When MLB decided to extend their relationship with Topps for the next 7 years back in March, collectors were upset. They missed the diversity, competition, and they didn't enjoy the way Topps recently has dealt with collectors. For those die-hard collectors (myself included), they were subjected to either stick it out or possibly leave the hobby. However a new possibility opened up for collectors, and this came with the name Panini.
It all started innocently in 2012 with Panini bringing releasing news of National Treasures Baseball. Collectors were a little stunned that they heard Panini was releasing a baseball product. How will they compete against Topps? How could they go against not having a MLB licence? Not only did they use their own established MLBPA licence to the fullest, but they pulled out all the stops from Hall of Fame players with Cut Autographs, Jumbo relics and a number of other goodies including Bat Knobs. Yes Panini went for a Home Run and hit a Grand slam with collectors. This was only the first of many small steps to come.
In 2013, Panini released Prizm Baseball and it was a hit with collectors. Panini again used it's MLBPA licence to the best of their ability to bring collectors an alternative to Topps. Using very creative photos and sharp designs, Prizm was able to attract collectors and have them jump on board for future releases. Going retro and bringing back Pinnacle this year was another brilliant move by Panini. Collectors love the look and sense of Retro products coming back into the market place and this was just as well received as Prizm was.
Mixed in with Golden Age, Cooperstown Collection and Hometown Heroes, Panini has created their own decent market share of Baseball collectors. The way they have done it over the last couple of years is truly amazing. No other company would even attempt to try this and if they would, none of them would come close to what Panini has accomplished.
Now as for a baseball collector what does this mean going forward? The game has changed, no longer will you be subjected to only one company holding all of the cards (had to throw that in somewhere in this piece). Bigger selection, greater number of choices, and a better opportunity to collect current stars and Hall of Famers. This is one of the best times to be collecting Baseball cards. It's exciting and interesting waiting to see what's next from either of the companies. Topps has to try and keep up the level of interest while not breaking their own business model and stance as the leader in MLB licensed cards. And Panini continues to bust out new and innovative ways to bring collectors closer to their baseball products using their own unique ways.
2014 products are already being worked on by both companies and for a collector of baseball I can't wait to see what they have in store for us. I'm more excited to hear from the Panini this coming year just because they have done a fabulous job on attracting hardcore baseball collectors away from Topps and also increased other sport collectors into trying baseball. A prediction for 2014 would be that Panini brings us another product like National Treasures that blows us away. Starting off with Select in December and Donruss in February is not too shabby of a way to start a great 2014 campaign.