Breaking: Panini to have full NFL football card exclusive starting in 2016



By Ryan Cracknell | Hobby Editor

The NFL is going exclusive.

In a call with distributors today, Panini America CEO Mark Warsop announced that the company will have a full exclusive for NFL and NFLPA football cards starting in 2016.

Topps, whose license is set to expire in the spring, will continue to produce digital trading cards.

Under the agreement, which goes into effect in the spring, Panini is expected to release up to 30 NFL products per year.

In the call, which was confirmed by multiple sources, Warsop was conciliatory towards Topps as they wrap up their current agreement. He referred to Panini’s own dealing with a similar situation when Panini’s NHL license ended following the 2013-14 season and the difficulties they encountered using their remaining assets and autographs.

The NFL is the final of the major four sports leagues to go the exclusive route for trading cards. Once this new deal goes into effect, Panini will have exclusives for football and basketball, Topps with MLB and Upper Deck with the NHL. Panini also has exclusive deals with the majority of the NCAA’s Division I schools.

Panini and the NFLPA originally announced their exclusive deal at 2014 National Sports Collectors Convention. At the time, it wasn’t a full exclusive as the deal with the NFL needed to be reached separately.

In 2015, Topps celebrated 60 years in the sport. And while that history is slated to continue, it will be very different. Digital does not have the same history as the flagship Topps Football line or even more modern brands like Topps Chrome.

We reached out to both Panini and Topps for comment. Panini declined comment at this time. Topps has not yet responded and we’ll update if they do.

We’ll have more on this story as it develops.


Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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  1. Bart 22 October, 2015 at 18:42

    Awesome! I’m sure the complete lack of competition will prod Panini to freshen and improve an already unimaginative and minimally acceptable product line.

  2. David D 22 October, 2015 at 18:49

    A SAD- SAD- SAD- day for collectors!!!!!! I remember when we said goodby to Fleer- Donruss- Press Pass! The fact that Panini- home of the $875.00 pack of cards is taking over forces me to leave a hobby that I loved and collected with for 52 years!! Very, very SAD!

  3. bradley thomas 22 October, 2015 at 18:53

    Panini wants you to think this is a good thing.In reality this is the worse thing that could happen to card collectors.Panini is pretty much forcing you to buy there products now if you collect football.Competition is good.Panini made sure they have no competition in return we collectors will feel this in a bad way.Such a sad day in the hobby.RIP to the football collector world!

  4. Patrick 22 October, 2015 at 19:54

    3 card companies, 10 products each per year in each sport is what I think would be best for the hobby. These exclusives will really hurt the hobby soon. No competion. Perhaps we as collectors need to start writing the leagues with complaints.

  5. Chris 22 October, 2015 at 20:04

    30 products from a company who can’t come up with 3 products that are worth anything. Football cards will be dead by the end of this deal.

  6. greg 22 October, 2015 at 20:23

    It’s a sad day for collecting when there is no competition. Thats what the idea of sports is all about. I’ve been a huge Topps fan for many years. Don’t get me wrong, I like Panini but when there is no competition in the open market. The hobby will eventually shrivel up and die.

  7. Michael Oddo 23 October, 2015 at 07:18

    Gee Panini can make 100 crappy products and not 50 now. Thanks but no thanks! I will stick to topps baseball.

  8. Joe Davey 23 October, 2015 at 08:55

    A sad day.
    I will not be ‘expanding’ my collecting into 30 products, there will be too much duplication of the same veterans / rookies. I will stay to the same Panini products I have bought previously.
    When Upper Deck lost it’s NFL license I did not switch to Ultimate, Sweet Spot etc of college unis.
    I’m not buying any of the college versions this year (Prizm, Contenders) they are not NFL. No to Clear Vision and others.
    Panini won’t get any more revenue from me, and if they sell less product, less revenue for the NFL and NFLPA.
    I wait for the day when Topps returns and there are at least two companies producing NFL. I don’t see how this is a winner for the NFL.

  9. Charlie DiPietro 23 October, 2015 at 09:28

    I would like to see Panini, Topps, Upper Deck and Leaf all have licensed products for all sports, but that is not economically possible in today’s business of manufacturing sports cards. All four major leagues have decided that exclusives are best for financial growth. Sports cards collecting is a hobby but it is also a business. Without retail business profitability, the hobby will cease to exist in the manner which collectors enjoy today.

    Panini America has a proven track record with their exclusive in NBA Basketball. From a retail business perspective, NBA Basketball products are the best ever in the hobby. From a hobby collector’s perspective, I believe it is the same; otherwise basketball sales would not be as good as they are.

    Today Panini NFL football products are my best performing NFL products. Panini football products represent about 65% of my NFL football sales. I believe Panini America will continue their path of continuous improvement for 2016 NFL Football products.

    For everyone who love to collect Topps Football products, I feel your pain and frustration. When Panini became exclusive for NBA Basketball, many collectors expressed their frustration with their wallet. At that time, Panini had never produced NBA Basketball cards and collectors were doubtful that Panini could give them what they wanted in NBA Basketball. However, NBA basketball collectors have come back to the Basketball collecting stronger than ever. Panini America has proven their ability to give basketball collectors the best looking and most valuable products the hobby has ever enjoyed.

    Panini America has already proven their ability to give NFL collectors many outstanding NFL Football products. The challenge will not be as great as it was when Panini became exclusive for NBA Basketball card products. At the same time, Panini is well aware they must prove themselves to Topps NFL Football collectors.

    Topps Football Card Collectors keep an open mind and look at what Panini America has to offer in 2016. Panini America is financially successful because they give the customer what they want and they are successful in continuously improving their product lines. Panini America is aware of your frustration and is out to win you over with outstanding products and the best customer service in the hobby.

  10. TheBigDog 23 October, 2015 at 09:58

    I will miss Topps – they were the last company who listed complete stats on their base set, which I loved. Many people feel this is the death knell for the hobby. I’m not so sure. Although I will miss some Topps sets, others will be replaced with similar Panini sets. Are Finest and Prizm that different?

    The last few years, competition forced companies to be innovative and try to one up each other. Having one company feel compelled, or be able, to keep things fresh may be a reach. I just hope the hobby doesn’t get stale, and that Topps will re-enter the scene somewhere in the future. I’m sure that’s just a dream, though.

  11. mark z 23 October, 2015 at 10:07

    ultimately the market will speak for itself with total sales.

    would be interesting if someone were able to measure how much panini + topps products sold in last 2 years, vs panini only next two years..

    I collect my favorite team from any brand (although topps is my favorite) and will continue to do so.


  12. Brad Edler 23 October, 2015 at 10:18

    Thanks to Panini the Football Card Market will be Garbage!! 30 overproduced products a year and they increase production in EVERY product every year. Every product has 30+ 1/1s and many variations now. Its an absolute JOKE. Thanks Panini for ruining the hobby with your GREED. Card values will never be the same. All the people that’s been collecting since they been kids are about to leave this hobby. That’s SAD.

  13. David Johnson 23 October, 2015 at 10:25

    I heard rumors this was coming and am truly sad to hear that the NFL joined the other leagues with the exclusive deal. I hope Topps does what Panini has done with MLB and gets some kind of license to produce cards, albeit without logos.

  14. J.R. 23 October, 2015 at 11:30

    Very frustrating. Panini does put out some decent products and nice looking cards; I’m not here to jump on the “everything Panini does is garbage” bandwagon. There are some stinkers from all companies (Topps Fire, I’m looking at you.) but ultimately, it is the lack of competition that I find most disturbing.

    I also think that 30 products for the year is exactly what is wrong with that hobby. Great, now there will be 10 products with RC’s numbered to 999 or 499, 10 products with RC’s numbered to 299 or 99, and of course, the 10 other ultra high-end products with RC’s numbered to their jersey number, or 50, 20, or even 10.

    That’s OK, because right along side all of the rookies that won’t be worth all that much because there will be so many of them out there, you will have your fill of “relics not from any specific game, event, or season” of 100 players in each products, all numbered to 499 or 399 or 299, if they are even numbered at all.

    But don’t worry, you’ll also have tie-dyed, camouflaged, prizm, sparkled, cracked ice, red, blue, green, pink, and gold parallels to chase in every product, of course accompanied by the obligatory sticker autographed versions of each.

    Ugh. Competition is what is GOOD for the hobby. Transparency is what is GOOD for the hobby. 30 products per year, even if it were from 5 different manufacturers, is still bad. But I guess the NFL cards will at least have pro logos, right?

  15. Charlie 23 October, 2015 at 11:31

    17 comments so far, 15 are negative, and 2 (including this one) are saying it’s interesting.

    I’m not saying Beckett news feeds can tell you everything you need to know about collector reactions. But it has to be somewhat indicative.

  16. Arjan 23 October, 2015 at 12:06

    So sad to see topps lose football. I grew up collecting the topps brand. I always bought at least a box per year and when I had my son I thought it would be cool to buy him the factory set every year for christmas. I thought it would be a great tradition so sad to see that die. At least i have 60 years of history to collect. Hopefully the NFL will see the value of competition and the history Topps has with football fans

  17. Bent Corners 23 October, 2015 at 12:09

    Hopefully people speak with their wallets to match these entertaining negative comments.

    Panini has shown little ability to formulate lasting brands in football, and will now be responsible for creating many. The dude who said they have turned basketball around is dreaming, the cost of acquiring and maintaining the license still outweighs the performance by quite a bit. Dont kid yourself.

    Football is a soft market, and the amount they spent is gargantuan. More of a discrepancy than the irresponsible investment in the NBA. This means they will be in the red for years and years to come. Not only will this likely cause a reevaluation by their parent company, but potentially much more damage.

    Good luck with this Panini, you have singlehandedly killed any hope of turning this hobby around. At least we still have digital.

  18. cardfan1 23 October, 2015 at 12:43

    While I like Panini and Topps seems to have been a bit weak the past few years I do think that competition is good for the industry. Really liked it when there was a few companies to choose from. I am sick of all the no named hits in the products where a lot of times these guys don’t even make a team. I would rather have 1 or 2 hits per box and make them good players that I would actually want to keep their cards!

  19. John Bateman 23 October, 2015 at 13:04

    As a low end Base Set Collector 2015 Score Football was the best set in years by either Topps or Panini – great design and a lot different players – I thought I was back in the 1970s and 1980s which is a Great Thing. Panini should some how try to integrate the Fantasy Football explosion into cards – I think Topps tried something like this in 1999 or 2003. The football card market could grow if they go in the right direction.

  20. Dan 23 October, 2015 at 15:17

    Although I’ve pretty much already stopped collecting anything released this century, the idea that Topps won’t have an NFL set (digital doesn’t count in my mind), is sad. Hopefully just a blip like the boring Philly cards of the mid ’60’s.

  21. Pete 23 October, 2015 at 17:41

    Topps still could produce football cards that attract the older collector like me.

    For example, how about “Topps Archives Football” that features retired payers that are not currently affiliated with the NFLPA?

    Also, didn’t Topps have a couple of USFL sets years ago? Why not produce some type of “Real One” set that features auto from retired players like Herschel Walker and Jim Kelly?

    Why not an AFL set? I’m sure there are players from the 1960’s that would be open to signing and have some game used items lying around.

  22. Lance 24 October, 2015 at 11:19

    This is terrible and hopefully somehow topps can get a license. Panini is garbage every set looks identical, loads of overpriced products that have very low value. Looks like this will be my last yr collecting football cards :(

  23. Nolan Klein 25 October, 2015 at 20:53

    terrible news for the hobby. No Upper deck college football cards either now because of Panini. Back to full time baseball collecting for now.

  24. Cody 25 October, 2015 at 22:46

    I’m so sick of these exclusive deals. Thanks for not caring about collectors at all…how did these even start? Isn’t it against the anti trust or monopoly laws in the u.s.?
    Regardless…whoever is behind this is hurting the hobby…doing terrible damage to it.

    Pisses me off….

  25. Dave 26 October, 2015 at 01:07

    The one thing I dislike about Panini is the fact that it seems like 90% of the autos you get in their products are sticker autos.

    Look at the difference between Prizm and Topps Chrome. Prizm is all stickers and Chrome is almost entirely on card.

    Even NT has a bunch of sticker autos. Yes Topps has a couple sticker autos in their high end products but it is mainly only on the MEM autos. I’ve just seen way to many Panini sticker base autos coming out of $500 boxes. Come on now.

    Panini please stop being cheap. If Topps can do on card autos in $50 boxes so can you.

  26. scott 29 October, 2015 at 13:18

    I have 100s of thousands of old football cards from all the companys will one campany making them now not make the older cards wirth more or not just a question guys

  27. Steve-Dood 11 November, 2015 at 22:31

    I think what Scott is trying to say to us is-will the older cards put out by basically one or two companies…..BE WORTH ANYTHING ?? My thought; NO-not much

    OBVIOUSLY; Panini, the NFL, the NFLPA, anybody with any sort of ‘billfold’ or ‘wallet’ that lets decisions like this be made……………………………………….DOESNT GIVE A FF ABOUT THE COLLECTOR !!! That is very evident by JUST this post alone.

    Like many comments here………..back to the TRUE sport we all love, along with Hot Dogs-Apple Pie & Chevrolet. My collecting coin will now be MLB (till Panini gets ‘Exclusive’ contracts with them……and I wouldn’t be surprised if that isn’t very-very close)

  28. Mark 31 January, 2016 at 20:45

    Time and again, the NFL finds ways to make its product worse–not just football cards but football itself. This is horrible news, not just because Panini produces only 2 products worth buying (one of which is made up of cards thicker than a bible) per year whereas Topps has about 10. Panini sucks but it’s hard to blame them for going after this deal. The real problem is the NFL has become a greedy, bloodsucking tapeworm that will do everything possible to bilk its players, partners, and fans, even if it results in dead stadiums, 3rd stringers playing by week 16, and now this, which, on a much smaller scale kind of sums it all up. I doubt anyone involved in this decision gives a flip about collectors, which is sad.

  29. John huber 22 May, 2016 at 19:52

    I will definitely miss topps but it will save me money since all I buy is topps football

  30. Vin G 27 May, 2016 at 11:50

    Everyone can put down Panini, but ppl are going to complain no matter what. there are and were dozens of releases every year and if you can’t find one you like then leave the hobby. From what ive seen so far from Panini is a vast improvement in Quality and design also in the lower end products they have gone out and signed big names to sign in thier products.. 2016 Prime Signatures is the best product ive seen in years that has been released in May. Usually it is all low end products that lose all thier value as soon as Full uniform releases come out

  31. Phil 18 July, 2016 at 23:21

    As it is said “all good things must come to an end”. Now ends the concept of the football card.

    Very sad to see the death of the Topps football card (and don’t tell me they will be living on in the form of “digital cards”, which sounds like crap to just about every true collector).

    Moreover, I see the NFL as “going exclusive” with Panini, to be about as successful as when they tried to create the “official NFL card” with Pro Set back in 1989. That lasted, how long ? About four years and ending up in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for Pro Set.

  32. Phil 1 August, 2016 at 19:41

    Have you all seen what Panini did with the NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2016 cards this year ? STICKERS !! Also, about half the size of regular cards.


  33. michael 10 August, 2016 at 00:34

    it sucks… but i love football cards. i dont care what brand it is. i buy whatever brand that is worth the most. panini has alot of dif kind of cards. it will still be fun. settle down people. who buys score anyways… lol crap. i will miss tops chrome though. there will still be chrome. it will just say panini instead. and there will still be rare cards out there. panini is bringing back the hobby anyways. since 2012 panini has got the football card collectors back into collecting again.

  34. joe13 22 August, 2016 at 20:35

    Bad move by the NFL to have only panini do football cards. 30 products too many. Just keep it to about 3 products like they do in the NHL. Topps used to do all 4 sports & the cards looked good. There should more than 1 card co doing cards.

  35. Ray Honaker 10 September, 2016 at 15:53

    Just bring back fleer topps upper deck action packed. Man those were the days! Topps stadium club fleet ultra upper deck holograms topps finest really miss those sets! Who can afford 500 for a box which is 1 card
    In 1 pack. So friggin stupid!!!

  36. Peter Garthe 14 September, 2016 at 10:13

    I like Topps Football Trading Cards, I have been buying it for 45 years now. Panini is one of the strangest Football Trading Cards that I seen in a long time. They are terrible. No Individual statistics at all. I won’t buy Panini for the last time. I will buy one, Today and then good bye to Panini. I am not very happy with the products, These days. I want to get Pat Eilers football Card, Extremely badly, That, Because, It is my real last name is Eilers. Come from Pacifica trading cards company. And Casey Townsend (Major League Soccer) Soccer card from Upper Deck?, He is former Traverse City West native. I need those cards as well. I will have a long way to go to search and find one. I have a hard time try to find one.
    Topps Company has been super on Football, Basketball and Hockey. Now, Gone. That’s extremely sad and terrible! I love Topps, Every day in my own life. I have been buying cards, Since 1970. I am 57 years old and I never give up on those Football Trading Cards. Now, I will have to cut back with no football trading cards on the shelf of their businesses at Famous Target store. I have to ride my bike and walk 5 miles to get there and buy those cards and back home (10 miles around trip), All the time. I burn on those long trip! It is a very cry of not having Topps Football Trading Cards, Not on display anymore. That’s the worst education excuse on NBA, NFL AND NHL. And they told Topps, Not to make one anymore. WOW! That extremely hurts! Score Baseball card from 1987 was the worst of all time and They’ll never get a complete set. Peter Garthe Lifetime Resident From Traverse City, Michigan

  37. Jason 1 October, 2016 at 21:08

    I’m torn. I loved collection football cards before 1989, when there was only one brand (Topps) and one product. I wish we could go back to those days (when there was only one rookie card of each player). But 30 Panini products doesn’t seem like the same thing. I would prefer either 3-5 companies, limited to 1 product each. Or 1-2 companies, limited to 2-4 products each. And I am, and will remain, a Topps man.

  38. Fred Takacs 2 October, 2016 at 12:44

    wow…whoever thought Topps would get killed in the
    football card business?? I have collected football cards since the 1970’s and these are the worst of times by far.
    remember back in the ’90’s when there were 7 or 8
    companies producing cards. we thought that was outrageous, but at least there was competition, and
    you had various photos.
    I’m afraid 90% of the comments in this forum have
    it right…….nothing but dollars and greed.
    I collect guys who went to Penn State…..I now can look forward to 50 variations of Allen Robinson in
    2016. However I will draw the line somewhere like
    most collectors. So, beware Panini—- it’s all about
    quality in this game, not quantity.

  39. Ingram Howard 7 October, 2016 at 18:18

    Won’t be the same without Topps Football anymore (even with some not so great sets along the way). Really hard to believe it has happened. At least we can say Topps was there first with the original greats back from the 50’s and 60’s when I first started collecting. Those early Bowman football cards (and baseball too) were pretty basic but I always liked the larger size. I am still collecting (at 69) because it takes me back to my youth – also in more recent years a big fan of Peyton Manning cards (I am a Univ. of Tenn graduate too) followed by Tom Brady who we won’t have much longer. Even though Panini will have exclusive rights, TOPPS will always be tops with me..(Nashville, Tennessee) .

  40. Rod 11 October, 2016 at 09:33

    Panini gets the exclusive rights and their product drops in half. The new Score inserts suck. Oh well, time to take up a new hobby anyway

  41. Dave Thompson 22 November, 2016 at 11:27

    I’ve been wanting to get back in the card collecting scene for a while now. I think it is great that there is so many companies that want to make these awesome cards. With the change in companies that are making the NFL cards I might just get back in the game.

  42. Jorge 23 November, 2016 at 02:23

    I went searching for Upper Deck 2016 SP Authentic and Topps Chrome, and came acroos this sad fact…It’s all Panini now :( Innovation in the industry will take a dive. This really stinks. The only way we can change this is to stop buying the new stuff, 2016 onwards, until it changes, sorry to say….

  43. Wayne Roark 25 December, 2016 at 21:11

    Blown Away!!! Just found this news today… I’ve been collecting Topps Football since the 1970’s, and even have collections dating back into the 1940’s. Topps has been the mainstay in the hobby for a long, long, long time. For the NFL to drop from the Topps brand is a slap in the face to collectors who have been huge Topps card collectors for decades. Sad!! Boooo!!! Bad MOVE!! Will NEVER buy Panini!!!

  44. Mark Emry 1 January, 2017 at 14:32

    So sad, I have been collecting Topps since I was a young boy back in the 70’s. This was the only set I built every year. At least I can fill in my holes now as I wont be buying any new boxes or packs going forward. My football collecting days are over as I don’t collect any other brands

  45. Bernie 7 February, 2017 at 07:57

    Each of these companies that have complete control over each sports’ collecting does have a chance at making it work. But there have to make it in a way that doesn’t discourage us collectors. Honestly, I don’t want to turn EVERY card I get and see the Panini logo on the back, I like the diversity that existed for years! Panini just has to keep the cards to the traditions that have been held for years and not to PASTE their logo EVERYWHERE…I hate seeing Panini Donruss, or Panini Score, or Panini Contenders…Just drop the Panini name in the products names and we as collectors just may feel like we aren’t buying the same thing with each release…good luck to everyone, even the companies here, would be a shame if the hobby completely died because of this, it almost nearly is dead with the high prices for a pack of cards these days…

  46. Joe D 9 February, 2017 at 21:01

    I have Topps team sets of my team from 1959 through 2015. I enjoyed pulling them together, but I guess it’s time to stop the collection.

  47. Reggy 17 March, 2017 at 10:13

    As a new comer in the business of FOOTBALL card collecting, wich collection should I buy? Thats nice and worthy?

  48. Dave 26 January, 2018 at 12:11

    I stopped collecting back in 1991 after score and proset went crazy with the amount of cards they produced. I recently started up again just to buy the cards of players I wanted like Brady, Manning, Moss…players I thought helped make the NFL a great thing to watch and attend with my family. I didn’t realize that Topps (my favorite card company) and Upper Deck were locked out until just now. I think this is terrible news for the hobby. I will still buy cards of great players but ONLY those great players. No more set building or box/pack buying and I could care less about autographed cards, limited edition cards, etc….they don’t interest me. Neither do digital cards. I need to be able to touch the card to appreciate it.

  49. Broadway Joey 8 March, 2018 at 13:01

    Wow I just started reading These Posts! And While yes I Miss Topps, And all the other companies that were around when I started collecting! It is Now 2018 And Man I HAVE TO SAY PANINI CAME OUT AND DID THE DANG THANG! They Make Some OUTRAGIOUSLY Beautiful Cards! Expensive BUT Nice! What I’m saying is a lot of these people couldn’t have been MORE WRONG!

  50. Ryan 7 October, 2018 at 13:13

    Really Broadway Joe?
    The hobby is as dead as it has ever been.
    All 3 shops in my area have closed in the past 2 years.
    I haven’t bought a box since 2016 & all my old collecting buddies have stopped as well.
    I still buy some older singles, but I have zero interest in ever opening another pack of cards.

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