Our world seems to value predictability. Often there are very good reasons for this. If the laws of physics weren’t predictable, almost all the technologies we rely on every day would not be possible. How could you design an electrical circuit if you didn’t predictably know which direction electrons will flow? If the actions of our fellow drivers on the road were not predictable, it would be far too dangerous for us to even consider driving a car. What if the pressure of air in a fixed volume didn’t change with a change temperature? (For more you can read here.) Predictability is great. In fact, we might go mad if it didn’t exist. To manage the complexity of life our brains have evolved to use heuristics, or mental shortcuts, to help us make decisions about everything that we do. These shortcuts are all based on our past experiences. We use our past experiences to make predictions about what is likely to happen in the future and then based on that information we make what we feel is the best choice. To use heuristics is human. We all do it.
Heuristics are awesome. I’m all for making life easier. Sign me up! But, hold on a second. The use of heuristics comes at a cost. Imagine a world where absolutely everything is predictable. For example, if you’re a subscriber to NBA league pass you probably know what I mean. The games are great. But, what about the commercials? They are without a doubt predictable. NBA league pass plays the same commercials over, and over, and over, and over again.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen this commercial. On the surface it seems fine enough. JBL is selling you headphones through the use of pop music and a young, attractive actress. It seems pretty standard for the advertising industry. But, see it 30 times during a single game and that awful singing starts to haunt your dreams. How about some variety already?
The truth is that variety and unpredictability are hard. It usually takes more mental energy to create variety and unpredictability. It’s incredibly easy for native English speakers to recite the alphabet from A to Z. I bet that you can do that in about 5 seconds. It won’t take much mental energy at all. Go ahead try it and time yourself. Now, try to say all 26 letters exactly once in a completely random order. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Not so easy, right? (Full disclosure, I tried it. I have no idea if I managed to say all 26.) Being told to say the alphabet triggers a heuristic, or in this case a pattern we have been taught, that makes us sing the “ABC” song we learned as young children. It’s easy and comfortable.
In contrast, the unpredictable is often remarkable. One of my favorite examples of where unpredictability is encouraged is improvisation. Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and Wayne Brady have all made very successful careers out of mastering the art of improv. It’s something anyone can learn to do. It’s all about allowing yourself to adopt a certain mindset, a mindset where nothing is wrong, and then following a set of rules. A famous rule of thumb for improv is called “Yes, and …” Tina Fey describes it much better than I could ever hope to.
The variety and unpredictability of “Yes, and …” is part of what makes improv so entertaining. Since anything is possible and nothing is wrong, then the potential directions that a scene can go is infinite. It leads to surprises and many times surprises are delightful.
Which brings me to sports cards. Panini just released their 2018-19 Donruss Optic basketball set. With Optic, Panini takes the 2018-19 Donruss basketball set and gives it the ‘chrome’ treatment. In my opinion, it’s the product most analgous to Topps Chrome or Bowman Chrome. The photography doesn’t quite live up to some of the iconic Topps Chrome issues, but at least Panini is attempting to provide some cool action shots.
There seems to be a lot of Prizm versus Optic debate to be had. I think as sports fan we all love competition. There has to be a winner, right? We must crown the undisputed champion of shiny basketball cards. But what if we take principles of improv and apply them to basketball cards? Prizm is a really fun product that seems to provide collectors desirable early season rookie cards and quite a bit of value. Yes, that’s true, and Optic is a really fun product offering on-card Prizm rookie autographs and a broad selection of collectible color parallels. Both sound like good choices to me.
I have collected some data on the 2018-19 Donruss Optic Basketball Hobby print run over the last week or so. I started by gathering FOTL box break data and then supplemented that data with the more broadly distributed hobby boxes. Just like with Prizm this year, there doesn’t seem to be a difference between the FOTL boxes and the Hobby boxes, except for the addition of one Purple Stars (/13) parallel per box. Also, just as a note, base Rated Rookies are not short printed as compared to the other base cards. See the table below for the print run estimates.
Remember, the print run is only for the cards packed out in Hobby boxes. There is likely a big retail launch coming our way over the following days and weeks. So, the print run for base cards and Holo parallels will only go up from here. Also, just as a note, base Rated Rookies are not short printed as compared to the other base cards.
As a Hobby only reference point, in a past blog post I published the print run for 2018-19 Prizm Basketball as 4750 Hobby cases and 1140 Silver Prizms. The number of Hobby cases produced for Optic seems to be about 45% less than what was produced for Prizm. That same percentage decrease also goes for Holos versus Silver Prizms in Hobby boxes. It will be interesting to see how large the retail launch is for Optic.
Till next time – Jeff