by Rich Klein
For more than a decade, card companies have worked on incorporating USA baseball teams past and present into their product lines. What is tricky about these USA sets is in many cases, collectors have barely heard of these players (unless they’re avid readers of Baseball America) and do not really want to see the alumni players they have heard of in something other than major league uniforms. Thus, any set with the USA information seemingly has a strike or two against it before they even come up to a collectors plate.
With that background comes 2013 Panini USA Champions, which focused on members of our national team both current and former. At least with this set one can include names such as Chipper Jones and Mike Schmidt. While I have heard of some of the prospects such as George Springer and Bubba Starling, that is not true of every collector even at this point.
There are a lot of young players’ autographs here but also names like Frank Thomas, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Jones and others.
The base set for these cards feature full color borders with the player’s photo and the USA flag in the middle with the player’s name at the bottom. The back has biographical information and a brief blurb. My local card store (Triple Cards, Plano TX) reported slow sales at $72 per box and at this point leading on-line retailers are between $45-55 per box. Each box has 24 packs with eight cards per pack. I like to use a per-card basis and at the lower prices now available, the average cost per card is about 25 cents each. That is a pretty decent for a product that promises two autographs and three game-game memorabilia cards in each box.
There are a lot of parallels and Panini even trotted out its Diamond Kings brand for this issue although we didn’t pull one.
The timing of this product is a bit odd since there’s no USA team competing in the spotlight right now and that could be partly what’s holding USA Champions down a bit.
Here’s what came out of our box:
Base Cards: I did not sort these but there were 162 total cards and with only 125 cards in the base set a collector should be able to complete a set either from a box or with a little trading or buying what’s needed.
Short Prints aka National Team Certified: Kevin Dahl, Kyle Dean, Brett Hambright, John Kilichhowski, Cole Sands, Bobby Wahle
Short Print: Mirror Red: Chris Okey
Highlights: Davey Johnson, Ben Sheets
Legends Mirror Red (#d to 299) Mark McGwire
Legends Mirror Blue (#d to 199); Reese McGuire
Game Gear Relics: Christian Arroyo, Walker Weickel
Stars and Stripes Autographs: Cody Buckel, Chase de Jong, Peter O’Brien
Well, it was a nice surprise to see the reverse of the autograph and relic hits and get three autographs instead of two relics. Others have experienced the same and at least early on in the promotion, Panini did reference three autographs. Either way, five hits out a box along with the other good cards one traditionally receives from a Panini product makes the USA product a pretty nice value especially at the now reduced prices for boxes (you can see them for sale on eBay here.
And with some potential future stars to go with stars from the past, I wouldn’t dismiss 2013 Panini USA Champions just yet.
Rich Klein can be reached at [email protected]