Panini holds the only license for making cards of NBA players and has been the only NBA card producer since early in 2009. The deal was to last four years and will expire in early 2013. What will happen?
Being a collector from the 80s, I don’t have a really high opinion of Panini. I associate them with those lousy stickers issued by Topps (but made by Panini) in the early 80s. Those things were very inexpensive. Being more affordable than cards, I foolishly spent some of my money on them. I don’t know if Topps hoped that the stickers would attract a different collector, but I would guess that the stickers cannibalized card sales. Regardless, that’s my only impression of Panini.
To think that Panini is the only game in town for basketball cards is surprising. Did nobody else want the gig or did Panini bid everyone (Upper Deck and Topps) out of the job? What happens in 2013 will be very interesting. If Panini pulled a coup and surprised the other two companies, then there could be some strong bidding for the job now. Of course, if Topps or Upper Deck doesn’t want a license (or can’t afford it), then Panini will quietly walk away with another multi-year license. If you like a lot of variety in the card collecting scene, more exclusive licensing is probably not the outcome that you favor.