Thursday, October 20, 2016

The only Panini set that matters

Panini has issued a number of popular sets in other sports, or so I've been told. I don't collect basketball or soccer or any of the sports where Panini seems to thrive.

I collect baseball -- major league baseball only, please -- and, lordy, does Panini struggle in that area.

I'll try not to regurgitate all of the issues that I have with Panini here, because this is a happy Panini post. Or as happy as I can get about Panini anyway. This is a post about the only Panini set that matters -- to me. The Panini Hometown Heroes set from 2013.

Hometown Heroes is one of a handful of retro sets that Panini issued at that time. There was Cooperstown, which thought it could crop off the tops of heads of players in its photos and I wouldn't notice. There was Golden Age, which had limited appeal for me because I just don't care about race horses from the 1920s if it's not Allen & Ginter.

But Hometown Heroes? Hometown Heroes appealed to me in a variety of ways. It was a retro set. Its subject matter was current players and retired players, but usually not the players you think of when you think retired players. It featured players like Pat Tabler and Kevin Seitzer and Tom Brunansky. Best of all, this set featured a design that minimized the fact that Panini couldn't show logos. The design is so colorful and basic, that a logo would almost (almost, let's not get carried away) be too much for the design.

It was as if Panini had finally figured out how to produce a major league baseball set.

The set is so appealing to me that I've considered collecting it more than once, but never went through with it.

Well, Tom from Waiting 'Til Next Year (I am really hoping right now that he doesn't have to change his blog title), gave me the push that I needed. He posted some surplus available from several sets and I jumped on the HH extras. He responded by sending me about 170 cards from the 300-card set, plus several parallels and inserts.

This probably means I have to try to collect it now. And I likely will be putting up a want list for it.

I'm not super enthusiastic about this because the final 40 cards in the set are short-printed, which really irks me. Panini thinks it can do cynical, grown-up card company things like short-print base cards but still can't produce a decent card back (the HH card back is typically unreadable). But it'll give me something to do in my retirement years.

So let's see some visual examples of what I've been writing about:

Here is my favorite part of the set: Retired players from my formative years. You don't see cards of players like this these days. This part of the set is very similar to one of my all-time favorite retro sets, Topps' All-Time Fan Favorites series from 2003-05.

I've already completed the Dodger portion of this set and am delighted to have more cards of Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Fernando Valenzuela, etc. And Hometown Heroes doesn't leave out the greats, issuing cards of players like Banks, Brock, Jenkins and Brooks Robinson.

As I mentioned before, the lack of logos barely bothers me. I do think that the more colorful the team's uniform, the better the cards look.

Teams with blue uniforms do quite well with this set.

But I think teams with red uniforms do the best.

Teams with black or dark-colored uniforms don't do as well. The Mike Mussina card gives me flashbacks to the blacked-out caps in the 1969 Topps set. The Glenn Davis card with the '80s piping left in looks too much like some long underwear get-up.

One of the very few duds in the set. Give Buddy some popcorn and a program, because he's a fan in the stands in this photo.

Hometown Heroes has some useless gold-foil parallels (as well as border parallels). I was aware of the state parallels, but I didn't know there were zip-code parallels, too.

Those are some of the insert cards. Nice and colorful. They're kind of fun, just don't bring up that Ron Cey nickname card with me, especially now.

This was one of the parallels, but I'll be putting it with my Dodger collection.

Tom went above-and-beyond by adding some cool Dodger cards with the Hometown Heroes. I'll try to get through these quickly:

A couple of needs from Pinnacle Aficionado, of which I am not.

Completes the 2000 Ovation team set for me -- what's that 3 cards?

More Sheff. I am hoping this will be the World Series matchup.

An autographed card! "How 'bout that?" Harry would say. Tom Windle pitched in Double A with Philadelphia last year, and not very well.

This is a jackpot card. I don't see 1989 Sportflics cards from my want list very often.

I've been very lax on recording my '80s mini-leaders needs. Here are two that had eluded me.

A few '90s Piazza cards, invented before card blogs and scanners.

A couple of "bonus" versions of Piazza's 1992 Classic Best card, one a blue parallel and one a red. I had no idea these existed.

And, lastly, a first for me. This is my first Operation Desert Shield card. I've read about these cards for a long time. I never bothered to look into them because I guessed they were too much cash for a parallel card, judging by the fact that I've never seen one arrive in a card package.

A quick glance shows that they're no more expensive than your average buyback card, which means I should get on my horse.

But I'll probably get the Hometown Heroes list up before a Desert Shield list.

Panini dropped Hometown Heroes after just the one year, which was the wrong move. My guess is it had to do with expense, licensing and such. It's too bad because it's all I'm interested in from that company. Panini makes some pretty good college baseball cards, but I don't collect that either.

To me Hometown Heroes was the only Panini set that mattered.

I guess it's another one-hit wonder.


  1. Hometown Heroes was one of my favorites as well, although the Red Sox checklist was not quite as outside-the-box. Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks, and Jason Varitek were probably the most unusual players for them. I was also a little disappointed that Sandy Alomar Jr. did not make it into the set.

  2. Waiting to assault your HH want list....

  3. Glad the Scioscia was a hit... picked up at a show for a buck. Thought it was a good deal.
    Oh, and DO NOT go after the SPs. I busted three boxes of the stuff and they are truly SPs. You'd have to pick them up via Ebay, sportlosts, COMC or something.
    Lastly, eleven year old me is tickled to know you needed the Tim Leary Sportflics card. That was my favorite set to build back in the day!

  4. Where I used to live in Missouri there is a used book store that used to sell cards. They still have a small assortment of packs that they haven't got rid of since they quit selling cards back on 1992 or whenever it was they quit. Last year I visited and stopped in that book store and they still had a stack of 89 Sportsflics packs for sale.