Monday, April 28, 2014

What Panini needs to do

Other than being a consumer, I'm not qualified to give advice to a card company. And my dismissal of Panini baseball card products is well-established, so I'm not exactly objective either.

I know some collectors embrace Panini products because Panini is the closest thing to competition for Topps. Anything other than Topps is OK with them, I suppose. Or maybe they're just so happy to see another option that they open their arms to what I view as an inferior product. I just know that when I saw a couple of collectors on Twitter recently exclaim what a steal a $20 box of 2013 Panini Prizm was, I was thinking, "I might buy that for a dollar."

I just haven't been impressed.

The only exception is the 2013 Hometown Heroes set. I received two more Dodgers that I needed from that set from The Junior Junkie. You saw Clayton Kershaw up at the top (come back soon, dude), and here is Billy Buck:

Hometown Heroes is the only Panini baseball product that does not make me think "ugh, what did I get THAT card for, it looks terrible," when I leaf through my most recent Dodgers binder.

So, why am I giving Hometown Heroes a pass?

Well, first, it's a retro product and you'll always make me look with one of those. Second, the throwback clip-art-type design is not only fun and bright, but it pulls my attention away from the fact that there are no logos. Why does that work for Hometown Heroes but not Triple Play? I don't know, I'm a difficult consumer to figure out sometimes.

But, of course, because it's Panini, not even Hometown Heroes is a perfect product.

First of all, the short-prints have got to go. Perhaps SPs are a necessity in today's card world, but from my standpoint a card company attempting to compete with 40 years allegiance to Topps is not doing itself any favors by SPing cards in the base set. I'm pissed at Topps for doing that crap and I've known Topps since 1974.

Second, why the hell is Hometown Heroes not on retail shelves? The same thing happened with Golden Age. I'm not huge on Golden Age, but I sure would've liked a chance to pull a Brady Bunch or Bad News Bears card. We're talking about my childhood here. And I would've gladly selected Hometown Heroes over some Topps products if it appeared in my Target last year.

Those are two very big obstacles to me giving Panini a second chance.

But why else am I not buying Panini? What makes me shrug off their products while some others embrace them? What does Panini need to do for me to embrace its sets, too?

Well, I came up with a little list. Here it is.

1. Lose the short-prints. If you want to have all levels of inserts ranging from one every other pack to the impossible pull, go crazy. But leave the base set alone. None of Panini's sets are Allen and Ginter or Heritage. I will not look into completing a set with SPs if I don't have an established relationship with the product.

2. Put it on a retail shelf. I know companies have to satisfy the card shops, but you know what they say, "out of sight out of mind." I will not see it if it's not in a store near me. And the chances of me seeking it out online are zilch. Your product would have to be called "1970s Dodgers Playing At Night Packaged With a Bright, Colorful Design Hey I'm Talking To You Night Owl" for me to do that.

3. Work on the design. I'm not sure what it is, but the designs that Panini come up with do not do it for me. I haven't paid attention to their non-baseball product so I don't know if, say, their basketball cards look better, but the majority of the designs make me crinkle my nose. Design is a big part of the appeal for me. It will make or break whether I buy your cards. See 2013 Topps compared with 2012 Topps.

4. Work on the backs. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only collector who thinks card backs are important (but I know that's not true). Maybe it's just not a priority, and if that's the case, it shows. I don't know if it's my growing awareness that my eyesight isn't as strong as it was 10 years ago, but Panini is killing me with its backs. Look:

I cannot flipping read that (I didn't enlarge the image so you know what I'm getting at). Bump up the type, man! And yellow type on a yellow background? Hey now.

5. Get my attention. Hometown Heroes came awfully close, before the SPs and "I can't FIND it" got in the way. I've yet to see a Panini set that appeals to me totally.

6. Find a better way around the no license thing. Cutting off tops of heads is not the answer. I know creating cards without a license is operating with two hands tied around your back, but Topps did it with football in the 1970s and I never noticed (of course, I was a kid then, too). There were some delightful oddball sets that lacked a license back in the day, too. But maybe No. 6 is impossible, which brings me to the final way:

7. Get an MLB license. Yeah, I know. The big bad MLB won't let you. But I've got to see those nicknames and logos. Sorry to be THAT guy. But I know what I like.

Take the above for what it's worth. After all, I'm one bad card aisle experience away from collecting nothing but vintage.

Hometown Heroes is the closest I've come to thinking about collecting a Panini baseball set. I didn't actually come very close to doing it, but if anyone at Panini headquarters is interested in me trying to complete one of their sets, the answer lies somewhere in Hometown Heroes.

Signed, super picky night owl


  1. I agree, not really interested in Panini, not against the unlicensed crazy food issues I grew up, but not really into the cards.

  2. I'm with you on these. If they can't get logos and nicknames, then go totally the other way -- not high end, but be as low end and available as possible. Try to be different.

  3. I got Hometown Heroes at the local Target !
    If they still have them I'll send you a pack.

  4. The lack of logos is a serious problem. Not matter how they try to hide it, something just doesn't look right. Their USA Baseball issues, which do have the Team USA logo, look really nice but the rest of it is substandard due to the lack of logos, IMHO. I don't see them doing better than Hometown Heroes, which is otherwise pretty nice.

  5. I agree that 2013 Hometown Heroes is Panini's best effort to date. They almost had me with 2014 Donruss, but they missed out with a too-small base set, the inclusion of retired players in the base set, and some ugly photography. Instead of a flagship set. it felt like a mediocre tertiary set like Topps Archives or Upper Deck Icons. Panini needs a flagship set and if they can't do it with Donruss, a beloved brand name, then they just need to get out of baseball.

  6. I am a fan of the Cooperstown release (I can't argue with a release with all Hall of Famers) and Hometown Heroes is my second favorite. I am not as much of a hater on the lack of logos if done right and don't mind the heads being cut off to make it happen.

  7. As usual, you nailed it. It amazes me that Panini doesn't seem to take anything collectors say seriously.

  8. Loved the 2013 Hometown Heroes and Golden Age. Loved, loved, loved them. Outside of Heritage, loved them better than any Topps product last year. Why? They look like cards ought to look (which is to say lose the high gloss and foil, Topps and enough of nothing but action shots that all look the same with the occasional goof shot tossed in; said it before but posed shots make for better baseball cards) and they were fun. Hometown Heroes was indeed released retail. They still have some at the local Target.

    SPs. There were no SPs in Golden Age and the SPs in Hometown Heroes and Cooperstown are irrelevant. In Hometown Heroes, the impossible to pull SPs merely show the same players in the base set in different poses; maybe you need that extra Puig (or whomever--I honestly never even looked), but I just need the one, thank you. The SPs in Cooperstown were 5 or 6 colorized versions of cards in the base set. The SPs did absolutely kill Donruss, though. Big mistake there. That product should have been more like Opening Day...a very low end fun product with just enough cool inserts to, again, make it fun (no need for the autos and Game Gear in that one).

    The backs are admittedly bad, but so are Topps' (aside from Heritage). And Panini does pay too much homage (Donruss aside, which I thought was a nice amount of homage) to the brand names they've purchased. Does Pinnacle HAVE to be that ugly, just because they were always ugly before? Here's a thought: bring back cartoons on the card backs. I bet that would help you get over your Panini aversion.

    MLB SHOULD give Panini a license. Competition makes everybody better. It just does. But that's beyond their control and you can not fault them for that. I know that they are pushing and pushing and pushing in every way possible. Or at least that's what my dealer friends tell me. They also tell me that the Panini products are their biggest baseball sellers. Golden Age and Hometown Heroes flew off the shelves. Outside of Draft Picks and Prospects, Topps product laid there like a latke. Their biggest seller the last few years is Elite. My LCS sold 250 boxes of Elite in just a couple of weeks last year. Topps, he can't even move one case of flagship through the entire season. So Panini is outperforming Topps with consumers in my neck of the woods. They're outperforming Topps with fun, imho. So why won't MLB give them a license? Because they're idiots. And there is no cure for stupidity. Yeah, they'd be a million times better with logos and team names. But you can't compare that to Topps' unlicensed forays into basketball and football since all those jerseys are is one flat color with a big number anyway. The Rams' jerseys don't say "Rams" or "St. Louis" or anything. They're just a color--frequently white. And no caps with logos--just take photos with the helmets off. Now, in baseball, if they were taking all the photos without the caps on, you'd be complaining about that (though, again, I'd like to see Panini use more posed and big-head-no-hat pictures myself, anyway.

    I'm not really trying to defend Panini as to point out that Topps can put out any piece of crap--and usually do--but because its got the logo and team name, no one gives them half the grief they should over continually putting out crap. Worse. Crap that has no fun to it whatsoever. Crap that's all about the hits and throw the base cards away crap. Just crap. MLB should give Panini a license if only because, as a collector, I am sick and tired of Topps crap. And I don't think I'm alone.

    1. Hometown Heroes never showed up anywhere near me you lucky people.

      Also, Stubby, has anyone told you maybe you should start your own card blog?

    2. I have a Christmas music blog and a Labor Quotes blog and, sadly, I don't have any time to do anything with either. I seem to have just enough time to leave annoying rant comments on other people's blogs.

      For anyone interested:
      Christmas music:
      Labor Quotes:

  9. I actually like the back of the Cooperstown set.

    There is a really good reason that Panini doesn't have a MLB license, It went to the highest bidder.