Guest Blog: They Come in Colors – Like a Rainbow

(Editor’s Note: Please welcome Bill Eckle to the COMC Blog. Bill started collecting trading cards in 1961 and renewed his interest in the 1990’s when the University of Arizona Wildcats made their run in the NCAA Tournament with their first Final Four appearance. His Arizona collection and custom cards creations was featured in the March 2002 and November 2004 of the Beckett Basketball magazines. Bill’s COMC username is beckle.)

In 1993 Topps debuted Chrome technology with their Finest brand, which included parallels of the base cards referred to as ‘refractors. When refractor parallels are turned in the light, they display a rainbow effect that ‘refracts’ the light to show many different colors. This new type of card became a favorite for many collectors; however, Topps lost their licensing rights to all but baseball, so basketball card collectors had to look elsewhere for that technologyPanini’s answer was to  introduce their “Prism” cards beginning in 2012 and because of copyright issues, Panini had to come up with a different name other than refractor; hence, the name Prizm. Many collectors still refer to Panini’s prisms as refractors, as they exhibit the same effect as Topps Chrome and Finest refractors.

 Another confusing aspect is that the product itself is known as Prizm and the parallel cards with the light refracting qualities are also known as ‘prizms’.  Therefore the name, Prism prisms accurately describes the parallel cards. The Prizm prism parallel will have the name ‘PRIZM’ on the back where the base card does not. Probably in response to this confusion, Panini has since started calling these “Silvers”, which to date, have not been numbered. Technically, all Prizm cards that are not base cards are considered ‘prisms’, whether numbered or not. 

Each year Panini’s basketball Prizms have added more and different parallels than the previous year for a total of 35 in 2018, and that’s not counting  two different one of ones (Black and Choice Nebula) for each of the 300 players in the set.  Often mistakes are made by eBay sellers concerning the various colors, or they are given incorrect names. I purchased a Fast Break silver card of one of the hotter rookies from a card shop on eBay, but was disappointed to receive the base card of that player a few days later. Another mistake I’ve seen is the ruby wave listed as a red pulsar (#/25), which was available in last year’s (2017-18) Prizm basketball but not in the 2018-19 product. Since there are so many parallels to sort out, an explanation of the 35 different parallels from the 2018-19 Prizm set is helpful.

These two screenshots from ebay show some of the common mislabeling that one can find.

This explanation only applies to the 300 base card set of basketball, not the subsets or autos available which do not follow the same pattern consistently. These names also do not apply across other sports. Panini Basketball Prizms are spread across several box and pack types and these aren’t limited to hobby or retail. Certain stores such as Wal-Mart and Target carry particular variations exclusively, and Choice Prizmsavailable in Australia and the Far East also have versions specific to those regions. 

It is not unusual to see this product for sale with varying names that may or may not be according to Panini’s naming guide lines. Using COMC.com is a great place to see what the actual names are. Even if you are searching for a particular card not found on COMC, looking at other cards of similar types will give you a description of what they are and the accurate names. If you don’t find the information on cards currently available, make sure to check the ‘Include’ button on the Sold Out option on the sidebar menu. This may give more examples not found on currently available cards. 

Designs for Fast Breaks, sometimes referred to as ‘bubbles’, or more commonly ‘discos’were the names for styles of Panini’s football product. Fast Breaks are completely overlaid on the card’s front with small disks or circles, as check with COMC card descriptions will confirm. There are 7 different Fast Break variations: base or silver – unnumbered; blue – numbered to 175; red  (125); purple  (75); pink – (50); bronze  (20); and neon green – numbered to 5.    

You would think color would be an easy way to separate one kind from another, but some see orange as gold or pink as purple.  (I’m not sure how color-blind collectors navigate this minefield). This is where card serial-numbering is helpful. Orange parallels for the last two years have been numbered to 49 and golds to 10. The parallel numbering is one way to tell one type of parallel from another and again COMC is helpful as they list all cards regular numbering as well as serial numbering. For instance, there are five purples: purple wave, purple ice, which are not serial-numbered; purple fast break, and purple prizm, both numbered to 75, and purple pulsar (35)You may see the purple pulsars referred to as ‘gravity packs’, as these were only available in retail drop down boxes. And though there are two purples numbered to 75, the Fast Break is easily distinguished from the plain prizm by the circular disks on the card’s front.

Left to right: Prizm, FastBreak, Wave, Pulsar, Ice

The ‘ice’ parallelor sometimes called ‘crystals’, ‘crystal ice’, or even ‘cracked ice’, are also not hard to distinguish from other types. Cracked ice is a good description, as that is what the card fronts looks like. Panini soccer cards used this design technology and called it ‘crystal’. Previous Panini Contender products were called ‘Cracked ice’ which also had the same look. These names are often used by collectors but may not necessarily be the same name that Panini has chosen to use for a particular sport. There are 4 variations for the ice parallels: pink and red ice, found in Wal-Mart and Target products respectively and both unnumbered; purple ice – numbered to 149, and blue ice – numbered to 99. These last two are found in hobby and 1st Off the Line boxes. 

There are six red-colored cards with the unnumbered ‘ruby’ wave being one of the most common. Waves come in red and purple and are fairly easy to identify as they appear to have wavy lines on the card’s front. Also in red are the previously mentioned red ice, also unnumbered, followed by the red Prism, numbered to 299, red Fast Break (125), red Choice (88), and red shimmers – numbered to a tough 7. The shimmers appear to be the same technology that was referred to as ‘rain’ in prior years with Panini Prestige. The other shimmers, also numbered to 7, are a light and a dark blue.  

Left to right: Wave, FastBreak, Shimmer, Choice, Ice, and Prizm

The Choice cards were released in Australia and the Far East, but boxes can be found from dealers in the U.S. All Choice cards have large circular designs reminiscent of your first days using a drawing compass where you make a circle and using that radius make half-circles within the circle to create a flower pattern. This design was previously in Panini Select products and known as ‘Scope’. 

Choice also has Tiger Stripe (black and orange) Blue, Yellow & Green striped cards, both non-numbered, red Choice prizm (88), Choice green (8) and Choice Nebula (1/1). 

In a class by itself is the popular mojo (25) that is returning for 2018-19. Also numbered to 25 are both the red and green pulsars with the pink pulsar being numbered to 42. There are three pinks; pink ice – non-numbered, fast break pink, numbered to 50, and pink pulsar (42). Pulsars have oblong disks in a tight regular pattern on the card’s front, distinguishing them from the Fast Break design where the circles are more random.

Returning again this year are the green, hyper, and red-white-blue prizms – all (non-numbered), as well as the blue prizm – numbered to 199. Also back from last year are the ‘White Sparkle’ prizms –unnumbered and available in redemption packs, but commonly thought to be a print run of 20. A newcomer in the 2018-19 Prizm is the black and gold striped prizm numbered to five. 

Putting a complete set of prizms together of a favorite player is truly a daunting taskSeveral single digit-numbered cards, as well as the two ‘one of ones’, make it almost an impossible endeavor, but that is what makes it a collector’s challenge. 

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