As a newer collector it can be very exciting and even overwhelming to have so many options of different types of cards to collect. One of the more popular types of cards over recent years seems to be cards that contain player worn memorabilia. This memorabilia can be anything from player worn jerseys, player worn gloves, patches, etc.
When a person reads “player worn” it’s easy to assume that it means the material was worn during a game. However this is not the case. “Game worn” material is what you are looking for if you want memorabilia that was worn in game. Player worn material just means that at some point the player wore it.
A couple weeks ago when I bought my first 2019 Panini SCORE Blaster Box and pulled this Marcus Mariota Player Worn Material Card from Oregon I was pretty stoked at first.
Back when I originally collected football cards in the late 90’s I’m fairly certain player worn memorabilia cards didn’t exist yet. So when I opened the blaster box and found this card my mind immediately assumed this was worn by Mariota in an Oregon game. That’s not even close to being the case. As far as I can tell this card isn’t even limited in any sort of way. At least there’s no serial that says so.
You may or may not know, but Panini and other card companies will literally have a stack of jerseys or other memorabilia and then have a player put each item on one by one just to be able to call it “player worn”. So while you may think you’re buying a card with memorabilia used in a game, you’re actually buying a piece of material that may have been worn for 30-60 seconds or less.
Player Worn Material Is Killing The Market For Game Worn Material
Companies like Panini are using player worn material as a cheap way to mass produce “hits” in packs. As long as collectors are okay with “player worn” material in packs we will continue to see the “game worn” material market dwindle away. Game worn material costs more to make. It’s limited due to how few games the NFL has each year compared to other sports too.
Having players throw on a stack of jerseys or gloves for 15-45 seconds at a time lets these card companies have an infinite supply of “scarce” items that they can pawn off as rare hits in packs that in reality have no tangible value.
Did The Player In The Card Even Wear The Memorabilia?
Another huge thing worth mentioning is that it’s very possible that player worn material wasn’t even worn from the player in the card. All the cards say on the back is “The enclosed player-worn material is guaranteed by Panini America, Inc.”. It doesn’t say it was worn by the player in the card. According to RomoCollector from BlowoutForums, he took apart some Tony Romo patch cards and found that the patches actually said Dak Prescott on them (see the thread here).
The BlowoutForums user golferphil mentioned how in the past they used to be way more descriptive about their memorabilia. He mentions how it used to be something like “Cut from a jersey worn by <player> in a game on <date> against <opponent> where <team> <won/lost> <score>. <player> had <stats from game>. ”
Doesn’t that sound WAY better than “The enclosed player-worn material is guaranteed by Panini America, Inc. “? The way it apparently used to be done, you would know who wore the memorabilia and when/where it came from. It would be nice to see things go back in that direction in the future.
But What About The Rookies?
A common argument I’ve found in forums from people who support the idea of player-worn material is that there is no way to produce game-worn NFL stuff for rookies until they’ve actually played in a game.
In my opinion, I think that producing player-worn materials cards for NFL rookies is the ONLY time where I would deem it acceptable and worth still possibly collecting. But even in that case I’d still rather pass on the memorabilia unless the patch/material really enhances to overall look of the card.
What are your thoughts on player-worn materials cards? Should they be a thing? Are they hurting the hobby? Let me know in the comments!