The past couple of weeks has been a public relations nightmare for Panini. Last month, Panini issued a statement in regards to their 2016 National Treasures product line. In the NFL Gear Quads Laundry Tag set, the back of the cards read that Panini guaranteed the patches in those cards were game-worn. However, the memorabilia was only player-worn since the tags were off Mitchell & Ness jerseys. Then on Friday May 5th, the company announced an issue in their 2017 Elite Draft Picks and Contenders Draft Picks products. The issue pertaining to those products were that some autographs that were supposedly signed by the Falcons first round draft pick Takkarist McKinley, were actually signed by someone else.
This puts Panini in a bad spot. Especially when you factor in that these issues were not voluntarily announced and corrected by Panini on good faith, but were addressed due to collectors catching the so-called accidents. While the company has offered replacements and the option to return cards to be fixed or exchanged, one has to wonder about what other authentication issues are out there that haven’t been caught yet. Autograph and memorabilia cards are in high demand as this is what the majority of collectors look for in today’s products. Panini is trying to push as much product as they can and as quickly as they can out of the warehouse to fill that demand. When that happens, you’re going to have errors and mishaps. Whether or not these issues were an error or not still remains a mystery. We all will know the answer to that depends on if any other cards come in question.
This negativity that has been brought to the sports card community is on Panini. Now that they have the sole license for both the NFL and NCAA, they virtually have no other competition in the football card market. Unless you consider Leaf and Sage as competitors, but their products of airbrushed logos is very unappealing to many football collectors. If Topps was still in the football card market, you wouldn’t see these issues as much because the quality would have to be a little better to remain competitive. When customers have a good second option, companies tend to put a little more emphasis on quality. There are a lot of resellers in the sports card hobby and many of them resell single cards.
Authentication issues like this could hurt some of those seller’s reputations as well. There will be some fear and high concern if items are what they claim to be or are even legit in the first place. Collectors will now be wondering if there are any previously released items from Panini where the authenticity is questionable.
With Eli Manning caught in the middle of a scandal where he allegedly passed off two helmets as game used that weren’t, the issues with Panini may not sit well with the NFL or NFLPA. Most brands don’t like negative publicity (with the exception of Lavar Ball) and they’ll do whatever is necessary to keep their brand in the good graces of the fans. To an extent at least. It’ll take a lot more than just these two issues to draw concern from the NFL, but you better believe they’ll be watching.
It’s hard to say whether Panini will experience a decline in sales over their current authentication issues, but it’s unlikely that it would be a drastic decline due to the lack of competition in the market. With many shady third-party authentication companies in the world, many collectors rely on card companies to be totally legit. When customers lose trust in a product, they lose interest in the product altogether. And for the moment, it’s hard to trust Panini.