Oh, How the Mighty Fall

I’ve been in the game a long time, 32 years to be exact. I’ve seen the birth of pack-inserted, certified autographs and the introduction of the game-used relic. I was on the ground floor for the debut of Bowman Chrome in 1997 and have spent thousands of hours of my life writing about sports cards for this site and others. In my collecting lifetime, I’ve never witnessed a greater, swifter fall than that of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. Okay, maybe I called it with my title last week but the speed at which the WWE Prizm market has collapsed is something truly remarkable and one of a kind.

In the span of seven days, the same time it took “God” to start and complete creation, Panini America’s long awaited WWE debut came crashing down harder than a D’Lo Brown running power bomb on Darren Drozdov. Just a week and a half ago, boxes of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm were flying off shelves at near $1,500 a pop, if you were lucky enough to even find one. In group breaks, single packs were pushing $200, which was probably the most shocking part of it all and nearly all of social media, the collecting side anyway, was buzzing about the hottest wrestling trading card set to ever see the light of day.

The problem is that there are a few wrestling card influencers who spent the better part of 2-3 months pumping and pushing WWE Prizm. During the lone week Prizm dominated the hobby, these “influencers” were louder and more obnoxious than ever. As you can imagine, that same energy was nowhere to be found as Prizm began its descent. Suddenly the narrative went from “Prizm is the second coming of Jesus” to “Well, we all knew secondary market prices were going to tank”. Who knew, exactly? I certainly have never seen $150+ cards drop 98% a week after release.

There may actually be an exact event that broke 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. Something so symbolic of the greed in this hobby that possibly led to WWE Prizm’s downfall, and it came when an eBay user won a WWE Prizm John Cena Color Blast insert on eBay for $11,200 and refused to pay. Many speculate that the move was calculated to screw over the seller, Dary Rezvani. Shockingly, Rezvani, had to endure not only losing out on a major sale but the ridicule of fellow collectors who certainly appeared to be jealous of WWE Prizm’s week-long reign of dominance on the secondary market.

Below, you can see what the completed sales of the Cena Color Blast beginning with the first one that “sold” for $11,200 to the most recent sale just 9 days later for a more realistic $1,888. This is one of the more extreme cases but still a good example as pretty much all of WWE Prizm is facing a similar fate on the secondary market as we enter week #3. Another issue first-week WWE Prizm collectors are facing is the release of WWE Prizm retail, which will continue to devalue the product. Panini America is well known for printing into the millions so for those early buyers, my sympathies go out to you.

To me it appears the divide among wrestling card collectors is being driven by the age-old conflict of vintage collectors vs. modern collectors. To those who collected wrestling cards before it was “cool” to do so, 1982-’83’s Wrestling All-Star sets was the King of Wrestling Cards. For starters, the print run on these two sets is 2,000, which is lower than anything Panini America will ever produce. Second, the way the cards were shipped led damage so finding a “mint” copy is next to impossible. Third, the set was only available in a regional, obscure wrestling magazine as a mail-order special.

The WAS market has boomed since the pandemic era with raw, key issues demanding in and around the high 3 figures with mid-level, graded copies setting new records each and every week. Topps’ WWE cards, with their flashy Refractors and serial numbering was not able to make even a single dent to the WAS market but Panini’s Prizm tidal wave clearly ruffled many feathers. Furthermore, the company that printed the WAS cards 39 years ago didn’t anticipate on collectors one day demanding 35 shiny parallels, autographs, etc. The card market was a completely different business in 1983.

At the end of the day, it’s okay to collect what you please. Some like the new technology that Panini Prizm brings to the table, while other prefer the classic, more toned-down flavor of WAS. The world in general is already divided. It’s divided by political parties, pandemic guidelines, who to support in outside wars, and so much more. There’s no reason for collectors to be bickering online over something as silly as trading cards. Let’s face facts: 1982 WAS is truly a scarce and hard to find product but 2022 Panini WWE Prizm blows it out of the water, aesthetically speaking. There’s no denying each’s strengths.

So, can we all just get along?

Panini’s Shocking & Temporary Coup

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. This week, Panini America managed to rule the entire world of sports cards with the debut of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm. I cannot remember the last time a sports card debut had this type of impact since 1997’s top rookie brand, Bowman Chrome. WWE Prizm carried that type of hype and so much more thanks to social media. Is 2022 Panini WWE Prizm the biggest sports card brand debut of all-time? A case could be made to just that and sadly, this will be only be temporary as WWE kicked Panini to the curb even before their first release in favor of Fanatics.

As of Friday, unopened boxes of 2022 Panini WWE Prizm, which were just under $1,000 at the time of its release, hit as high as $1,300. That’s a box that comes with just 12 packs, a total of 144 cards (two sticker autographs) and a small sample of parallels. If you think that price is crazy, 1-pack group breaks were pushing as high as $200 earlier this week. The hype is absolutely insane but like most things, it can’t last forever. However, if you are one of the lucky ones with a sealed box, WHATEVER YOU DO, do not ever open it. You’re likely to make a fortune once the dust settles on this storm.

Panini America has flat out bested Topps Company and soon Fanatics in just one single try, at least in the wrestling market where MLB logos don’t come into play. Topps created $14,000 super high end products for WWE but ultimately failed the WWE market. To me this has to give Fanatics every possible sign that Panini’s brands, at least in WWE & NBA, cannot die out. If ever there was a shred of fear in my heart that Panini America would survive Fanatics’ monopoly, it is right now. Thanks to the enormous success of WWE Prizm, Panini America has now got to be on Fanatics’ $$$ radar.

Don’t get it twisted, the WWE Prizm market will crash and come back down to Earth but the hype of this debut will live forever and if Panini isn’t purchased by Fanatics and Topps takes over the license again, every collector will be dying to ride the Prizm wave once more. WWE’s decision to sign an exclusive deal with Fanatics could lead to WWE trading cards once again gathering dust on retail shelves all over the country. Here’s hoping, UGH … I can’t believe I am about to say this … I hope Fanatics purchases Panini America. There. I said it. I feel so disgusting. I need a shower.

Good Riddance, HACK

Just the other day, great news came my way. News that by the way, I was a bit late on. Turns out, Panini America lost their online mascot, as Tracy Hackler has officially left the building after 11 years. Hackler is by all accounts a decent fella, unless you are a collector who spends his or her hard-earned money on Panini America trading cards. Panini, as you may know, is the #1 offender of letting years go by on redemptions and is actually in court arguing that they have no responsibility for fulfilling said redemptions.

Despite public knowledge of Panini’s court filings and years and years of collectors on Twitter tagging Hackler and his partner in card board crime, Scott Prusha, no one has ever elicited even as little as a response from the two. At best, you have a phone number for customer service and/or an email which 9/10 times leads to a dead end. Well, silence isn’t all you get from Hackler because if you have a podcast or YouTube channel where you can toss slow-picth softballs, Hack will come on and spew his garbage non-stop.

It’s simple, if you want to kiss Tracy’s ass on your popular platform (and instantly lose credibility), Tracy will be your best friend. That is why GO GTS Live has been able to book Tracy non-stop for the past 3-4 years. If instead you choose to stick up for collectors by questions Panini America, their redemption program failure, or Hack/Prusha, you are met with a deafening silence. Now, Panini America, with no major American sports licenses, will need someone else to do their dirty bidding.

For those mourning the death of Panini’s unlicensed baseball offerings, I feel your pain. I mean, where else in the world will you be able to pull the card below from a $3,000 box, featuring two dubious and tiny pieces of “game-used” bat relics alongside a chopped-up, 1991 Score Mickey Mantle autograph? This one pictured here appeared on eBay for $15,999 but as you can imagine, sold for much less. There’s enough actual Mantle autographs from major licensed manufacturers like Upper Deck & Score to ever consider this rubbish.

Unfortunately, Panini America will keep churning out cards, now to the ever-growing wrestling card market, as that remains their only worthwhile license. Wrestling collectors will soon come to learn what us baseball, basketball, and football collectors have a long time ago, that Panini America is a cash grab of a company run by executives who care nothing about their customers or the volatile sports card industry. For those mindless sheep praising Panini’s upcoming 2022 Panini Prism WWE, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Further reading: Paging Tracy Hackler

Art Vandelay Sends a Warning

One of the biggest surprises from Panini’s high-end, National Treasures line this year is a supposed game used/event worn relic featuring Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander, numbered to just 99 copies. 2021 Panini National Treasures, an 8-card, $600+ box which has been out for barely a week, has received some major exposure thanks to the Seinfeld relic, with 7 copies already hitting the $1,000+ final selling price on eBay. While the hobby light will eventually dim on this scorching hot card, at the current secondary market price point, prices remain unreasonable to say the least.

When frustrated collectors began tweeting Jason Alexander earlier this week, the actor, comedian, and director flat out exposed Panini America by letting his fans know that he has absolutely no knowledge of the trading card and used a fancy Latin phrase that translates to “buyer beware”. What makes matters worse for Panini is that fans of Seinfeld have begun combing through all 180 episodes to find out exactly where this jersey relic may have been pulled from. There are several episodes in which George is seen in Yankees attire including a hat, jacket, and a jersey but none that come close to matching these relics.

The problem is that Panini America, one of the worst companies in the history of trading cards, based on the fact that they are trying to weasel out of fulfilling redemptions in court … also has a well-documented and long track record of committing fraud. Unfortunately, that hasn’t come close to stopping collectors from gobbling up just about every product Panini has produced over the past decade. Their basketball and football products have made collectors rich, which unfortunately is enough to lure them into helping Panini America sweep many of their controversies under the rug.

For now, until the dust settles and these cards come down in price, your best bet is to find yourself a Jason Alexander certified autograph trading card from the past. As usual, Leaf comes through in the clutch with their Pop Century line from way back in 2012. There are however, much more interesting cards produced by Rittenhouse Archives (unfortunate name) for multiple Star Trek sets. Unlike the Leaf autographs, these cards are hard-signed and frankly, much more interesting and can be purchased on eBay for a fraction of the dubious 2021 National Treasures Costanza relic.

Panini America Doesn’t Want to Fill Your Redemptions (and Why You Should Be Very Concerned)

There is an incredibly important class action lawsuit going on right now that has the potential to open the flood gates and rip off thousands of collectors and almost no one is talking about it. Panini America, the worst card company to come along in a very long time is arguing in court that they have no further responsibility to fulfill redemptions. Considering Panini’s modern products are loaded with redemptions, this is a big deal and something collectors should consider when choosing what products to buy.

I am not a lawyer nor can I pretend to be but Paul Lesko is and he’s been covering the entire lawsuit as well as other hobby-related court matters almost daily on Twitter. As insane as Panini’s defense is, what is truly scary is what could happen if Panini America wins. That potential victory could open the door for other card manufacturers to disregard expired and/or late redemptions they were unable to fulfill. Topps is notorious for redemption issues but Panini America has taken this to a whole new extreme.

Currently on eBay there are over 3,000 redemptions for sale from Panini America alone. Panini will be out of the American card market soon thanks to Fanatics which means if they can get their lawyers to stall long enough, there could potentially be thousands and thousands of redemptions left null and void. This is not the first time this exact thing has happened, as Fleer left collectors holding thousands unfilled redemptions when they abruptly filed for bankruptcy in 2005.

Don’t be surprised to see Panini America employees taking cards through the back door once the time comes to give up their licenses. Collectors should do everything in their power to get the word out. Twitter accounts with 5,000+ followers need to retweet case updates by Lesko because if the word does not get out soon, collectors could potentially lose tens of thousands of dollars per week. Tweet @PaniniAmerica and @TracyHackler as much as possible and demand coverage from @BeckettMedia.

When the PSA card trimming scandal broke, it barely made waves outside of the Blowout Cards forum and a few brave Twitter users who kept it relevant. The fraud was right there smack in everyone’s face but thanks to collectors, PSA had record profits in 2020 and is still the leader in the card grading business, despite seemingly dozens of new grading companies popping up every month. With no real competition, PSA will continue to devour the industry as long as collectors see there is money to be made.

Why do collectors choose to keep silent on these matters? It’s simple politics. Some collectors have thousands of dollars invested in graded cards, more specifically, PSA. If these collectors were to jump on the PSA Scam train, their collection and the money it cost them to get graded, would instantly be lost. Rather than speak up, they would rather unload at profit or just wait till the heat dies down and pretend like it didn’t happen. Well, folks … the wait paid off because it’s been forgotten.

There’s also another group of collectors who have remained silent, we call them industry shills. These are people with high Twitter follower counts who choose to stay silent because they don’t want to damage their “brand” by upsetting people at Panini. The two hosts of Go GTS Live, Ivan and Rob, for example. These two have Panini reps on their show almost weekly but wouldn’t dare make waves for fear of losing free product, which in turn, brings in ratings. Let’s be honest, who would watch Go GTS Live without free swag every segment?

Unfortunately, the industry shills and the collectors heavily invested in the trading card business have voices than are much louder and can reach further distances than someone with 200 followers who is choosing to speak out. Hopefully, Panini America gets eviscerated in court and is forced to fill all redemptions or at the very least pay back money or send acceptable replacements. The longer these card companies are allowed to get away dirty deeds at the expense of collectors, the worse our once beloved hobby becomes.

Further reading:

Paging Tracy Hackler

It’s Time for Collectors to Cancel PSA