Well it was announced sometime last week that the company Panini will be the exclusive trading card company of the NBA. I've had some time to think about this and I am still not sure what I think about this news.
I grew up with companies like Upper Deck and Topps, and each year you knew what to expect. I'm more interested in the "mid-level" products like Topps Chrome and SP Authentic. I love the superfractors that comes out of Topps and the on-card autographs that SP Authentic gives you. But starting next year all that is gone. Of course the higher end products like Exquisite are great to ooh and awe at but $500 for a 5 card pack...what the hell are people thinking? That is when this hobby became way out of hand. I love the idea of possibly pulling a Michael Jordan/Lebron James dual logoman autograph 1/1...but to bust through cases of this stuff to try and get it? Wow. You can get a house, or a couple of houses with that money. Now everyone is obviously welcome to spend their money how they see fit, but it simply amazes me that people have that kind of coin just laying around. After selling a whole bunch of cards I finally had enough to get just ONE case. And dude, that was scary! Haha. Would I do it again? I don't know. I like paying off bills a little more than a nice rookie autograph of Marco Bellineli [true story].
Now what didn't I like about these companies? I think they were just lazy! Products starting looking a lot like each other so there was no effort from a design perspective from year to year. Maybe they needed to maintain a certain "look" so you knew which was Topps and which was Upper Deck, but it's like they didn't even try. And customer service...WHOA! I have heard so many horror stories on HobbyKings dealing with the customer service representatives from both companies. Simply terrible! And of course redemptions. Why would you release a product if it did not contain all of the items that you used to market it? It's like buying a car and then finding out that it didn't have seats because the company wasn't quite ready. Now I know that players have very busy lives and such, but don't these companies have contracts with these players? Aren't they obliged by a binding contract that they need to sign these cards? It just drives collectors crazy when they see that thick white cardboard or with small printing on it. And now what of these redemptions? Now that Upper Deck and Topps won't be producing cards starting next year, are they just going to not care? Initial signs are starting to say "No they don't". In THIS LINK a guy had a redemption for a card that probably booked around $1k, and got three cards probably booked together at $500. It's the shape of things to come.
Now Panini...what can they bring new to the hobby? It sounds like they are looking to get more into the retail business, like Target and Walmart and stores like that. So what happens to all the Hobby exclusives? What happens to the players that have exclusive contracts with Upper Deck or Topps? Will those rights be sold to Panini? I'm assuming Panini is going to want to make some money, and to make money, you need player like Kobe or Lebron or Garnett or of course Jordan on your side. Unfortunately, it sounds like there will still be sticker autographs on new products...already off to a bad start. Apparently they have a good presence overseas, so I guess the NBA is more interested in expanding their market than pleasing their fans in the US. It was a business decision, and the NBA could honestly care less about products like Exquisite and Triple Threads. One good thing that I think will come out of this is that kids can now come back to the hobby. I remember how happy I was to complete a set back when I was 10. Even a basic Exquisite base set [with no autographs] is too expensive for the common junior high kid. So it will be nice to have them back enjoying the hobby.
Panini's got a long road ahead of them. Assuming that their bid was way higher than that of Upper Deck or Topps without having any of the big names nailed down under contract, I don't know how they will be making money. The quality of these cards better be amazing in order for them to not become the biggest joke in the sports card collecting hobby. Good luck Panini...you'll need it!