By Ray Schulte
Every year, the billion-dollar collectibles industry finds ways to draw more and more fans into their world. Whether it's related to pop culture, entertainment or sports, fans all have some desire to collect -- some at a deeper level than others.
Within the collectibles universe, companies can start, enhance or rejuvenate a specific category. An example would be the recent history of the licensed trading card business.
Upper Deck entered the licensed trading card business in 1988 and quickly revolutionized the industry, capturing the excitement and passion of collectors nationwide. All league licensed trading card manufacturers' sales soared in the late '80s and early '90s.
During that time, licensed manufacturers took advantage of the overwhelming demand by overproducing cards and saturating the marketplace. As a result, the mystique and passion started to dwindle. Attempting to maintain sales levels, the manufacturers' added promotional premiums to their card packs that have continued through to today's releases. A collector might find a signed Cal Ripken Jr. card, a swatch of Roberto Clemente's used game jersey or even a piece of Abraham Lincoln's hair.
At the end of January, industry news sparked renewed excitement and optimism for stimulating the trading card segment of the business. The National Basketball Association entered into a new, exclusive, multi-year licensing agreement with the Italy-based Panini Group, the world's largest publisher of collectibles.
"Over the years, NBA trading cards have served as an important source to connect fans of all ages with our game," said Sal LaRocca, executive vice president, NBA Global Merchandising Group. "Moving forward with an exclusive partner, with Panini's global reach, is the best way to energize the category on a worldwide basis."
With worldwide distribution and experience in developing successful collectible products, the entire industry is looking forward to Panini making an impact as soon as possible in the United States.
A few weeks after the NBA named Panini an exclusive trading card partner, the Panini Group announced that it purchased Donruss Playoff, L.P. Established in 1954, Donruss is the second-oldest trading card company in the USA. The Texas-based company is a National Football League licensee currently producing NFL trading cards under their Playoff, Leaf and Score brand names.
"Both companies share similar goals with regard to the hobby," said Panini American marketing manager Scott Prusha. "We look forward to using the resources we now have available to help us grow the trading-card category and introduce cards to new collectors (especially kids), while continuing to develop the highest-quality trading cards in the industry."
Following the NBA's announcement and the purchase of Donruss, Panini announced the formation of Panini America Inc. The new entity will operate out of Donruss' Texas facility. It is too soon to say if the Panini Group will be successful in its efforts to penetrate the American marketplace. However, the 50-year-old international company has strategically aligned with great partners in the NBA and NFL.
Hopefully, the winners from this new Panini America entity will be the collectors.
Noteworthy Collectible News
Donruss announced it has just released "2009 Donruss Americana" a celebrity set which includes original movie posters with swatches of clothing worn by the films' stars and card signings from movie and TV celebrities.
Upper Deck's Huntik Trading Card Game is now available in more than 1,500 7-Eleven stores. The company believes the stores will increase awareness and sales of the game.
"Huntik as a brand is already doing well worldwide, growing its fan base of the animated series," said Erika Conway, Upper Deck's brand manager for Huntik. "With placement in 7-Eleven stores, we expect the popularity of the TCG will continue to go up, which means better sales for everyone offering Huntik in their store."
Ray Schulte is the president of Schulte Sports Marketing. Anyone having questions concerning their collections can e-mail ray at RaySchulte@comcast.net.
Schulte Sports will be conducting a private signing with Cal Ripken, Jr. May 7. All items must be received by May 1. For pricing and more information, visit www.schultesports.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue 136: April 2009