Does Panini Own Upper Deck?

With so many sports trading card producers out there, you may be wondering which ones are truly independent.

As one card company succeeds, it is typically at the expense of another, smaller one. Eventually, a larger card company can buy out a smaller one and it is simply business.

Just like Disney owns Marvel, 21st Century Fox, and Lucasfilm. It may be surprising to learn that various sports trading card companies could be subsidiaries of a larger one.

In this guide, we will look at whether Panini owns Upper Deck

Panini Sports Cards

For any true sports card aficionado, Panini represents an institution in sports trading cards and sports stickers.

The company began in Italy in 1961. And after significant success in Europe with their collections of trading cards, they acquired the exclusive rights to produce NBA trading cards and stickers in January 2009. 

What Happened To Upper Deck Sports Cards?

Upper Deck were well-known for the glossy paper on their trading cards and the foil wrapper packaging.

The company was granted a license by Major League Baseball to produce baseball cards in December 1988.

Just six months later, their first batch had sold out and Upper Deck’s popularity, particularly with hologram cards, saw them secure rights to the National Hockey League, National Football League, and National Basketball Association. 

What goes up, must come down and in 2009, the National Basketball Association granted Panini an exclusive trading card license.

Upper Deck was out, partly due to concerns with the company’s revenue. But also the overproduction of cards that led to missed sales projections.

The NBA decided that an easier decision to avoid having to check possible copyright infringement was to simply allow one company to create the trading cards, which was Panini.

The repercussions of this deal meant that Upper Deck struggled with its identity and future appeal after five executives left the company.

A demand for trading cards had decreased yet Upper Deck failed to provide any inspiring and fresh ideas so collectors stayed away.

The world was still in the midst of a global financial crisis. And this also meant a reduced demand for trading cards. 

Upper Deck had lost the NBA license yet still released basketball cards with their 2011 and 2013 SP collection.

To avoid any copyright infringement, they produced the cards with the national team, college, or high school uniforms for each NBA player.

Though this was a workaround, Upper Deck’s basketball cards were now deemed relics.

Upper Deck continued to produce trading cards for the Overwatch Esports League. Also for the National Hockey League and even Marvel as they remain a respected branch. 

So, Do Panini Own Upper Deck Sports Cards

Panini does own several US companies that are involved in the sports trading card industry.

Shortly after they acquired a license to exclusively produce cards and stickers for the National Basketball Association (NBA). They acquired the trading card manufacturer Donruss Playoff LP on 13th March 2009.

Panini also gained some legitimacy by forming the new subsidiary known as ‘Panini America’ out of the Donruss deal. They then signing up Kobe Bryant (then of the Los Angeles Lakers). He became their official spokesman and global trading card ambassador. 

Further expansion came when Panini were also granted a trading card license for the National Hockey League (NHL). As well as National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) in March 2010.

This saw Panini directly compete with Upper Deck for the ice hockey trading cards market. 

Despite Upper Deck’s fall from grace, Panini does not own them.

Though the sports trading card industry has several companies that are owned by a larger one. Panini and Upper Deck operate in the same market.

One point that may lead people to assume that Panini owns Upper Deck is that they acquired several of their previous licenses. Specifically in the National Basketball Association.  

The Collegiate Licensing Company also signed an exclusive deal with Panini America for the college trading card market in 2015.

This is another deal that Upper Deck formally had and produced a range of high-quality trading cards for around five years.

Sets included college video trading cards, mascot patch cards, NCAA helmet cards, master collections, and rare Shadow Box cards.

Though Upper Deck had reported steady growth, this was another license that Panini took but does not mean that the Italian-based company owns Upper Deck.  

Final Thoughts

When you buy a sports trading card, you may be wondering where your money is going.

After buying an Upper Deck, you may be wondering if the money eventually goes to Panini because of an ownership deal.

While Panini is a huge player in the sports trading card industry, they do not own Upper Deck.

Both are competitors in the same market and have fought over the same exclusive licenses across several American sports.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Similarities Between Panini And Upper Deck Sports Trading Cards?

One of the similarities between Panini and Upper Deck sports trading cards is in some of their most popular designs.

While Upper Deck got there first with their refractors, Panini brought out Prizms.

Though both cards refract light in a rainbow due to a small piece of colored foil on the card, Upper Deck trademarked the term ‘refractor’, hence Panini having to come up with their own name.

Whether it is a Prizm or a refractor, if you see the light being refracted back at you, you know you have a rare card. 

Does Upper Deck Own A Company Involved In Sports Trading Cards?

There are several large sports trading card companies that own other ones. For instance, Topps owns Bowman and Panini owns Donruss.

Upper Deck does own Fleer which was founded in 1885 and initially made bubblegum and then became known for its sports cards.

This began in 1923 when Fleer started producing baseball cards then those for American football in 1960 and in basketball in 1986.

Upper Deck bought Fleer in 2005 after Fleer suspended its trading card operations. 

Nate Heath
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