Today, Panini announced that they have been granted an extension on their exclusive license to produce NBA trading cards. To say that this is a disappointment for many basketball collectors out there may not do it the justice it deserves. After some recent releases by Upper Deck, as well as the history UD has with the hobby, there were many that were hoping the NBA would consider a two license league. “Hoping for” compared against actual reality can be very far apart, as I was not among those who thought UD had a chance to break back into the licensed game. Its not in the cards, if you know what I mean.
That’s not to say that Upper Deck doesnt have the following to make it should they ever get another chance. I have long said that they deserve a lot of credit for making things work the way they have, especially with the enormous success of Fleer Retro and All Time Greats. Although Exquisite didnt get the rave reviews from the loyalists, it has been a product that many have given positive remarks to, something I havent seen in a long time in regards to a Panini product.
When the most successful product of the year IS NOT coming from the company that has the exclusive license, isnt that a problem? Take a look:
Panini doesnt have the potential to make cards like this either:
When I was writing about the previous UD releases, I said that I do not believe Panini truly understands what it takes to be successful in the NBA market. That is my opinion after seeing a failure to thrive with all of their mid end stuff, as many of their forgettable sets do not fair well against the stunning history that Upper Deck had provided with its releases. Additionally, the absence of the two biggest names in the game is a huge problem, as Jordan and Lebron drive the majority of the value in a high end product. Upper Deck also possesses an uncanny ability to create amazing looking cards, something we have yet to see in the same capacity over at Panini.
Bottom line, exclusives suck overall. I absolutely hate everything that they stand for, all the problems they cause, and I wish they would go away all together. Not just in terms of league licenses, but player and other exclusives too. In many of the cases, the collectors are the ones that lose, as they do not get the type of variety that they should be entitled to. Variety is the spice of life, even if that means that inferior products eventually make it into the hands of collectors. Most of the time, each company has the potential to contribute something worthwhile, and with exclusives in place, that potential is lost. I think many of the people who like Hockey cards are perfectly satisfied with two companies both have a shot at things, just as I am in football. Even though I dislike most of what Panini does, I still want them to have the opportunity to improve, and there are people that feel the same way about Topps.
If we had a world without exclusives, everyone would have access to every player in every sport. That’s a world I would like to live in.