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Panini Marked Boxes Scandal Rocks Sports Card Industry

Have you ever felt like the game isn’t fair? When you buy boxes, the hits are usually very mediocre. Meanwhile, the most annoying breakers seem to enjoy all the luck.

Maybe you aren’t just imagining things. There are some fundamental issues with the hobby right now. Most specifically, the tricky relationship between Panini and the big breakers.

Here is the complete guide to the Panini marked boxes scandal.

What on earth is going on with the Panini marked boxes scandal?

As Panini gets closer to losing its marquee rights to the NFL and NBA, trouble mounts regarding the integrity of their boxes. The plentiful hits from Backyard Breaks set off alarm bells.

There was a strong suspicion that Panini was using a system to funnel the best boxes to certain breakers. If you thought that furor would die down, well, you were wrong! New evidence has emerged to help us understand how the best boxes can be identified before ripping.

Just a month ago, accusations flew that Panini was helping Backyards Breaks by delivering loaded boxes of Flawless. New allegations now surround the release of two of their products: 2021-22 Panini One and One Basketball and 2021-22 Panini Crown Royale Basketball.

In both cases, it appears the company is making it possible for actors in the now to find the loaded boxes easily. Let’s go step by step and review the problems and the evidence.

The 2021-22 Panini Crown Royale Basketball Scandal

Kaboom! inserts are easily the most sought-after insert in the hobby. When you open a box with a potential Kaboom!, your deepest desire is to see one of those babies and carefully put it in a top loader.

But what if you knew in advance which boxes held one? It would take out the suspense but might net you a tidy profit.

Recently, Panini has put a hologram in the corner of every hobby box they release. It is placed on a sticker, usually on the front of the box. It seems like a reasonably innocuous sticker if you are not in the know. But the serial number at the bottom of the sticker appears to communicate crucial information to breakers and suppliers Panini wants to favor.

The stickers all contain a unique series of holograms and letters that make each box fully identifiable. But only if one knows what they are looking for.

It appears that some individuals have been aware of the significance of the indicators for some time. Rumors spread on Discord, specifically on the Rotoradar thread. Some unsavory individuals tried to sell valuable information.

Soon, breakers noticed that customers were asking to see the hologram up close before selecting their boxes for personal breaks. A particularly notable example occurred on an LMS Box Breaks break.

They noticed that one of their customers was being a bit strange. Asking to see the box up close and to focus on Cade Cunningham’s shoelaces for some reason.

Even more amazingly, the weirdos asking for closeups hit a Jalen Suggs Kaboom! You can see it for yourself here from the 1:30-4:00 mark:

LMS Breaks gets suspicious

LMS Box Breaks was understandably suspicious. Gio from LMS Breaks said it alarmed him because “the pictures on the front of the box are always the same.” He did some research. They soon figured out what had happened.

Indeed, they received a recording involving a group of breakers that had hit the Kaboom! It confirmed that they were aware that a specific combination of numbers and letters was a 100% indication of the presence of this coveted insert.

On November 3, they posted on Twitter that there were ways to locate the inserts in the 2021-22 Panini Crown Royale Basketball product. Therefore, breakers and consumers should be aware of possible scams.

How to locate the Kaboom!

Sports Card Radio and LMS Breaks hesitated to divulge the secret to finding the Kaboom! inserts. But not everyone was that discreet. Hitman Rips released a video with their theory.

Every 2021-22 Panini Crown Royale Basketball box has an 11-number/letter serial code. You want to look for the 4th and 5th digits from the right. If the boxes have a  09, there is a Kaboom! in the box. If the serial number has any other configuration in that spot, it likely does not contain the insert.

Hitman Rips tested his theory. The first box with a 09 had a Bill Russell Kaboom! The breaker believed boxes with a 10 in that spot may also have the insert, but that theory was not borne out. Although the box with that number was a scorcher, it may indicate a good box. You can view that experiment here:

But finally, FireHand Cards revealed the full code. Kaboom! boxes start with the following codes:

  • NC05960
  • NC05961

FireHand Cards change their minds

FireHand Cards have been a large breaking company in the biz since 2008. Chad Redfern from that company has long been skeptical regarding allegations of rigged boxes. However, to his credit, once confronted with the strong evidence of a problem with the Crown Royale boxes, he changed his tune.

The company started to track the serial numbers on the boxes they ripped. They opened close to 100 boxes of 2021-22 Panini One and One basketball. What they discovered was quite disturbing.

The 2021-22 Panini One and One Basketball Scandal

Redfern put the cards into an Excel sheet which he helpfully color coded. You can immediately see that the solid hits and the duds fall into groups of varying sizes. There is nothing random about the placement.

Chad also reached out to other breakers to complete the chart. Nonetheless, the numbers are not complete. Obviously, FireHand Cards does not have access to all of the boxes available.

It should be noted that Redfern believes that Panini does not have malicious intent. He said, “this is not something that is done intentionally for the manufacturer to be able to track which cards are in which box. Other than making sure that cases receive the proper hits and they distribute 2-3 case hits in every ten boxes of a Panini One and One case.”

Chad has a similar explanation for the Kaboom! in Crown Royale boxes issue, which he says is “more along the lines of Panini being lazy in how they handed off those cards to the packaging facility. That is how they all ended up in the same run of hologram numbers.”

Why no holograms on football products?

It is also notable that while basketball products have these very problematic numbered holograms, NFL products do not.

Even Redfern, who does not believe that Panini is malicious in placing these numbers, admits, “I still don’t understand why all of the NBA products have these holograms that have numbers all over them on the front that are sequential, and they correlate to the same kind of cards going in a row and have sequential numbers stamped on them.

Meanwhile, when you open anything NFL from Panini, there are no numbers like that on them. Yet they can still ensure that NFL football cases have the correct number of case hits.”

That is an excellent question. One possible explanation is that this is an NBA licensing rights issue. But another explanation is that basketball cards tend to be more valuable overall, so there is more money in manipulating the market.

How does Backyard Breaks fit into the Panini Marked Boxes Scandal?

It seems like Backyard Breaks is linked to every scandal in the hobby in recent months. Although they are not directly involved in these new revelations, they shed some light on Backyard Breaks’ role.

The Discord server run by Rotoradar was observed trying to sell the secrets to hitting these Kaboom! cards. The company’s CEO, Sean Pfeiffer, is a close associate of Backyard Breaks.

Therefore, it is more than likely that Backyard Breaks has been privy to this information for a while. Rotoradar may be the source of internal information, suggesting they have a contact in Panini or are very good at locating case hits.

What this means for Panini

In the short term, many breakers are removing 2021-22 Panini One and One Basketball and 2021-22 Panini Crown Royale Basketball from their breaking rotation.

At this point, suspicions surrounding Panini basketball products have reached a fever pitch. Veterans in the business say this is not the first time patterns of this kind have been discovered. Instead, it doesn’t usually obtain this level of hobby-wide exposure.

Considering that two products have been found to contain these clues within a few days, it is possible that many other boxes have similar issues.

The company is definitely aware of these problems, and that many collectors are very skeptical about their practices. However, if the holograms are an honest mistake or a case of laziness, Panini should address the issue and change its practices.

Final word on the Panini Marked Boxes Scandal

The latest revelations continue to undermine faith in the hobby in its current structure. We aren’t sure what the mechanism is for providing breaks with inside information from Panini. But at this point, there certainly is one. The fact Panini has yet to address these problems in any way is unacceptable and, to my mind, quite damning.

What does this mean for you? I would not buy into any breaks where the case is not opened before you. Even then, if the breakers know the secrets, they may try to swing the good boxes in the direction of their favored customers.

Buying single hobby boxes off eBay and other non-trusted sellers is similarly problematic. Many people in the hobby are aware of these issues and have been for years. No shortage of people has likely taken advantage of this insider information for their own gain.

The safest bet is to buy an entire case. But that is easier said than done. A case of 2021-22 Panini Crown Royale Basketball costs over $8,000, and a case of 2021-22 Panini One and One Basketball will set you back a similar amount.

Should we have to pay that much to have a shot at hitting a Kaboom! Dude, we have mortgages to pay. And how do we know Panini isn’t marking their cases?

Even if you take every precaution in the book, you still may not be safe. If Panini plays an inside game, they may send their best cases to preferred distributors. As the great Leonard Cohen once sang, “Everybody knows the fight was fixed. The poor stay poor, the rich get rich. That’s how it goes. Everybody knows.”

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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