The Big E is back, and while Panini's long-running Elite line does contain Elvin Hayes, the Big E here is the logo for the brand that also fills up the background on the front of some of the cards. Released last week, 2013-14 Panini Elite Basketball is a mix of current and former players with the shiny expectations of current collectors. Offering four hits plus two rookies, boxes are selling for around $90-110 per box.
The base set has 200 unnumbered cards of current NBA players, as well as 45 rookies and 55 retired players, both of these numbered to 999. There are also parallels of all 300 cards that are numbered to 25 and 1. Reminiscent of the Essential Credentials inserts in various E-X sets of the late 1990s, Elite's Aspirations and Status parallels of the base set's 300 cards are numbered to various quantities, anything from 99 examples to 1 of 1. With their die cut shape and shiny appearance, these cards could become very popular.
Something that sets the Turn of the Century Signatures cards apart from many others is the shape. With a curved design at the top and bottom of the card, a look similar to the Operation Invasion cards from 1999-00 Fleer Force, the Turn of the Century cards are distinctive.
There are 100 cards in the insert set, so collectors should find an autograph of a player or two that they need here. With numbering for the cards between 100 and 25, collecting the set would be tough but possible to do. There are many affordable cards, like Joel Anthony and Andre Bargnani, while those of Anthony Davis, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant would be expected to be among the most expensive.
There are two Passing the Torch insert sets, one with 25 signed cards and the other that has 20 cards along with two parallel versions. Among the autographs is one carrying signatures of Tim Hardaway and Tim Hardaway Jr. and another with retired shooter Glen Rice and rookie Glen Rice Jr. Other logical combinations include Antawn Jamison and Harrison Barnes who both started their NBA careers with the Warriors, and fellow Rocket centers Hakeem Olajuwon and Dwight Howard. The signed cards are numbered to 49 or less. The #1 card in both sets features James Harden and Kobe Bryant, although there is little chance of Kobe passing the torch to The Beard this season. The parallel versions for the unsigned cards are the Gold which is numbered to 24 and a Black 1 of 1.
The Signatures insert set has 50 players, including Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Kyrie Irving. The short-printed cards have varying quantities produced, from the 199 examples of Tiago Splitter to the 10 cards of Brandon Knight. There are 25 cards in the All-Time Greats Signatures insert set. Jerry West, Magic Johnson and John Havlicek are in the set, while some players who are seen much less in card releases also make an appearance, like Kelly Tripucka and Christian Laettner.
Back to the Future Materials will be a great idea for some fans, and a reminder of bad times for others. The game-used material is not from the player's current NBA team and that can tell a story. Philadelphia fans are reminded of how great Andre Iguodala was for their team, before he was traded away for Andrew Bynum which was the opposite of great.
Ray Allen took less money to leave Boston for Miami and some collectors of Celtics cards may decide to avoid that card, Toronto fans see Vince Carter and Chris Bosh on cardboard in Raptors' uniforms, while Cleveland and Orlando once again are reminded of how they used to have LeBron and Dwight. Many collectors will see an informative and historical aspect to the insert set of 30 cards, as Durant did start his NBA career in Seattle and that is represented on his card, Juwan Howard played for a bunch of teams but it was at Washington that he signed one of the largest contracts the NBA had ever seen, and Phoenix fans enjoy seeing Steve Nash in their uniform.
Elite's Throwback Threads cards make up four insert sets, as there are Prime versions of the memorabilia card and the signed memorabilia card. In Throwback Threads, and the Prime parallel, there are 40 players represented and in Throwback Threads Signatures there are 30 cards in the set. More memorabilia cards with autographs can be found in the New Breed Materials Signatures and Rookie Essentials Materials, featuring the NBA's newest players. The Dominators Materials insert set has game-used cards of 30 players, including Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and David Robinson.
Face 2 Face cards put position battles between NBA stars on cardboard. LeBron and Kobe, Chris Paul and Deron Williams, Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh are some of the big rivalries that are in the set.
Those who speculate on card prices of rookies and other young players may want to consider acquiring the low-numbered parallel cards in the Franchise Future insert set. Many are overlooking the players from the 2013 NBA Draft but quite a few of the players have shown some rare skills in their first NBA season. Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo have already locked up starting spots with their NBA teams and could be future superstars, point guards Trey Burke and Shane Larkin have shown the potential to run a team and Kelly Olynyk and Cody Zeller are young centers with scoring ability. They all have cards in the insert set, as do Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard and two players who have been hitting a lot of outside shots lately, Chandler Parsons and Terrence Ross.
It's not Immaculate or Flawless but Elite isn't as pricey and does seem to have something for all types of basketball card collectors. Set builders won't have any trouble assembling the base set, and adding all the rookie and retired numbered cards to it is doable too. Autograph collectors have many players to choose from (although it seems these are mostly sticker autographs) while those who like to specialize and collect one insert set from a product have several to choose from.
You can see singles and boxes for sale here. The price isn’t bad so it will be interesting to see where this one stacks up at the end of the collecting year.