First up we have UD First Edition. These cards really are cheap. 10 cards in a pack for 99 cents, so basically 10 cents a card. You get an insert in every pack, I pulled a Mav (yeah) in a Raptor jersey. The cards are by far the thinnest in the group, but they have great photography, the same in fact as the UD Flagship set. They also have a silver or gold stripe up the left side that tells you they are first edition. What they don't have is any foil or much gloss. The design is the same we've seen for baseball and football already this year, so it's very familiar, but I still like it fine. Overall, a very nice product especially for the price.
The second pack is from Topps and like UD, this will be their last NBA licensed set for a while. The Topps cards are a little thicker and glossier, so they feel better quality, but I don't like the look as much. They have a little foil logo and player name, but also a fairly thick white border all the way around. Topps does use action shots, but they aren't as dynamic as UD. Most of their cards show the featured player with only bits and pieces of opponents making it into the frame. (I do really like that they caught Pau guarding his brother on Marc's card though.) Topps come 12 cards a pack for $1.99, which is about 16 cents a card. Not a bad deal at all.
The next pack up is Upper Decks flagship set. The more sophisticated version of First Edition. These cards are even thicker than the Topps and feature foil logos and player names. They also really make UD's superior photography stand out with full bleed photos. The thing I like about these is that unlike Topps, you usually see a lot of action with the featured player as well as opposing players. It makes for some nice unique shots. The UD cards came 18 in a pack for $2.99, which like Topps, is around 16 cents per card. So far, I'd say this is the best value.
Here we have the first "Flagship" set from new exclusive license holders Panini. Surprisingly, these cards were the thickest of them all. Somehow though, they appear cheaper than the UD set. I suppose it's the lack of foil and the somewhat matte finish. Overall , I like the design, especially the full bleed photos, much better than most Panini/Donruss stuff that is filled with odd criss crossing geometric shaped backgrounds behind a cutout player. What is odd about the Panini set though is, while they are all "in action" shots, there is almost no action. Check it out, you don't see any opposing players anywhere. It's almost like they are all playing one on one in a packed arena and the other guy is the one with the camera. Weird. I do like that you get an insert card and a sticker in every pack, which adds some variety. These were priced 12 (11 cards, 1 sticker) for $1.99 also, so they too cost about 16 cents each.
Lastly, we have Panini Prestige. These were the most expensive at $2.99 for 5 cards, which is 60 cents apiece. Yikes! They are no thicker than their plain Panini counterparts and also feature no foil, though they are quite glossy. The photography is also basically the same as the cheaper set, but features a white faded edge at the top that I don't really like. I'd rather they just run the photo to the top edge and make the portion at the bottom a lot smaller. For the price, this set seems to be a rip off. I don't have any idea why they cost so much more. No foil, no guaranteed insert per pack and no stickers! Give me the base set any day. So there you have it. If I rank them in order of best bang for the buck, I'd say UD has a slight advantage over Panini because of better photography, First Edition third, Topps fourth and Prestige last. I just can't see what is so great about any of the more expensive Panini/Donruss stuff and that goes for the football offerings as well. Anyway, that's my opinion, like it or not. Later.