My Kingdom For Some Foil On My NBA Cards

2013, the year Panini’s exclusive rights deal with the NBA ends, can’t get here soon enough. From my very extensive research which consisted of briefly skimming through 2 web articles, I found out that Panini is supposed to produce 10-15 different products each year. I’m no lawyer but isn’t Panini guilty of breach of contract? Did they release 10 different basketball brands last year? Do the words, DIFFERENT PRODUCTS, mean anything to them? Look at the very bland Rookies & Stars or Panini Threads brands. Comparing this year’s cards to the previous iteration is like playing a game of Spot The Difference!

Panini America must listen to a lot of Faith No More especially their song called The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies which has a line that ought to be their company motto, “This year you’ll sit and take it and you will like it. It’s the gentle art of making enemies”.

Can you imagine if the NBA gave the exclusive contract to a company like Upper Deck instead? The National Hockey League did that very thing a few years ago and now take a look at their products. Instead of high-school art school project designs that we get in brands like Prestige & even Timeless Treasures, the NHL fans can get excited about releases such as the foil-laden Black Diamond and the exquisite production values of, well, Exquisite.

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To be fair I began to question how the younger generation of collectors feels about this. I wondered what they thought about the card designs and printing technology of the nineties. My answers came in the form of my girlfriend. [Disclaimer: I am NOT dating a minor! She is 30 but had never come into contact with trading cards until she met me in 2010. So it’s a case of an unbiased, virginal look at cards. Wait, forget I said virginal…no, no, don’t call the cops]. In late 2010 I bought a box of 2010-11 Panini Prestige, my first one in over 12 years. She was as excited as me to see what they looked like and after I finished opening up all the packs and showed the cards to her she said, “You spent $100 on that?!” A few weeks later I got a hold of an old unopened box of 1999-00 Upper Deck Hardcourt and 1999-00 Upper Deck Black Diamond (for almost a quarter of the price of the Prestige box too). Her reaction to this product was a complete 180, “These cards are 11 years old?! Wow! They look fantastic! Much better than those cards you got before!”

See? It’s not nostalgia. It’s good taste.

Panini says they are just giving the hobby crowd what they asked for and that’s memorabilia cards. I firmly believe this trend is getting out of hand and has to change especially if we are getting memorabilia in place of overall quality and design. Game-used jersey cards used to be very exciting due to their rarity. Now they come 3 per box on average plus there is the question of their authenticity (are they really USED or not). Autographed cards were the pinnacle of chase cards because of the astronomical odds you had to beat to get one. These days eBay is flooded with autographed cards, most especially the enthusiasm-killer sticker auto variety, and it is obvious and very sad that the collecting world has now turned into a buy & sell industry. Why do we still even call it a HOBBY?

1990s: Holy crap! I just pulled a Hakeem Olajuwon Maximum Metal! 1:180 odds! Whoohoo! It’s awesome! Look at that cut-out design in the middle of the card. Yessss!

2010: Oh hey, a Hakeem jersey card. Hmmm. I wonder how much I can sell this for on eBay.

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