Bravo, Panini


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


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 Topps Prime


Either sets are being released much sooner this year, or I’m doing a significantly better job of keeping up with things. Last year, I didn’t get a chance to review Topps Prime until February 18. I just can’t remember if it was released so much later or if I was WAY behind the ball in getting my review posted. In any case, here is the 1&G Review of 2011 Topps Prime…on October 22.

2011 Topps Prime box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 10 6-card packs for a total of 60 cards. I purchased this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $90, which translates into a moderate $1.50/card ratio. That definitely pushes the mid-shelf range, so I would expect design and value some where between Score and Topps Inception.

2011 Topps Prime packs
My scanner was pleased to find that the pillow box packs did not make a return in 2011

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 29 (0 duplicates)
   Rookies (#/930): 3
   Green (all Veterans): 7
   Gold Rookies (#/699): 2
   Blue Rookies (#/599): 2
   Red Rookies (#/499): 1
   Purple Rookies (#/399): 1
   Silver Rainbow Rookies (#/25): 1
   Prime Rookies: 3
   Prime Veterans: 2
   Double Combos: 2
   Triple Combos: 2
   Quad Combos: 1
   Triple Combo Relics (#/388): 1
   Auto Relic Level IV (#/199): 1
   Autographed Rookies Silver (#/50): 1
   Prime Rookie Jumbo Relic Silver (#/25): 1

2011 Topps Prime2011 Topps Prime
Click image for full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: stable. That’s because this base card design is nearly identical to last year’s design. But don’t read that as a complaint, because I love this base design. Like last year, the photography is generally crisp and vibrant (rookie cards notwithstanding) and there are almost no design elements clogging up the card. The rather smooth finish and thicker stock once again reminds me of the defunct but still awesome Stadium Club lines, which was one of Topps’ first attempts at higher end stuff (remember those simpler times?). The rework of the card back wasn’t a complete success in my opinion. It’s got a simplicity that I like, but 2010’s set had a more “simple elegant” feel. Either one is pretty solid, though.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: improved. This year’s set features a whole lot more parallels with various color foil stamping. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It’s not quite as awesome as the absurdly colorful 1999 Absolute SSD, but is still better than some of the parallel concepts I’ve seen in the past. The biggest improvement is with the Prime inserts. Topps still insisted on the Prime Combo, Triple Combo, and Quad Combo cards, but at least the design is better. There is still a pretty obvious backwards design problem to some of them, though. And I’ll never understand some of the player pairings. Ok, they’re all wide receivers from the ACC and SEC…why do they need to be together on a single card? I will say I liked this year’s single prime rookie and veteran cards much better with their much simpler design. The autograph card was also a big improvement from last year, although that sticker label diminishes what could have been an all-star auto design. So Topps is definitely moving the right direction here, but didn’t quite nail it just yet.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: redundant. On my end, not Topps’. I’m just going to copy and past my response from last year: I feel like a broken record in this category. Once again, with only 60 cards, it’s awfully hard to accurately gauge the collation of the print run. I guess in reality, this 3rd down has become just a beacon of whether or not there is a glaring problem with the particular box I busted. In this one, I got was I was supposed to. I didn’t get what I wasn’t supposed to get (duplicates). So yay Topps Prime. You pass the test of blatant problems with collation.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: decent. The price for a box isn’t off the chart, although the somewhat low card count does hurt it a bit. The cards themselves are beautiful and would augment just about any collection, especially for a player or team collection. I say almost any because they don’t really have a place in a vintage collection. But you knew that. As is the case with most products, trying to flip a box for a profit is a complete gamble and not recommended. But if you want a solid product at a fairly reasonable price, this is a pretty good pickup.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL Overall I would say this product was better than last year. So why not give it a better red zone result? The improvement wasn’t out of this world. The base cards are still really nice and probably underrated. The inserts are better but could still use some work, especially those multi-player cards. Lastly, the addition of more parallels doesn’t really increase the appeal of a product to me. If anything, they can take away from a product. I wouldn’t say the various colored foil parallels in 2011 Topps Prime were a detriment to the entire product, but I also wouldn’t say they made it rainbow-licously better.

NEXT UP: 2011 Panini Absolute Memorabilia

Product Review: 2011 Topps Finest


In another exercise of futility, we have a product that not only was released well over a month ago, but was even featured on this blog over a month ago. You may recall that we did a group case break of 2011 Topps Finest in early September. The results of that break can be viewed here. In order to do a product review that is comparable to most other 1&G Reviews, I opted to pull the first box from that case and treat it like its own box break for these purposes. So that’s why you won’t see every card from the case mentioned here. But now, without further unnecessary ado, here is the review:

2011 Topps Finest box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 2 mini boxes each holding 6 5-card packs for a total of 60 cards. As I mentioned, this box came from our group break case, which was purchased from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $800. That gives a $100/box ratio, which translates into a $1.67/card ratio. That once again firmly establishes Finest as a mid-shelf product, much as it has been in the past.

2011 Topps Finest Mini Box2011 Topps Finest Pack
Topps Finest must have a thing for hyped rookie QBs

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 46 (0 duplicates)
   Rookie Cards: 15 (included in base card total above)
Refractor Parallels: 7
   Refractors: 4
   XFractors (#/399): 1
   Black Refractor (#/99): 1
   Gold Refractor (#/50): 1
   Finest Moments: 2
   Finest Atomic Rookies: 2
   Auto Jumbo Relic (#/399): 1
   Rookie Auto Patch Gold Refractor (#/50): 1
   Finest Rookie Auto (#/10): 1

2011 Topps Finest2011 Topps Finest
Click images for full-sized scans

1st Down, Design: In a word: awesome. I already professed my love for Topps Finest last year and I see no reason to change that opinion this year. It’s just a great looking set that really has that extra pizzazz. This year’s base design is very similar to last year’s, but actually improved. Normally I am all about symmetry, which was practically the definition of 2010’s Finest, but I really like the more off-balanced approach in 2011. Even the card back is similar but just seems more attractive for some reason. The team color schemes are bolder and the logo and player name plates locations seem more natural this year. Also, the type font is particularly cool. Topps effectively took a great design and tweaked it for the better in this case.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: undecided. And that more or less refers to its comparision to last year’s effort. The refractor technology always gets me. Those things are fantastic. I still don’t know if we need so many parallel refractors, but it’s hard to argue with great looking cards. I will say though I almost liked the refractors last year better. The Xfractors are nearly identical, but I thought the other high level parallels were more distinguished last year. I absolutely love the mosiac refractors though. I didn’t pull a base mosiac from this box (I did in others), but it is the same as the mosaic autograph I pulled. And I LOVE that there are rare chase cards that aren’t autos or relics. On that note, the rookie auto patch cards and auto/relic cards are much better than last year. I’m still not wild about the elements being bordered, but there is much more emphasis on the player photo this year, which is greatly appreciated. The Finest Moments are still a bit of a throw-away for me, but at least the concept is nice. The Atomic Rookie Refractors though are out of the park. These things look great scanned and look even better in person. I am a sucker for shiney and these cards are loaded with it. VERY attractive. And did someone say on-card autos?!? Not every autographed card is signed on-card, but the base parallels are, and that is great to see from Topps. They have definitely made long strides in that department in the past year or so across all products.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: inflated. That’s because I feel like I beat the odds with this box. First off, in 60 cards, there were no duplicates and 15 base RCs. That’s pretty solid. I also pulled an adequate number of parallels and the stated seedings for basic inserts. But I did pull a gold refractor rookie auto patch AND a bonus mosaic rookie auto, which was signed on-card. Granted, I guess I didn’t have a parallel atomic rookie refractor or an excessive number of low-numbered refractors, but I would still say this was a very solid box and possibly exceeded the average from across the entire product run.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: solid. A product like Topps Finest is going to deliver. Plain and simple. The Finest brand has been around longer than some companies exist and it is a name collectors know and appreciate. I’m not necessarily saying that buying a box is a sound investment for your retirement or that you’ll instantly reap huge profits, but you’re certainly not buying copper at gold prices. The higher end inserts and certainly the 1/1s can pull huge money on the secondary market while even the base rookie cards and complete sets carry respectable market value. I’m not quite ready to say Topps Finest is the Cadillac of sports cards, but it definitely commands recognition and respect amongst collectors.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT GOOD I love this product. There should be no mistaking that by now. Does personal bias affect this product review? I don’t doubt it. But that’s why this is considered an opinion piece. An editorial, if you will. After I busted this box, and even after I busted the entire case for the group break, I was still excited to rip into every pack and was disappointed when I finally ran out of wax. I don’t get that feeling very often any more, so that should say something about the overall appeal of 2011 Topps Finest. I didn’t feel comfortable giving it a two-point conversion because it didn’t completely blow me away, but I thought the end product deserved to find paydirt with a bonus point.

NEXT UP: 2011 Tristar Obak

Group Case Break Results


Unless youv’e been in a remote cave without electricity, you probably know that we’ve been barking up the group break tree again. This time it was for a case of 2011 Topps Finest football. After a mishap with pre-ordering and having to pay nearly $100 more than expected (my fault, not the vendor’s), the case arrived safe and sound on Friday.

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But it didn’t stay sealed for long…

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And just to make sure…

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Yep, there’s Cam Newton. We’ve got the right case and are good to go.

I didn’t want to take the time to scan or list every base card that was pulled. If you’re really interested in seeing some base cards, I am planning to use the first box from this case for a 1&G Product Review. There will be some base scans there. To review the base card policy for this break, the entire base stack was broken into team stacks. I then pulled off all duplicates so that no one was getting four or five copies of the same card. I then shuffled up the pile of duplicates and dispersed them evenly over all 32 team stacks so that every team lot had the same number of base cards (so teams that had 7 players in the base set got fewer “extra” cards from the duplicates stack than say a team that only had 3 players represented). All other duplicates were set aside until the end.

Next up were the “Finest Moments” insert cards. I did the same thing with the duplicates as I did with the base cards, but I believe there were only 2-3 duplicates here, so not everyone got one. Here is the scan:

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There were also 3 refractor Finest Moments cards. All of these (and all cards shown from here on) were dispersed to the proper teams:

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Next we have the base refractor cards. These aren’t the most sought after cards from the product, but they sure are sweet. There was a very large stack of basic refractor cards, so those didn’t get scanned either. There were not any duplicate refractors though, so all refractors went to the proper teams.

There were 17 X-Fractors pulled. These are numbered #/399:

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We also pulled four Black Refractors (#/99), three Gold Refractors (#/50), and two Mosiac Refractors (#/10). Interestingly enough, despite the two Mosiacs, we didn’t pull any red refractors (#/25) and we didn’t get any of the Printing Plates or Superfractors (both 1/1s). Here is the lump sum of our high refractors:

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Next up are the Finest Atomic Rookies. These fall one per mini box (16 per case). While technically not a “hit” by normal standards (there is no autograph, jersey swatch, or even a serial number), I figured these were rare enough, so even the duplicates went to the respective teams. We did manage to pull a Gold Superior (#/50) and a Mosiac Superior (#/10), so that was a nice touch.

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And now the moment everyone has been waiting for: the hits. According to the packaging, each mini box should contain a sequentially numbered autographed jumbo relic or an autographed rookie patch card. So that means we should be looking for 16 hits from this case.

First, here are six autographed jumbo relics. All of them are numbered #/589 except for the Von Miller (#/339) and the Ryan Williams (Red Refractor #/75).

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Next up are six autographed rookie patch cards. It is hard to tell from the scan and I forgot to write it down, but I believe these were also #/589. We did pull a Refractor (Marcell Dareus #/99), a Black Refractor (Andy Dalton #/75), and a Red Refractor (Colin Kaepernick #/50).

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Now, if you’re good at math, you may be saying to yourself, “Hey! That’s only 12 hits. I thought we were supposed to get 16. What the hell, man?!?” And you would be correct. And I would be correct. We were supposed to get 16 hits and I clearly only pulled 12. Well, unless you include these four redemption cards:

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Tom, the good news is that you got two Kyle Rudolph autographed rookie patch cards. The bad new is that you have to redeem both of them from Topps. Sorry about that.

So now we have 16 hits and all is settled and complete. Except, wait, what are these?

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Here are two ADDITIONAL rookie autographs! And they are autographed on-card to boot! Mr. Alex Green is a “basic” Rookie Autograph Refractor Variation card (#/150) and Mr. Jamie Harper is a Mosiac Rookie Autograph Refractor Variation card (a parallel of a parallel! #/10). So we didn’t pull the Superfractor auto of Cam Newton or Mark Ingram, but I doubt Mike or Joevison are complaining.

Once all of the inserts and hits were dispersed, I then went back through and again evened up the stacks so that everyone had an equal number of cards by spreading out the rest of the duplicate base cards. I think some of the base cards and even a few refractors from the “bank’s” teams (team slots that were not purchased and shall remain with me) got mixed in, but I’m not too worried about that. I just didn’t want someone to buy in and then walk away with three base cards of their chosen team.

On a side note, there were no multi-player cards, so there is no need to open up public polls to decide who gets what. All cards were able to go to the proper team slots and all duplicates were dispersed as evenly as possible, as promised in the group break details and as described above.

So there you have it. The group case break of 2011 Topps Finest is complete. A very special thank you to everyone who participated. Packages are already partially assembled and will hopefully go in the mail tomorrow.

These are always fun for me, although I’d like to get more participation so that I’m not keeping any of the cards. Be on the lookout for another group break in the somewhat near future (Topps Chrome, anyone?). As always, if you have any suggestions or requests, please let me know.


Product Review: 2011 Topps Inception


I don’t like deceiving people, so let’s get something out in the open. I haven’t purchased a box of 2011 Topps Inception. This will be the first product review I do without having purchased at least a retail box, though I usually shoot for the hobby variety. BUT this is not an unfounded review. A little while back, I tried to do a group case break of Inception. That attempt failed miserably. One person had signed up. Rather than refund his money or figure out a way to honor the “break” aspect, I decided to just buy a variety of Inception cards from his favorite team. With just $50 to spend, I came one autograph short of an entire hobby box. Not bad. So I have held and scanned all of the cards I’m reviewing. So while it’s technically not a standard product/box break review, at least it’s not based on someone else’s scans or Topps’ promotion images.

Whew. I’m glad I got that out of the way. Now, onto the review:

2011 Topps Inception box
I didn’t buy this – this is just for your reference

Hobby boxes come as a single 7-card pack. Each box promises two autographs, one memorabilia, two parallels, and two base cards. As mentioned above, I got one autograph, one memorabilia, two parallels, and two base cards for $50. Hobby boxes are currently selling for a bit over $100 for a per-card average of about $14-15. That isn’t quite super high end a la Exquisite, but is certainly not your granddad’s box of cards either.

The Breakdown:
Base Cards: 2
   Blue (#/209): 1
   Black (#/109): 1
   Autographs (#/200): 1
   Jumbo Relics (#/75): 1

2011 Topps Inception
Click image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: awesome. For a long time, Upper Deck was essentially the undisputed king of high end. Topps and Donruss (now Panini) often tried and fell terribly short. I’m not a huge high-end buyer, so I can’t argue that I have the most experience or valid viewpoint, but Inception is legit. The base cards are all printed on 72-pt card stock. The card fronts have a fine matte finish that actually enhances the luxury feel of the cards while the cut-out player image is super slick and shiny. The ghostly fog background is understated and simple, which is great. There’s no need to design the crap out of these cards, and Topps nailed that. The card back is also solid. There is only one season and then a career line for statistics and no player image, but what sells it for me is the player bio. Most cards will have a trite reason why the featured player is good. Inception focuses on the player’s inception and talks about how he got his start in football. Very cool concept. The foil stamping is about the only so-so point on the base cards. It never scans well and isn’t terribly vibrant in certain lighting, but you almost need foil stamping for a card like this. Printed and colored logos/text just wouldn’t work in this case.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: great. The parallels seem a bit pointless in a product like this. An average base card is already worth about $5, so changing the background color and adding a serial number isn’t a big selling point. I will say the re-coloring is done well, and could really look great for certain teams. For instance, the Ray Lewis here looks awesome as a black parallel (a Baltimore team color) while the Joe Flacco just doesn’t have IT, despite being more vibrant. The autographs are fantastic. The player sheen is removed on the lower half of the card to allow a nice matte surface for the autograph, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it rubbing off or fading as fast as you would with a shiny sticker. The faded auto area also really helps the autograph “pop” from the card. I couldn’t get a silver auto with my limited budget, but the scans of those are stunning. Jersey cards seem pointless at this stage of the game, but they are done well in this product. I find it interesting that a lot of sets now have lower serial numbers on jerseys than autographs. This card is the jumbo jersey swatch variety. The smaller swatches feature a different card design, which is a nice touch. It’s evident that every card was hand designed, rather than simply adding or removing elements to make the design process easier across the board.

3rd Down, Collation: In two words: not applicable. I didn’t buy a box, so my selection was hand picked by me. So that’s perfect collation. But even the factory packed hobby boxes contain 7 cards. How in the world do you judge collation for a product with 7 cards in the box? You don’t.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: questionable. As I said above, I had just a $50 budget to purchase a team-based sampling of this product, and that included shipping fees from five different sellers for these six cards (I was able to double up on the two base cards). That budget was less than half of the cost of a box, yet I came up just one autograph short of an entire box’s contents. Not too shabby from a buyer’s perspective, but certainly not good from a seller’s perspective. Granted, by hand picking a “box,” I had no chance at that super rare card of a high draft pick. But I also avoided pulling a hit of an after thought veteran from a small market team. So in essence, Inception is a typical high-end product. The prospects in any box can be off the charts, but the risk in buying is almost equally high. The cards themselves are fantastic, but a sealed box may be overpriced a bit.

RED ZONE RESULTS: TOUCHDOWN, PAT NOT NECESSARY 2011 Topps Inception is a great product. There’s no getting around that in my opinion. The base cards are subtle yet carry an air of elegance and the hits are well designed and eye-catching. But unless you’re really into lotteries or busting wax for the sake of busting wax, buying boxes or cases probably isn’t the way to go. As I showed here, you have a real shot at getting a box worth of cards of your favorite team/players on the secondary market for the same or even lower price. I will say I really wish Emmitt Smith was on the checklist as I would definitely love to add cards of this calibur to my collection. But even if that were the case, I would definitely go the singles route than gamble on any sealed product.

NEXT UP: 2011 Score (No really, I will review this some day…)

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)
   Longevity (#/249): 2
   Longevity Holofoil (#/99): 1
   Longevity Gold (#/49): 1
   Rookie Revolution: 1
   Rookie Revolution Gold (#/500): 1
   Studio Rookies: 1
   Studio Rookies Gold (#/500): 1
   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

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…)

Product Review: 2011 Topps Rising Rookies


Ever notice how I do a string of product reviews in a short time frame and then go MIA for weeks on end? Yeah, I don’t know what causes that either. The only solution I’ve found is to enjoy the peaks and trudge through the valleys. Hopefully someday I’ll find a comfortable plateau on which to stroll for a while. But until then, here’s a review of Topps’ 2011 debut, Rising Rookies:

2011 Topps Rising Rookies box
The Box – Click for Detail

Hobby boxes come with 24 10-card packs for a total of 240 cards. I got this box from Dave and Adam’s Card World for $77, which translates into a fairly low $0.32/card ratio. That price range puts Rising Rookies as a lower-end set than most pre-season releases, but not quite Score low. In the past, Topps waited until their flagship release to jump into the football market (save last year’s Topps Attax), so there’s not really a similar product with which to compare this set. So without further ado, let’s jump to the break:

2011 Topps Rising Rookies pack
My all-in-one machine hates scanning shiny objects…

The Breakdown:
Base Cards
   Veterans: 96 (9 duplicates)
   Rookies: 96 (0 duplicates)
   Gold Rookies: 19
   Blue Rookies (#/1339): 4
   NFL Draft Shield: 8
   Combine Competition: 6
   Draft Selections: 3
   Playmakers: 4
   Sophomore Fabrics Patch (#/25): 1
   Sophomore Autographs: 1
   NFL Shield Auto (#/100): 1
   NFL Draft Shield Patch Auto (#/65): 1
   Printing Plate (1/1): 1

2011 Topps Rising Rookies2011 Topps Rising Rookies
Click each image for a full-sized scan

1st Down, Design: In a word: good. I actually really like the base cards. Well, I really like the veteran base cards. The design is clean and simple. It features crisp photography with a narrow depth-of-focus to allow you to easily concentrate on the player. The card backs could use a little help. Perhaps a photo (especially if it is different than the photo on the front) and more statistics would help to spruce it up. The main focus of the set, however, is the rookies. And unfortunately, that’s where the set lags the most. I’m just not digging the heavy team logo box (a.k.a. where the cards are autographed), espcially since the simple team logos are just below in the left corner. Also, the photography is definitely lacking and the NFL Draft Shield background just doesn’t work for me. Granted, Topps is limited in what they can do with pre-season rookie cards. Stupid Upper Deck and their NCAA exlusive. I do like that the rookie card back are essentially the same as the veteran card backs. These kids are in the same league now, so its nice that every single aspect doesn’t have to be different in their cards.

2nd Down, Inserts: In a word: decent. The Draft Selections and Combine Competition inserts don’t do anything for me, but they obviously fit the product theme nicely. The NFL Draft Shield cards actually have a nice look to them and lend themselves well to the basic and auto/logo patch versions. I’m probably just a sucker for faux-marble design elements. The sophomore cards aren’t bad, but the jersey/patch cards look much better than the autographs. It is obvious, however that all of the rookie autograph and patch cards were done pre-draft as there are no team names or logos anywhere, just NFL shields. And you know what? That’s fine. Why? They got ON-CARD AUTOGRAPHS OF ROOKIES. HUGE bonus there. There is just too much open space for the auto labels, especially when someone signs small like Eric Decker did. These are sophomore cards, get them hard-signed. There you have a much better chance of all that blank space being used effectively. The Playmaker cards were actually my favorite. I like the subtle fade of the lettering and the very simplistic design.

3rd Down, Collation: In a word: tolerable. In a box with 240 cards, duplicates are going to happen. It doesn’t mean I have to like them, but I should expect them. Interestingly enough, I got 96 veterans with 9 dupes and 96 rookies with no dupes. Whatever that means. I did get all four auto/memorabilia cards I was guaranteed, so that’s a plus. As an added bonus, I also pulled a 1/1 printing plate. I still have mixed feelings about these things, but I have to admit I still get a bit giddy about pulling a 1/1, even if there are technically four printing plates for each card.

4th Down, Overall Value: In a word: great. With 240 cards for just $77 (and the price has come down even further since I purchased), the box would have to be a complete miss to not deliver any value. The on-card rookie autographs are a huge plus. That is something Upper Deck always seemed to nail, Topps has been making strides to do, and Panini is completely incompetant of doing. I’ve never been a huge fan of manu-patches, but they do look pretty cool in person. The same goes for the printing plates. Obviously not every box will have a printing plate, but Topps did make an effort to add some value to an early, rookie-focused set, which is appreciated.

RED ZONE RESULTS: FIELD GOAL The base cards are decent, especially the veterans, the inserts are acceptable, and the hits were much nicer than I anticipated. The collation could have used a bit of tweaking, but as I mentioned above, a less than 4% duplicate rate isn’t terrible, especially for a lower-end set. The nice thing about these mildly cheaper sets is there is very little chance of being disappointed or feeling buyer’s remorse. On the other hand, there is a potential to be pleasantly surprised by what you pull. It was a very small sample size, but I was pleasantly surprised with my box.

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