Hobby Musings: Panini meeting WNBA card demand – Panini is well-known for its exclusive NBA-licensed cards. In the past few years, they’ve also created cards for the WNBA. With strong autograph checklists and a plethora of rookie cards, WNBA products have been caught up in the hobby’s big spike over the past year.
To find out more, I had the chance to catch up with Panini brand manager Lucas Kinser.
KS: Why did Panini get involved in making WNBA products?
LK: We began working with the WNBA for two reasons – we wanted to consolidate the NBA and WNBA products being developed for collectors under the Panini brand umbrella, and we also felt the market was ripe for its first full pack-product WNBA release in many years.
KS: What were your keys in trying to make it successful from the go?
LK: We wanted to put our best foot forward and invest in a strong autograph roster and production value. We targeted and acquired autograph rights from the best players in the WNBA, past, present, and future. We also utilized our popular Opti-Chrome technology first with the Optic parallels in 2019 WNBA Donruss, and later as a full Opti-Chrome release in 2020 WNBA Prizm.
KS: What has overall fan response been to the products so far?
LK: Fan response has been overwhelmingly positive. I feel this is due to building the products from the perspective of what we feel collectors were looking for out of the license. Collectors can acquire cards they want to keep, and the secondary market is strong enough for the product that collectors can sell many autographs and low-numbered parallels for a strong return.
KS: We’ve seen an incredible boom in the hobby over the past year. How has that translated or not translated to your WNBA releases?
LK: The strong boom in the hobby has raised demand for all our brands and licenses, including WNBA. We saw this first-hand with the secondary market values for hobby and blaster boxes of 2020 WNBA Prizm going for well above SRP.
KS: Which players/autographs have you found to be most popular with collectors so far?
LK: Many WNBA veterans and legends have been heavily collected, including Elena Delle Donne, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Lisa Leslie, Becky Hammon and Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. But of course, rookie cards rule the roost in the industry. RCs of Sabrina Ionescu, Satou Sabally and Chennedy Carter have been some of the most sought after in the 2020 WNBA Prizm set.
KS: What WNBA products do you have coming in the near future?
LK: We are producing a WNBA Prizm program for 2021. We plan on it being the best WNBA program yet!
KS: There are some pretty talented players in women’s college basketball right now. Who should collectors be keeping an eye on for next season’s potential rookie class?
LK: Most mock drafts have Charli Collier out of Texas and Aari McDonald out of Arizona as the two top prospects, although Collier is a junior and may return to college for one more season. One rookie I know will be part of the program is Crystal Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year who was not in the 2020 WNBA Prizm program, but will be a rookie due to not having any previous licensed trading cards.
KS: Staying on the collegiate level, UConn’s Paige Bueckers has been pretty impressive so far. Is there any chance we’ll be able to see cards of her in some capacity any time soon?
LK: We will see cards of Paige whenever she declares for the WNBA draft, whether now or in a couple of years. She is an amazingly talented freshman and I anticipate her being a future top pick in the draft.
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