Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Chronicles Blaster Review, an overview of the largest NBA sets ever

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.

This is a base veteran card. They are bright and colorful, which makes up mostly for the fact that it's just a player in front of a computer generated background. This is one of the alternate jerseys, also.
The backs include the player's hometown! WOW! Panini has never bothered to include this, since they got the exclusive NBA license in 2009...I believe this is the first time home towns have appeared! International players only list country, but this is a huge thing, really. (as an aside, the Grizzlies waived Bradley and he joined the Lakers last week. This may be my only card of him as a Grizzly, ever)

 This was my first card from the set. It's hard to tell from the scan, but this is holofoil. This is an earlier photo as the Love's is not present on the jersey here.
 The very second card out of the box was this Pink Crusade parallel of Omari Spellman. It was the only SN card in the box, and looks much nicer in hand. It uses the Prizm technology, aka, Refractor.
My third card from the set is also my third card of this past season's #1 draft pick. The Luminance cards are my least favorite of the myriad designs used. The fronts have a black film-type affect over them...I guess the current term would be a filter. It really is this washed out looking in hand.

 The Playoff brand has a long history in sports...but not the NBA. There were a couple of sets with the Playoff name, but never just playoff. It was Playoff followed by something else. This is a great design and should have been used as a full set. Since Chronicles is set up the way it is, only rookies ever get to be on this design. This is actually a pink parallel, which is hard to tell. His name is in pink foil, which is blaster exclusive, I believe. I wish we got this as a full set instead of Status.
The pink on this card is much more obvious...and it's awesome! I've never been a huge fan of the color pink, (even though the first Edsel I ever saw was pink) but this is great. I really like it. Double bonus- both the Clippers, who Robinson plays for, and his opponents the Kings, are wearing 4th alternate jerseys here. Honestly, this card is so nice in hand that it's one of my favorites from the entire blaster.
 Essentials saw just a single release as a standalone set, in 2017-18.
 You'd think Panini would publish a Panini branded set as their flagship, but they don't. In fact, since they got the NBA license in 2009-10, they have only issued three Panini sets, the most recent in 2013-14. I really like this design and wish we got a full set out of it. This is only my third card of this year's Rookie of the Year, and my first in action shot.
 Studio saw one NBA release, a couple of years ago. It's holofoil.
 Elite was last seen as a standalone set in 2013-14. This card is partially holofoil. The part covering Spencer Dinwiddie, who, despite being a key figure on the Nets, did not get a card in the set.
Rookies & Stars is a Blaster exclusive, and was last seen as a standalone set all the way back in 2010-11, Panini's second season in the NBA!
One of the things that surprised me the most was the mix of technologies in the base set. Panini basically usually sticks to one and that's it- and they aren't the only one. I am thinking on it and I can't remember any sets that mix base, holofoil and chrome technology. There are some with inserts or parallels, but this is a base card. This set has all three, and for all I know may have mirror foil in one of the subsets that I didn't get as well! (although, I hope not- it's my least favorite technology...but the card companies love it, so they keep using it, even though I don't know anyone who actually likes it...I digress). They call this one Phoenix. I'm not familiar with that brand, but a quick check of the Trading Card Database shows that Phoenix has been produced in Football for the past three years and this card mimics the 2018 design for football exactly. It appears that the football set uses the Prizm (Refractor) technology whereas this is very clearly Chrome, or as Panini calls it, Optic, technology.

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.
Trae Young really came on strong at the end of the year. After a slow start, he made a very strong case for the Rookie of the Year award...if I had a vote, I am not sure where it would have gone. Co-Rookie of the Year would have been very fitting. Young has the scoring touch of Allen Iverson and the passing and court vision of Jason Kidd...he's going to be the Hawks icon for a long while. He's also been known to randomly hug people he sees walking down the street wearing his jersey!

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.

10 comments:

  1. I like seeing the alternate jerseys.

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  2. I got a few spots in a random case break of the product, and saw a few more sets appearing as part of the base set, such as Timeless Treasures, Obsidian, and more. I'll probably be going through those after I'm done with Rookie Anthology.

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    1. I look forward to seeing them! I am enjoying the Rookie Anthology as well.

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  3. I might go look for a blaster of these. I think you actually recommended them to me in the forums recently. Although I don't care for the Studio card at all, since Studio was traditionally a portrait set, taken in a studio, as opposed to action photos. Otherwise, they look great!

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    1. I'm glad you went for it. It's a fun set. Since I never opened any of the Studio sets of the past, I'm kind of indifferent.

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  4. The Crusade cards are gorgeous. I hope Panini made these tough pulls like they did in the 90's. I really miss that about 90's inserts and parallels. My hobby wish is card companies would cut back on the production numbers of inserts and parallels... that way when we pull them we start feeling the "tingly" feeling again.

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    1. They seem to be one per blaster or less...not sure on hobby.
      Personally, I would be ok with no inserts except autographs and relics. I'm much more of a parallel person.

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  5. It's an interesting concept, but definitely not one for me. This kind of feels like just another attempt to cash-in on the silly rookie craze that doesn't appear to be going away soon enough.

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