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Delay of Game: Why Panini’s Slow Releases Are Hurting the Hobby

Delay of Game: Why Panini’s Slow Releases Are Hurting the Hobby

Jordan Luithle

Prospecting is an essential part of the hobby we all know and love. Of course, every collector has a different way of finding the next big name. I like to dig through the numbers and watch games using the eye test. Others have their favorite YouTube channels that show them who they should look into.

No matter which way collectors come out about their picks, once they have their sights set on a player, they grab as many of their cards as they can… well, that is if they can even find their cards.

Now, before I start pointing fingers in the direction of Panini’s slow printing press, I want to take you back to a time not too long ago. It was 2018 and my older brother had just introduced me to case breaks. I had been a collector of Pokémon and Cleveland sports cards for most of my life. I always loved learning about players and pretending to be the general manager for my favorite teams. In my first case break, I had the Cavs and landed a 2017 Panini Flawless LeBron James Dual Patch card numbered out of 25. It was awesome!

Around that time, the new 2018 NBA Draft class’ cards were releasing. The season had just tipped off on October 16. NBA Hoops cards came out a week later on October 24. Prizm dropped just a month into the season on November 21. I vividly remember collectors paying the highest prices for the Phoenix Suns in breaks, attempting to land rookie cards for No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton.

You could go hunting for Trae Young on the cheap because the Atlanta Hawks were selling for around $100 for a full case break of Donruss or Prizm. I recall Trae’s Silver Prizms being $20 each. The guys from Mojobreak said they were going to buy 100 of them because that was just too low for the Oklahoma star. It looks like that worked out for them.

If you had done your research, you weren’t paying too much for Dallas and the possibility of hitting that Slovenian kid, Luka Doncic, either. I was in prospecting heaven. For once I could use my sports analytics knowledge for something other than playing hypothetical GM.

I had my eye on guys like Jaren Jackson Jr. and Anfernee Simons. They hadn’t broken out yet so their cards were fairly inexpensive. Even early in the ’18-19 campaign, Doncic’s Prizm base was just $15 or $20. The hobby was just in a different place altogether. The efforts you put into prospecting could pay off because there were cards available.

The point I’m making is that even if you were as high on 2021-2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes this season as you were on Ice Trae back in ‘18, you couldn’t prospect like you wanted. The amount of NBA products released by Panini has simply been pathetic.

If you were hoping to grab Barnes or Evan Mobley cards, your options were limited to colleges cards and a few so-so NBA products. You could have spent hours analyzing players like Josh Giddey, but there was nothing much you could do about it.

One of the hobby’s top products, Panini Prizm Basketball, isn’t scheduled to come out until June 22. Folks, that will be 74 long days after 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham’s final game of his rookie year with Detroit. By then, most everyone will be over Cunningham and looking ahead to Chet Holmgren and the rest of the ’22 draft class. It will be interesting to see where prices start at release.

Things are even worse in the NFL. The league’s 2022 Draft was held in late April. Yet, at press time, we still hadn’t put our hands on 2021 NFL Prizm. June 3 is that product’s scheduled release date. Sorry if I don’t sound terribly excited, but I was over last year long before Travon Walker and Kenny Pickett’s names were called on draft night.

Panini’s production delays not only hurt the investor who’s prospecting, but it also affects collectors who just want to get ahold of their favorite players. I’m a big Ohio State guy and I’d love to have more Justin Fields in my collection, but the options aren’t there.

If you were on Mac Jones early, you had just a couple cards for the guy in a New England Patriots uniform. According to Market Movers, Mac Jones’ Donruss base presently sits around $10. Last September, it was going for over $50—and the basic card has “00” for the QB’s jersey number. People were just that desperate for product.

I hate to say this and, hopefully, someone from Panini reads this, but prospecting is dead due to these delays. One of the most thrilling parts of this hobby has essentially dried up because there aren’t cards of future stars available to buy and flip once you’ve completed your research. Kids can’t play GM for their favorite teams. Sadly, this aspect of collecting is lost right now.

As someone who’s been into sports cards for most of my life, I hope Panini, Upper Deck and all the rest can start getting players’ cards out on the market in a timely manner because the clock is ticking on these companies losing a lot of collectors for good.

Jordan Luithle is a Sports Card Investor contributor with a focus on the analytical side of the hobby. Keep up with his musings on YouTube (It’s The Final Round) and IG (@sportscard_analytics).

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