Saturday, October 6, 2018

Panini's Best Set Yet

Since Panini began producing more and more baseball card sets beginning around 2012, I haven't been able to fully look past the no logos for many of the sets. Granted, some parts of sets like Cooperstown, Hometown Heroes, and Diamond Kings make the cards look nice, but I had yet to take a strong liking towards any Panini product.

Given the disaster that was 2017 Panini Chronicles, it's safe to say the set was not on my radar whatsoever when it was released a little over a month ago. However, watching a couple box breaks and reading up on the product got me to appreciate it way more than I thought I would and, ultimately, the craziness of the product captivated my attention.

That's what made me say "why not?" and pick up a blaster of 2018 Panini Chronicles at my local Target today because I've had this set on my mind for too long to ignore it any further.

With more than a dozen different sets included in the product, some could call 2018 Panini Chronicles all over the place, and they wouldn't be mistaken. But of all the sets released in 2018 so far, Chronicles has one of the best checklists with very good odds to pull big name rookies and numbered cards. 

A blaster box delivers 4 packs of 5 cards plus a retail-exclusive 3-card pack of Panini Revolution cards featuring a strong checklist consisting of multiple rookies with some veterans and retired players included as well.

Among the 15+ sets included in Chronicles, only a select few are actually made for baseball cards in today's market. The rest of them are basketball and football sets with some like Panini Prizm being former baseball card products. The inclusion of Panini Donruss and Panini Donruss Optic originally caused me some confusion, but the high numbering on the card backs helps me to distinguish the sets.

Then again, this happens to be the first card I've ever pulled of Nationals phenom Juan Soto, so I think I'll be able to tell it apart from a standard Optic card if he has a card in that set. With such a strong selection of rookies in this set, Soto is still one of the greatest names in the product, and his cards, even non-numbered rookies, are highly sought-after. 

The major problem with 2017 Chronicles set was the lackluster or downright confusing base set in which the front of the cards looked like card backs and the backs had virtually nothing to them. While the 2018 Chronicles base cards aren't thrilling, they're certainly an improvement. Better yet, I pulled 2 in the blaster which is pretty much a perfect total. Not too many and not too few.

For certain players, it wasn't enough for me to pull just 1 card of theirs in the blaster. In the case of NL ROY contender Ozzie Albies, I pulled 2 rookie cards of his in the same pack of the blaster. The card on the left is my favorite of the 2 and is from the Limited set while the 2nd is a Prizm rookie card that also has a very intriguing set design.

Prestige may be a boring set considering what else is available in Chronicles, but I'll gladly take any card I can get of Shohei Ohtani even if he is undergoing Tommy John surgery this offseason. Regardless, and Ohtani rookie is an Ohtani rookie, no matter the product or set.

Given that every card I've shown so far is a rookie card, you can assume the majority of the cards in the checklist are rookies, leaving only a small portion of the checklist for retired players. Out of the 20 cards in the 4 base packs, only 3 of them were veterans, my favorite of the group being this Panini Crusade of Aaron Judge.

Even with odds being in my favor, I was pleasantly surprised to find this Rafael Devers parallel card in the final pack. A part of the Contenders Optic subset, this card is a Blue Ice numbered parallel with the serial number 104/149 on the back of this rookie card, making it my first official numbered card of the Red Sox 3rd baseman. Though I didn't pull a base Contenders Optic, it's become one of my favorite cards in the set.

The 3-card Revolution packed introduced me to quite possibly my favorite set design in Chronicles and one that I would otherwise be unable to find if I bought this product in the form of hobby boxes instead of retail. Although Austin Hays isn't a huge name, the radiant set more than makes up for it.

Plus, a fantastic set design is made even better when you pull a Shohei Ohtani card from it, making this my 2nd Ohtani card of the box. I also notice how this set is fairly similar to Topps High Tek. In addition to featuring the same-style background with intricate designs, Revolution also contains different parallels just like High Tek does.

And speaking of those different Revolution parallels.

Pulling a gorgeous card of one of the greatest players in the league right now is a fabulous way to cap off what ended up being a truly successful blaster that definitely exceeded my expectations.

Panini refers to this as a cosmic parallel of the Revolution set, and it's numbered 26/99 in the bottom right corner. Believe me, the teal and rainbow parallel background shows up just as well in person as it does when scanned. 

Because 1 numbered Red Sox card wasn't enough for this blaster. No, Panini had to up their game even more and deliver a fabulous blaster with 2 cards in particular that stood out for all the right reasons.

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