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Are Your Pending Panini Redemptions Going To Someone Else?

We have gotten painfully used to waiting years for Panini to fulfill redemptions. Some collectors have reported waiting for over five years for their redemptions to be fulfilled.

That is incredibly frustrating. However, there are also reports of a new and highly disturbing twist. There appears to be more than one case wherein a card promised as redemption has turned up elsewhere, including January 2024 reports of 2017 Panini Autograph cards found.

What does this mean? We have the answers in our coverage of the Panini redemption sales scandal.

Some background on redemptions

One of the most controversial and unpopular parts of the hobby is redemptions. Sometimes the card producer will not get all of the autos set for inclusion in a product done on time. In those cases, they may include a redemption card, which you can send to claim the autograph.

Once the card is signed, the company is obligated to send the card to collectors who have redeemed these autographs.

The process was never popular. It has also never been remarkably smooth. However, over time, things seemed to have gotten worse. What was once a process that took several months had become gradually longer.

By the early 2020s, collectors complained that they had been waiting for some redemptions for several years. Topps had this problem too, but Panini usually committed the worst abuses.

In a previous article, I wrote: “And the amount of time it takes seems almost random at times. For example, you could wait 6 years for your Giannis auto, but his brand new signatures will arrive for a new product. So it kind of seems like the old autos are forgotten.”

Redemptions are so unpopular that Topps has announced that they will make serious efforts to reduce their presence in the hobby. But in the meantime, redemptions continue to appear in new products, and the backlog of unfulfilled redemptions is still reportedly massive.

What happened in the Jayson Tatum/Lorenzo Ball Panini redemption scandal?

But if that wasn’t bad enough, there is a new twist in the Panini redemption saga. While thousands of collectors sit patiently, awaiting the arrival of the auto cards promised to them, some of these cards have been popping up elsewhere. And they have been selling for solid prices.

Carl Zou is one of many collectors who have received a redemption from Panini that has not been fulfilled. He was lucky enough to draw a redemption for a 2017 Panini Immaculate Logoman Rookie Card Jayson Tatum and Lonzo Ball Dual Auto 1/1. A stunning card and a massive hit. Of course, the card has only become more extensive over the years as Tatum has fulfilled his immense potential.

In his case, he has been waiting for four years; also, nothing particularly remarkable since the company is known for the long wait times for their auto redemptions.

However, in this case, there was an unexpected development. Carl found the same card available on eBay. This raises some questions because we are talking about a 1/1 card here. The item sold for a very healthy price of $23,000.

How did Panini respond?

Mr. Zou immediately contacted Panini. But they did what they do best, which is ignore company concerns. Therefore, Carl has said that if Panini does not respond to his problems and does so soon, he will be suing them over the card.

Here is the full text of the post by Carl Zou on Instagram:

“I have submitted the 2017-18 Panini Immaculate Basketball Lonzo Ball/Jayson Tatum RC Dual Logoman autograph within the redemption expiration date, but what the ridiculous thing is, my friend told me the card was sold on eBay on 23 May 2023, what the fxxx?

This is a 1/1 masterpiece card, and Panini hasn’t even responded to my messages or emails; it always lets me wait 120 days now and again. Four years since submission, now sell on eBay?

This is totally a scam by the official trading card company. This is a series hit. Come on. Redemption is okay. But how dare the card be sold on eBay? I need a response. Otherwise, I will sue.”

According to Carl Zou, he followed up with the eBay seller. He was told the card was initially purchased at the Dallas Card Show. The buyer, who later sold the card on eBay, is one Jason Stern.

He runs the Then And Now Collectibles store on eBay. If this story is true, there is some logic to dispensing a redemption card at a show instead of online, where there is more visibility.

What happened next?

Many big names in the hobby heard about this story and responded with pressure on Panini to respond and make this right.

Perhaps most notably, Bolillo Lajan San (better known as Shyne), one of the field’s top sellers, collectors, and middlemen responded to Zou’s initial post with a simple “Oh wow.” Then took it upon himself to act as an intermediary.

Indeed, Shyne may have been instrumental in Panini’s eventual response; Zou later thanked him, noting, “Thx @shyne150 for keep contacting Panini’s officials for all of the guys like us, he’s such a leader in the card hobby, really appreciate that.”

How did Panini respond?

Panini is not exactly well known for its responses to collectors’ concerns. However, this story garnered so much attention that even they could no longer ignore it.

According to Card Zou, the Texas-based card giant finally reached out to him. He wrote: “After 1200 day’s waiting, I’ve firstly received an email from @paniniamerica. So let’s see what the after-story will move to!”

We contacted Carl Zou for comment, but he has not yet responded. However, Panini will most likely offer him enough compensation to be worth his while to make this issue disappear.

But we tend to agree with Rumble Breaks, who made the following comment: “Just sue them bc they’ll overcompensate bc this created news stories, and they’ll have you sign an NDA. You’ll think it’s okay due to greed because of what they’re giving you, but imagine if you hadn’t caught them and your post didn’t catch news sources. I would contact the folks suing them for the redemption thing: Scott C. Borison of Borison Firm, LLC, Steffan T. Keeton of The Keeton Firm LLC; and Spencer Sheehan of Sheehan & Associates, P.C. and show them this as proof that they’ve been scamming you. You’ll end up getting class action status since it’ll involve a lot of us, Panini will be gone in the next year, and any redemptions you have will be sure to be included as well; that’s still pending.”

2017 Panini Autograph cards are found

In January 2024, another story came to light about 2017 Panini Autograph cards. This time, a collector, Tyler Santiago, was provided a box with 9 cards which turned out to be 2017 Immaculate Triple Autos with Kyle Kuzman, Magic Johnson and Lonzo Ball. A few days later he also unearthend 25 copies of the Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball Dual autographs.

Santiago posted about the find on Instagram. The box he received the cards included instructions to a player on where to sign, indicating they were the official box Panini gives to athletes to sign the cards.

Shortly after the find went public, Panini asked for the cards back, which Santiago promptly did.

Questions remain of how the cards ended up in Santiago’s hands to begin with and why there seems to be a continued problem with security at Panini.

Other stories add to the Panini Redemption Sales Scandal

Since then, other collectors have come out with similar stories. For example, a Twitter user named Augustus Shields claimed he had a redemption for a 2018 Panini National Treasures Cristiano Ronaldo Class of their Own 1/1 Auto card.

However, while waiting for the card for three years, it appeared on eBay. The Ronaldo card had graded a BGS 8.5 and was listed for $11,000.

Another user, Mitch, Tweeted: “Doesn’t surprise me. I have a Mahomes auto they won’t fulfill. I’ve seen the exact card on eBay and at card shows.” He then proceeded to produce receipts. The card in question is a 2020 Panini Leaps and Bounds Patrick Mahomes Auto /40. Obviously, it may not be the same card since it is a /40. But that still raises similar questions.

Meanwhile, Josh posted, “Been waiting on this card for a couple of years now. I’ve seen a few on eBay already. I better not end up getting a mosaic white sparkle pack.”

In his case, the card in question was a 2020 Contenders Optic Silver Holo Prizm Optic Rookie Ticket listed on eBay for $470.

He told Cardlines: “I hit it in a break a while back and redeemed it immediately. I’ve yet to receive the card, even though I’ve seen the same ones sold or listed on eBay. Not sure if some got signed and inserted into packs and some went out as redemptions, but either way, I don’t have one yet.”

On Instagram, one user reported, “I’ve also submitted a redemption well before the expiration date for a Brady/Brees/Manning triple immaculate auto /5 over 3 years ago that I’ve seen it sold on eBay and Goldin and @paniniamerica even posted multiple copies of on their social media accounts. I called them a year ago, and they said, “Oh, someone hasn’t signed yet.” I explained that the card definitely is live and that they even posted it on their social media. The rep was speechless and couldn’t give me an answer.”

How did this happen?

When matching these redemption claims with sales data, there is a compelling case here: cards set for redemptions are being sold while claims remain unfulfilled. Of course, we don’t know how many cases there are. But it appears to be a non-trivial amount.

The real question is: how did these cards set for a redemption turn up on the secondary market? We don’t know. Panini did not respond to our query, and even if they had, we doubt the company would provide us with satisfactory answers.

All we have are some theories. Here are the main ideas we have heard. Any of these may be true:

  • The company may be trying to cash in while the getting is good. So why provide old redemptions, for which they have already made money when you can resell them for large sums of money?
  • There was a recent exodus of executives from Panini to Topps. Indeed, the problem was so bad that Panini sued Topps for poaching some irreplaceable employees. According to one theory, one of these individuals took redemption cards with them as a final screw-you to their former employers.
  • Panini has been doing this for years to paddle their bottom line. The bonus for this theory is that it would help explain the long-standing problem with redemptions at Panini.
  • Low-level employees steal cards intended for redemptions without any knowledge of their superiors.
  • Finally, it may just be a mix-up. Perhaps Panini did not keep track of all the cards intended for redemptions.

Obviously, some of these make Panini look like absolute crooks, and others just as somewhat inept. We don’t know the answer and will not pretend to have unique insight. But we will continue to update you on any developments in the Panini redemption sales scandal.

The final thoughts on the Panini redemption sales scandal

The evidence is clear. At least some cards intended for unfulfilled redemptions are popping up on the market. Sometimes, they are being resold for significant sums of money. From the perspective of redemption holders, this is inexcusable.

It is infuriating enough to have to wait several years to have your redemptions fulfilled. However, it is even worse when Panini, or at least their employees, may take those cards and sell them for hefty profits while you wait aimlessly.

We do not have all the answers as to why and how this occurred. But some of the repercussions are already clear. There has long been a sense that Panini is simply trying to rack up profits before they lose the rights to their principal cash cows, the NBA and NFL rights.

Obviously, this will not change much. People will continue to buy Panini products while they own those licenses. Anyone who buys a box from the company is already crossing their fingers not to draw a redemption. Now perhaps they will be hoping a little bit harder.

Finally, this may be the final nail in the coffin of redemptions. The long waiting times had already made collectors highly resentful of redemptions. When you might be super excited to get one a few years ago, today, collectors know better.

The new scandal adds a bitter twist to the general dissatisfaction accompanying redemptions. It’s annoying to think that you must wait for years for a redemption, while Panini somehow gets these players to sign for other products.

It is maddening to know that the card you are waiting for has probably already been sold at a card show somewhere.

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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