For my money, Panini Golden Age is the best kept secret in the hobby.
I ranked it
as the second-best product to hit the shelves last year. I doubt many people would've placed it that high. I understand the uneasiness about lack of logos, though it's not at all Panini's fault.
I also get that a lot of collectors don't like to pull non-sport personalities out of packs. While I'd agree that most sets should
feature nothing but baseball players, a checklist like Golden Age keeps things fresh by featuring both legends of the game and non-baseball figures.
The past two years of Golden Age had added loads of new cards to my non-sport collection. I knew 2014 Golden Age had been out for a few weeks, but I figured I'd have to wait until they started popping up in dime boxes to find any. It's a hobby-only product, after all.
Or so I thought. When I walked into Target with my dad last Wednesday, my only hope was to get my hands on some A&G. Golden Age didn't even cross my mind. I'd barely heard a peep about the things around the blogs, so I figured Panini had continued with its hobby-only route.
I spotted the Allen and Ginters as soon as we got to the card aisle. But what should I see hovering just a few shelves above the A&G? That's right. A whole row of Golden Age blasters.
Oh, and even a box of loose packs off to the side for good measure.
I could barely contain my excitement as my dad and I plucked a blaster off the shelf. Ripping it open just a short while later was one of the more invigorating pack-busting experiences I've had in a while.
In fact, I've scanned each and every card I got from that blaster for your viewing pleasure.
#44 Lon Chaney, Jr.
I'd already seen this year's Golden Age design through various internet searches, but seeing them in-person was still a shock.
I absolutely love what Panini did with these. The psychedelic design gives off a great hint of creativity from Panini's end, something that I can't say I've much felt from Topps over the past few years.
Though my dad would later fill me in on his resume, I wasn't sure who Lon Chaney, Jr. was when I pulled this card, my first from this wonderful product.
I still knew it was love at first sight with Golden Age.
#9 Jim Thorpe, New York Giants
By the second card in, I knew I was in for something really special.
Jim Thorpe, one of my favorite figures from both sports and American history, fell out of the very first pack I opened. Even after years of searching far and wide for baseball issues of his, this is just the ninth Thorpe card in my collection.
The man's baseball career may not have been too memorable, but his life was quite the opposite.
He's the best all-around athlete in history if you ask me.
#128 Lindsay Wagner, Mono Blue Back mini
#110 Cadillac Ranch
#72 Ken Osmond
Never in my life did I think I'd own a card of Eddie Haskell.
#36 Lefty Grove, Philadelphia A's
My first pack of Golden Age closed out with a legend who is vastly underrepresented in the world of cardboard.
Lots of people rank Lefty Grove as one of the top five pitchers in baseball history. I don't know if I'd go that far, but he's definitely up there.
Though Panini has included Grove in both their 2012 and
2013 Cooperstown checklists, you have to go all the way back to 2007 for the last licensed card of his in my collection.
While the lack of logos can take away from the look of certain Panini sets, I don't think it hurts Golden Age one bit.
These cards are beautiful no matter how you look at them.
#59 Dom DiMaggio, Boston Red Sox
Panini's player selection for this set is impeccable.
The last licensed card of Dom DiMaggio in my collection is from 2008.
Look for that to become a running theme in this post.
#99 Bill Mumy
#48 Baseball Hall of Fame, Mono Green Back mini
Given yesterday's Hall of Fame ceremonies, this seems like an appropriate pull.
Because I'd never opened a Golden Age pack before, I didn't know that each one came with a mini. The backs
stay true to a lot of the tobacco flip sides that were found in cigarette packs around the turn of the century.
I could do without the different color variances, but these minis are right up there with A&G in terms of overall quality.
#140 Spectacular Bid
#131 Farrah Fawcett
#1 Cy Young, Boston Red Sox
Pack number two closes out with the first card in this year's Golden Age checklist.
Cy Young seems like more than qualified for that honor.
#16 P.T. Barnum
#8 Zack Wheat, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1913 National Game insert
Though they're second nature to the terrific base cards, Golden Age does feature a few insert sets.
This "National Game" series pays homage to an actual design
from the early part of the last century. Better yet, I pulled one of Zack Wheat, a guy who was active in 1913 and one of my personal favorite under-the-radar greats.
Golden Age kept getting better and better.
#23 Luisitania, Hindu Brown Back mini
#120 Dusty Baker, Los Angeles Dodgers
The former outfielder is pictured as a Brave in this year's A&G checklist. He's featured as a Dodger in Golden Age.
Either way, I'm just happy to see Dusty getting some pub in the hobby.
#65 Chuck Connors
is a former big leaguer who went on to have a successful acting career.
I would've much rather have seen Panini produce a card of his short-lived time in the bigs.
#85 Jack Ruby
As much as I like Golden Age, this is a head-scratcher.
Jack Ruby is a relatively important historical figure, but for all the wrong reasons. Why Panini chose to honor him with a card is beyond me.
There's even a relic of him
in this product for the especially morbid.
#70 Clyde "Bulldog" Turner
#90 Marques Haynes, Hindu Brown Back mini
Like last year's brilliant Bad News Bears subset, this year's Golden Age mini-series appears to focus on the Harlem Globetrotters.
Not nearly as great as the likes of Kelly Leak and Rudy Stein, but still a fantastic idea nonetheless.
#3 Willie Nelson, Legends of Music Relic
As I later found out, each Golden Age blaster comes with a "Legends of Music" relic.
Everyone from Hank Williams to "The Memphis King" are all featured in this set. The latter has pretty strict licensing trademarks, I guess. They couldn't even use a picture of Elvis or even say his name on the actual card
Oh, and along with a base card in the checklist (which I unfortunately didn't pull), Joey Ramone
even has a place in this set. He's probably my favorite singer in music history.
My blaster produced a Willie Nelson relic. He appears to be the most common of the bunch. Since I'm not much for country, I gave this one to my mom. She's a big Willie Nelson fan.
Anything music-related is an exciting pull for me.
#48 Michael Spinks, Historical Signatures Redemption
Even so, the very next card in the pack may have managed to top ol' Willie.
What you see here is a redemption for an autograph of noted boxer Michael Spinks. I have no interest in redeeming it, so I've already put it up on Ebay in hopes of making a few extra bucks.
I never expected to pull anything like this from a retail pack.
#105 Jimi Hendrix
This was one of the cards I was really hoping to get when I first caught wind of 2014 Golden Age.
I'm a Jimi Hendrix fan, but you'll probably find a lot of other people who like him more than I do. There's little denying that he changed the course of music history with the sheer force of his songwriting and guitar playing.
Plus, he fits right in with this year's groovy design.
#146 Loretta Swit
#22 Ty Cobb, Detroit Tigers
This was one of the better packs I've ever opened for a few reasons.
1) It allowed me to add to my growing Ty Cobb collection.
2) It featured both a musical relic and
a redemption that might net me a few bucks.
3) It had an extra card. For whatever reason, this pack contained seven cards instead of the stated six.
You can't do much better than that.
#91 Vivien Leigh
I really need to watch A Streetcar Named Desire again.
#47 William Randolph Hearst
#58 Ernie Nevers, Mono Blue Back mini
#134 Mickey Rivers, New York Yankees
Before his appearance as a short-print in last year's Archives checklist, the last licensed Mickey Rivers card had come way back in 2006.
"Mick the Quick" deserves better.
#76 Vada Pinson, Cincinnati Reds
#40 Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer
#26 "Sleepy" Bill Burns, Washington Senators
This was another of my must-haves from Golden Age.
Before this, the only cards of "Sleepy" Bill Burns I owned were the awesome T206 issue
my dad got me for Christmas a couple years ago and...that's it.
Before playing a role as a gambler in the infamous "Black Sox" scandal, Burns had a mediocre five-year career as a pitcher. He's a fairly esoteric figure from baseball history, so I understand why there aren't more cards of his out there.
I am eternally grateful for Panini's decision to slot him into this year's Golden Age checklist.
#34 Nap Lajoie, Cleveland Naps
Nap Lajoie was so good that the Cleveland franchise named themselves after him for a short while.
Maybe one day we'll be talking about the Los Angeles Kershaws.
#142 Gary Carter, Montreal Expos, Hindu Red Back mini
You scored big points with Golden Age this year, but is that seriously the best shot you could find of Gary Carter? The man is the most photogenic person I've ever seen.
Surely you could've made a better decision here.
#112 Susan Olsen
I have fond memories of waking up on Sunday mornings as a kid and hearing my dad watching old Brady Bunch reruns on TV.
Peter and Bobby also have cards in this year's Golden Age checklist, but Cindy (played by Susan Olsen) was the only one I pulled.
#126 Oscar Gamble, New York Yankees
Any set that features The 'Froed One is okay in my book.
#5 Butch Cassidy
#79 Geese Ausbie
#43 Moe Berg
I can't get over how cool this card is.
Before this, I'd never actually seen a picture of what Moe Berg looked like during his later years. For those who don't know, Berg was an average catcher who went on to become a US spy during World War II.
Easily one of the most fascinating men to ever play the game.
#150 Terry Bradshaw
#13 John Pemberton, Mono Green Back mini
#55 Enos Slaughter, St. Louis Cardinals
Arguably the best name in baseball history.
#95 Pat Priest
#8 Rube Waddell, Philadelphia A's
This is only the sixth Rube Waddell card I own.
The Hall of Famer is one of the quirkiest figures baseball has ever seen. I read once that Waddell nearly missed a start because he was off playing marbles with a kids a few blocks away from the stadium. He was known to wander off the mound at the sound of fire engines as well.
What I'd give to see someone like that pitch today.
#117 Phil Niekro, Atlanta Braves, Smith's Mello Mint mini
#58 Ernie Nevers
#124 Jake LaMotta
#109 Bill Shoemaker
#12 Christy Mathewson, New York Giants
The great Christy Mathewson closed out this blaster.
On a whim, though, my dad and I plucked out a bonus loose pack from the box sitting on the shelf.
I wanted to milk Golden Age for every ounce it was worth.
#98 Curt Flood, St. Louis Cardinals
Last licensed Curt Flood card in my collection...
#5 Whitey Ford, New York Yankees, Fan Craze insert
This loose pack produced a card from another terrific throwback insert series.
These pay tribute to a set called Fan Craze
that was released around the turn of the century. Again, Golden Age isn't about the inserts for me.
But these are pretty darn nice.
#68 Jack Johnson, Mono Blue Back mini
A mini of one of the most fascinating men in sports history.
#101 Bill Russell
#74 Harvey Haddix, Pittsburgh Pirates
I wig out for Harvey Haddix cards.
His 12-inning perfect game made for one of the greatest footnotes in baseball history. Though Haddix enjoyed a successful 14-year career, his cards can be had for next to nothing. I've found a great deal of his vintage beauties in discount bins over the years.
You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the last Haddix card in my collection. And that's not the last licensed card, either. That's the last card, period.
Thank you, Panini.
You have no idea how long I've been waiting to pull Harvey Haddix from a pack of cards.
#38 Mark Koenig, New York Yankees
Mr. Koenig closed out what was a truly memorable retail break.
Topps has had their successes during the last few years. In terms of sheer fun, however, I don't think anything Topps has done lately can even come close to the enjoyment I got out of 2014 Golden Age.
Though I'm sure it will continue to fly under the radar in the future, this set is the perfect mix of baseball history, pop culture, and creativity that I love.
I never felt the desire to scan every single card I got from a blaster until Golden Age came around.
That says pretty much all you need to know about this product.