At times, collegiate-oriented sports card products have been a tough sell for online retailers and hobby shop owners. Sometimes they stock them simply because they have to in order to get allocations of more popular NBA and NFL products from Panini and/or its distributors. That won’t likely be the case for upcoming basketball releases. A potentially strong NBA rookie class led by Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett have led to a lot of anticipation.
Demand was so great for the First Off The Line release of Panini’s 2019-20 Contenders Draft Picks on Thursday that the company’s web servers crashed and the scuttled the launch. Part of the reason was a profit-taking opportunity offered by dealers who were willing to pay more than double the $130 per box price tag.
So why exactly is Contenders Draft in such big demand? Below is a rundown of what it’s all about. It’s important to keep in mind that the more popular 2019-20 Contenders NBA version (featuring both veterans and rookies in their NBA uniforms) won’t be out until late December.
2019-20 Panini Contenders Draft Basics
Contenders Draft offers the first chance to rip a box that includes official rookie cards (the ones with the “RC” logo) and the chance to finally pull a Williamson autograph from a pack. While the top draft picks have appeared on cards through Panini Instant and this summer’s special National Sports Collectors Convention packs, Contenders is a more traditional release, with case breakers, collectors, hobby shops and online dealers all ready, willing and able to offer it.
Each box has six packs with 18 cards per pack. All six packs should have an autograph. Pulling six signed cards–some of which could be quite valuable–is a huge draw.
Boxes should also contain 35 Season Ticket base cards (there’s a 50-card checklist for that featuring current and former NBA players), 35 variations, 30 inserts and one parallel. The First Off The Line boxes include one autograph in the shiny style of Contenders Optic.
College Ticket Autographs and Other Attractions
The meat and potatoes of 2019-20 Contenders Draft Picks are the RPS College Tickets, with on-card autographs from all of the upper-tier rookies from the 2019 NBA Draft including Williamson. There are a few parallel versions including College Playoff Ticket (# to 15); Championship Ticket (1/1); Cracked Ice Ticket (# to 23) and Magenta, Yellow and Black Printing Plates that are all 1/1. To top it off, there will be three different color variations for all of those parallel versions.
Game Day Ticket Signatures offers another chance to land a rookie autograph. All are numbered to 99. Only ten players have signed for this subset which includes several parallel versions including:
Cracked Ice Ticket (#’d/23)
Playoff Ticket (#’d/18)
Diamond Ticket (#’d/10)
Building Blocks Ticket (#’d/5)
Fame Ticket (#’d 1/1)
Printing Plates Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (all #’d 1/1)
You can also find autographs from the top foreign-born 2019 NBA Draft picks in International Tickets, also numbered to 99 unless you find one of the parallels that include:
International Playoff Ticket (#’d/15)
International Championship Ticket (#’d 1)
International Cracked Ice Ticket (#’d/23)
Cyan, Magenta,Yellow and Black Printing Plates (each #’d/1)
Other autograph themes include Legacy Signatures and Turning Pro Signatures, each of which focuses on the transition of players who have gone from college standout to NBA star and Season Ticket Signatures, a ten-card set that features autographs from some former college greats like David Robinson (Navy).
The SRP for boxes is $130 but because of demand, you can expect to pay quite a bit more. You can check out boxes on eBay here.