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.

yodapanini

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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High End NBA Card Packaging = Russian Dolls

I pay a lot of attention to the packaging of hobby products. In fact as a kid I based my pack purchases solely on this aspect.

Now I’d been away from NBA cards for more than 12 years and just recently got back into it late this year (2010). Back in the day, there were only a handful of brands from the 4 main manufacturers, Fleer, Skybox, Topps & Upper Deck. The most expensive products then were Topps Finest & the Skybox E-X releases. Game-used jersey cards were next to impossible to find and only Skybox products offered autographed pulls on relatively easy odds via their cross-brand Autographics inserts. So upon my glorious return to collecting, I discover that GU cards and AUTOS are pretty commonplace especially if one buys high-end products.

I am aware that the hobby demanded these premium cards and were very much OK to shell out the big bucks for them. High end cards sure look tasty and the card stock used is 4-5 times thicker than what I’d been used to. Then I watched a few box-breaks on youtube and I have to say I was pretty disgusted when I discovered how these products are packaged. For example we have the Exquisite Collection from Upper Deck. You have seven cards inside a cushioned box wrapped in plastic. This box sits inside a tin container which is inside another cushioned box again wrapped in plastic. Everything then is contained in yet another bigger cardboard box wrapped in plastic! What a shameful waste of materials! In this age of eco-friendliness and consciousness, how can we stand by this travesty? Is all this necessary to make consumers feel they are getting the appropriate bang for their buck? I think not.

 

Hehe. Geddit?

I say Panini and the rest should set an example by being a little more ‘green’ and conserve on packaging which will no doubt lead to lower prices and “de-alienating” the rest of the hobby folk from the high end releases. Even if they choose to maintain the high prices, I wish they’d show more responsibility and maybe use recycled materials. Another idea would be to run a redemption program and let customers return the packaging in exchange for collectibles or cards.

Disclaimer: I am not a hippie nor a tree-hugger. I just care.