Thursday, April 15, 2021

Unlicensed doesn't mean unloved

Today's post is partly prompted by seeing some graded cards for sale and wondering who is sending cards that are routinely ignored off for grading.

Card Number 643: Panini Prizm, 2013; #176

Panini produce Prizm cards across a number of sports. In baseball where they don't have a licence, the cards end up looking like this, with every hint of a team logo airbrushed off the picture. 

This is the plain base version of these cards. Every base card is shiny, but the main attraction of packs of Prizm cards are multiple colour parallels and refractor-style "prizms" that are often numbered. These silver base cards are used to pad out the packs inbetween the rarer cards. They are basically filler. The sets all look very samey as well - compare this one with the cards from 2014 and 2015.

The back reuses the same airbrushed photo as the front.

The factoid on the back is about Tony's stand-out season in 1987, when he picked up his second batting title and stole lots of bases. 

Apart from the lack of licensing, there's nothing particularly objectionable about this card. But recently I saw a graded version of this base card on a popular auction site with a start price of $50. It was only graded a 9/10 as well. 

I've seen a few discussions about the backlog at the grading houses, and collectors blaming people submitting all kinds of low value cards for grading. I think that happens because the grading houses accept batches of cards for grading so people chuck in extra ones to round out the batch - which, ironically, would make a card like this "filler" twice over. Otherwise, I'm not sure what the thought process is behind sending this card in for grading. 

Although, if you are going to encase your cards in plastic, you may as well pick cards that nobody else will bother getting graded. One of the big measures in graded cards is the 'population', that is, the number of cards graded at a particular level. In the long run maybe this card will be "rarer" than some of the higher value licensed base rookie cards that are getting "slabbed" by lots of people as they come straight out of packs.

Of course, whether anyone will want this card in a graded sleeve so much that they would pay $50 for it is another question. I rather doubt they would. My (ungraded) copy was in a job lot of Tony Gwynn cards, padding out the lot. The previous ones I have acquired have also been part of lots. 

I don't know anybody who collects Panini Prizm baseball cards or is trying to put together a set. There doesn't seem to be much value attached to this filler card - until it's graded, at which point, a collector is essentially paying $50 for a plastic sleeve.

As for my collection, this card sits in a shiny row of three Prizm base cards from consective years in the Panini section of my binder. I won't be sending it off for grading any time soon.

Total: 643 cards


  1. Gwynn looks positively slim in that photo. Yeah, I'd pay probably 25 cents for this card in a PSA 9, so now you know how I feel about grading, too.

    1. Maybe they airbrushed more off than just the logos?

  2. I know grading isn't for everyone... but I enjoy collecting slabbed cards here and there. That being said... even if I could send in cards for $5 each, I wouldn't spend that kind of cash on getting a card like this graded. But there are so many different types of collectors out there, it wouldn't surprise me if there's someone who would.

    1. Like I said in the post, in the long run graded versions of these cards could well be rarer than cards with a higher value. But even so.