Dick's Sporting Goods may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about places to buy sports cards, but you'll often find a small stash of current products near the checkout lanes. Hidden behind a few boxes of Upper Deck Victory hockey and Topps football was a small supply of the 2010-11 Panini Threads basketball blaster boxes.
They've been out for over a month now, but sometimes letting a product settle into the market is the best way to evaluate it so to satisfy public interest and maybe encourage the sporting goods chain to keep carrying sports cards, we grabbed two boxes for evaluation. This product has been getting some pretty good marks from collectors who have sampled it, thanks in large part to one special insert concept.
Each blaster box contains eight packs with ten cards per pack and promises one relic or autographed card per box. Since some products rarely, if ever yield a signed card when purchased in retail chains, Panini gets high marks for giving the collector a 50/50 chance of an autographed card in a $19.99 box.
The outside of the box, which features Bulls' superstar Derrick Rose, says they're for ages 9 and up. Does the clerk require ID? Is there a risk that an 8-year-old will swallow the wrappers? We're not sure.
The first thing you notice after pulling the packs out is that they're relatively easy to open (thanks, Panini).
The second thing you notice is that it's very obvious which card has the hit. The pack is about 1/3 again as thick as the others. That's not a problem as long as you're buying a sealed box.
My first thought as the cards surrendered themselves was "Skybox". The 2010-11 Panini Threads product looks an awful lot like those mid-late-1990s basketball cards in terms of design. Some things don't change. I guess there's only so much you can do with the concept of a basketball trading card. For some reason, though, the borderless concept works well with basketball and there are some nice action shots.
Players who changed teams in the off-season are represented in their new uniforms, which is also a plus. LeBron is shown with Miami. Shaq looks entirely uncomfortable in the #36 Celtics jersey and with no action photos available at press time, Panini went the posed shot route, but that's understandable.
The backs contain only one year of stats which is always disappointing to me, but do have little bios which sort of makes up for it.
Our first pack yielded one of the much talked about Threads Rookies autographed cards; this one of Oklahoma City's Cole Aldrich, the former Kansas star who signed in blue ink.
Printed on actual wood stock, these have to be some of the coolest cards in this year's basketball product. To see them pop out of a blaster is outstanding. Now, if Aldrich could only play himself out of the D-League...
The back of the Hinrich cardsays "The enclosed swatch is guaranteed by Panini America, Inc."
Guaranteed what exactly?
Guaranteed to be game-used? Not game used? Worn by the player for at least fifteen seconds?
It would be nice for the collector--and a boost to the value we'd guess--if card companies did a better job of chronicling their swatch cards. When was it worn? What is it? Jersey? Trunks? Warm up?
As it is now, the relic concept is not nearly as interesting as it once was, especially the plain jane cards that roll out of the low and mid-range products. Authenticating swatches can't be THAT hard, can it?
Unfortunately, Threads also coughs up what may be one of the worst insert sets of all-time. I'm not sure what the "die-cut jersey" cards are supposed to be, but I felt like I was playing paper dolls. They look like cheap replica jersey mock-ups. Die-cuts are no longer unique and even an autographed one wouldn't turn me on.
Of course, buying a blaster box means you'll miss out on some of the better insert possibilities that are in the hobby boxes, but with 80 cards in a box (ours had no duplicates either), updated photos and a decent chance of an autographed card, 2010-11 Panini Threads isn't a bad $20 rip for a cold winter's day. The key, as always, is getting the autographed card.
See over 1,000 listings for Panini Threads on eBay.