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