2018 Panini Luminance review by J-Dub

Panini’s new 2018 football set Luminance.

I have said it before and I will continue to say it as long as the issue remains prevalent; Sports card license exclusivity stinks! If you have read any of my past pieces on the subject, you know where I stand. And I don’t slam one company over another because they are all complicit in the issue at this point. Panini has football, basketball, NASCAR and soccer wrapped up. Topps has baseball, Upper Deck has hockey, and Leaf is likely out-producing all of them in quality and they don’t have a single sports license.

Here is where things get wild. While Leaf doesn’t have an MLB, NBA, NFL or NHL license, they do have individual players signed. If you want a Jack Eichel rookie autograph, you’ve got to go to Leaf. Upper Deck did the same with Ben Simmons. So while not producing a single basketball product, Upper Deck kept the NBA ROY’s autograph out of all the mainstream releases that Panini produced. So not only are we not having access to our favorite Topps football products or Panini baseball products, we now don’t have access to some of the brightest stars in the major sports either. Michael Jordan has long had an exclusive deal with Upper Deck, rendering his autographs available in mainly older Upper Deck basketball releases and current Goodwin Champions releases.

The companies are in an all out war with each other and when you factor everything in, I don’t know where the blame truly lies. The market is different today, collectors are different, and licensing/rights/exclusivity is an unbelievably complex animal that is taking over just about every facet of business. It has forever changed NASCAR, was one of the nails in the WCW coffin, and changed the way college uniforms look from university to university. Don’t bring your Reebok to Oregon or Under Armour to Athens or Nike to South Bend; those products aren’t welcome there.

There is a part of me that simply thinks that this is the way things are going to be going forward and I need to get rid of the old man, “get off my lawn”, mentality. I’m really no different when it comes to things you’ll find around my house. I am a Chevy man and won’t ever buy anything else. That’s just in my blood at this point. I don’t buy any soft drink that doesn’t have “Dr. Pepper” on the can. I only buy Oberto Beef Jerky, French’s Mustard, Heinz Ketchup and Kraft Mayonnaise. I know what I like and at this point, I’m not interested in other options.

But that last word of the paragraph is exactly the problem when I start thinking in that way. I like all of those particular companies’ products but I still have options. If somebody only has Hunt’s ketchup at their house, that’s what I’m going to eat. I’d rather have some form of ketchup than no ketchup at all. And as the consumer, I feel like I should be able to choose the products I like on the free market. I think there is a difference in the consumer latching on to particular products and a company monopolizing a product. I should decide whether I like Panini Baseball or Topps Baseball. And I should also have the option of Panini Football or Topps Football.

In many cases, my tastes would probably change over the years. I liked Donruss in 1989 and Upper Deck in 1990 and Topps in 1991. The companies were forced to tweak and modify their designs to compete, not just to look different from last year’s products. Let’s be honest, even with tweaks, has Panini Prizm every REALLY CHANGED their look? Is this year’s Topps Baseball that much different than last year’s? Look at ’90 Fleer and ’91 Fleer. Look at ’89 Topps and ’90 Topps. When the companies competed, they had to bring their A game with every product. Now, each company releases 30-40 products for a sport and they hope a handful of them hit, outside of the annual mainstays like Heritage and Contenders.

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Now we are in a cycle of quantity over quality and it isn’t just about production numbers for a particular set. Now, in terms of football; we have Panini Classics, Playoff, Optic, Contenders, Immaculate, National Treasures, Flawless, Playoff, Phoenix, Vertex, XR, Certified Cuts, Elite, Spectra, Absolute, Origins, Unparalleled, Certified, Gold Standard, Prestige…..I’m out of breath. And many of the sets are similar in ways. Unparalleled feels a lot like Elite, Certified is similar to Prestige, Optic and Prizm are both chromium and we have both a Contenders College (with NFL players) and Contenders NFL release.

To make matters even more difficult for collectors and the companies; we now have retail exclusives like Absolute that can only be found in certain stores. So the companies have taken the license exclusivity and moved it over to only being available at a Target or Wal-Mart, further shrinking the availability to customers. The result is that production is at an all time high in an age when “low production” is a selling point. Having cards numbered to 5 are great but then you have them across 40 different products so you really have 200 cards numbered to 5 of a player floating around. Companies used to make millions of cards for their flagship product and now the companies still make an insane number of cards but they are spread across an insane number of products.

And it is all in the name of license exclusivity. Because a company has cornered the market on a particular sport, they have to try and make up for the various products that are no longer available. This is just an opinion but I feel certain that Optic was born from the loss of Topps Chrome. I think Archives and Classics are mirror products. Elite and Bowman are both “prospect” and rookie sets. Consumers still want options and the only way to give them what they want is for one company in each sport to sit at the drawing board and try to come up with something new every year to replace the products that didn’t take off the year before.

It can’t be a fun process for the companies either. I can’t imagine having to come up with 10 brand new products each year to compliment the annual mainstays. Innovation does have its limitations. And from a collector standpoint, how do I know when the set I like in a given year is going to get the axe to make way for the new shiny product that is in development? It makes collecting sets difficult because you have to stick with the every year products, no matter how much you like how Phoenix looks. Phoenix might be a one and done product!

Here’s the swerve in all of this. While I do think the companies are putting out a lot of products that seem to water down the market, they do hit on a winner from time to time that makes me take notice. As I mentioned above, I think Phoenix was that product last year. The card stock was thick, the images were nice, and the chromium colors were sweet. I really enjoyed the product. They were some of my favorites from 2017 and felt like a colorful version of Optic.

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I think I have already found that product for 2018 with Panini’s release of the new football set Luminance. The set is a little different than the others that have been introduced over the last couple of years. The cards are a little darker than the normal images and the names are splashed across the front in a silver font. Short prints can be in blue, red or gold as well but the base cards are silver. The set has a full complement of rookies to go along with superstar veterans and even some “vintage” players.

Aside from the design, I really like the configuration of the box, which is very similar to Prestige over the last few years. Each box has 4 packs with 10 cards and a hit in each pack. The hits are comprised of 3 autographs and 1 memorabilia. The autographs can range from rookies to current players to retired players and they can come in both sticker and on card variety. The box is a very reasonable $115 for that configuration and based on the boxes I have purchased so far, there is some value to be found in the product. Let’s take a look at the set.

This is the base card in Luminance. As you can see, the bottom of the card fades to a darker tint but this gives the card a classy look in my opinion. As you will see, the photos used are some of the best you’ll find in a football set.

One of the non-numbered parallels is the Gold. This is the Phillip Rivers base and gold parallel.


Even the photo shop work isn’t bad. Case Keenum has not been running around the field in the Bronco uni just yet but here he is!

The rookies are shown in their college uniforms, which is the way I prefer rookie cards to look. Nick Chubb in the red and black of Bulldog Nation is the way I want to remember him!

The vintage cards have a little more gloss to them than the normal base cards. They also have a gold/sepia tint to them, giving them a little more prestige than the current player cards. They also highlight some of the career numbers on the front. Dan Marino was a 5x NFL Passing Yards Leader. I really wish he would’ve won at least one Super Bowl.

The Dynamic insert is one of the only two cards you’ll find in the landscape photo mode. These are very similar to the base cards but are a bit glossier.

The other landscape card found in the non-hit category is the Flash insert. These are slick with a black background and gold “Flash” printed behind the player. I really like these!

Similar to the Flash design, the Rookie inserts have the black background with “Rookie” written behind the player. I pulled a nice Sony Michel but I thought I would show off this Saquon Barkley since I already pictured my Nick Chubb.

My favorite inserts are the Portrait cards. These are black and white and have gold foil for the player names. They feature players in a portrait pose rather than an action shot. These are great looking inserts!

Of course, there are numbered parallels in the set as well. These particular Orange parallels are actually found in Prestige blasters, which is sort of odd. They are numbered to 299.

Blue is one of the more common colored variations and is numbered to 99. The photos are identical to the base photos but the player name is in blue.

The Platinum Blue parallel is a little tougher to pull than the Blue version. These are numbered to 25 and really look good with the dark tinted cards.

The lowest numbered parallel I pulled was this Red Russell Wilson numbered to 10. There is also a Pink parallel numbered to 5 and a Gun Metal parallel numbered 1/1.

The base patch cards look like this DeShaun Watson. I am not overly impressed with one color patches like this but I did pull a solid player.

The vintage patch cards look better on the surface but I still pulled a single color with this Earl Campbell.

Here is a very nice looking patch auto of veteran player Harrison Smith. This is numbered to 35 and has a two color patch with stitching so it makes me feel a little better about the relic. I like the idea of pulling current players instead of all rookies, all the time.

Speaking of rookies, they are here in abundance as well. The Rookie Ink is a very good looking black and white card, much like the Portrait insert. These are signed in blue ink and even though they are sticker autographs, the color pops on the black and white card.

The best autographs I have found in the box so far are the Draft Day on-card autos. These are signed in silver ink and really look great on the fading card bottoms. These are cards that you might expect to find in higher end products and are only found 1 in about every 3 boxes. These are very sharp!

I have opened multiple boxes of Luminance so far and I really can’t get enough. This may be my product for 2018 like Certified was for 2017 as I opened box after box of that a year ago. It’s still early in the football card year so something can certainly come along and be better but this is a definite winner to me in the annual battle to get new products over with collectors. I can pick about 10 products that I can do without every year but this is one that is a must keep for next year.

Have you opened any Luminance yet? What are your thoughts?


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