Base Card Design (Kobe Anthology) -
I usually start my reviews with a discussion of a product's base cards, but with Panini Preferred... there really aren't any! Preferred is a high-end basketball offering that gives collectors only four cards per box - all hits. But because this year Panini is celebrating Kobe Bryant's amazing career, collectors will find a special Kobe Anthology card pack within the Preferred box... upping the card content by five cards. I'll take advantage of the fact that there are no base cards in Preferred to talk about the special Kobe pack here in this review.
The Kobe Anthology packs can be found across the entire 12/13 Panini Basketball product line. Every Panini hobby box this year will contain one of these special packs. It's definitely a unique idea for Panini to come up with - I've never seen a company do something quite like this before. I know I would have never thought of it! But good on Panini for honoring their number one spokesman in this way while also adding value to their basketball lines.
As for the cards themselves... they are very classily done. I'm impressed. They look great, and do an amazing job of chronicling Bryant's career. The photograph selection is varied and diverse - containing action shots (both offensive and defensive), posed photos, and candid shots of this great Laker. I get a kick out of seeing Kobe 'grow-up' as I look through these cards - from having more hair to less, and from no tat to tat! In terms of card design, Panini has a real winner with the look of these cards. The fonts used for these cards are slick and modern, and the cards' use of darker hues help the vibrant images of Kobe really pop.
Most packs of Kobe Anthology will contain just five base cards, but some lucky collectors will find very short printed and valuable serial numbered base cards, autographs, and memorabilia cards within. As a special insert into products, collectors just can't go wrong with these... well... unless you really don't like Kobe. But for the most part, Panini does right by giving collectors a little something extra in their basketball purchases this year.
Kobe Anthology Overall Score:
And now, on to the actual Preferred cards! As I stated earlier, besides the Kobe Anthology pack, Preferred only yields four cards per box. Collectors will find three packs containing only one card each as well as a booklet card. I have to say that there is a lot of packaging for only four cards, but I guess that adds to the high-end premium feel of this product.
The awesome thing about Preferred is that all the autographed content within is all hard-signed. You won't be seeing sticker autos in here. Two of my on-card autographs came in the form of these Panini Choice Award die-cut cards. You can see from the Jan Vesely above and the Greg Monroe at the beginning of this review that these cards have a trophy-like design to them. This design has been employed by Panini quite a bit in the past couple of years. Though these cards certainly look unique, they are actually a revival of the old Cramer's Choice inserts from the old Pacific brand. I really enjoy the look of these cards. The extremely cut nature of these cards give them a look and feel like no other card. I can't think of another card that has so little cardboard compared to a standard-sized card. The colored foil on the top with textured silver foil sandwiching the hard-signed autograph works very well. I also love that though the card is two-dimensional, the designers gave the cards a three-dimensional effect by adjusting the look on the right side of the card - very cool. These are unique cards with a different and colorful design that many collectors will enjoy. The blue foil Monroe was serial numbered to 49, the Vesely to 99.
Unfortunately, my third autographed card came in the form of a redemption. And this would have probably been the best card in the box. In hockey, Panini has been doing better in terms of having less redemption content in their boxes... but I've seen many basketball breaks with at least one redemption card - sometimes with multiple! It's a bit disappointing not to have this card live, but it is nice to get a Hall of Famer autograph in my box. I'm looking forward to seeing what this James Worthy card will look like in person. On a positive note, Panini has done a very good job of informing collectors when they receive a lot of their autographed content back from players via their social media sites.
The booklet card in the box was an eight piece jersey card of international NBA players.The words 'All World' have been die-cut into the card with the jersey pieces imbedded within. It's a very nice looking card, but it's of a design that has been done before. It wasn't that long ago that booklet cards were a very special and rare card type. Now, with products like Preferred (and other high-end products), they are getting increasingly more common. I'm feeling that there is collector fatigue of this card type settling in already. These booklet cards, while nice, don't command the high dollar amounts that they did when they first arrived on the scene. Also, collectors are desiring better content within these cards. Rather than just jerseys (which are very common now), collectors want crazy patches or multiple autographs in these books. It is my hope that companies like Panini handle their production of booklet cards in a way that keeps them desirable. I do have to say though that getting your favorite team on a booklet card is always sweet! And I know there are definitely team centric booklets to be found in Preferred.
Overall Rating -
Panini Preferred is an expensive, high-end basketball product. As with all things high-end, it's going to be a pretty high risk, high reward proposition. At almost $200 per box, you're looking at each card being $50. The box I opened in this review was a bit disappointing in terms of the cost of a box. Getting the James Worthy autograph was pretty nice, but I wouldn't say it was something I'd jump out of my chair over. To get your money's worth, there better be something pretty spectacular within! And Preferred can definitely yield the spectacular... just not this time with this box.
But even if you don't hit that big money card, the cards that you find within Preferred boxes are well designed and unique. Preferred offers collectors hard-signed content as well as a guaranteed booklet card per box. For those in the hobby that can appreciate those elements (and can afford it), I would definitely recommend going for Preferred. There just isn't anything else really like it around.
For the casual collectors out there, you might have to think twice about getting into it. Getting multiple boxes of Preferred will probably be out of reach for many. If you're like me though, it's always fun to gamble on one or two boxes of high-end to see what my luck brings me. The packaging of preferred only adds to the thrill of opening it up. By packing each individual card in its own pack, Panini gives collectors the feeling that everything coming out is something to be treasured.
Preferred is a sweet new product out on the market. Know what you're getting into when buying it, but enjoy it for what it gives you!
Check out my box of 12/13 Panini Preferred: