A few weeks ago, Panini released 2010-11 Gold Standard Basketball as one of their super premium products for the season. Priced between $150-$180 per box, the conceit behind Gold Standard was that it would include pieces of real 14 karat gold embedded on the card and redemptions for cards made of nothing but gold. The gold cards proved to be a success when they used the concept in 2010 Playoff Contenders Football and Panini was looking to use the same formula for Gold Standard coupled with the cards with gold pieces as case hits.
Now that the initial hype has worn out and the cards have leveled off (boxes can now be found for $135 at Frank and Sons in City of Industry), the response for Gold Standard has its shares of praises and critiques. All of the cards and inserts revolved around the gold theme, so you had Gold Bars, Gold Medals, Gold Nuggets, Gold Mining, Golden Anniversary, Gold Pandering (ok, I made one up), and so on. While the design of the cards themselves was good and the rainbow foil technology that Panini commonly implements was worthwhile this time around, the gimmick was spread too thin. Not since I saw Ghostface Killah’s golden eagle in person have I suffered from such gold fatigue.
The gold piece cards – which has real-world value unlike a game-worn jersey or even an autograph – seem to have hit their saturation point and lost its luster (yes, bathe in the irony). In the first week of sales for Gold Standard, even somebody like Raymond Felton would command close to a hundred dollars for one of his gold piece cards; now it can’t even pay for a full tank of gas. A member of the HobbyKings message board went so far as to cut open a Shane Battier card (last one sold for $22.59) just to see if there might be more value in just having the gold piece instead of the card; unfortunately, the sliver of gold clocked in at less than a gram. Even with the value of gold increasing as we speak, unless you can find these cards for $10-$20 each regularly, investing in them is a bad idea.
(Check out video of a Gold Standard being cut up for its 14 karat gold piece here)
Panini also does not do themselves any favors with collectors since the inserts were all designed in a way so a game-used item or an autograph (or both) could be slapped on there without having to create an all-new card. It’s not uncommon to see other card companies use this practice, but Panini seems to be the company most associated with the lazy design choice.
Kobe Bryant and rookie card collectors will be glad to know that a majority of their autograph cards are hard-signed and they were produced in that sweet spot where a lot of people will be able to afford it while still maintaining some value. People have levied Gold Standard with venom because of the numerous Kobe autographs, but if that is what it takes to get a Kobe autograph as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, then I’m all for it.
Gold Standard has a chance to be a yearly brand for Panini, but the implementation of the gold theme needs to be smarter. While they can probably still get away with making the gold piece cards case hits, it cannot be a variation on a regular card. All it would take is designing a new card specifically for the gold pieces to make it rarer in the eyes of collectors, not to mention making sure people actually more than a gram’s worth of gold would be nice too. Maybe they can ask that leprechaun for some extra gold.