Panini will show off its partnership with the Baseball Hall of Fame when its 2012 Cooperstown Baseball product hits the hobby next week. It's a potentially important release for the company formerly known as Donruss.
Traditionally, card manufacturers that don't have licensing agreements with the various leagues struggle to produce products that find real success in the marketplace. It's not universally true, but there is no doubt that a partnership brings numerous benefits. Panini was dropped by Major League Baseball several years ago, but it's possible the Cooperstown product may be an attempt to get MLB interested in expanding its license again at some point down the road. Putting the Hall of Fame logo on its cards gives Panini some street cred with card collectors who not only take their new releases seriously but appreciate quality nods to the game's past.
Panini has been building the product up for weeks and it's hard not to be impressed with the sheer scope of autographed cards that will pop at a rate of one per box of 24 packs. Better yet, the black and white cards, many of which have come from the Hall of Fame's archives, have a classic look when paired with the blue Sharpie autographs that grace the bottom. The SRP on packs stands at a pedestrian $3.99 but this is one release that might have been stronger as a high end.
Some of the autographed cards will be produced in significant quantities but others will be short printed to what looks to be as few as 10.
Many retired Hall of Famers' autographs can be had for less than $50. Panini has also honored baseball's Hall of Fame writers and broadcasters and it's hard not to imagine collectors who pull a journalist auto being a little disappointed. And will collectors find the remainder of the content in Panini Cooperstown worthy of $90-100 per box (or more)? That remains to be seen. Still, if impressing the bigwigs is part of the plan, doing a comprehensive and classy set focused on the history of the game is a good start. Take a look at the gallery below to see some of the cards that have been returned in time for insertion into this new issue.