I'm not even sure how a review works when it comes to something like this. I'm used to reviewing CDs, or books, or DVDs, and so on. In any event, following up on my previous post, I now have probably way too many of these cards on hand to give some impressions. Overall? A fun item for Beach Boys fans who haven't had much "merch" to purchase over the years. If you don't get caught up in the utterly ridiculous pyramid scheme that is card collecting, and just enjoy whatever cards you get, then this is pure fun.
First things first: As mentioned before, there are "Retail" and "Hobby" variations on these packs. Target stores are starting to get in the "Retail" packs, while most online sources are selling the "Hobby" variation. The two types feature the exact same set of cards. The main difference seems to be that each has one exclusive sub-set ("retail" gets guitar picks, "hobby" gets concert-worn clothing swatches), and the actual breakdown/makeup of packs may be different in terms of proportions of which cards you get.
While Panini offers no guarantee, buying a box does seem to easily yield one base set of 120 cards. The distribution of base set cards seems to be pretty good. I've purchased almost a box's worth of retail cards and got a full hobby box. I was hoping to pull two sets, but no such luck. I still ended up with only one #1 card, while some cards I have triples or quadruples on. This is normal of course.
The base set seems pretty random content-wise. Random photos of the group and individual members, from pretty much all eras. While there are a good amount of early shots, I was pleasantly surprised that they were not afraid to use some not-so-flattering 70's shots of the guys. I honestly never thought a company would make a trading card featuring a photo of 1979 Brian Wilson with the Grizzly Adams beard and "Help Me Rhonda" shirt. Some weird shots are here, in addition to some classic well-known shots. The card backs have random factoids, none of which are new information for hardcore fans. A few of the card backs surprisingly touch on solo activities; one even specifically mentions that Brian is now touring with Al and Dave.
The sub-sets are fun, but frustrating as there is no realistic way to amass much of any sub-set unless you buy numerous boxes. Some of the sub-sets aren't fancier, but simply themed differently. "Honors" picks on random honorably events, from Hollywood Walk of Fame stars to awards and so on. "In their Own Words" feature rather generic quotes from various band members. "Sounds of Summer" focuses on specific songs and singles. "Top 10" is obviously themed.
The more premium-looking cards include a series of album-themed cards that feature foily depictions of albums covers with a record popping out of the top. Some are "Gold" themed if they went gold, and so on. Some simply state "On the Record." We also have "Etchings" which are metallic-looking shiny cards that have a slightly raised head-shot of various band members. They picked some odd pictures for the cards I got, including the circa-1978 drunk-looking Carl. I got one "Artist Proof" which seems to be of dubious note. Apparently each card has a limited run of 99 "artist proofs" that are no different other than being stamped "Artist Proof" on the front and numbered on the back. They may be more rare than the "record" cards, but I frankly would have rather had another one of those, or one of the "etchings."
I did not manage a guitar pick in the loose retail packs I got. I did get the guaranteed two "Concert Gear" cards in the hobby box. I got one each for Brian and David. Interestingly, the card at least claims that these are actual "concert worn" bits of cloth. The cloth is included in a little square in the center of the thick card. The cloth is not covered, you can touch it.
Other rare sub-sets I didn't get include metal stamping plates (more interesting to card collectors than Beach Boys fans I would imagine), and of course most sought after are the rare actual autographs from the five living members.
All in all, this is a fun diversion for Beach Boys fans. I for one simply have to divorce myself from the idea of "collecting" all the sub-sets, and divorce myself from being annoyed at the card collecting industry (both collectors and the manufacturers) for creating such an odd and manipulative market and style of marketing for these things. Frankly, I'd be happy to see a second "Series" of base cards with more goofy photos of the guys.
If you're interested in getting a full set, I'd say definitely buy a sealed box so statistically you're highly likely to get the full set. If you buy a box's worth through loose packs from different boxes, you will have a tougher time getting the full base set.
How collectible or rare will these be? Beats me. They seem to be selling well online right now, with the few retailers offering full hobby boxes slowly but consistently jacking up the prices. Rare (and not so rare) loose cards have already flooded eBay. I'd love to store an extra box of these away, but I'd rather get another box and open it all up!