I'm actually excited about a Panini set. I'm still going to criticize them in this post, but the new Chronicles set is actually a really interesting concept, and one that has me excited for a Panini set for the first time since...2013-14?
First off. the new Chronicles set now holds the record for the largest NBA set ever, at 699 cards! The previous record for largest NBA set was 659 cards, and the record has stood since 1991-92 Skybox!
Here's a quick breakdown of the record throughout history:
72 cards 1948-57 (1948-49 Bowman)
80 cards 1957-69 (1957-58 Topps)
99 cards 1969-70 Topps. This record stood for one season and would begin a period of expansion in the hobby
175 cards 1970-71 Topps
233 cards 1971-72 Topps (First standard sized NBA set since 1961-62)
264 cards 1972-75 Topps' sets for the 1972-73 through 1974-75 season were all 264 cards
330 cards 1975-1989 The 1975-76 Topps set was the largest vintage set, and would continue to be the largest set ever for the rest of the decade and the entire 1980s.
353 cards 1989-90 Hoops. The Hoops brand debuted in the 1989-90 season and was the first to have more than one series. However, the record would be short lived.
440 cards 1990-91 Hoops. Hoops outdid itself in it's second year but would reach it's peak in the following year, with the 1990-91 set topping the brand history at 590 cards. However, that would not be the record because...
659 cards, 1991-92 Skybox. The former record holder for the largest set in NBA history, the 1991-92 season actually saw three of the largest sets ever issued, and for that one year, the top three largest sets were all from that same season. Aside from the 659 card Skybox and 590 card Hoops. Upper Deck debuted with a 500 card set. (I've completed all three, too!). UD broke up the 1991-92 monopoly on largest sets from one year with a 520 card set in 1992-93.
699 cards, 2018-19 Chronicles. After a lengthy run for 1991-92 Skybox, the newly released Chronicles set goes 40 cards over the old record! Panini has gotten a couple sets into the top 10 already, with two 500+ card sets, but this is the first to clear 600.
Now...the problem that I'm going to complain about. There are only 135 different players represented in the set. The veteran players have only one card each (not counting inserts and parallels) while the rookies appear on at least 20 different card designs, which pads their numbers significantly. I decided to do a search on the checklist for Trae Young, and it came back with 22 results...although I suspect one of them may be a parallel that got listed as a base card. In a 525 man league, that's an embarrassingly sad number of players represented.
See, what Panini has done is to cancel most of their NBA sets, and put them all as subsets in the Chronicles set. This surprised me- I had seen the sell sheet and had guessed that each different design would be it's own insert, and the base set would be the usual typical Panini 200 or less card set.
In truth, each and every one of the subsets SHOULD be it's own release. But it's not. Basically it comes down to Panini getting rid of almost all their real sets to make room for more memorabilia delivery systems where it's average $400 for 4 to 7 cards. True sets, actually covering the NBA players, are getting rarer and rarer, and instead of actually producing them as they should be, we get Chronicles instead. But, I do love the concept. If they had given each of the veterans and rookies a card from each design, I would probably consider this in the running for best set ever...not just best Panini set.
While it's not anywhere near that, it's still a very fun set, and every pack was an odyssey through the Panini brand history- some of the brands used for the various rookie subsets have not appeared in the NBA in years, others are making their first NBA appearance. My first pack opened with a Marquee brand card (not seen in the NBA since 2012-13), followed by a Crusade (last seen as an insert three years ago), followed by Luminance, a set making it's NBA debut but previously seen in football, and finally two base veterans. And there was more to come...in fact, some of them that are available didn't even appear in my blaster at all! (not even counting the hobby exclusive designs). You never knew what was going to come next, and that was exciting!
One thing I noticed, and I do not know if this is something Panini specifically set out to do or just turned out to be a happy accident, but many of the cards show players wearing alternate jerseys, some of which are quite rare. Since Nike took over the NBA jersey license, they have instituted lots of alternate jerseys, most of which are exclusive for one year...the teams that made the playoffs in 2017-18 "earned" a special 5th jersey that was worn during the season. Getting alternate jerseys on cards is a treat, especially for me and my dormant but hopefully not much longer Uniform History series. Like I said, I don't know if it was planned or not, but I enjoyed that aspect of the cards. 16 of the cards in my blaster showed an alternate jersey. One other thing I notice is that the photos in the set are very new. I got one of the Oklahoma City Thunder cards, and the Love's Travel Stops ad is present on the jersey. The Love's jersey sponsorship only began in mid-March, so that's a remarkably fast turnaround for Panini- they usually are very slow in getting updated photos. This is one of only two sets issued on the year that reflect the trade-deadline moves that occurred in early February, for example.
I did not get two of the rookie subsets from my blaster, Chronicles Rookies and Obsidian. There are several subsets that were not put into blasters, so I had no chance to get them. Looking at the sell sheets on the Database, it appears that other options for different packaging configurations include Gold Standard, Vanguard (an old Pacific brand making it's NBA debut), Timeless Treasures, Origins, Gala, Titanium and more are out there. With 48 cards in a hobby box, I'll be keeping my eye on Dave & Adam's to see if it goes down in price...I would definitely like to do a hobby box at some point. It's currently at $160 so that's an easy no, but last year's set was originally $180 and is now down to $75...still more than I want to pay, but hopefully once the Zion Williamson cards come out and people forget about chasing anything but the newest rookies the price will drop and I will spring into action. Last year's Chronicles set was a hobby only product, so I only have two cards from it- I picked the cheapest SN card I could find on COMC just to have it represented in my collection, and then I added a Jayson Tatum SN parallel at one of the card shows I went to in the winter. Based on what I've seen on the Database and for sale on COMC, the 2018-19 set is much better design wise and variety wise than it was in 2017-18.
Since this set is all about the rookies, I want to add in a bonus card...(you may have noticed I chose one of each design to post)...I managed to pull both of the key rookies from the set.
Although I did complain a lot in this post, I really DO like what they are doing with this set...I can just see so much untapped potential that was missed, but that is Panini's trademark, so I'm not really surprised by it...saddened by it is more accurate. Even so, this has instantly become one of my favorite Panini sets...possibly #2, after 2012-13 Hoops. That set was essential in getting me back into the NBA, so it's going to be very, very hard to top that one. This one is going to make a run at it. I'm really glad to have received this blaster as a gift...since I no longer chase new cards for myself, I would have totally missed the set otherwise. And that would have been the saddest thing of all!
You can see every card I got in this blaster, both front and back, on my Cardboard History Gallery HERE.
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