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Bob D’Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.

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Collect call: Panini Past & Present basketball

Posted May 27, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated May 27, 2012 at 01:55 PM

My first reaction when I opened the first pack out of a hobby box of Panini America’s Past & Present basketball was dismay. I honestly thought I had damaged cards. They had a smoky, filmy look and it appeared there were creases running through the cards.

“The mailman strikes again,” I thought.

But then I noticed that the cards were not creased, and that some of the faded colors and printing imperfections were done on purpose.

Of course. Bring back the past and present cards with a matted finish, the type of feel that cards had before the days of slick, UV products.

It’s disconcerting at first, but if you like retro, then this set is for you. Certainly, there are some slick cards in this set, particularly the inserts like Raining 3’s, Breakout, Fireworks and Changing Times. Those cards play off effects like water, fire and texture.

The base set has four distinctive designs. It weighs in at 200 cards, and there are 50 variations. A hobby box contains 20 packs, with eight cards to a pack.

A typical hobby box will contain three autograph cards and one memorabilia card. In addition, there should be (on average) four Breaking Out inserts and four Changing Times cards. Panini promises two Raining 3’s cards on average per hobby box, but the product I sampled yielded three. On the flip side, a box should yield two Fireworks inserts, but I only saw one. So things even out a little bit.

The old-time look really works for cards of NBA stars from the 1950s and ‘60s. For example, I love the look of cards like Elgin Baylor (card No. 76), K.C. Jones (No. 189) and even a full bearded Phil Jackson (No. 188). Putting today’s players in those kind of backdrops didn’t work as well for me, but it was a good try.

The collation was good in the hobby box I sampled. There were 135 base cards, or 67.5 percent. The one variation was a Rajon Rondo card (No. 21).

The most unusual inserts were the die-cut, matted Breads — Bread for Health, Bread for Energy and Bread for Life. The health cards have a player set against a light blue background, and the energy cards sport a yellow background. For the life cards, the backgrounds are red. All three inserts employ the blue, red and yellow color scheme in various degrees. The backs are plain except for the team logo, the card number and Panini’s logo (along with the obligatory copyright notices in the fine print).

I liked the Changing Times inserts because of the black-and-white photos of stars like Bill Russell, David Thompson and Julius Erving. And yes, Panini does give equal time to the old ABA, putting stars like Erving and Thompson in their old ABA uniforms. It’s certainly odd to see Dr. J in a Virginia Squires uniform.

Panini notes that the Past & Present set will showcase players who had never had a certified autograph, and the box I sampled had one of those players, Scooter McCray. Actually, I liked the Archie Clark autograph card better. While both signatures were on stickers, Clark’s was penned with a Sharpie and is bold and beautiful.  Clark, by the way,  is a great part of a trivia question, as in “who did the Lakers trade to the 76ers to acquire Wilt Chamberlain?”

Other first-time signers were Bo Outlaw, Anthony Mason and Marv Roberts.

The memorabilia card is a long, rectangular swatch of a jersey worn by the Knicks’ Toney Douglas. The card is interesting because Douglas’ uniform says “Nueva York” instead of “New York.”

Past & Present is the first set in which Panini employs its Dual Rookie Redemption program. Instead of rookie cards in the Past & Present set, Panini randomly inserted redemption cards good for the first cards of top draft picks from the 2011-12 and 2012-13 classes. I pulled one of those from the hobby box I saw. It is a 2011 Draft Pick Auto XRCS, and the card it redeems won’t be known until October. That’s when Panini will conduct a live draft on its blog, The Knight’s Lance, on Oct. 29, 2012, at 10 p.m. EST.

I am not a big fan of redemptions to begin with, so to wait another seven months to get a card is not the best situation for me. Others may be more forgiving, of course. I guess when I get cards, I like the immediacy factor; I don’t like to wait.

Past & Present is an interesting effort by Panini to pay tribute to past NBA/ABA greats and current stars. It works on several levels, but it might need some tweaking. Especially in the initial appearance. Those simulated creases and printer errors were scary.

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