Hobby Musings: 2020 – Unique Panini basketball year – While the 2019-20 basketball trading card season has been a successful one, it’s certainly provided its share of challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout those challenges, Panini continued to provide products that were enthusiastically ripped by people hoping to add cards of Zion Williamson and the rest of the stellar rookie class to their collections.

Hobby Musings: 2020 - Unique Panini basketball year

Keith Hower, Brand Manager, Panini America

To find out more about what this year meant for Panini, I had the chance to catch up with Brand Manager Keith Hower via email.

KS: Keith, it was an interesting and unorthodox basketball season to say the least. Now that it’s over, how do you think it went for Panini from a trading card standpoint?

KH: The 2019-20 season certainly was an unorthodox one. It presented some unique challenges for us in terms of timing and getting photography later in the year, but all things considered, the release year went incredibly well.

KS: The rookie class, led by Zion Williamson, was impressive to say the least. How did the interest in rookie cards for him, Ja Morant and the rest of the class compare to anything you’ve seen in your time producing cards?

KH: The strength of the rookie class certainly expanded the collector base for basketball cards. We receive correspondence from collectors on a near-daily basis, and a good portion of that correspondence begins with, ‘I’ve never been a basketball collector,’ or, ‘I haven’t collected basketball cards in years.’ What has also helped is we’ve had some very solid rookie classes leading up to this year, which have served to build a solid foundation of collectors. The only times I can recall the basketball hobby being in a similar type of frenzy was in 1992 during the Shaquille O’Neal craze, and the mid 1990’s during the Chicago Bulls craze.

KS: How did the season stoppage because of the coronavirus pandemic affect your basketball card business?

KH: The day-to-day way we approach our work is much different now. There was a learning curve, but other than some logistical adjustments, we pushed forward, business as usual.

KS: With the season ending months later than normal and the new season starting at a TBD time, what does that mean for the rest of your 2019-20 products and the new lines for 2020-21?

KH: There will be some altered timelines. The late end extended our release year and afforded us extra time to tweak and build some new brands. It remains to be seen how this will impact our 2020-21 program lineup.

KS: The draft is slated for mid-November. How does having it so much later, and the challenges presented by the pandemic, alter your typical draft plans?

KH: This is where the altered timelines come in. Obviously, until the draft happens, we will not know who plays for which team, so we’ll be working through it in the coming months.

KS: Will you still have a rookie photo shoot in order to gather the assets you normally would from the rookie class?

KH: We will have the assets whether there is a Rookie Photo Shoot or not.

KS: Which rookies do you think will make the biggest impact on the hobby next season?

KH: LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and Tyrese Haliburton. All three of these guys will have the ability to instantly impact their teams. If they, and a couple of other rookies come hot out of the gate, the basketball hobby will continue to grow.

KS: I do have to ask this. Will we get dual cards of Lonzo and LaMelo Ball, including for autos?

KH: While we can’t confirm this yet, we also won’t deny it…

KS: The demand for basketball cards this year was incredible, not only for hobby, but for retail product as well. I know I personally haven’t seen any basketball on retail shelves since maybe January. What has been your reaction the increased demand for retail, and has Panini had any input with retail locations for how to sell/distribute it to customers since it’s become so difficult to get?

KH: Frankly, the growth at retail has been a strong focus of ours for some time now. We speak very frequently with all our retail partners, and we are always working on ways to deliver product to the collector, and we will adjust to meet the needs of the market.

Hobby Musings: 2020 – Unique Panini basketball year – Image Gallery

Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Hobby Musings: 2020 – Unique Panini basketball year

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