The battle over player trading card contracts is starting to give off 1950s Bowman vs. Topps vibes.
Just as the two baseball card makers went head-to-head to grab exclusive deals with big leaguers in the Mantle-Mays-Aaron days, card companies are squaring off over exclusives but this time, it’s often about college and even high school athletes.
The latest domino to fall is a Wednesday announcement from Panini America that it had signed Ohio State quarterback Julian Sayin, to an exclusive, multi-year trading card and autograph deal. After enrolling early at Alabama, the top quarterback in the class of 2024 transferred to Ohio State last week. The deal with Panini is his first NIL partnership.
The contract includes “autographed trading cards and marketing,” according to Panini. Sayin’s first trading cards will be featured in NIL and collegiate products Panini is planning.
“We are excited to announce our partnership with Julian – he is a special player and we look forward to following his collegiate career and beyond,” remarked Jason Howarth, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Athlete Relations.
A native of Carlsbad, CA, Sayin was a three-year starter at Carlsbad High School, where he threw for 86 touchdowns and nearly 8,000 yards, while completing more than 70 percent of his passes. He led his team to a 30-4 record as a starter.
“You always dream of getting your first trading card, I’m excited and proud to be partnering with Panini for my exclusive autograph trading cards,” Sayin said in a news release.
Panini recently signed another top high school quarterback prospect, Dylan Raiola, who’s committed to play at Nebraska next season. The company’s first high school signee was Tre Johnson, one of the highest ranked players in the class of 2024.
Last October, Leaf signed high schooler JuJu Lewis to an NIL deal for cards and autographs.
In December, Fanatics announced a deal with Darryn Peterson, a high school basketball star who’s part of the 2025 recruiting class.