This is quickly becoming the most talked about hobby story of the year, and its sad that is the case. Either way, there are a LOT of questions out there, and I literally cannot wait to see how it all shakes out. I mean, this is as juicy as it gets, Panini and Dak getting caught with their pants down. With that, here are some of the questions that I want to ask and how I might expect they play out.
Who Was Ultimately Responsible – Part 1?
This is really the main question that everyone wants answers to, and without us having a statement from either party, it lets us run wild with the narrative. Who ultimately made the choice to use the auto pen machine? If Dak is responsible, then Panini will dodge a bullet. Of course, we need a statement to confirm, and Im not sure it may come anytime soon. If Panini made the choice, the implications in the hobby will be enormous. The NFLPA might get involved, and it will cast a terrible shadow all over Panini and the way they do business. From my contacts in the industry, they already have a terrible reputation, something that differs very much from the reputation that Dak has cultivated since his time in the spotlight began. Its possible that neither were responsible, and his marketing agent actually made the call. That’s a gray area I havent even thought about yet. Darren Rovell floated this idea in his article, and its not out of the question.
Who Was Ultimately Responsible – Part 2?
Once we figure out who is responsible for this situation, it now comes down to legally who is responsible for the damages. Does the guarantee on the back of the card put Panini at fault if Prescott knowingly deceived them? How does it impact their agreement going forward? Do collectors have legal recourse to file a class action? All of these things depend partly on the above answer to part 1, and some on how the law might be interpreted. Auto pens have been used to sign legally binding documents all over the place in the nation’s history, so I dont think that would put much on the player. Considering how little this likely means to Prescott, we all have to wonder what is going to happen.
How Do Collectors React Long Term?
People on the forums have already found examples of other people using an auto pen to sign cards, which means Panini has done this before and may be responsible for the decision, or others have deceived Panini without being caught. I have to believe every Panini autograph will be studied as a result of this and there will no doubt be others that are discovered.
Here are some alleged auto pen examples from 2014 signed by members of Florida Georgia Line:
If Panini is found to be at fault, I see huge issues with regaining collector trust in the future. Its national news, and if they are the ones behind it, they may not be able to recover in a way that makes it worthwhile for them to try. They may just have to hope that there are a number of people out there who dont see the follow ups and just put it out of their minds.
If Prescott is responsible, that’s a bit of a different story, but still one that begs further questions of general autograph authenticity. This situation shed a light on things that no one wanted to consider. At some point Collectors will form an opinion that everything should be questioned. Look at the way many people think about relics. Panini even had put player worn swatches into cards and labeled them as game used. Flawless had an issue with player worn materials being labeled game used. Collectors formed an opinion and now its hard to look the other way. With autographs being more valuable than relics, it might be the straw that breaks the camels back.
Here is the thing I dont understand. If Panini wises up and eventually does make a statement, this situation is easily fixed. Replace the cards and get the real autographs to the people that are owed. Other fuck ups like in 2014 when Odell Beckham and Teddy Bridgewater were left out of the original shipment of National Treasures seem to be much more of an issue that people seem to have forgotten. Literally thousands of people opened boxes and cases of NT without some of the most valuable cards included. After weeks of questions, the way it was corrected was even worse. They just shipped new pallets of cases to distros, who then sold them to shops and breakers as wave 2. No make good for any of the other impacted people. Complete fucking shit show. Guess what? 2015 and 2016 National Treasures and all other Panini products were still bought and sold as normal after that. No mention of the fact that Panini’s process would surely dictate that they likely had access to the information that these cards never made it in. I just cant even fathom. The Flawless Game Used scandal should have also registered with them and didnt. At what point do people finally give up?
How Will the League React?
This is a big one too, as its clear that the league sees their brand as the most important asset they have. They protect the shield at all costs. With this potentially being a stain on their brand, a licensee like Panini may not be a company they want to continue to do business with, especially if they are found to be responsible. If Prescott is responsible, I doubt much will happen. Simple as that. Although Panini has had their fair share of clusterfucks, the league only cares about one thing as much as their brand image – money.
How Much of Dak’s Autograph Inventory Was Impacted?
From the looks of it, he may have had some issues long term, at least from some of the photos collectors are sharing. Either way, there is no way to tell for sure, and there is no way Panini will likely admit that they have a larger problem on their hands. Im not sure if we will ever get the full scope of the answer here, and I doubt I would want to be transparent if I were Panini.
How Does Panini Fix This?
Im seeing reports on the forums that Beckett is pulling cards that they dont own and shipping them to Panini without providing some reasoning or choice to the people that sent them in for grading. If true, that is quite the twist to this story, considering the goods are not theirs to move. With this in the mix, and a number of other people who likely have redemptions pending, or cards in hand, how will they fix this mess? I have to believe a replacement is all but assured, but I would also hope they find a way to repair brand image a bit and give a bit extra.
What Does This Say About the Hobby?
Sadly, the national media, save Rovell, has reported on this with a very tongue in cheek approach. Someone on the radio reported the story as a funny quip, adding something like, do you sue the contractor who built your house because he used a nail gun instead of a hammer? Not good. First off, Panini’s national brand is unfamiliar to just about everyone outside of the hobby. 99.9% of America likely believes they sell grilled sandwiches. When they get tied to a story like this, it only adds to the negative viewpoint that most already have about this hobby to begin with. It might actually serve Panini to have no national identity, because they are faceless in that respect. Everyone knows Topps, and to a similar extent Donruss. We grew up with them. Panini as a brand name is nobody to just about everyone. Unfortunately, they are serving as quite the negative ambassador.
There are a million more questions to ask, its time we start getting some answers. Start the clock, we wait to feast.