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Friday, January 24, 2020

Why Panini Doesn't Deserve an MLB License

In yesterday's post, I gave a few reasons why Panini should get a license to use MLB logos on their cards. But now, let's look at why they shouldn't.
There are enough MLB sets already. Topps has two or three releases hit shelves every month during the season, plus they have all of their online products. I remember not too long ago when every week would see two new lines arrive at the card shop. That's just too overwhelming.
Trading cards might be heading for another bubble. From late 2010 through 2011, card releases were pretty sparse compared to today; an average of three sets were released each month including major releases (Finest, Prime Cuts, Allen & Ginter) and small oddballs (Leaf Pete Rose Legacy, ITG Canadiana, eTopps). The 2018 season (the last I have relatively complete data for right now) saw more than twice that, and I didn't include most of Topps' small/repetitive online offerings (Topps Now/Living Set/Throwback Thursday).

But it's not just about the number of releases.

In 2011, sets like Gypsy Queen were really short-printed due to a perceived lack of demand, and even Update was probably printed in much smaller quantities than in previous years. But tons of 2018 Update packs have flooded clearance bins at Big Lots and WalMart; the last cards I remember at Big Lots were 1990 Donruss! And the baseball cards subreddit is full of investors looking for profit and hoarding these packs; it's almost like we're repeating the mistakes of the junk wax era all over again. Just now it's with certified autographs and SPs of unproven rookies, instead of base cards of unproven rookies. (How many autographs did Guerrero Jr. sign this year?)

Don't get me wrong, as a budget collector, not a prospector/investor, I'm more than willing to pick up the "scraps" from these big spenders looking to clear out their "worthless" base cards, inserts, and parallels. And I'll be glad to swoop in and pick up all the other "worthless" cards people have if the bottom drops out. But we've had this before. And too much product out there will lead to disaster.
Many of Panini's offerings rip off Topps' existing set concepts. Prizm? Finest. Optic? Chrome. Elite Extra Edition? Bowman. Donruss? Topps. Chronicles? Archives. Diamond Kings? Gallery. (Okay, DKs came first, as a subset, but Gallery was first as a product line.) Leather & Lumber? Triple Threads (relic set), or Allen & Ginter (throwback set). Topps did all of it first, and Panini just took the concept and made their own set.
Panini is lazy. Ripping off a set concept (chromium cards, throwback, heritage-style) is one thing. It happens all the time, and has happened for a long time. Leaf came before Stadium Club,a fter all. But Diamond Kings isn't real artwork, is it? Isn't it just a PhotoShop filter? Gallery uses real art. I can't tell Prizm sets from each other since they all look the same. The same goes for many of the high-end sets. They all just seem like the same thing. Plus, others have pointed out that Panini has a bad habit of reusing pictures. To me, that's all just lazy. Hire some artists and some graphic designers, and spend a little more time and money on Getty Images.
Panini products have way too many parallels. The 2019 Donruss base set had 15 parallels by my count (all four printing plates counting as one parallel set). Action All-Stars insert from that set? 10 parallels. That's the same for all of their inserts. Bleachers Inc. Autographs: six parallels. There are 138 sets in 2019 Donruss, but only about 15 unique sets in the full release. And then Donruss Optic's base set has 26 parallels, with the autograph insert sets having over a dozen parallels each. Prizm: 28 parallels of the base set.

Apples to Apples? Topps' flagship has 15 parallel inserts as well, but their insert sets have only 5-6 parallels each (still a lot, but not as many as Donruss). Many insert sets only have three parallels. Chrome has 19 base parallels, but autograph sets generally have less than six parallels, with only the Rookie Autographs having 13 parallels (printing plates count as one set). Finest: 8 parallels of the base set.
Exclusive autograph/appearance contracts cause disappointment with consumers. If you want autographs of your favorite players, then having only one manufacturer means that your player will be in that company's sets. Players had exclusive deals with all of the companies in the past, meaning some players couldn't appear in certain sets or you couldn't get any autographs or relics of that player from most of the offerings out there. Mickey Mantle went to Upper Deck, leaving Topps without its most iconic player when it wanted to reprint its classic 1950s sets.
All the other sports have monopolies. If Panini got to make licensed cards for two sports, that would probably be unfair to the other companies; Panini would need to give up its exclusive license, as then should Upper Deck. Hmm... Upper Deck is probably a different company now that McWilliam is gone; are they worth a second shot with the MLB too?

So, why do you think Panini shouldn't get an MLB license? Remember, arguments for them getting a license should go on the other post. This isn't about a flame war.


  1. >Topps has two or three releases hit shelves every month during the season
    BBM: hold my beer

    >Panini products have way too many parallels
    I was going to make the "hold my beer" joke again but then I read your description. Wow, BBM can only dream of doing that many parallels.

    1. The thing about BBM is this: yes, they issue a lot of sets over the course of the year (averaging about three). But 17 of their 32 sets in 2019 were team-oriented, leaving only 15 sets featuring all teams - about one per month. Almost all of Topps' sets feature all (or most) teams. If you're a team collector, you only have 1-2 full BBM sets to chase, and the other sets can be had as team sets or singles, again still leaving you with only 16-17 sets to go after.

      Aside from the flagship sets, BBM generally sticks with a minimum number of parallels for the base set (often none), and up to three for inserts. And there aren't so many flagship parallels either, compared to Topps/Panini. Silver, gold, holo, green, red, 1/1 (I don't remember them doing 1/1 in 2019 though). Five parallels, and it's a partial parallel. Rainbows are certainly manageable here!

  2. You're forgetting the only reason that matters in America, they haven't paid MLB the fat checks.

    1. It seems to me that MLB doesn't want Panini's fat check, which means Topps' royalties must be really lucrative.