With the NBA regular season set to tip-off on Christmas Day, Panini has finally announced their 2011-12 basketball card lineup. However, collectors still have a bit of a wait for new cards, as the first new set won't be released until late-February.
After putting out a dozen sets in 2010-11, Panini's current plans for 2011-12 call for just five. The roster has been completely overhauled as well, with only the Gold Standard and Limited brands returning from last year.
Panini's first basketball set of the season will be 2011-12 Preferred Basketball, a high-end product boasting three autographs and a six- or eight-swatch book card in every pack. Releasing after Valentine's Day, expect to pay $200 per pack.
In March, Panini is resurrecting the Hoops brand, which looks comparable in price and structure to their Score sets for football and hockey. Retail packs will be a dollar, while hobby version, which will run $2 per pack, will have more inserts and two autographs per box. 1989-90 Hoops Buyback Autographs will be one of the set's big draws.
Following that, Panini will limit their basketball releases to one set per month as the abbreviated 2011-12 season comes to a close. Collectors can look for 2011-12 Panini Limited Basketball in May, 2011-12 Panini Past & Present in June and 2011-12 Panini Gold Standard Basketball in July. Panini is promising rookie redemptions for both the 2011-12 and 2012-13 rookie classes in Limited and Gold Standard.
During the NBA's labor dispute, Panini remained tight-lipped about their plans. Had the season been lost, it is very likely we wouldn't have seen any NBA cards at all. With the tightened focus and limited number of sets, it will be interesting to see how collectors respond. With just five sets, Panini is hopefully making sure that every one counts.