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Monday, January 20, 2014

I've Been Waiting: 2014 Donruss Preview

Let's round out a trio of 2014 previews with Panini's 2014 Donruss offering.
Coming next month, Panini is about halfway where it should be with the return of the Donruss name.
The base set will only have 200 cards. This isn't exactly a flagship release, and pushing it to 400 or more would be a much better idea. I'm sure all the big name veterans will be in this set, so if Panini wants to do a second series it will be lacking in star power, or have a bunch of the same players in both series. Perhaps next year would be a larger set.

Something Panini could do in future releases is push for the Topps Total aspect, and issue a card for all players from the 40-man roster, or everyone who had playing time the prior year. The 200-card set includes Diamond Kings (30 cards) and Rated Rookies (15 cards), so only 155 base cards will be issued. I like the look, though the borders seem a little large; 1987 Donruss is one of the set's most memorable designs.

As far as parallels, Silver Press Proofs, Season Stat Line, and Career Stat Line cards appear one per box. Donruss has included Gold Proofs in the past, and there is a possibility for other unannounced parallels to be issued.
 Speaking of Diamond Kings, I'm very happy to see these back. But I'm very sad that they aren't art cards. It's almost a sin! Dick Perez might be under contract to Topps, out of budget, or retired at this point, but could they find another artist? The 1984-series based design will also have box toppers and autographed versions. I really hope this will be an artistic set, so I can go after the box toppers. Otherwise, I'll grab the base cards of the subset, which appear four per box (of 30; that's 7.5 boxes to complete the set). Four Rated Rookies (of 15) will be in each box, too.
 Two Hall Worthy inserts will be in each box. I like the look of these, which obviously are patterned after Hall of Fame plaques in Cooperstown. Other inserts include The Rookies (2 per box), Breakout Hitters (2 per box), Breakout Pitchers (2 per box), Team MVP (1 per box), and No-No (1 per box). I expect these all to have parallel versions, though it would be nice if Panini kept things simple. There are already (at least) 10 base insert sets plus the two short printed subsets and all the parallels, relics, and autographs!
 Studio will return with black and white portraits, although odds haven't been announced. This could be the toughest insert pull in the release. I've never really latched on to Studio, though I find a lot to love about its uniqueness in prior years. Studio Heritage was one of my favorite insert sets to collect each year.
 Elite Series and Elite Dominators inserts will be #/999, and autographed versions will be numbered to only 10. I would love to put together a full series run of the Elite Series inserts, similar to my attempt to complete the Upper Deck Baseball Heroes perpetual insert set.
 Power Plus inserts fall three per box, and Panini released a preview image of an autographed version. The design harkens back to 1985, when Donruss issued a jumbo-sized Action All Stars set. The 1985 design is better, only because of the giant headshots instead of the split screen.
 Speaking of autographs, there are two in each box. Most box busters will probably find Donruss Signatures, which might come with parallel versions. It's a simple, clean design that helps the autograph stand out, and I like it.
One relic will come in each box, and those will be Game Gear relics. The design reminds me a little bit of 1982 Topps, but it is a nice throwback design.

Panini has done some things right. They're bringing back several recognizable series names and including a lot of classic designs. There are big names in the release - the sample relic and autographs are all pretty big stars. And depending on your tastes, the insert sets are collect-worthy, unlike most of Topps' predictable flagship insert offerings.

However, there are areas to improve on, even before the release; mainly, the base set is too small for a flagship and the Diamond Kings should be art. I could be speaking too soon on that aspect. By recycling old designs and old series names, Donruss becomes another Topps Archives. I think that the Score name could be brought back as an inexpensive flagship brand, though, and Donruss becomes a mid-level annual release. But, then Panini has Pinnacle, which did the same thing with a futuristic throwback feel.

There's no reason the sets can all coexist. Donruss covers the traditional flagship line, Score a possible budget line with Pinnacle being a more modern line. Prizm takes care of the Chrome route, and Golden Age is the truly vintage throwback set like Goodwin and Ginter. And then there's Cooperstown, which has a lot of potential for a few years (if they honor enough of the more obscure players, as they should) before it just really repeats itself.

I know I'm down for the base set and the Diamond Kings subset. We'll see what those inserts without previews look like!


  1. Wouldn't it be great if we had these cards with logos. Why did they have to go the exclusive route? I'm very frustrated.

  2. Looks like they REALLY want you to know what brand these cards are.

  3. Logos would be great. But at the same time, I am not so picky. And these cards are a lot better than the "players in team-color t-shirts" images Panini used when it first started its return to baseball.

    And logo placement and size is really irritating with Panini products, frequently. Something I forgot to mention above but had thought about was how much of the card doesn't have an image on it, given away to logos, borders, and text. Granted, that happens a lot with sets like Gypsy Queen and Allen & Ginter, not to mention Finest and such. (Insert rant here about the lack of full-bleed high-quality photos with minimal text on card fronts. Include a mention about how great Upper Deck was at this.)