Panini Becomes Sole NBA Card Manufacturer


The NBA announced today that it has entered into an exclusive, multi-year agreement with Italian collectibles company Panini to become the sole manufacturer of NBA licensed trading cards and stickers beginning with the 2009-10 season, and running through 2012-13. The deal calls for the production of 15 to 20 products per season.

Panini is established in more than 100 markets worldwide, but its U.S. market involvement has been modest by comparison. Panini plans to “re-create the domestic trading card market” and has announced that a new business will be set up immediately called Panini America Inc. with offices in the New York area.

The announcement follows weeks of industry speculation regarding the future of the NBA trading card market as manufacturers in every sport continue to struggle with harsh economic times.

“We’ve had a strong relationship with the NBA, but the deal they made with Panini does not make economic sense for Topps,” said Topps in a statement. “It may be great for the NBA, but the value wasn’t there for us and we’ve decided to invest elsewhere for the time being. We wish our colleagues at the NBA well and look forward to working with them in the future.”

The Panini Group, founded in 1961, recorded net revenues of 579 million Euros as recently as 2006 and employs more than 700 people worldwide. The company distributes its products – ranging from World Cup cards and NHL stickers to Disney entertainment products devoted to Hannah Montana and High School Musical — through a global network.

“As we look to the future of our trading card business, there is general consensus, including with our current partners, Topps and Upper Deck, that moving forward with an exclusive partner is the best way for us to energize the category globally,” said Executive Vice President of NBA Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca in a news release.

“Our exclusive partnership with Panini provides us with the best opportunity to recreate the trading card market by developing the key retail channels with a variety of products and promotions geared towards all consumer segments.”

Said Beckett Senior Market Analyst Keith Hower: “It will be interesting to see what Panini can bring to the table regarding basketball cards. Known primarily for their sticker sets, it remains to be seen what sort of basketball card product they will be capable of producing. That said, the NBA has always had a strong global market, and Panini has a strong presence in markets previously untapped by basketball cards in both Europe and Asia. While it’s unclear how the domestic market will respond to Panini products, overseas markets should be pretty strong.”

Officials from Upper Deck could not be reached for comment, but through a press release Upper Deck’s VP of Sports, Bernd Becker, said: “Our focus remains on delivering great products to the loyal collectors and consumers who have passionately supported Upper Deck basketball products. We are confident the remaining 2008-09 NBA sets will be some of the best our industry has ever seen.”

Said Eric Jahnke, Beckett Basketball editor: “This is very big news for basketball collectors, perhaps the biggest since Fleer and the basketball card revival of the mid-’80s. Collectors will certainly be wondering what Panini will bring to the market. It’s exciting, but at the same time the ‘unknown’ is always scary, however, Panini has proven to be quite savvy in the card market with its soccer and non-sport products, so we can’t wait to see what 2009-10 will bring for basketball cards.”

— Tracy Hackler


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  1. Allen 27 January, 2009 at 11:05

    This is insane. How ticked are they at Topps and UD? Seems like a deal pulled off by an NBA international press rep who has no idea about how trading cards work these days.

  2. President Obama 27 January, 2009 at 11:55

    Yo Lambo, english please

    Will panini put out stickers with sticker autographs? Seems to be a sticker situation

  3. Paul 27 January, 2009 at 12:12

    In all seriousness, what are Panini’s plans? Are they only making stickers? Do they have plans to different types of sets? Are they going to have autographs, jersey cards, printing plates, etc.? Will they continue the recent trend of doing sets with retired players?

  4. chrisolds 27 January, 2009 at 12:17

    That’s all to be determined — along with other issues for other companies. Look for more here as it is announced or in the next issue of Beckett Basketball.

  5. Paul 27 January, 2009 at 13:21

    If Panini can produce solid cards for all collectors’ incomes, can correct the ills that UD and Topps would not (redemptions, sticker autos), could it be that this is a blessing in disguise?

  6. JAPAN 27 January, 2009 at 16:51

    Panini has enough experience in producing hi-end trading cards(soccer) in Japan .
    But it was terribe. You can easily find out which pack has autograph or jersey.
    As long as they produce cards in Europe, they could not satisfy current collectors in United States, Japan and Europe.

  7. Carol Bitzinger 28 January, 2009 at 15:21

    I am going to be ticked next year without Upper Deck’s SPX, SPA, SPRT, SPGU, Ultimate, Black, and Exquisite cards on the market. This is a joke; I can’t wait until the license agreement expires, and if Panini doesn’t turn out anything I like within the first three products or so I, along with what I’m sure will be many other collectors, will boycott the NBA trading card market until somebody in the NBA’s main office gets a brain. 2009 through 2012 football products and maybe getting back into hockey will be my focus at least until this license agreement is up. I don’t mind international players, but this is the NATIONAL basketball association. This is bull that American companies are getting shoved out of the market for their own sport so some stupid Italian company named after a sandwich can thrive. Good going to Stern and his goonies.

    • ejahnke 28 January, 2009 at 17:13

      na·tion·al — of or relating to a nation
      Function: adjective
      Date: 1580

      I guess it depends on your perspective, Carol.

      I am a Republican (actually, I prefer “conservative” due to the bunch recently in power), and a Teamster … weird, huh? Regardless, I have no problem with this, at all.
      From where I am sitting, I see that the basketball card market is, by far, the weakest out of the major sports.

      If Panini can breathe new life into the BK market … then I am 100% behind the move.

      Saying that is not, by any means, a knock on Upper Deck or Topps, they have both done excellent jobs overall and produced some incredible cards over the years, some that I wouldn’t sell for any price (barring a personal tragedy of some sort, of course, in case anyone out there wants to get into semantics).

      I won’t get into the specific products, but believe me when I say there have been some products from both companies that I personally hated and wondered what the heck they were thinking when they made them, but strangely enough, collectors loved them. What I mean by that is trading cards, overall, boil down to taste, just like everything else in the world. What I like, you might detest … what you like, I might think came straight out of the gutter. Cards are no different from clothes in that respect. I wear some things that make my wife ashamed … and my wife buys me clothes that still have the tags on them.

      Keep this in mind as well, now UD and Topps can focus their efforts a bit more on the products they will produce. Big picture time, and glass-half-full time … due to this move, we should expect to see better cards in football, baseball and hockey.

      Saying all that, I can now sum it up pretty quickly — at very least, give Panini a chance.

  8. President Obama 29 January, 2009 at 16:26

    So will Upper Deck allow Jordan and LeBron to sign for Panini? I mean since both of those guys only sign UD products… know what i mean vern?

  9. Crabbyflabby 2 February, 2009 at 18:09

    Okay, now that I’ve looked into Panini, I get the feeling it’ll be s***. I agree w/ Carol…please get Stern and all those idiots who have no clue what they’re doing out!

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