Unlike basketball or football, there is not quite the same identity for college baseball players as there is for their counterparts in other sports. Since baseball, with only a few exceptions, tends not to be a revenue producing sport, the game does not receive the same publicity at either the college or the television level those other two sports garner. However, over the past half century, there has been a growing. Although the growth has been small, there is constant interest as more and more players leave college almost ready to be major leaguers.
Panini meanwhile, although without an MLB license, does have both MLBPA and collegiate licenses and what they have done is leverage what they do have to create their 2015 Baseball Contenders product. Recent college draft picks join some current and former MLB players who played college ball on the checklist. Panini also utilized their USA contract for this set and included cards for players who are part of the National team and may be drafted next year. International players are also part of the release.
It’s the first time in four years that the Contenders brand is being used for a baseball issue.
The boxes consist of eight card packs which run 24 packs to a box. Each box promises six autographs. Base cards are in the Contenders labeling of Season Tickets, School Colors and Old School Colors (veteran big leaguers).
My local card store (Triple Cards in Plano TX) reported good sales at $148.50 per box and reports selling out of his original order in the first week. Those sales were definitely buoyed by the cost per autograph and while we didn’t pull any, there are some big name autographs in Contenders including Jameis Winston, John Elway, Russell Wilson, Barry Larkin, Bo Jackson, Craig Biggio, Dave Winfield, Frank Howard, Frank Thomas, Fred Lynn, Mike Schmidt, Paul Molitor, Rafael Palmeiro, Randy Johnson, Reggie Jackson, Roger Clemens, Tony Gwynn and Will Clark.
Online prices per box are hovering at $110-$135.
Here’s what we pulled:
Draft Ticket Parallel (#d to 99): Mike Schmidt
School Colors: 47 of 52 with one duplicate
Class Reunion: Phil Bickford; Walker Buehler; Ian Happ; Tyler Jay; Kevin Newman; Dansby Swanson
Collegiate Connections: Riley Ferrell/Tyler Alexander; Bo Jackson/Frank Thomas; Casey Hughston/Mikey White; Tyler Kreiger/Zack Erwin; Austin Rei/Braden Bishop; Andrew Suarez/David Thompson
Game Day: Andrew Benintendi; Alex Bregman; Donnie Dewees; Brett Lilek; Breckin Williams; Alex Young
Passport: Ozhaino Albies; Luis Encarnacion; Gilbert Lara; Manuel Margot; Jorge Mateo; Edmundo Sosa
Passport Autograph: Carlos Vargas
The autographs are on stickers but if you’re sharp, you counted seven autographs, rather than six. A nice bonus here, even if you don’t yet know who these guys are.
Our extra autograph reminded me of last year where many of the baseball Contenders boxes produced more autographs than promised. It’s why shops and dealers are reporting good sales. When you call put that many autographs, you’re bound to wind up with at least a couple from players who will eventually be in demand. While there is no guarantee any or all become quality big leaguers or even make the majors, many on the checklist have bright futures.
While it would be nice if Panini could figure out a way to get some more on card signatures here, the price point is fair, the cards are decent and it’s sort of refreshing to get a higher-end college baseball-focused product.
Click here to see what’s been listed on eBay.