It’s been two years now since Panini, mostly known for its stickers and Basketball products, entered the hockey-card fray. To battle Upper Deck’s uber high-end release, The Cup, the Panini crew had to come up with it’s own version; something to appeal to the high-end memorabilia and autograph crowd.
That response was Panini Dominion.
While the hobby has been covered nearly from top to bottom, Panini could have easily come out looking, smelling, and feeling like The Cup. But they made sure to establish their own brand and make it their own. The big question would be “Can Panini provide true competition for The Cup?”
Let’s dive into the review to find out.
Manufacturer: Panini America
Release date: 9/28/12 (delayed)
This is where Dominion really needed to set itself aside from The Cup and I think it did so quite well. Not to say Panini didn’t swing and miss on some things but overall I love the design. The Stickside Signatures are very nice, though I’m left wondering if the skaters are vertical and the goalies are horizontal (see right) or if they are separated that way because the horizontals are short prints? Not sure but love the design of them.
The shields are sharp again in both formats, as are the dual tags, pen pals (duals, triples and quads), crazy 8′s, quads, Benchmarks (a popular staple from the initial Dominion release), and Dual Strapping Lads.
Also, it’s not an original concept at all but I love the Stanley Cup Champions signatures. Clean design, great checklist of former Cup winners. The Mammoth Patches aren’t an original concept but were still executed very well.
Panini does get a few things wrong: Had It, Stamped It is ugly AND stupidly named.
Overall, though, Panini does very well for itself in the design aspect and brings a lot of things to like to the table.
With Upper Deck and The Cup, the thought was that you weren’t getting anywhere near your money back. With Dominion, the feeling seems to be about the same but there’s a difference: most seem to be having more fun with their Dominion breaks.
Getting a few more cards per pack seems to help but you’re also getting more set variety and a ton of different hits.
Upper Deck has stuck with what brought it to the dance and hasn’t really expanded on it since The Cup’s inception in 2005/06.
But Dominion is bringing it with a variety of game used sets, autograph sets, a combination of both, and interesting non-GU/AU sets like the Engravatures. You’re just getting more fun for your buck with Dominion.
As for the sets themselves, they are close in concept to what Upper Deck has done with the Cup. That’s to be expected.
Right off the bat: one thing I didn’t like, have never liked, and will never like are parallels. Panini really trimmed those down from last year’s release but the fact that the rookies still have black, emerald, gold, and horizontal versions is annoying. STOP IT.
The Engravatures, another tribute to Stanley Cup winners past, is probably the coolest. I know it’s not an actual piece from the Cup but it makes it feel like one. And the Tape to Tape is a nice take on the stick cards.
Something I’ve noticed with Dominion over The Cup is that Panini seems to do more in terms of stick-related cards.
I don’t know why that is but I know I get tired of the jersey/patch releases and find stick cards to be a nice change of pace. Dominion really gives its best effort with the stick cards, providing a variety of stick-card sets.
Finding a way to separate themselves from Upper Deck was important and those two sets are extremely popular staples of Dominion.
Another thing: Panini has featured their Private Signings throughout all of their products. The set design remains the same but the player selection changes and features some really tough short prints. A very cool idea and certainly a challenge for those who have collected this set.
Not nearly as bad as The Cup. A few Pen Pals aside, most of the redemptions seem to be of the rookie variety. Landeskog seems to be the only big-name rookie to not be live in the set and it’s almost impossible for sets of this magnitude to go redemption-free.
Panini did a good job making sure that everything was not only hard-signed but in the product at release. Which is a great idea considering what a black hole Panini’s redemption program has been.
This is what it comes down to. Did Panini step it’s game up enough to hang with Upper Deck’s haymaker?
I’d say that the designs are just as sharp overall, with a few exceptions (but what product is perfect across the board?). Panini really tried to bring its own unique sets to the table and has done that.
The breaks may or may not be as lucrative as The Cup but when customers are saying your break is more fun, you should feel pretty good about yourself as a manufacturer.
Overall, Panini really brought its A-game and deserves it’s recognition. Overall: 9/10