2009 Donruss Gridiron Gear Review

At least they’re consistent.

While bustin’ through packs of Donruss Gridiron Gear I was surprised to see the design on the base cards. They didn’t look Donruss-made. For starters, no foil or weird borders.

It wasn’t until later that I found some more Donruss-style cards in the box. Thankfully, the foil was left on the cutting room floor and collectors have been left with some of the classiest football cards I’ve ever seen from Panini … well, almost.

Everything in this box was great until I pulled a very strange autograph. The card in question, a Willie Brown sticker autograph, looks great but something is just not right. There is a plastic helmet embedded into the card but unlike 2007 Sweet Spot helmets, it’s cheap plastic and looks like something you’d get for a quarter from a grocery store vending machine.

The other “hits” in the box look great, though. I especially like the Miami Dolphins Patrick Turner autograph/ dual patch relic numbered to 10. It’s thick, well-designed, and a knockout. Unfortunately, the legal language on the back doesn’t specify whether it’s game-used or event-worn.

Judging by some of the huge hits in the sell sheet and the $85 dollar price tag at Dave & Adam’s Card World, it seems like this is one product that many football collectors will gamble on. If it hits eBay for around $70+, it’s an absolute must-buy … just be careful with those plastic helmets.


Current Price – $85 dollars at Dave & Adam’s

Guarantees – 3 game-used memorabilia or autographs per box

Look for – Mark Sanchez Mania, Joe Namath, Dan Marino autographs

The Good:

Classy, elegant design

Lots of potential big “hits”

The Bad:

NFL Teams Plastic Helmet inserts

Sticker autographs


Dual relic – Jeremy Maclin #’d to 50

Autograph / Helmet – Willie Brown #’d to 350

Autograph / Dual relic – Patrick Turner #’d to 10

Final Grade: B



  1. Grocery store vending machine? I used to collect those things, so I’m all over this!

    I actually don’t really like the design of the cards – they kind of pinch the players and frame them really oddly. The shots are nice though.

  2. For once…the gridiron gear base actually look pretty cool and nice in my opinion. No foil equals a huge plus. I am disappointed on the helmet cards because it seems like a sticker dump. They were numbered to 30 last year, and now they are numbered to 250 or more for some of them. The patches in this set though can be really good. Not as good as the set was in 2007 and 2008 though.

  3. That Turner card looks remarkably like alot of the preview images for NT. The base do look nice from the pictures on my phone. Reminiscent of Exquisite if you ask me. I think the GIG logo looks incredibly out of place and detracts from the overall appeal of all examples posted. I think that has been a major problem for many Panini releases so far.

  4. i’m actually liking the design of these cards, its nothing great but it isnt dull. I could see myself buying one box of these for my son, but he doesnt collect football cards.

    Price seems a little steep thou.

  5. design is pretty but that plastic helmet has got to go! even if the helmet was a picture on the card it would be better. i have no idea what that’s supposed to accomplish…

  6. The Donruss/Panini sets all seem so much alike. This sets base look different form other releases but the inserts/hits don’t.

    If you covered up the set name on just about every donruss/panini release this year I doubt I could tell the difference.

  7. Sub par for me! The plastic helmet? I mean, come on! Not the worst product but I do not believe it is worth the price.

  8. This definitely looks much better than most of the sets Panini has released this year, but it is still too loud. I like that the borders match the team colors, but they are far too large and take away from the point of the card…featuring an NFL player. And I do not care for fake hits, be it manu-patches or plastic helmets, I just do not get the point of creating something just to sandwich it in cardboard and expect top hobby dollar for it. Give me actual relics, or just spend the extra money to hire a few more competant graphic designers so your base set looks nice and is actually worth collecting.

  9. The base card looks good but are the names easy to read? It’s hard to tell. The cards seem to have a nice clean design and it looks as though they incorporated the team colors into the background, nice touch!

    I feel the inserts leave a little something to be desired. Mike Thomas “Performers?” Who? The “Next Generation” card looks alright but I hate cards with vertical text.

    The relic cards look nice but I’d like to see bigger swatches and no single color swatches! Swatches with seems are cool though. I’m not sure what to think of the plastic helmet. I think I’d have to hold one to comment on it.

    As for the autos, I don’t like stickers but at least they’re sorta clear and don’t detract from the design too much

  10. ” I know this guy….. He’s got too many plastic helmets…. I know this other guy, he’s making football cards …”

    It’s great to see that someone hired a graphic designer, but I’d like to see a bit more of the players, as the photography seems real nice.

  11. While there are still some Donruss/Pannini-esque designs to the set it appears that Panini may actually be listening to the collectors and are at least testing the water outside of the irritating and hideous backgrounds. To actually use an action shot of a player that contains the playing field is actually enlightening.

  12. I like the base cards. It’s a good, smooth design. I agree the helmet things look pretty cheap, but I like the rest of the card. I really want the Maclin!

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