Hobby Musings: 2018 brings another strong NFL card year – 2018 in the NFL produced another memorable season on the field and another successful year in the card world. With a strong rookie class headlined by the likes of Baker Mayfield and Saquon Barkley, card collectors responded accordingly by buying in droves. While the NFL’s season may be over, there’s still plenty of excitement left in the 2018 football card season. To find out more about what was memorable from the past season, as well as what’s still to come, I caught up with Panini’s Rob Springs. The following interview was conducted via email.
KS: With the NFL season over, how do you evaluate the 2018 season from a trading card perspective up to this point?
RS: The 2018 season was an amazing season for FB trading cards. You had the early hype for Baker, Saquon, Rosen, Allen and Darnold and then several of them outperformed expectations, which led to even higher values. Lamar Jackson also sold well most of the year. You also had several non-RPS guys put in great performances like Phillip Lindsay, Leighton Vander Esch, Darius Leonard, etc. which helped to drive the market during the season. Mix in a little Patrick Mahomes too…
KS: Which product from this past season performed the best among collectors up to this point?
RS: We have had an amazing run of products this past year, but if I had to pick just one it would be Contenders. It has just exploded out of the gate faster than any past Contenders that I can remember and the addition of the Clear Tickets and Ticket Stub Variations has really added another level of chase this year.
KS: Did you have any products that surprised or exceeded expectations once it hit the market?
RS: For me, it would be Obsidian. It was a brand new product this year and the solicitation material pictures really couldn’t capture how the cards looked in-hand. So, it was pretty brutally received early. We kept telling guys to trust us and it would be a great program and would look amazing once the actual cards hit the market. I think it exceeded most people’s expectations once it went live.
KS: We had some pretty big newcomers this season in the NFL. Overall though, who would you consider to the NFL rookie of the year in trading cards?
RS: I would go with Baker over Saquon for this reason. To get to the trading levels that Baker got to, and doing it as a member of the Cleveland Browns, is almost unheard of collecting-wise.
KS: Who do you think was the biggest surprise among the rookie class this year in the card market?
RS: Phillip Lindsay, no doubt. To not only make the team as a free agent, but then also beat out a 3rd round pick in Royce Freeman was quite a feat. Once we were able to adjust and react with autograph cards for him (on the NFL side), those were strong sellers in each release.
KS: Who would you pick as the 2018 NFL MVP in trading cards?
RS: Patrick Mahomes. The rise of his cards from the off-season through the playoffs was off the charts.
KS: We’re fresh off the Super Bowl and another Patriots win. Tom Brady has long been a popular fixture in the hobby world. How has this Super Bowl win affected his card market? I’m not sure it does a ton at this point.
RS: He is already such a strong seller – even his base inserts and parallels move the needle (a lot). However, I do think the “special“ cards will push up dramatically at this point. Things like parallels sequentially numbered from 1 to 25, patch autographs, inscription autographs, themed set autographs, etc.
KS: What is Panini doing to help meet the demand for Brady cards and autographs?
RS: We have tried to include Tom Brady autographs across several different price points. We can’t afford to put him in every program, but you can find him anywhere from a $3 pack of Donruss to a $1,250 pack of Flawless. We also recently purchased another game used jersey and pants on Brady, so we will be able to include those in future releases, as well. And, you will always find him in a multitude of insert and parallel sets.
KS: Overall, which player do you think received the biggest boost from his performance in the Super Bowl?
RS: This one is pretty close between Edelman, Michel and Brady. I would probably still lean towards Brady at this point.
KS: The NFL season may be over on the field, but not in the card world. What upcoming NFL releases does Panini have in the pipeline?
RS: We still have a few slated – Panini One released last week and then there will be Plates & Patches, Select, Contenders Optic, Encased, National Treasures, Flawless and Honors.
KS: With the draft only mere months away, how is this year’s draft class shaping up compared to previous seasons?
RS: Obviously, it’s not going to have the hype that 2018 had – and not many classes are ever going to have that type of hype. But, I still think we are looking at about four 1st round QB’s, one or two 1st round RB’s and about four 1st round WR’s. That is still a lot of key skill position players to speculate on and we know that the Giants are going to draft a QB, which will certainly help to drive sales in the first part of the new football year.
KS: As of right now, which upcoming rookie is generating the most anticipation among card collectors?
RS: Kyler Murray is still the player with the most intrigue, both in the Hobby and on the field.
For more from Kelsey Schroyer, follow him on Twitter @KelSchroy75.