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How Did Missing 2017 Panini Autograph Cards Get Found And Returned?

missing panini autographs from 2017

On January 9th, Tyler Santiago, the owner of Santiago Cards, posted about a fantastic find. Someone provided the owner with a box of 9 cards. They were copies of a 2017 Immaculate Triple Auto, Kyle Kuzma, Magic Johnson, and Lonzo Ball card. It was a /10 card, and the 8th one was missing.

It wasn’t just any box, either. As Santiago knew, this was an official Panini box used for autos. As he explained on Instagram, “They literally are in the box players receive their cards in to sign & return To Panini.”

He seems to have known that the origins of the cards were a bit shady. When he uploaded the relevant story on Instagram, Santiago said, “I’m not really sure what to do with them, and no I will not tell you where I got them. They came into the shop, and that’s all I can really say. I’m not going to have that business.”

He introduced the find as “easily the coolest thing I have ever seen in this hobby. We have never seen this kind of box.”

One user asked in the comments section, “Are you worried they might have been stolen?” To which Santiago replied, “100% are NOT stolen.”

View on Instagram

The dual auto box

Two days later, Santiago posted another video. This time, he showed a box filled with Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball dual auto rookies, also from the 2017 Immaculate release. The card was a /25, and Santiago had all 25 copies, in addition to two prototypes. Santiago said, “if you thought the triple autos were cool, I found dual autos.”

It came in a Panini box, which included instructions on where to sign. Therefore, it appeared to be the company’s official box to ship cards to athletes for signature.

He showed in the video how all of the cards are accounted for and ended with, “This is something I don’t really know what to do with, but it was too cool to pass up and we will see what happens.”

View on Instagram

In the comments section, Santiago wrote, It’s Pretty cool to see ALL 25 of the Same card that exists What are your thoughts?” People had all sorts of thoughts, but not necessarily pleasant ones.
A user wrote, “How did you get your hands on these? Is this what we call falling off a truck?”

Panini asks for the cards back

Panini reached out to Tyler Santiago and informed him that those cards had been stolen.

According to Santiago’s account of the matter: “Panini reps had seen my post and emailed me on Thursday asking me to talk about returning them. Kevin Haake (VP of sales to Panini) scheduled a talk Friday to talk about them and he informed me that they had never been returned by Kuzma’s camp and had been reported stolen years ago.”

Santiago made a video on January 12, where he explained, “These are being shipped back to Panini. Panini reached out to me and said they were stolen. I had no problem sending them back. Eventually, these will be fulfilled redemptions. These are seven-year-old cards, which will be in their rightful owners’ hands.”

As noted, people have been making all sorts of accusations that Santiago knew the cards were stolen. The card store owner replied, “Why would I post stolen goods if I knew they were stolen? Wouldn’t I just try and fucking piece them out?”

View on Instagram

Are the autographs real?

Opinions differ on whether the autographs on the cards are genuine or not. One Instagram user wrote, “Wouldn’t these be considered stolen? Also, the Kuzma autos don’t appear to be real? When has he ever signed just KK?”

However, I have compared these to other Kuzma autos from his rookie season, and some of the others also have KK. So in and of itself, that is not proof of anything.

Mojo Breaks, commented on Instagram on the issue as well. They noted that “that appears not be a @kuz auto. Also if you look at the box, the other two are crossed out. Maybe got taken on the way to have Kuzma sign?” Once again, Santiago denied anything untoward here and said, “They’re 100% Kuzs auto.”

However, there is reason for concern. As you can see, the actual verified Kuzma autos have a loop in each K. Meanwhile, the cards in question here, do not feature that telltale sign.

How did these cards turn up?

The most interesting questions are: how and when were these cards stolen? As well as how did they end up in the hands of Tyler Santiago.

Since the cards came in an original box that was used to receive athlete signatures, they may have been stolen from one of the athletes in question. If it were stolen from Panini, it probably would have included a wider variety of athletes. Magic Johnson was only involved in the triple autos. So, it almost certainly wasn’t from him.

That means it was likely taken from either Lonzo Ball or Kyle Kuzma.

Santiago later tweeted that he got the cards from someone close to Kuzma.

He wrote, “the cards come from someone who is close to Kuzma personally & they were found in the middle of when he was moving after being traded from the Lakers to the Wizards. Knowing where they came from and the relationship of the gentleman who brought them to me to take a look at, I had zero doubt they were his auto and real cards. After all, who would have legit Magic & Lonzo autos on the cards already and intentionally sign a fake Kuzma auto? Did anyone think of that or was it straight pitchforks from the beginning?”

The cards in question are redemptions. They are from way back in 2017, so the owners of the redemptions likely waited a long time for them to be fulfilled.

One Instagram user said, “backdoor cards have been around forever but this is different these were meant to be redemptions so anyone holding these redemptions of course is going to get the ohhhh well here’s your sparkle pack sorry not sorry. I understand backdoor material exists but having a card that supposed to be a redemption that people are possibly holding is not a good look but truthfully panini doesn’t care like I said here comes your sparkle pack redemption holders.”

This is not the first time Panini cards sent out to be signed have disappeared like this. Below is another example, although this one did not have a signature. These are 2023 Panini Immaculate Collection Baseball cards sent to San Diego Padres prospect Jackson Merrill. They somehow ended up in the wrong hands as well.

A security problem at Panini?

Panini cards are being stolen right and left. It isn’t clear where the biggest breach is. At Panini itself. The printers they use. The athletes and their entourages. But there are many points where cards can, and are, being taken.

Santiago said the call with Panini, “could not have been a more positive call, after hearing how excited they were to get these back and get some redemptions filled.” That raises the question: were these redemptions from 2017 never filled? That is just one of several questions this weird case raises.

Perhaps the most disturbing part, is that in most cases something like this would never be discovered. Usually, someone in possession of all of these cards would realize that they were stolen and not show them on social media.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is the emeritus editor of Cardlines. He continues to write for several hobby outlets, including this one and Cardbase. He collects primarily vintage baseball and soccer and has a weird obsession with 1971 Topps.

In his spare time, Shaiel is sobbing into his bourbon when the Mets lose and playing Dungeons and Dragons. In a past life, Dr. Ben-Ephraim was a political science professor, journalist, and diplomat. But cards are more fun.

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