A pack of basketball cards in your hometown mom and pop corner shop would set you back a couple bucks in 1993. Two decades later, a major shift in the industry has created a niche market for high-end, premium trading cards. Panini America, one of the industry leaders along with Topps-Bowman, just took whatever bar had been previously set and shoved it up to the heavens.
Ten days ago the company released 2012-13 Panini Flawless NBA Basketball Cards. At the time the suggested retail price for one pack (10 cards) was $1,250. That’s not a typo. What exactly do you get for skipping a mortgage payment?
First, the pack of cards comes in a James Bond-approved sealed briefcase. Stop, I know what you are thinking. Yes, the keys to lock the briefcase are inside. I’m not kidding. Upon cracking the case, Panini has two featured cards packaged inside a sealed hard plastic case. One of them is a diamond encrusted base card numbered to 20. That means only 20 complete diamond sets are possible out of this set. The other eight cards come inside a second box. Each briefcase breaks down like this:
Seven autographed cards w/ no more than 25 printed of each (short-print)
"The basketball card market is much smaller than the football or baseball card market," David Gelfman of Ripping Wax Inc. said. "However, the best cards in basketball always get more than the best cards in other sports. Flawless has not only brought out the high end basketball collector, it has brought out speculators and collectors of other sports like no other product has done. It takes a special product to draw non-basketball collectors and Flawless has done just that."
Now, remember that $1,250 MSRP? That was the going rate on Friday October 25. However, like some of Heisenberg’s finest, the product hit hobby shops and collectors couldn’t get enough. Ten days after the launch, Panini Flawless packs are priced anywhere between $1,750 – $1,850.
Trading card collectors and flippers – those who rip a pack and try to flip a card on eBay for a quick profit – are in search of dozens of the NBA’s best from throughout the years in addition to the stars of tomorrow like Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. In fact, this Damian Lillard Flawless basketball card just sold on eBay for some serious cash. Irving sells just as well as does Kobe Bryant.
Just so you have a better idea of what this product looks like, I’ve posted a video below featuring an online pack break and draft of the 2012-13 Panini Flawless product. To help offset the overall cost of an entire pack, most hobby shops and online dealers sell 10 draft slots to collectors at ~$180/spot. Those 10 names are thrown into the hopper and the draft order is selected at random. On average, the person with the No. 1 pick will at least quadruple the money they invested with the card they receive. That is, of course, if they intend to sell it immediately.
Those who sell, usually hop right back in to buy more. Panini has the trading card industry’s full attention without a stick of stale bubble gum.