2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball CardsBrand: Contenders
2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball Product Review
Reviewed by Rob Bertrand
Good: 2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball brings new competition to the marketplace despite only partial licensing. Product is loaded with a minimum of six autographs per box, however many breaks are yielding more.
Bad: The MLB Player’s Association (MLBPA) license allows for player images and likenesses to be used but the lack of a MLB Properties (MLBP) license means that those players cannot be pictured in their official uniforms.
The Bottom Line: Unlike prospects in other sports whose future stock is known relatively quickly, it can take years for baseball prospects to pan out, if at all. The risk-reward ratio this product has to offer may not be worth its current price. However, there will be strong demand for the autographs included in the Sweet Signs checklist.
Card Design: 2.0/5.0
One of the nuances of the Contenders’ brand, that has been so popular with collectors through the years, is utilizing a ticket motif in the design process. Panini kept the ticket name but completely eliminated the design element, an oversight that most certainly hurts the aesthetic value of the product. The limited license means using photographs of players without their team names and logos. Utilizing the ticket design may have helped hide these noticeable deficiencies.
The time frame from the announcement of the company being awarded an MLBPA license and the release of this product put the design team at Panini in a tough spot with regards to photo selection. My hope moving forward is that Panini baseball brands circumvent the licensing issues by using photographs of players in their natural element at times and places where not wearing a uniform or where airbrushing them is less noticeable. This could be accomplished by using photographs from things like press conferences, locker room interviews, weight room workouts and batting practice.
The checklist of 2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball is average, at best. Yes, the Rookie Ticket checklist does include such players as Bubba Starling, Dylan Bundy and Gerrit Cole. But when you look at the list of baseball’s top 100 prospects, there are some glaring omissions. These may be due to licensing issues but they’re still omissions nonetheless. The most notable is Bryce Harper. So is 2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball going to deliver enough prospect and rookie autograph value given its current price? And how will that value compare to other competitors in the prospect genre like Bowman? Collectors will have to decide that question for themselves. That said, when was the last time a Bowman brand delivered six autographs in a box?
The value of a product is relative to its price divided by the amount of hits in a box with some sort of weight factor placed on who the players are in the hits. With an initial price of $135 and an advertised hit ratio of six autographs per box, that leaves us with a per hit average of $22.50. That is a pretty steep price for a checklist of mostly unproven rookies and prospects. What could have helped bolster the value factor would have been to include one Sweet Signs autographed card per box, giving collectors a better shot at proven value with a checklist that includes names like Cal Ripken Jr, Jim Rice, Stan Musial, Brooks Robinson, Lou Brock, Jack Morris and Johnny Bench, to name a few.
The Fun Factor: 3.5/5.0
Finding an autograph in every fourth pack is always fun. Researching who those players are can be, if you are a prospector. The lack of logos and team names especially hurts on the veteran cards. It was a little uncomfortable seeing such greats as Albert Pujols in such bland attire.
It’s tough to produce and release an attractive and value-packed baseball card product with one arm, figuratively, tied behind your back. However, that is exactly what Panini is facing under the terms of their current licensing agreements. The product manager gave it a good effort given their limitations, but for me, it just doesn’t work. I would be surprised to hear anyone at Panini say that this is a product they are really proud of because they know they can do better. I anxiously await the company’s next baseball release. The design team will have had ample time by then to acquire better images, rework checklists and use designs that help make up for the licensing limitations.
Panini is sticking with a prospect focus for their second MLBPA-licensed baseball card release, 2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball. Although it mixes in veterans like Josh Hamilton (who will have his first Panini autograph cards in the set), the big draw is the 150 prospect signers. Every box comes with six autographs, including two hard-signed cards. Other autographs include Sweet Sign that have signed baseball leather. While it's been done before, they always make for attractive cards. Cal Ripken, Stan Musial, Bob Feller, Dylan Bundy, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon are all slated to appear in this set of autographed inserts. Collectors can also expect ticket-themed cards popular in Contenders releases in other sports. For those looking for a 1990s flashback, 2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball also marks the return of Museum Collection parallels. Other parallels include Artist's Proofs, First Day Printer's Proofs and one-of-one Championship Tickets.
Product Configuration: 24 packs per box, five cards per pack
Price Point: Mid-End Baseball Card
Target Audience: Prospectors, Autograph Collectors, Baseball Collectors
2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball Box Break
- Six Autographs Including Two On-Card Signatures
2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball Product Highlights:
- Massive checklist of 150 prospect autographs, including 50 on-card signers.
- More than 20 players signing their first Panini cards, including Josh Hamilton.
- List of 2011 Playoff Contenders Baseball Rookie Ticket and Draft Ticket autograph short prints.
- Sweet Signs Autographs are done on baseball leather. This has been popular in several brands over the years, most notably in Upper Deck Sweet Spot. Signers in the set include Hall of Famers such as Cal Ripken, Stan Musial and Bob Feller, and prospects like Anthony Rendon, Josh Bell and Gerrit Cole.
- Seasons Tickets and Rookie Tickets sets come to baseball with a checklist of 200 players. The sets are paralleled with Nufex Museum Collection cards.
- Other parallels include Artist's Proof (#/50), First Day Printer's Proofs (#/10), Press Plates and Championship Tickets (1/1).
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