Hobby Musings: Immaculate Soccer will pack a lot of star power – Panini recently announced an exclusive autograph deal with soccer legend David Beckham. As part of the pact, Beckham’s autographs will appear in the company’s Immaculate Soccer line. Aside from Beckham signatures, there are number of other notable cards to chase in the product. To find out more about the Beckham deal and what collectors can expect from Immaculate, I had the chance to catch up with Panini’s Brett Whiteley and Aik Tongtharadol.
KS: So one of the big stories with Immaculate Soccer is the inclusion of David Beckham autographs. For those who may not know, why is that such a big deal?
BW: David Beckham has been an international icon for years and is one of the biggest soccer names of all time. Back in his prime playing years, I was still a student and the World Cup was the primary way I enjoyed the sport – I didn’t know many players back then, but Beckham has always been universally recognized and respected. Even though Aik and I are recent additions to the soccer product development team, we jumped at the chance to reintroduce his certified autographs to the market. He is also very selective regarding who he partners with, so it is a huge honor to add his signatures to our trading card and Authentic products.
KS: In terms of soccer autograph popularity, where would you place Beckham?
AT: He is easily one of the most popular soccer players of all time and because he hasn’t signed for so many years, we think the demand for his autographs is going to be incredibly high. Not only does his decorated soccer history match up well with many retired greats, but his pop culture appeal and fanbase rivals that of current stars.
KS: Besides the autographs of Beckham, what are some of the other highlights collectors can expect to find in Immaculate?
AT: There are a lot of great signature cards, including some fun Dual and Triple Autographs, and the always-unique Boot Signatures and Boot Memorabilia cards are also collecting highlights.
KS: Do you have a personal favorite card that was inserted into the product?
BW: I am a Chelsea fan personally and there are several Christian Pulisic memorabilia cards that I am excited to see.
AT: That’s a tough question. Joao Felix is such a tremendous player at his young age, I think his 1-of-1 Logo Signature would be my choice.
KS: We’ve seen the hobby explode over the past year, and soccer is part of that. In terms of sports card popularity, where do you think soccer ranks?
BW: Soccer is definitely vying for a spot in the top 3-4 for popularity, and there are numerous reasons for this. Despite the difficulty of the pandemic, soccer got a boost in visibility by being one of the first sports back on the televised scene. Also, there are several key young players and national team members – Haaland, Fati, Pulisic and McKennie, to name a few – that are helping drive the market. And of course, the global nature of the sport also allows us to connect with fans from all over the world, and we are making sure our product line caters to the full spectrum of collectors.
KS: What is the difference you see in soccer card popularity here in the United States vs. internationally?
AT: Internationally, fans haven’t really had as many opportunities to collect our type of products, so it is great to see that take root and the enthusiasm behind card collecting in general. Domestically, many of us are very familiar with this, and it is more about increasing the scope of teams/players and really digging into popular inserts and parallels to give the variety that has blossomed in other sports.
KS: Who’s an under-the-radar soccer player collectors should be keeping an eye on right now?
AT: Pedri for FC Barcelona and Bryan Gil for SD Eibar will be getting RCs in 2020-21, and I’m hopeful that those guys will continue to improve and showcase their talents.
BW: Premier League had an interesting set of teams promoted for 2020-21, and I think the Leeds United guys show a lot of promise – Bamford, Meslier and Poveda are all good choices to keep an eye on.
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: Immaculate Soccer will pack a lot of star power
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