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Collect call: 2012 Panini Black football

Posted Jan 2, 2013 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Mar 27, 2013 at 10:24 PM

I am always wary of cards that have black backgrounds. It reminds me of the 1971 Topps baseball card set, which was very collectible but also susceptible to chipping and dinging.

Card production has changed in the past four decades, though, and 2012 Panini Black football can overcome a collector’s fear of damaged cards. The cards in this high-end product by Panini America (price ranges from $180 to $200, depending on where you shop), are made of thick stock and the black backgrounds are slick looking. They certainly have a nice feel to them.

Still, you might want to wear gloves when handling these cards. No need to ding a corner or two.

A hobby box contains one pack, with 12 cards to a pack. There are 100 base cards in the set, but let’s be honest: collectors are not shelling out big bucks to build a base set. There were three base cards in the box I sampled, but it’s the autograph and relic cards and the possibility of triple and quad cards — and even printing plates — that will entice football collectors. That, plus the 100 rookie cards that are autographed.

The signature card in this box (no pun intended … OK, pun intended) was a Rookie Signatures Materials Prime Set card of the Rams’ Isaiah Pead. There is a generously large, three-color swatch of uniform material (blue, gold and white) that dominates the right side of the card. But underneath the action shot of Pead is a gold autograph of the St. Louis running back. The signature itself is hard to decipher, but the gold autograph against the card’s black background is very distinctive. The card is numbered to 349.

Other autograph cards in the box I sampled included two Rookie Signatures cards: one of Eagles defensive end Vinny Curry, numbered to 25; and one of Patriots safety Tavon Wilson, numbered to 199. Both autos are on stickers.

There is a third autograph card in this box, although it is in the form of a redemption. It’s a Rookie Signatures card of Ravens wide receiver Tommy Streeter, a former player at the University of Miami.

Looking at the relics, the first one I saw was a Materials Combos card, numbered to 25, of Jacksonville running backs Maurice Jones-Drew and Fred Taylor. The second was a dual swatch NFL equipment card of Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, numbered to 99. While the swatches are a little small, they are two distinct pieces of material — and that’s a plus.

The number 349 pops up all over Panini Black, as the base cards and several insert cards carry it. The two inserts in the box included players named Johnson: a Weaponry card of Bills receiver Steve Johnson; and Captains card of Texans receiver Andre Johnson. Both of course were numbered to 349.
While the Weaponry card seemed rather plain, the Captains card had an interesting layout. Andre Johnson’s card had a letterman-like, gold capital “C” in the upper left-hand of the card, with four gold stars underneath the letter.

There was one gold parallel card in the box: Whitney Mercilus, the Texans’ No. 1 draft pick in 2012. You can tell the card is a parallel because the “Black” designation at the bottom of the card contains gold letters; base cards have a silver, almost holographic look to them.

I didn’t pull any from this particular box, but an autograph set that is sure to be coveted is from the Marks of Distinction collection. It will include retired greats like Brett Favre, Sonny Jurgensen, Eric Dickerson, Cris Carter and Daryle Lamonica; and current stars like Roddy White, Frank Gore and Percy Harvin. Bucs included in the mix are Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson, Dallas Clark and LeGarrette Blount.

Panini Black certainly offers some possibilities for high-end collectors. It’s always a gamble when you invest nearly $200 in product that has only a dozen cards, but it’s the old risk-reward factor. There are plenty of award possibilities in Panini Black.

It’s up to you as a collector whether you want to take that gamble.

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