold for as much as a lot of good autographs, so certainly that adds a level of value. However, overall, you are almost always going to get what you pay for in the retail portion of the Hobby. At $20 for a box, that’s just not very much.

RED ZONE RESULTS: KEY PLAYER EJECTED, LEADS TO A TURNOVER ON DOWNS I thought of this red zone result right after I decided to add this element to my product reviews. I wanted to save it for a “deserving” product. To me, 2009 Donruss Threads is that product. The base card design is just unforgivable with today’s highly advanced graphic design technology. Maybe I was close minded, but I was unable to get past the use of rookies in college themed inserts and the overall lack of value . Sorry Donruss/Panini, you struck out with this one. Enjoy the early shower.