OK – Who saw this one coming??
Whether this was common knowledge in the industry ahead of last weekends Las Vegas Retailer Summit or not, I don’t know. But hot on the heels of Topps’ announcement that they’ve extended their exclusive deal with MLB, Panini America goes and drops this one on us!!
Panini have managed to sign Nationals pitching phenomenon Stephen Strasburg to an exclusive multi-year autograph agreement! His first autograph cards under this new deal will appear in the April release of the MLBPA-licensed 2012 Panini Prizm Baseball product and will feature Strasburg in his USA Baseball uniform.
Now this is quite a coup for Panini!!
Throughout 2010 Topps marketed several of their card products on the back of Strasburg, in a similar way to what they did with Bryce Harper last year, and it appeared that Strasburg and Topps were synonymous with one another! Almost.
This exclusive deal goes a small way to shifting the status quo and more importantly, to me at least, reinforces the fact that Panini appears to have a bold strategy moving forward with its Baseball card releases, despite not having an MLB licensing agreement in place! Strasburg is Panini’s first exclusive athlete to sign under their agreement with the MLBPA and I can’t imagine he will be their last!
So, with Panini driving forward with their Baseball card releases and Upper Deck once again entering the arena with their new MLBPA deal, things are looking pretty exciting at the moment (at least in the short term) for Baseball card collectors.
And while it’s unlikely that either Panini or Upper Deck will go all the way in terms of challenging Topps’ authority in the Baseball card Hobby, it’s good to know that there will be alternative products out there for collectors to choose from!
As long as we get some solid card designs in good, quality products I doubt there will be many people complaining!
Hold on!! What am I saying?!?! Of course people are going to complain – and moan – and bitch – isn’t that what the internet was invented for? 🙂
Either way, it will be a while before we start seeing cards like this again!