Panini Elite Basketball Review

24 11 2009

I would have to find a magic scanner to properly show off the shine that 2009/’10 Panini Elite Basketball gives off. The base cards as you can see, feature an old, familiar design element which you either love or hate.

Some of the highlights of the brand include hard to find die-cut parallels (pulled two), and some great inserts including ‘Clutch Performers’, which looks like something from the mid-90’s.

The legendary Elite Series inserts makes a return but unlike 1991 when a card numbered to 10,000 was unheard of, in today’s hobby scene it just doesn’t work. There are different versions but in the end it’s just not the same.

Unlike other Panini releases, the relics seem somewhat out-of-place in this brand. Instead of separate designs for relics, Panini just used them in existing cards including the great ‘Clutch Performer’ insert. As you can see from the scan, it ruined the design.

Elite Basketball is pre-selling for nearly $100 dollars. At that price, I’d have to recommend other less expensive basketball releases including their flagship. Elite has proven to be a strong performer for Donruss but the design is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Studio so much.

If you love Donruss’ futuristic designs, with four “hits” per box and lots of serial numbered cards and parallels, you will love Elite Basketball. If the price drops $10-$15 per box, it should be a must-buy for basketball collectors and “MOJO-hunters” alike.


Current price – $94 pre-sell at

Guarantees – 100 cards with four autographs or relics

Look for – Die-Cut autographs, Elite patch/autographs

The Good:

Strong design on inserts and parallels

Lots of serial numbered cards

The Bad:

Relics feel really out-of-place

Elite Series missing magic of 90’s original


Relic – Lebron James #’d to 99

Relic -Paul Pierce #’ to 299

Autograph – Jonny Flynn #’d to 499

Autograph – DaJuan Summers  #’d to 499

Final Grade: B-


Panini Resurrects Studio!

20 11 2009

As a long time collector, it’s not often I get too excited about the happenings in The Hobby. Today, I can say I am truly happy after finding out that an old school favorite is back and looks pretty damn good.

Take a look at the return of Donruss Panini Studio. It officially makes its return in late February of 2010 and has a $4 dollar per pack SRP. Furthermore, each pack contains five cards and a full box carries 24 packs.

Some notable names in the autograph checklist includes “Magic” Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Isiah Thomas, and Blake Griffin. No word yet on whether the autographs are labels or hard-signed.

Along with bringing back the Studio brand, Panini also brought back popular 90’s inserts ‘Skylines’ and ‘Master Strokes’, two insert sets I’ve written about at Wax Heaven in the past year.

Maybe the companies read the card blogs more than I thought …

2009 Donruss Gridiron Gear Review

20 11 2009

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

2009/’10 Panini Rookies & Stars Review

19 11 2009

A few months ago, Scott Prusha, Marketing Director for Panini America discussed how he wanted to have all of Kobe Bryant’s autographs on-card rather than a sticker.

He told Beckett Media that it was important to Kobe that he get a chance to touch and feel the card he signs. While Panini has kept true with on-card Bryant autographs, I really wish they would do it for an entire basketball release sans stickers.

Rookies and Stars is an interesting product with a very unique base design that looks like something out of 1995. In case you’re wondering, that’s a good thing in my eyes. It’s always good to get something different once in a while, even if it’s a re-hash.

The memorabilia cards and autographs are very well-done and there is no issue with the labels being hard to pick up. My only issue with this product is that it lacks personality. It may be popular but I’d much rather bust a box of Panini Basketball which has many more cards and inserts.

Of course, if you’re just interesting in “hits”, this box does come through. I pulled two relics (including a dual) and two autographs. The Team Patch Signatures look very impressive, especially in person. Yes, they are manufactured but in this particular case, it works.


Current price – $77 on Dave & Adam’s Card World

Guarantees – 120 cards, with 4 autographs or relics

Look for – Blake Griffin, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul autographs

The Good:

Unique designs

Team patch signatures look great

The Bad:

More stickers …


Relic – Dirk Nowitzki

Dual relic – Tyler Hansbrough / Ty Lawson

Autograph – A.J. Price

Patch Signature – Jonny Flynn

Final Grade: B-

2009/’10 Panini Basketball Review

19 11 2009

Just when I was about to give up on Panini’s design team, a product like this is released. While it may not have all the flash of a typical Panini release (foil, etc.), it actually matches well against Upper Deck’s final basketball flagship.

I have to say, the biggest surprise from the box was the return of stickers. In case you didn’t know, Panini’s introduction to baseball in the 80’s was with sticker albums, many of which I still own.

It’s good to see a throwback to a time when collecting was done for fun and not for profit and an era when collectors didn’t send their cards away to be encapsulated and free from the human touch.

Another positive with this release is the huge line-up of inserts. There are tons of different options to choose from. My favorite is ‘The Franchise’ insert as it is clearly some of Panini’s best design work of 2009.

I believe Panini is doing well with the basketball license. While it may be a while before collectors forgive the NBA for stripping Upper Deck of the licensing rights, I believe Panini will keep going forward with their releases.

It will still come down to creating a product to cater to the Exquisite crowd but as far as low-end releases go, this one is a must-have for basketball collectors and a surprisingly fun yet cheap product to bust.


Current Price – $45 on Dave & Adam’s Card World

Guarantees – 400+ cards plus one autograph

Look for – Black Griffin autographs

The Good:

How often can you get a box with 400+ cards for under $50 dollars?

Great designs, especially on inserts like ‘The Franchise’

The Bad:

Base design a little dull


Autograph – DeJuan Blair

Final Grade: A-

Topps Loses Football

9 11 2009

What is going on in this hobby?

So far in 2009 we have seen Topps & Upper Deck lose the NBA for a Panini America exclusive, Upper Deck lose baseball for a Topps exclusive, and now Topps loses the NFL.

While I am distraught over Topps losing basketball after the amazing Murad basketball release early this year, I am hopeful that Panini can take over that license and keep collectors more than satisfied.

I don’t feel the same way about football, however. While Upper Deck is still king when it comes to NFL trading cards, Topps still has the greatest parallel technology of all-time, the Refractor.

While Panini has some decent parallels, Upper Deck still cannot compete in this department. Say what you will, Topps Chrome & Finest are so beloved because even if your autograph is a dud, there is always a nice set of parallels to save you.

Another question has to be how Topps will survive financially in 2010 now that they have lost both the basketball and football license. Will baseball and mixed martial arts be enough? Will they seek out an alternative sport to produce cards for?

How do you feel about the latest breaking news?

Topps Goes Bye Bye

Who Gives A Damn About Logos?

8 11 2009

Lately, I have become somewhat obsessed with autographed buybacks. I don’t know when they were introduced into The Hobby but it was a genius idea and a great way to tug at the nostalgia heartstrings.

Take a worthless card from a forgotten player, have him sign a small number of them, include them into packs of new products. Now imagine finding a buyback of Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter, or Greg Maddux.


To me, the greatest gimmick in collecting today is the autographed buyback. I’d pick it over a jumbo patch, triple autograph, or Superfractor any day of the week, even if it’s of some unknown guy.

What I find most ironic is that the company that produced the best autographed buybacks in the past, Donruss, and the company who made the best this year, Upper Deck, both have lost their MLB license.

That got me thinking a lot about our love for licensed baseball cards. Why  is it that we look down on cards that feature logos airbrushed out? I know I absolutely hated the 2008 Donruss releases for this exact reason.

Fine, I get that some teams have a certain mystique like the New York Yankees but does anyone really care to see an Orioles, Mariners, or Marlins logo on their baseball card? Perhaps baseball cards & logos are just too intertwined.

Can a non-licensed baseball card ever look good? Could Upper Deck find some way to keep Photoshop out of 2010 baseball products? Perhaps by finding an alternative to airbrushing logos. Even if they do, the days of autograph buybacks have more than likely come to an end.