Overall Panini Basketball Rank and Tier (Tier 1):

Updated: Oct 1, 2021

For people just becoming familiar with the hobby, the modern card market can be confusing. Even for collectors getting into modern cards who used to collect some odd years ago, or collectors who currently collect vintage, the area can be intimidating. With many products providing over 30 parallels, such as Prizm, and with over 30 sets for just the 2019 basketball class, picking out the right one for your own hobby goals is not an easy task. To help simplify this process, and hopefully save you some time, money, and annoyances, I have attempted to break down what I believe to be the most popular and mainstream basketball card sets from the 2019 rookie class as well as group them into categories with other similar sets. This rookie class, led by Zion and Ja Morant, is a premier rookie class in the modern market and as such, serves as a great litmus test when comparing cards and sets from another rookie class. Below are my tiers and rankings of 19 heavily collected sets from 2019 and their price points as of September 2021:



Tier 2 Rankings


Tier 3 Rankings


Tier 4 and 5 Rankings


Tier 1 Cards

( National Treasures, Flawless, Eminence, Immaculate )

Overview:

Tier one cards are simply the premier pieces to own of a rookie player or as a collectible. They often include colorful, large jersey patches, clean autographs, and crisp white or acetate surfaces. They are also by far the most expensive cards you can own. In this tier, every card in each of these sets is numbered and this creates a real scarcity, something many other cards lack.



1. Flawless:

Flawless is one of the crème de la crème sets of modern rookie patch autos. The biggest attribute that Flawless cards hold over any other sets are that the jersey patches are usually game worn and Flawless stands alone as the only such set that is routinely known for game worn patches since Panini began manufacturing basketball. In addition, the cards feature a clean white background and cursive font to compliment a large patch window. One potential drawback when examining the Flawless set is the the overall cost as currently compared to National Treasures. Although these boxes, and sometimes cards, come at a higher price than National Treasures, I believe the game-worn aspect justifies their current pricing in relation to other comparable cards and sets on the market. Another potential drawback may be that newer releases, such as 2020, feature patches that are not game worn or even event worn. Overall, Flawless is a super-premium set and could potentially be a more collected series long-term due to the game worn aspect it holds, but for now NT cards are fetching the highest prices.


Recommended Card to Buy-

Sealed Boxes/Wax or Gold/Team Color Parallel-



I understand that this may fall out of a lot of peoples’ price ranges, but given the history behind flawless and the tradition of game-worn patches, I would feel confident holding a box or wax long term. I would also recommend gold or team colored foil parallels if your goal is to collect a player because these cards hold a higher level of long-term collectability.



2. National Treasures:

National Treasures rookie patch autos are the widely considered the gold standard in the modern card market. These cards sell for largest amounts as they often reach five digit amounts for ungraded copies of premier rookies and can easily sell for up to six or even seven figures graded. (Look up the 2018 Luka NT Logo Man, it sold for over 4 million!) These cards are heavily respected in the market, and it comes with good reason. The white background, prime patches and clean blue autographs makes them some of the sleekest designed cards from 2019 and most other years. The one downside (like many of the modern cards today) is that the patches from this set are player-worn, not game-worn. Other than this one negative, which many of the top current investors and collectors do not seem to mind, National Treasures is the top rookie card to own of a young star player. Personally, I believe there is more value in Flawless, but National Treasures is still an outstanding set to buy from.


Recommended Card to Buy-

Horizontal Base Patch Auto /75-


I believe that this horizontal base patch auto offers the best opportunity to get into a National Treasures. It boasts a bigger patch window at a much more affordable price than the Vertical Base (/99).



3. Eminence

Eminence is truly one of the most interesting sets of cards on this list. The 2019 class represents only the third appearance as a basketball product for Eminence.(2014 and 2017) Eminence also represents a super high-end set that features only high-end players and rookies. The cards often feature large, colorful game-used patch windows along with crisp blue autographs and foil on other parts of the card to accent it. Boxes of Eminence may also feature booklets with multiple players’ patches and autographs, as well as cards with silver or gold in them. Overall, the patch auto cards from this set are extremely unique and these types of rare pieces do not always release, making Eminence a strong option for future interest and overall collectability.


Recommended Card to Buy-

Base Rookie Patch Auto /10 or Patch Auto /10-



These cards are extremely hard to get your hands on due to the rarity of the overall set, but they represent an opportunity to own a truly rare set. The patch auto insert for rookies will cost less money due to the missing the “rookie” tag so they may by a slightly more affordable option.



4. Immaculate:

The Immaculate set represents the lower section of the tier 1 cards, but they are, by all means, still stunning and tasteful cards. This set features the smallest patch window of any of the tier 1 cards, but the rest of the card, in my opinion, is more appealing for collectors than the other two sets. The surface of the card is a glossy white acetate finish that presents extremely well in person. The card also futures a team logo and name made of refractive material. Overall, the Immaculate set in my opinion has some of the best eye appeal and given its current price point (roughly $385 a card) it represents a more affordable path to owning a premier rookie card of a given player.


Recommended Card to Buy-

Immaculate Premium Patch Autographs /50 or Gold Parallel /10-



The Premium Patch cards from Immaculate deserve some more attention from collectors in my opinion. They are numbered lower than the base /99 patch autographs and, as the name states, have a more premium patch and feel. The second major reason why these inserts are my recommended buy is because they are also considerably cheaper than what the base /99 sells for. If the premium patches are unavailable, I’d look at the gold /10 parallel of the base patch auto, as the gold foil gives the card a more exclusive feel.


If you guys found this article helpful or insightful in navigating the current landscape of basketball cards, please leave a like, comment, or both! Also, if you enjoyed this tier, check out our articles on the other tiers!


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