2011 Panini Playoff Contenders released at the end of February. The hobby boxes will run about $120-$135 and will come with 6 autos per box. Most of these autos are going to be prospects autos, however there are a few MLB vets sprinkled in through the MLBPA license that Panini was able to secure for this year. At my LCS Trade Night last night, they only had one pack war for baseball cards and I figured I'd buy a few packs and review the product. We'll start with the base set, a 50-card set of current MLB players.
There are 6 autographs per box, but unfortunately I didn't pull any in my handful of packs. However, the guy sitting next to me needed help opening his two boxes before time ran out in the pack war, so I started busting his cards with him, and he pulled a MAMMOTH auto! It came from the Sweet Signs subset of inserts, which mimics the "Sweet Spot" autos from other sets. A faux baseball with a signature across the sweet spot of the baseball, you know what they look like! Anyways, his auto was numbered 2/6 and was none other than Stan "The Man" Musial. It was a SWEEEEEET looking card and for those lucky enough to pull the Sweet Signs autographs, you'll be very happy with the cards.
Overall, I say this is a 2.5 out of 5 stars release. There are a bunch of autos per box, but without licensing, all other competitors will be a step behind Topps and the sets just won't look as nice, have the same staying power, or for that matter, resale value. I think if Panini is able to sign these prospect guys to long term exclusive autograph deals, and then some of them hit it big in the majors, they'll start seeing people chase these boxes a bit harder, but as long as collectors can wait a couple years and get Topps' autographed RC from Chrome or Bowman, Panini just can't compete.