By Susan Lulgjuraj | Beckett Basketball Editor
Panini America surprised basketball collectors today.
As 2012-13 Innovation hit the hobby shelves, Panini revealed a rookie autograph that has been noticeably missing from its products this year.
Portland’s Damian Lillard has signed cards for Panini.
“We had an opportunity to secure a limited number of Damian Lillard autographs and are pleased that we were able to add the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year to the last four releases of our 2013 NBA product calendar and feature his autographs on his NBA Portland Trailblazers trading cards,” said Jim Stefano, Panini America’s Senior Director of Product Development on Panini’s blog.
Lillard’s autographs will appear in Innovation, Intrigue, Immaculate and Flawless (a yet unannounced product).
Lillard’s autographs were only found in Leaf products up until this point. He already has 134 cards on the market, but the Panini cards will be the first NBA-licensed cards.
Update: Leaf Trading Cards sent out a press release on Thursday stating that is still has an exclusive agreement with Lillard for autographs. It also stated that Panini secured Lillard’s autographs from upcoming Panini products in a deal between the two card companies.
“I just wanted to clear up any confusion as to why these autographs will start appearing in other manufacturers’ products shortly,” Leaf CEO Brian Gray said in a release. “Basically, it’s because of a unique arrangement I spearheaded in order to make one of basketball’s brightest stars available to consumers on other companies’ cards.”
Lillard’s autographs have appeared on Panini basketball cards. Leaf put sticker autographs on Prizm and Select cards, had the autos authenticated by PSA/DNA and included them in Leaf’s 2012-13 Best of Basketball product.
Panini America did confirm to Beckett Media that it did acquire autographs from a third party to use on trading cards.