2012 Panini Signature Series: Return of the Original

by Chris Harris

It was one of the most significant baseball card products ever produced, and was based on a concept revolutionary for its time: One guaranteed autographed trading card of a Major Leaguer in every pack.  That was the concept behind 1996 Leaf Signature Series.  Granted, you were more than likely to pull an autograph of Frankie Rodriguez than Alex Rodriguez, but the autograph in every pack idea was a hit with collectors.

It’s hard to believe that it has been over a decade and a half since the release of the first Signature Series, and since then the “one hit in every pack” genre has become almost commonplace.  But the legacy of the Signature Series brand name is more than enough for Panini America to try and revive it for 2012.

Not much is currently known about 2012 Panini Signature Series; however, each six-card pack will yield a minimum of three autographs.  Perhaps ceding to collector complaints from their initial baseball releases, the autograph checklist will have noticeably fewer minor leaguers and prospects.  Also noticeable will be the use of very closely-cropped and head-and-shoulders photographs – so as to conceal the lack of MLB logos.  Judging by the initial photos released by Panini, the cards have a mid-1990s Studio look and feel to them.

Among some of the autographed inserts that have been revealed include the “Rated Rookie Autographs,” a sure-to-make-the-traditionalists-cringe autographed manufactured patch done in the style of the iconic 1980s-era subset logo.  Only 299 copies of each will be made and will include all the top rookies of 2012.  “Lumber Cuts” and “Game Ball Signatures” will have autographs on wood and leather-like substances.

Whether or not such autographs will remain over time, or fade away, is to be seen. The all cut signature-based “Diamond Cuts” will  be serial-numbered to 25 copies or less, while the plainly-named  “Signatures” will have all the stars of the game on on-card autographs.  Each Signatures will be serial-numbered to 99.

Finally, the product will be supplemented by a base set in which all cards will be serial-numbered to 499.  2012 Panini Signature Series will be released the week of August 29.