Court Kings is a series known for its art. Topps hired artists to draw their cards in its early years and used the results in some of its most iconic releases. However, the vast majority of cards have moved over to photos of the players over the years. Court Kings is a throwback to the days of high-quality illustrations. However, Panini gives these cards a harder-edged modern art tinge. As a result, the release has its own unique aesthetic. Love it or hate it, the Court Kings cards look quite different from other Panini releases. Our 2021-22 Panini Court Kings Basketball review examines the latest release in this series.
Donruss products of the 1980s included illustrated inserts. These cards were the charming but somewhat crudely drawn Diamond Kings inserts for baseball. Donruss introduced variations for football (Gridiron Kings) and the basketball Court Kings in the 2000s.
In 2009, Panini bought the Texas-based card company was purchased by Panini Italy and renamed it Panini America. However, they kept some of the Donruss products and rebranded them.
One of their more ambitious rebranding projects was the release of a standalone release for Panini Court Kings Basketball. The first attempt to launch the brand was in 2009-10, as part of the inaugural wave of Panini NBA releases. However, the product did not take and was shelved for a few years.
In 2013-14 the product was relaunched. This time it stuck and has been an integral part of the Panini release calendar ever since.
The 2021-22 Panini Court Kings Basketball release date is May 6, 2022. The date is for the Hobby Box, which will most likely be the only official release format in the United States. However, Panini does plan to release an international blaster box as well.
The hobby box has been the only format in the United States in previous releases. Panini has also issued an international blaster available in the US on the secondary market in recent years. We have no reason to believe this iteration will be any different.
The product has one main advantage that none of its peers have: a distinctive, artsy, and drawn look. This aesthetic is a significant source of attraction to the release for some fans. Personally, I love the look and prefer it vastly to most basketball releases.
Another popular element is the RC levels. There are four rarity levels amongst the RCs. These are divided more clearly and hierarchically than in most releases. The level IV rookies are a case hit and, therefore, quite desirable.
For some collectors, the use of art instead of a picture is a turn-off. Indeed, one Blowout Forum member opined, “I’m probably in the minority here, but I just don’t get the appeal for a card where it’s not even a real pic.” If that category includes you, avoid this release!
Another con is that prices for this release have risen in recent years, as all products have. For example, boxes were around $100 each just a couple of years ago and now sell for almost four times that amount. But since this is not a high-end product, it is not a questionable investment. We will look more closely at value later in this review.
Finally, as a mid-tier product, Court Kings has sticker autos. For many collectors, this is unacceptable for a $400 box.
The base set for Court Kings is minimal, standing at only 67 cards. But that is misleading since the product lists rookies separately. For example, there are 132 rookies on the checklist, so the base set is actually 199.
As we all know, Panini is way behind on card production. So, they are still churning out cards with the 2021-22 rookie class, even as the season ends.
The key rookies are familiar to us: Josh Giddey, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Scottie Barnes, and maybe a few others. Honestly, it’s a solid class. But we are all kind of sick of them by now.
The marquee rookies are the tier IV ones. Here is the complete list.
167 Scottie Barnes – Toronto Raptors
168 Josh Giddey – Oklahoma City Thunder
169 Joshua Primo – San Antonio Spurs
170 Jalen Green – Houston Rockets
171 James Bouknight – Charlotte Hornets
172 Bones Hyland – Denver Nuggets
173 Ziaire Williams – Memphis Grizzlies
174 Ayo Dosunmu – Chicago Bulls
175 Chris Duarte – Indiana Pacers
176 Cade Cunningham – Detroit Pistons
177 Moses Moody – Golden State Warriors
178 Corey Kispert – Washington Wizards
179 Alperen Sengun – Houston Rockets
180 Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – Oklahoma City Thunder
181 Tre Mann – Oklahoma City Thunder
182 Jalen Suggs – Orlando Magic
183 Trey Murphy III – New Orleans Pelicans
184 Jalen Johnson – Atlanta Hawks
185 Kai Jones – Charlotte Hornets
186 Cameron Thomas – Brooklyn Nets
187 Evan Mobley – Cleveland Cavaliers
188 Josh Christopher – Houston Rockets
189 Keon Johnson – Portland Trail Blazers
190 Isaiah Jackson – Indiana Pacers
191 Franz Wagner – Orlando Magic
192 Luka Garza – Detroit Pistons
193 Quentin Grimes – New York Knicks
194 Brandon Boston Jr. – Los Angeles Clippers
195 Davion Mitchell – Sacramento Kings
196 Usman Garuba – Houston Rockets
197 Santi Aldama – Memphis Grizzlies
198 Jared Butler – Utah Jazz
199 Jonathan Kuminga – Golden State Warriors
Court Kings has a very strong selection of inserts as an art-focused release. These are the ones that include autos.
These are autos (sticker) inserts with beautiful abstract backgrounds covering part of the card. The autos are from veterans.
Another auto inserts quite similar to Brush Strokes. Only here the background covers the entire card. The main difference is that the autos are all from rookies and, therefore, more desirable.
A particularly popular rookie auto series. I’m a big fan.
This insert features (almost exclusively) retired legends of the game.
Many of the autos do not come in a Jade version.
Veterans and retired legend autos, with a background reminiscent of impressionist paintings.
Again, many of the autos do not come in a Jade version.
These 10 autos arrive with a framed image reminiscent of classic portrait art.
Once more, many of the autos do not come in a Jade version.
Court Kings is traditionally a relatively low-cost box that serves a particular collectors niche. Therefore, if you hit anything valuable, it was a nice bonus. But with prices up, collectors will expect more of an ROI. So, how well does Court Kings deliver?
Here are the prices for recent Court Kings releases:
|2017-18 Hobby Box||$250|
|2018-19 Hobby Box||$800|
|2019-20 Hobby Box||$630|
|2020-21 Hobby Box||$429|
Court Kings isn’t guaranteed money. However, I like the odds of making a good profit off a hobby box. The rookie class is strong, and people don’t buy a ton of this product. So, I can imagine a box going for over $600 in a few years.
Let’s look at how some Court Kings singles hold up on the market. All cards here are rookie year PSA 10s.
|LaMelo Ball IV Rookie||$1,200|
|RJ Barrett Fresh Paint /99||$300|
|Trae Young Heir Apparent /99||$1,550|
Considering the (relatively) low price of a box, you have a reasonable chance of hitting a card worth significantly more than the box. But, of course, like any product, you probably won’t.
Court Kings isn’t a high-end product, and it is priced accordingly. Instead, it is a beautiful artsy set for collectors who love aesthetics. At its previous price point, it was an absolute bargain. At the current price, it isn’t a great investment. However, it is less likely to lose money than most other Panini products in a similar price range. So whether you sit on it or rip, Court Kings is reasonably good value for money. I also think the cards are gorgeous.