Panini America CEO Mark Warsop looks back on two years of MLBPA-approved baseball cards

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By Chris Olds | Beckett Sports Card Monthly Editor

It’s been a little more than two years since Panini America‘s deal with the Major League Baseball Players Association was publicly announced, and since then the company has produced 21 different baseball products of varying types and prices aiming to capture the attention of collectors.

In that time, we’ve seen the return of some old, familiar brands such as Pinnacle and an influx of new with Prizm. We’ve seen the addition of Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg as an exclusive spokesman and the addition of Yasiel Puig to the Panini Authentic memorabilia line — its first baseball player. We’ve seen legendary baseball broadcaster Vin Scully sign his first baseball cards despite 60-plus years in the game, and, dagnabbit, we’ve even seen The Bad News Bears on cardboard for the first time.

We’ve seen Panini add the USA Baseball license and make a deal with the National Baseball Hall of Fame to bring the stars of the future as well as the past into the fold, too. And with that, we’ve seen National Treasures do things we might not have seen before for baseball cards.


And, beyond Panini, during this time we’ve also seen two other licensing moves that may have come as surprises to the hobby and the company — Upper Deck being added as an MLBPA licensee and MLB Properties extending its exclusive with Topps through 2020.

It’s been a whirlwind two years since that September announcement and Beckett Media caught up with Panini America CEO Mark Warsop for a behind-the-scenes chat about it all as part of the upcoming Behind the Scenes Issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly, which will arrive next month with this and more about the inner workings of a few different things in the hobby today.

Does it really feel like it’s been that long?

“Good question,” Warsop said. “The time really has flown by — they say that tends to happen when you’re having fun. There’s no denying that we’ve had quite an eventful first two years with the MLBPA license. We have a great relationship with the team over there and look forward to maintaining that for years to come.”

Some highlights from the full interview include  …

On pursuing the MLBPA license: “Our goal is to be fully licensed in every sport, so the MLBPA was a viable partner for us since we entered the U.S. market [in 2009 with the NBA license and acquisition of Donruss.]”

On not having MLB logos as part of product design options: “With each release, our creative team continues to strengthen the look and feel of what we’re trying to accomplish … There’s a learning curve to everything, but we are very comfortable and excited with the direction we’re taking with our MLBPA license going forward. We are just hitting our stride.”

On freedoms that come with not having an MLB Properties license: “We certainly have a little more flexibility with our checklists. If we want to include cards of Pete Rose, the game’s all-time hits leader who remains a collector favorite all these years later, or “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, we can do that. We have done that, but not just because we can — because we feel we have something special to offer collectors and fans of those players.”

On the emergence of Prizm, which will have its third product release arrive this month: “Optichrome technology is by no means a new development in sports cards, but with hard work, rigorous research, development behind the scenes and a steadfast commitment to doing it right, we’ve managed to deliver the technology in a way that has truly raised the bar in terms of the way the cards look, the way they feel and the fact that they don’t warp. We’re proud of Prizm and will continue pushing the envelope there.”

On the next National Treasures: “National Treasures officially raised the bar in terms of what a high-end baseball product should deliver. It left some huge shoes to fill for any National Treasures product that follows, but we are excited for when National Treasures returns. And it will return.”

On Topps’ extended MLB Properties deal: “The extension certainly was a surprise. Being fully-licensed is something we’ve wanted — and something we’ve stated publicly and continue to state — since entering the U.S. market. But the extension has not and did not alter our plan of delivering baseball’s players to the trading card community and building the best products for the MLBPA.”

Warsop also addressed the company’s long-term baseball plans along with many other questions and subjects. Look for his response to those subjects and more in the December issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly.

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sports Card Monthly magazines. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


Here’s a rundown of all 21 baseball card products released (so far) since Panini America announced its deal with the MLBPA in September 2011.

2011 Donruss Elite Extra Edition –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2011 Panini Limited –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2011 Panini Limited Cuts –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2011 Playoff Contenders –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2011 Playoff Prime Cuts –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)

2012 Panini Cooperstown –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Elite Extra Edition –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Panini Golden Age –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Panini National Treasures –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Panini Prizm –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Panini Signature Series –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Triple Play –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Playoff Prime Cuts –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2012 Panini USA Baseball –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)

2013 Panini Cooperstown –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2013 Panini Golden Age –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2013 Panini Hometown Heroes –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2013 Panini Pinnacle –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2013 Panini Prizm –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2013 Triple Play –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)
2013 Panini USA Baseball Champions –>> (Beckett Checklist/OPG) — (eBay)


  1. Fred
    Posted October 7, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see……No MLB licence, foreign company, still outrageously priced = not going to get my money!!

  2. Jamie Case
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    With no MLB Licensing and no LOGOs there is no way I will spend money on your baseball products as they do not hold any value !!!

  3. Posted October 8, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Panini America took over the old Donruss Playoff LP in March 2009. At that time, the sports card industry was on a sharp downward trend. Companies such as Pacific, Fleer Skybox, Leaf, Wild Card, and others were gone and it looked like Donruss Playoff was next. The worldwide economy had much to do about Donruss’ business problems. While Donruss Playoff had long placed third behind Topps and Upper Deck, their demise would have been sorely missed by the card collecting public. While any company or anyone could have come in and taken over a failing company in a time of economic uncertainty, it was Panini who pulled the trigger.

    Panini had long wanted to expand their business to the United States, the world’s melting pot, a country who’s only original countrymen, the American Indian is a relatively small minority of our population. Ever since 1492, people came to the North American continent in search of freedom and business opportunity. Today, the the business lines are blurred. All the world’s largest companies have expanded sales and manufacturing to other countries. It is the business model for all large companies.

    Rather than bring in their own staff, Panini America kept the Donruss employees and added new employees where needed. When most corporations take over another hurting corporation, they cut costs wherever they can in order to turn things around. The old staff takes the blame for the old company’s economic troubles and the new company brings in their own corporate leadership and hires fresh new blood at lower wages. Panini chose to keep the existing leadership and staff. Panini chose to invest for the future and seek continuous improvement.

    By choosing to keep the original leadership and staff, improvement was a slow methodical process, but Panini kept true to their plan. Not only have Panini products greatly improved, their improvements have motivated the other two card manufacturers to improve their products and way of doing business. The hobby and its products are better than ever, and Panini America had a lot to do with it. Thanks Panini America.

  4. bearcatlawjd
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Panini just announced they will be bring back Select to the baseball market by the end of the year. Hoping Donruss is next. I am big fan of Panini’s release in the baseball market; however, their promo cards is where they have excelled. I bought a bunch of baseball singles from Black Friday, Father’s Day, and the National. It is probably the only way I would get cards numbered 25 or less for some of my favorite players.

    My favorite panini baseball cards are the 2012 national cracked ice, 2013 national prizm cracked ice, and 2012 Elite.

  5. J.R.
    Posted October 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    I know I am in the minority, but I really liked the Golden Age products produced in 2012 and 2013. I think the Cooperstown autographs, 99.9% of which are ON CARD and all of HOFers, are some of the most underrated cards in the hobby, logos or not, even though their base sets for that products are terrible.

    Panini is making improvements, and I am looking forward to see what they have in store for 2014. I mostly cherry pick what I want off eBay, but Panini’s price points for the lower end stuff they make actually allow me to open a box or two. Tracy Hackler has also been extremely responsive and helpful, which is refreshing in the hobby.

  6. George Hibbs
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Right in Charlie D’ hey it’s America, freedom ( for the most part) of choice, Charlie U made some very valuable points, N what’s wrong w/a lil competition, Whearher it’s for the value or just to collect its nice to have a choice

  7. Mark
    Posted October 9, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I hope Panini continues to both bring back some old brands in its toolbox (like what they did with Pinnacle) while innovating with new brands and ideas (like Prizm). It’s good to see them adding some juice to the card market. Topps has fallen into a formulaic black hole, which shows no signs of ending given the product previews we’ve seen so far for 2014.

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