Retailers Looking Forward to 2011 Football Cards

Benefitting from a rookie class that features 4 potential first-round QBs and two Heisman Trophy winners, this spring’s football card options are positioned to be much more diverse – and competitive — than in recent years.

According to Kevin Isaacson of the Industry Summit, at least six companies are planning to issue NFL draft-focused football card products during the first half of 2011, via diverse group and individual licensing agreements. The increased choice – and competition – as compared to 2010’s offerings should generate expanded interest from collectors and the retailers who serve them.

Panini America and Topps return as the NFL Properties/Players Inc licensees, and thus will issue the first cards of 2011 draft selections that will be recognized as “rookie cards” by Beckett Media.

Upper Deck will issue cards under CLC licensing, which provides, among other assets, the exclusive right to picture players in their college uniforms. As expected, UD will launch its campaign with the popular, photo-driven Upper Deck Football brand. Traditional draft-pick producers SAGE and Press Pass will return with individually licensed cards.  SAGE reports it has completed agreements with more than 60 draft prospects, while Press Pass has pledged a compelling five-auto-per-box ratio in Press Pass Football. Adding to the mix:  Leaf CEO Brian Gray confirms that his company will enter the football card market this spring.

Among the key questions that will be debated as retailers prepare for the March 20-23 Industry Summit:

Which company will be first to deliver product to hobby stores? Will any company sign an exclusive with Auburn QB Cam Newton?  And how will GTSM’s autograph deal with Auburn RB Mark Ingram impact the card market? How will collectors to respond to the individually-licensed card designs from Press Pass, SAGE and Leaf?  What impact will the ongoing NFL labor dispute have on early-season card sales?

Whatever the answers, it’s clear that retailers – who clamored for more Q2 products during last year’s Summit – will get their wish answered this spring.

“It will be nice to have some more options to stock our shelves right around draft time – the earlier the better,” Colorado-based retailer Mike Fruitman said.