The product I've busted more of than anything this year is 2013 Panini USA Champions Baseball. I'd like to say it's because I bleed the stars and stripes, but really it's because it's such a great value. 2013 USA is packed with prospect and star autos as well as color parallels and diecuts, enough to keep a collector like me drooling box after box. The best part? You can get 5 to 6 hits for under $50. One website currently has hobby boxes on sale for $39.99, so you can get a helluva deal for the price of two blasters. I'm eating it up. Here's an overview of my most recent break.
The box I opened yesterday was by far the best I've tackled this year. The box guarantees five hits (3 relics & 2 autos) but I was lucky enough to get an extra!
It's tough to make out, but the first card is serial numbered to 399. It's my first "Diamond King" to pull this year, and I was pumped that it was one of my favorite players growing up. On the downside, where do they get off calling this thing a "Diamond King"? At least bring in a Perez impersonator instead of giving it that A&G Photoshop effect. The diecut of Tino "the Abuser" Martinez is #'d to 699. The McGwire card is from an insert set that falls one or two per box. I do like this set, but I think it'd be an awesome opportunity to make some manufactured patch cards with the flag instead of just printing it on. Not to be too picky, but the flag is displayed incorrectly here. The stars and stripes should always be in the upper left corner, whether it's horizontal or vertical. They're trying to emulate how the US Army wears the patch on their right shoulder, but baseball players aren't soldiers. There were quite a few more parallels and inserts, but these were the tops.
These were the three "Game Gear" hits. I may be the last collector alive who still gets stoked about relic cards. The complete set of these has over 60 cards, ranging from players who are now in the minors to kids who are only 15 years old. I'm currently chasing this set and I'm only 25% of the way there, so if you come across some of these, let me know!
I was stoked about each of these autos. The Viola is now live, so the redemption should be in within a few weeks. Joyner spent a brief time as a Royal, so I'll count this as a PC hit. Of course they're still up for trade if someone wants them!
This bad boy was the monster hit of the box. #'d 1/10 it's a gold parallel Stephen Gonsalves auto. Who is Stephen Gonsalves? I didn't know either. Research shows me he's a 19 year old southpaw who was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft by the Minnesota Twins. Apparently this kid has a ton of potential, but slipped to the fourth because of a questionable suspension at his Catholic high school in San Diego. This is a really pretty card, and the auto isn't too bad either compared to what some prospects are going with nowadays. My plan is to hold onto this one for a while and see where his career heads.
My last pack had this as the insert card. Falling one per box, the Highlights cards look very similar to the base cards. My first reaction was "Who is Steve Reich? Lame." A glance at the back changed my mind...