Panini Downtown cards are one of the most popular inserts of modern collecting. They’re an SSP, meaning they’re exceptionally tough pulls that have been as tough to find as one per case. Due to their popularity, we bring you the Cardines guide to Downtown inserts.
In this post, we’ll take a trip through Downtown and see what makes these cards so valuable, and – more importantly – should you invest in them.
Downtown is the closest SSP to the Kaboom, which we reviewed in detail right here.
It started as a basketball insert in Panini Studio. Back then, they were called “From Downtown,” and they featured a lot of long-range shooters and played upon the idea of “he hit that from way downtown” – like you’ll hear old-school commentators say.
Today, the cards have spread to football and baseball (in 2018). Meanwhile, the name has been shortened to “Downtown.” However, the cards have stayed true to the original art that made them unique.
Collectors love these cards because they always feature a sketch of a player – realistic but also slightly cartoonish – overlaid over artwork that represents the city the player plays in. For example, the inaugural Stephen Curry downtown showed Steph over the San Francisco Bay. Connecting players to their town with fantastic art resonated well with collectors.
Panini Downtown cards started as a case hit, meaning you’d pull one per hobby case. Unfortunately, that made them incredibly tough pulls. You had to spend a lot of money to get your hands on one.
Panini does us no favors by not releasing a print run. However, it’s safe to say they’ve become more populated now. They’ve even seeped into blaster boxes—I pulled one of Russell Wilson out of a Donruss 2020 that I picked up at Walmart.
For reference, PSA has graded 657 total 2016 Downtown basketball cards and over 1,000 for 2020.
Downtown has taken a journey over the years. For example, the insert set that started with NBA stars was released in Prizm Draft Picks for 2020. Instead, it featured college-jersey-wearing rookies (probably the only way Panini could figure out how to make Prizm Draft Picks sell).
Here’s a look at where they can be found:
To get a better feel for the value of Downtown Cards, let’s make some comparisons. However, comparisons can be tricky. This is because there are so many moving pieces.
|Player||Downtown||Kaboom!||Other short print|
So, let’s talk it through. A 2016 Downtown of Stephen Curry is worth $3,000 as a PSA 10, while an Optic Checkboard from the same year and same grade sells for $760 (that’s optic’s SSP for that year). Meanwhile, an Excalibur Kaboom of Curry from 2016 sells right around the same $3,000 mark as a PSA 10.
Let’s now look at 2020 Patrick Mahomes. A Downtown sold for $2,500, while a Kaboom sold for $2,100 (both PSA 10s). Meanwhile, a Prizm veteran auto /5 sold for $2,500, too. These were trumped by a PSA 10 Prizm Colorblast of Mahomes that sold for almost $6,000.
From these two cases, it seems that Kaboom! and Downtown cards sell for similar prices – even as much as a high-end, low-numbered veteran autograph.
The only insert that outsells the Kabooms and Downtowns is the Colorblast. But, of course, that makes sense since Colorblasts have been coming out of Prizm recently.
Finally, here’s our countdown of the Top 10 Downtown Cards ever. Note: this list is solely the opinion of me, the writer.
Is this a cop-out? Maybe. But the truth is that any time you’re lucky enough to get a downtown of the GOAT-conversation players, it’s a good thing. So, here you go. Consider them all right here.
While it’s a bit early to declare the best rookie of 2021’s quarterback class, Mac Jones is the clear standout. He’s… well, winning games. The rest of the QBs can’t say that, so consider Jones a temporary lock for this spot.
The 2018-19 set was many collectors’ favorite of them all, and adding the Black Mamba was a great touch.
The GOAT’s first appearance on a Downtown card is probably his best because of its significance to collecting. 2018 Downtown cards look plainer than recent versions, but that doesn’t discount their value.
While you should be thrilled with any LeBron Downtown, his first season in LA is probably the most desirable. His initial appearance – 2016 – was a Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron.
Same logic as the LeBron and Brady: celebrate any Mahomes, but this one is particularly noteworthy because it’s a specific set. In this case, the first Downtown football set.
Rookie! That’s the thing that makes this card truly special. To this point, most of the list does not include rookies because Downtown is historically more veteran-based. With Lamar Jackson, the combination of it being the first football set and his rookie year is good enough for a Top-5 spot.
The Josh Allen is so highly-ranked for the same reason as Lamar Jackson: being a rookie and inaugural Downtown makes it unique. I went back and forth as to which one should come first, but Allen has as bright a future as anybody.
The artwork on the 2016-17 Stephen Curry “From Downtown” card makes me think that somebody had an idea for this particular card, which turned into a whole set. Steph’s has “from downtown” tendencies to shoot from anywhere on the floor. In addition, the fantastic art of San Fransisco Bay makes this card rise above.
Luka Magic. Luka’s a Top 5 talent and will be a perennial MVP candidate for the next 10+ years. The fact that he has a rookie Downtown card is too much for any other superstar to match. The icing on the cake? It also features a jackalope in a bandana sitting on a barrel. Yep. The GOAT of Downtown cards.
Downtown cards are not only eye-catching, but they’re rare and artful enough to make them long-term holds. So, if you’re interested in investing in Downtowns, it could pay off big time in the future – despite the steep entry price.