College football is less than two weeks away, and Panini America is gearing up with its first stand-alone college products since securing a multi-year trading card agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company in January.
Panini is anticipating a September 4 release for blaster and hobby boxes of selected colleges — just in time for the opening kickoff for many schools on September 5.
That deal with the CLC added nearly 200 partner schools to double Panini’s stable of college agreements, including such marquee programs as Alabama, Michigan and Florida State. Notre Dame remains the lone plum out of Panini’s reach, as the school signed with Upper Deck late last year.
Depending on the school, this year’s offering will feature football, basketball and baseball stars that made their name collegiately.
So now a collector can buy a hobby box of his or her favorite school, or mix and match with several blaster boxes of key schools. Big names will be in the mix, like Joe Namath, Reggie Jackson, Tim Tebow, Jim Kelly, Emmitt Smith, Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Tom Brady, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Durant, Bill Walton and Rutherford B. Hayes.
Rutherford B. Hayes?
Yes, the 19th president of the United States is one of the names apparently featured in the Ohio State set, although there is no record of Hayes playing sports in Columbus. He did read law there, but that’s a different game altogether. Gerald Ford, our 38th president and a football star in college, is part of the Michigan set.
Hobby boxes will contain 24 packs, with eight cards to a pack. Blasters also will have eight cards to a pack, but only 10 per box. Cards will feature athletes that played for the school, plus big moments in each school’s athletic history.
Set sizes will vary. Many schools, like Alabama and FSU, will have 80-card sets, with Florida having 85. Other schools, like Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan, will have as few as 50 cards.
Schools like Arizona State and USC will showcase stars from three sports — football, baseball and basketball. Most will focus on football and basketball stars; Duke will only feature basketball players.
Blaster boxes will feature an autograph or memorabilia card. There also will be three types of parallels — silver, gold and black. Inserts will feature players who have won the Heisman Trophy or the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, all-conference players, All-Americans and conference players of the year. Honors silver cards will feature silver holographic foil.
Parallels, inserts, auto and relic cards also will be numbered to 99, 25 and 10.
I attended a Gator Club meeting in St. Petersburg two weeks ago, and the place was awash in a sea of orange and blue. Panini is hoping a Florida alumnus who sees a blaster box of his beloved team at his local store will want to grab one.
And that could be true for rabid fans in Baton Rouge, Ann Arbor, Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee, and Columbus.
There’s no word yet on pricing.
Panini’s first college product this year was 2015 Contenders Draft Picks, which was released last spring.