Autographs and Cards – Can Things Get Worse?

Ill be the first to admit that my time working on this site has been minimal prior to this fiasco, and its because I got to the point where I was bored with complaining. I was just bored all around, to be honest, and I dont think I am alone in that feeling. As a football collector, its not exactly super fun happy time if you feel the way about Panini that I feel. We still have 9 years left of this shit show, and at this point they are doing so much harm to the football side of things, im not sure it could get much worse. Then the whole Dak Prescott thing happened, and I realized that rock bottom wasnt even close.

The reason I say that I dont think we are even within eye sight of rock bottom is because of the way the national media treated this. Autograph collecting is still a foreign concept to most Americans, even though chasing foul balls and running down a player for a selfie is pretty commonplace. What was made even more apparent was how little trading cards factored into people’s perception of autograph collecting, all of which should not be a surprise. Basically, no one who got wind of this story thought it was anything more than a tongue in cheek jab at a QB from one of america’s most cheered against sports teams.

As I have said thousands of time before – none of this should be a surprise. The industry around the hobby has shifted so drastically from where it was during my youth that it is barely recognizable. Lots of people like to get autographs of their favorite players, few will pay a premium for a trading card that features a contrived scarce availability.

With all of this as a consideration, how can things get worse than they already are?

I think the answer lies in the player themselves, as its clear that the trading card companies and their business model lies almost squarely on the player’s shoulders. Sure, league licenses are an issue in their own right, but just producing base cards with no autographs is likely a losing battle. They need the players as desperately as ever, and more and more, players are becoming more and more unwilling to participate. Even worse, they may not be understanding of why their participation is so important to the companies.

Imagine explaining how those 300 sheets of stickers were going to be used to a 21 year old college kid, whose intelligence is almost 100% based around their sport. In football, from my own experience, this is about as prevalent as any sport, and I dont think that is any shock to people. The autograph game is too one sided in so many ways, and with the way the general public is reacting to recent news, I have to think that the uphill battle of growing the hobby is tougher than ever.

Digital has a place in this as well, because it is introducing trading cards to thousands upon thousands of people who wouldnt normally be exposed. Since digital signatures arent actually signed by the player unless noted, it changes the game a bit. Product development can be hours instead of months, and that poses a unique advantage. You dont need to explain why the player needs to sign 10000 of the card in front of them.

Im generalizing, I know. Some players do understand what is going on and dont mind the process. With most of the kids being exposed to autograph days with their school or fan fests with the professional team, they get the desire for their signature. They also understand the contract they signed and why they are being asked to do specifically what they are asked to do. I have to believe this is the exception, not the rule, and the middle ground players can be very easy to work with. Older players who have been around the hobby for years are likely not as much of an issue other than cost per signature, too. I dont think they are the problem.

At the same time, if the guys dont really get what they are signing or why they are signing it, it becomes that much easier to shrug off their duties or try to manipulate the system in a way like Dak and others have tried. The NFLPA also has a stake in this, because they work with the players to ensure the cards get signed at many of the sanctioned events.

Im actually wondering how this all plays out over the next ten years, because I have put so much effort and money into the hobby that I really dont want to see things come crashing down in the industry that supports my addiction. Personally, I dont see the way things are set up right now as sustainable at all. Licensing costs are too much, players want more and more to sign, companies need them more and more, and box prices are getting so unreasonable that everything is diluted. It also doesnt help that Panini’s football business methods is to run the presses like they are on fire, only exacerbating many of the challenges everyone faces on a regular basis.

Here is how I see this. More and more players will try to do what so many have done already. They will try to get around the grueling five hour signing sessions or thousands of cards that show up in their mailbox. Its brutal. Ive watched them do it, and some have a system that makes it go faster, others struggle to get it completed. For that reason, companies will have to find a way to weed out the misses and capitalize on the players who understand what is going on. Hopefully they can do that and quickly, before more national news comes crashing down upon us all.

Dak Prescott and His Autograph Fiasco: The Aftermath

If you spent your Friday night sitting at home until late, you got the treat of Panini trying to bury the announcement of their statement at the end of the week. It was a treat because it might have been the most hilariously horrific end to this whole shit show that any Panini fan could hope for.

If you want the gist, they are going to replace the Prizm cards with a signed version that has a stamp on it. Not only that, but Prescott will have his deal extended and will continue to sign for Panini. Yes, this is what they said. Im not joking. They are giving him an extension after what happened.

Even more mind numbingly stupid:

  1. No one took responsibility in the statement
  2. Neither group apologized
  3. There is no “make good” other than fulfilling the card
  4. No explanation of what they are going to do to prevent this from happening again.

Word on the street is that the league got involved and would not allow Prescott to take the blame for the situation. Basically Panini had to take the heat, and rather than say nothing, both parties agreed to say they “have no knowledge of how those cards were returned to Panini.” Obviously, someone knows, and it only brings about more questions.

This is a disaster, only made worse by how terrible Panini is handling the aftermath. Clearly Prescott couldnt give a flying fuck about how this plays, because the national media is clearly laughing that this is even a story. Panini’s less than positive reputation in the hobby has been damaged further, and its without a doubt far from over.

Every autograph in every product will now be under a microscope – especially those from Panini. Signings completed without a company rep present will have new eyes hopefully cast upon them.

Similarly, Dak Prescott’s hobby value has been damaged as well. Although he is far from worthless and will continue to be a superstar, things have changed. Im curious to see how second year cards will perform, or what might happen if he doesnt have the success next year that he did in 2016. He may not have the leash that players like Andrew Luck were provided.

When you also consider how collectors feel they have been treated by Panini, its going to be interesting to see what Panini does to reclaim some of the people that were lost. Casual collectors who hadnt really been invested in the hobby might not be as easy to convert to larger spenders, and that could hurt long term.

In the end, this could not have been a worse face for the hobby, and Im actually upset that Panini was left to handle it, instead of one of the other companies. When you see the trend lately, something like this was bound to happen. I think of all the trading card companies out there, Panini was the least equipped to handle it with class and with an expert approach. They handled this like amateurs, and its unfortunate that the hobby will hurt as a result.

With Chicago’s National Convention in a couple weeks, there will be a TON of people looking for answers and even more people who will likely have a shorter temper when things go poorly in the future. Panini has fucked up so many times its not even funny, and I dont think they have the public patience to continue on the current trajectory they are on today.

Here is the worst part of all of this.

Because Panini owns the exclusive license for the NFL and NBA, there is no place for those collectors to go to speak with their wallets. If you collect football cards, you cant go to a licensed competitor to get cards you want. You are FORCED to buy Panini, and that is fucking horrendous. When shit like this goes down, we should have options to buy from other companies, but with exclusives in all four major sports, we have not been afforded that privilege.

Hopefully something gives out and we get more options, because I hate that I have no ability to show Panini how terrible they are treating their exclusive.

Here is the link to the statement:

Panini Statement on Dak Prescott


Dak Prescott Auto Pen – Questions Remain In Bunches

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.

2017 Bowman Mega Box Insanity Continues Thanks to Shohei Otani

Im not a huge baseball collector, so I didnt really know what was happening until it was too late. These boxes are literally the hottest thing to chase down not named Judge or Bellinger, and it really isnt those guys driving the price, which might actually be more crazy. There is a story behind it, and it mostly begins and ends with Shohei Otani, a star prospect Japanese player whose WBC card was part of special packs in the box. There are some reports of the boxes being recalled from retail shelves because of issues, and it has made these boxes insanely valuable. Like, so valuable, you start to wonder what might have been had you seen any for sale at the beginning of the ordeal.

Check out these prices:

2017 Bowman Mega Box – Sealed

2017 Bowman Mega Box – Sealed #2

2017 Bowman Mega Box – 3 Box Lot

These are some of the most watched cards on eBay:

2017 Bowman Chrome Shohei Otani Mojo Refractor RC

2017 Bowman Chrome Shohei Otani Mojo Refractor BGS 9.5

Otani is a huge prospect, but international spending caps have made it difficult to predict when he may be posted and sign with a team. Like the players who came before him, the market for their first American cards is white hot. Masahiro Tanaka is the pitcher of most recent memory to generate this type of hype, but lack of real success has had an impact over the years. Same has been said for Darvish and others. Although Darvish hasnt been bad by any means, his values have cooled despite having a good start to the 2017 season.

The issue is more circulation than anything, as limited product and high demand will fuel rage fires in value that no one can predict until it happens. With Otani’s base card topping 200 dollars in some cases, it was only a matter of time before the blaze reached peak intensity on any unopened boxes that remain. With the national convention approaching, things could get even more nuts as more collectors seek out the exclusive cards available only in these products.

Special refractor variations of top prospects have been fetching huge money, with Judge, Bellinger and Maitan all claiming astronomical auction prices as cards are graded and posted for sale. If boxes of this stuff are sitting somewhere in a Target distribution center or Excel Marketing distribution center, eventually to be released, the time to sell is now. If those boxes never see the light of day, this Shohei Otani card could be one of the gems of the 2017 season. Considering the insanity brought on by the young sluggers who have taken the hobby by storm, this situation just blows my mind.

Panini’s Newest Disaster – Dak Prescott 2017 Prizm Autos Are Not Real?

This is a huge fucking problem, especially with someone as high profile as Dak is. According to a number of collectors, BGS has returned a number of cards from the recent run of autographs from 2017 Prizm, siting that the autographs do not look to be authentic. Similarly, reports are saying that Panini has already started cancelling a number of outstanding redemptions and pulling shipments of cards set to go out. The prevailing theory is that the autographs Dak Prescott returned were auto penned, or machine signed, instead of signed by the player. As you can imagine, this has the makings a of ANOTHER giant clusterfuck that Panini seems to be terrible at avoiding as of late.

This is the second autograph issue that Panini has had this year, and if you go back through the last decade, one of MANY that seem to have gone without recognition. There are so many of these types of autograph problems that I cant even remember the giant list of players that have had issues. Dez Bryant, Cam Newton, Shaquille O’neal, Whitney Mercilus, Cordarrelle Patterson, among others.

All of these cards have been questioned by collectors at some point in the past:

2011 Panini Gold Standard Cam Newton Auto Patch

2010 Panini Limited Dez Bryant Auto Patch

2014 Panini Flawless Cordarrelle Patterson Auto

2012 Panini Limited Whitney Mercilus Auto

It all stems from the way autographs are obtained, and Panini has been playing with fire more than most. Players will sign a document that guarantees the authenticity of their signatures signed during the course of the autograph deal. The companies send out boxes of cards to be signed, and it is on the player to return them. Sometimes they may send a representative to guarantee the autographs get done, but this method of trusting the player has been the primary method for Panini’s plans since as long as they have been in the american card market. Their competitors have chosen a bit of a different path from what my sources have said.

Personally, seeing news like this is both troubling and wonderful at the same time. Troubling that Panini is finding themselves the subject of more autograph authenticity problems, but wonderful in that maybe collectors will finally come to understand what the fuck has been happening as a pattern for years on end. This is NOT the first issue that collectors have called out. As long as this method is used for obtaining autographs, the players have no reason to deliver.

The reason is that the method by which investigations are to be carried out. First, lets say the player has a buddy sing the cards. He gives the cards to his agent or assistant to ship back, and the cards get packed out. Some Joe Collector who collects that player realizes the cards are a bit off. He tweets to Panini, who is responsible for carrying out any look at the cards. They ask the agent, who obviously doesnt want his player to get in trouble, so he says the cards are real. Panini then gets back to the guy who asked originally, and says the player confirmed authenticity. In a similar conflict of interest, Panini doesnt want the cards to be labeled fake, so they close the investigation, as a problem could undermine the quality of their reputation and product line, and cost would be incurred to launch a recall. Again, no reason if its just one guy complaining on a forum that only a few hundred people would ever see. Basically the player’s word on a legal document with a confirmation from the agent. They have done their work and case is closed.

With auto pen, its a bit different, because it isnt a matter of who signed the cards any longer. Its also quite easy to identify auto penned autographs in a large quantity, which should be easier to hold the player accountable. Im just saying, autograph authenticity has always been an issue in the industry, going back decades. The hobby just doesnt really care to believe that the companies could be as fallible as they are.

Hopefully Panini figures out a way to make this right, as I am waiting on one of these cards myself. Its time for us to understand what we are really up against here, as its clear that the card companies need the players much more than the players need the card companies. That means its not as simple a solution as we could ever imagine. The NFLPA will likely have to get involved to get any real results, and they might not care enough to do so. In the end, Panini needs to do better inspections of returned merchandise, as its clear they have slipped more times than most would ever know. That’s where the rubber meets the road.