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Thoughts on the NBA-Panini Deal

PSA Collectors Club

A European company takes over the basketball card market…but what does it all man?

Panini has figured out a way to make cards and stickers uber-cool in the rest of the world. That in itself had to be of keen interest to the NBA, which apparently isn’t getting what it wants from Topps or Upper Deck. Those names may be stalwarts here, but when you’re selling in over 100 countries and kids still go ga-ga over your stickers in 2009, you’re in a different sort of league.

Their move into the US trading card market sent shockwaves around the hobby on Tuesday. It should inject some new blood into the NBA card market but what the NBA needs are a couple more superstars to break out. That’s what drives the market these days. And I can’t help but feel sorry for those collectors who once again see brands they like go by the wayside. Will Exquisite basketball be worth what it is now if no one is going to be making it anymore?

The economy has the card makers cutting back on new releases and cancelling others. When a brand or line is discontinued, collectors lose faith and the products themselves lose value. A guy who loves Sterling suddenly sees it go away and feels sort of jacked around. His loyalty and investment got him nothing just because the card companies can’t find enough collectors to support the continuation of the product. It doesn’t help recruit new collectors and it can turn off some who’ve been at it for awhile. Now, two entire manufacturers are no longer welcome on the court. It’s like 1982 all over again for basketball card fans.

Panini has no real history here. They’ve got work to do to. Meanwhile, fans of the traditional U.S. brands are left holding the ball. Visions of global growth trump continuity and tradition every time–even in our little hobby.