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I feel like I repeat something like this in every blog post, but it’s really worth saying in this one. “Best” is a relative term—just like I think my favorite team is the best, or a particular food, song, or movie, you might have different opinions. And, in the end, we can both be right.
When it comes to cards, it’s a similar thought process, but I also understand you’re probably in the market to make a purchase, and thus it’s not only which Panini cards are best for any reason, but perhaps are most valuable?
Or, maybe you are truly wondering about best value of a pack? Or best looking? Not to mention this could vary across different sports!
Which Panini Cards are Best?
So, all that said, here is my best shot at answering the question for you. From Prizm to Select, and many more, here are what could be considered the best Panini cards for a number of different reasons.
Best of the Best: Prizm
A favorite in the hearts and collections of many, Prizm can be thought of as the best of the Panini card brands. Thus, it’s also typically the most valuable, and yes highly sought after.
What makes it great? Besides the fact that it has simply been crowned so by the card community, here are a few other thoughts.
One, everyone loves a shiny card. Just like Topps Chrome will outshine (pun intended) flagship in most occasions, Prizm is a favorite because of its heavier stock and shiny finish.
Second, there are a ton of variations—and not just your everyday silver and different colored prizms, but animal prints like tiger stripe and more.
Third, the design? Actually, I’m not quite sure about that, as I personally have never really loved the design, but many probably do.
As with most Panini products, we are mostly talking about football and basketball, as Panini is to those sports as Topps is to baseball.
In terms of releases across the different sports, here is what we know right now:
- 3/15/2023 2022 Panini Prizm Football
- 4/12/2023 2022-23 Panini Prizm Basketball
- 4/28/2023 2022-23 Panini Prizm Basketball Fast Break Edition
Best for All-Around Fun: Donruss
OK, no matter what I put here there was bound to be some disagreement, but hear me out.
One, I wanted to pick a line that was applicable to all three major sports (football, basketball, and baseball). Which, with that said, most Panini products could check that box, but there is just something about the relationship between Donruss and baseball that transcends the others.
Secondly, fun comes in a variety of forms—some find it by spending thousands of dollars on a case or special box and seeing what big hit they’re going to walk away with, while others find fun down different avenues.
Read More: Donruss Football 2023
Me personally? I’m a different avenue kind of guy, with fun having a much greater chance of showing up to the party if I’m not worried about making my money back in the process.
Last, on to the cards themselves, there is just a lot of entertainment for the dollar spent with Donruss. Here are some examples.
First, starting with baseball – because it’s not typically associated with Panini like basketball and football are – there is a lot to like.
Retro designs patterned after classic Donruss baseball of the 80s, of which I and many others grew up with and fond of.
And while Donruss cards are now missing logos, the “Whammy” insert, MLB license or not, is the epitome of fun.
Not to mention that over the last few years, general insert designs have become way, way cooler, with “Unleashed” leading the way. (More on these in a bit.)
With football, Donruss offers a lot of the same fun and retro feel as mentioned above, and there are fun inserts like “Crunch Time,” fashioned after a box of cereal.
Grabbed 2 Donruss blasters and 2 loose packs of Series 1! Can someone explain to me how rare these Crunch Time Galatics are? I pulled 2 in 2 blasters but I’m seeing that they are case hits/SPs??? 🤷🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/gf9uM9GsMW— bthawks (@bthawks) March 9, 2023
One of the main draws is the collector-favorite “Downtown” inserts, though in 2022 we were treated to “Super Bowl Downtown” with cards that feature where players starred during a Super Bowl performance.
Like the other sports, Donruss is a fun one for the familiar “rated rookie” logo, providing an affordable option for some of the game’s biggest stars.
Best for Nostalgia (and Variety): Chronicles
The reason I say this about Chronicles is well, one, it’s in the name—a “chronicle” is an account of a historical event, right? So, when you open a pack, you can expect to find designs that are reminiscent of yesteryear, or perhaps not even that far into the past, but across different product lines including Select, Score, and more as is the case with Chronicles Draft.
Looking at Panini Chronicles across the different sports, here are a few examples of what I mean. One, you’re going to have a new base set every year, but in addition, you’re going to have a “rehash” or spin on an existing brand. In this case, you see Prizm Black, which is of course a branch off of the Prizm brand.
In addition, the 2021 checklist features these familiar brands:
- Clear Vision
- Crown Royale
- Gridiron Kings
- Playoff Momentum
- Timeless Treasures
With basketball, it follows the same pattern. But, I like the way Beckett references the set in their checlist breakdown:
“As has been in the past, Chronicles allows Panini to dig into its banks and provide cards for brands that don’t have their own standalone release this year or bring others over from different sports.”
Thus, you’ll see all of these:
- Gold Standard
- Plates & Patches
- Timeless Treasures
Best Prizm Alternative: Select
Basically, for all the reasons people crown Prizm the best, you can name Select the best Prizm alternative. Simply, you have the shine on the thick card stock, the many parallels, and just an all-around similar look and feel.
One thing that sets Select apart from other brands is its tiered checklist. Meaning, rather than having, say, 400 “base” cards, Select has different “levels” including Concourse, Premier Level, Club Level and Field Level. That list is in order of most common to most rare, and the cards themselves have slightly different designs between them.
It’s the same for basketball, but there are only three different levels, and they include Concourse, Premier Level and Courtside.
Best “Just Not for Me” Mosaic
This is just personal preference, really, but I don’t see the appeal of Mosaic, which is odd, because I’m a huge fan of shiny, in-your-face flash, and everything that Mosaic stands for. Really, and it sounds even weirder when typing it out, I think it comes down to the fact that Mosaic card photos don’t have natural backgrounds.
That is, when you think of a sports card, you think of an athlete in their element—on the court, on the field, etc. But, Mosaic removes all of that and just features a player on top of a design. I don’t know, not a great reason, but the best reason I can come up with for now.
But, enough about me! Others love Mosaic, and here are a couple of reasons why.
Well, the design of course! For all of the reasons I don’t love the Mosaic design, others really enjoy it. Thus, parallels become even that much cooler with honeycomb, peacock, and nebula, and with so many colors, team color matches galore.
- Court Kings