Two Local Trading Card Companies Head to Court Over 750 Old Kevin Durant Autographs

Decades after my sports card-collecting prime I've become familiar once more with the doings of that particular industry, thanks to my 8-year-old son's obsession with cards -- baseball, mostly, and Houston-made Obaks when he's feeling particularly old-school, though any Topps'll do. But he's got a couple of binders filled with basketball cards, with the most recent offerings all bearing the logo of Panini America -- which happens to be Irving-based and used to be known as Donruss, as I recently discovered. And somewhere he's got stashed a few Leafs -- which, turns out, also has local ties after local businessman Brian Gray bought the long-ago-famous name a couple of years back and relaunched the brand out of his Midway Road HQ in Addison.

So when my son saw this on my desktop this morning, at last, a story in which he was interested. Very interested. Because "this" is a 2007 Upper Deck Kevin Durant rookie card, which he autographed per the former Longhorn's then-exclusive deal with, well, Upper Deck -- his first-ever endorsement deal. I was just curious to see what signed Durants sell for. Durant's not with Upper Deck anymore, though. He's a Panini man now, locked up one year ago to an "exclusive multi-year agreement with the company includes autographs and memorabilia."

But Leaf now has in its possession 750 signed Durant Upper Deck-ers, which Brian Gray's hoping to sell to Panini, per a lawsuit filed yesterday in Dallas County District Court. And according to exhibits contained in the lawsuit, which was posted to Courthouse News this morning, Panini's memorabilia business manager Brian Bayne told Gray last summer he doesn't want or need the old Upper Deck product since they now have the exclusive with the Oklahoma City Thunder forward. Gray told Bayne in an July 21 email he was giving Panini "first shot" at the signed stock at $35 a piece; "I paid $30," wrote Gray, "so there is no room to negotiate." Bayne responded four days later, "It would be fairly troubling to see these holograms show up in the marketplace after we've invested in an exclusive agreement with Kevin."

So now Panini's suing Leaf to stop them from distributing those old Durant autographs, because, as the suit says, "Success in the trading card industry is based, in large measure, on reputation as well as athletes that you have 'exclusive' agreements with. As a result of these factors, Panini takes its reputation very seriously. Additionally, it has expended significant time and money to have 'exclusive agreements' with a number of athletes in the NFL, NHL and NBA." So it's willing to spend more to bury those cards now. For what it's worth, my son said he'd buy one.

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Jared L. Christopher
Jared L. Christopher

Robert,I heard about your new position with the Dallas Morning News and thought I would look for an article online about the situation. Instead, I ran across this article. I just posted an interesting story about card collecting on a card collecting message board I am a member of and based on it's popularity on the board, thought I would share it hear. I thought it would be fitting, seeing as how your son is starting to get interested in the hobby. Here is a link to the message board post.

I will also post the story below:

"I read on the boards that BlowoutCards had access to a few unopened '89 Upper Deck wax boxes so I decided to grab a few.

I bought these for a specific reason. My Dad's 50th birthday is next month and I am going to give him 2 of these. When I was 7 years old, me and the old man would hit the LCS after baseball practice (he was my coach as well) and we were always buying single packs of 89 UD in search of the storied Griffey rookie.One night in particular my old man shocked me and bought an entire box of 89 UD wax and I can remember this like it was yesterday. We sat in his '82 Corolla in the driveway of our house (so mom wouldn't see that he had bought an entire box!) and we opened up every pack with each other.... and we didn't hit a single Griffey.So, with his 50th next month, I saw a thread about a guy who had purchased an 89 box of wax from blowout and it reminded me of the time I shared with my old man. So I quickly hopped over to Blowouts site and snagged the 3 boxes you see above.And on my Dad's birthday, I plan on telling him to come out to the driveway and get in the car with me... and I will give him the 2 boxes and together we will break them, just like we did over 20 years ago.So my point, I hope like hell I didn't ruin the moment by hitting the only Griffey's in the box I opened!!! Oh well, even if we don't hit one, I guess it will be fitting since we didn't on that night back in '89. Just making memories with Pop's is worth it.You guys don't forget that that's what this is really all about anyway. I get caught up trying to make a buck from time to time too with this stuff!"UPDATE:"Alright guys. I promised I would give everyone an update after I gave the 2 boxes to my dad for his birthday so here is the recap:I drove over to his house on Wednesday and waited for him to get home from work. He was surprised to see me when he drove up. "Hey bud, what in the world are you doing here?"I told him I had an early birthday present for him and I wanted him to open it before mom got home. My dad has an old Toyota Corolla in his driveway, not the 1982 model that we sat in back in 1989, but a "new" one he bought in 2001, so I asked him if we could get in it. HE looked at me a little funny and said "It doesn't run, I think the battery is dead anyway."I told him that didn't matter, that I just wanted him to open his present in it. He shook his head and laughed but said okay. So we got in, Dad in the drivers seat, me in the passengers seat, in Dad's driveway, a box of '89 Upper Deck in my lap... I truly was 7 years old again.I handed my Dad the box and told him Happy Birthday. He opened the box and pulled out the 2 boxes of cards and stared at them for a minute. I could see the wheels turning while I waited for recognition... Then he read "1989" out loud and then a grin spread across his face. "Where did you find these!?"I told him about reading a post on blowout and when I realized they had them available I thought about his 50th birthday and had to buy them.Dad told me he remembered sitting in the car with me breaking that box 23 years ago like it was yesterday. I could see the emotion in his face. "Let's do it Pops!" I said.So we started our break. As we opened each pack we reminisced about all the times we had shared collecting when I was a boy. We talked about getting Steve Carlton's auto at Fan Fest back when the MLB All Star game was at the Ballpark in Arlington. We remembered the Will Clark homerun ball Dad had caught with me sitting next to him in Homerun Porch. We talked about chasing down a scooter carrying Reggie Jackson at DFW airport and getting his auto. And then we talked about that night 23 years ago in the driveway, sitting in Dad's Corolla, breaking that box of '89 Upper Deck together. A few tears managed to sneak out of Dad's eyes which he quickly brushed away. "I love you son! we had a lot of fun together didn't we..." I told him I was lucky to have a best friend for a dad and then I lightened up the mood... "Well, we are 1/2 way through these boxes and we still haven't hit a Griffey! I guess it would be fitting if we didn't though wouldn't it!" Dad told me he remembered getting to the bottom of the box back in '89 and seeing 2 packs left and actually feeling a bit nervous thinking 'Surely we won't strike out with an entire box!'While he was talking I was shuffling through my current pack... Ron Washington, Terry Pendleton... and there it was... the #1 Ken Griffey Jr. rookie... Dad was still talking, shuffling through his cards. I reached across and handed him the card. When he saw it a huge smile spread across his face. "Alright! Finally! It only took 3 boxes and 23 years!" I slipped the card into a penny sleeve and top loader and handed it to him. "You pulled it, you should keep it", he said."No way, this one is yours. Happy 50th birthday Pop's, I love you." 

Ed D.
Ed D.

Fun fact: in the 1980s, Donruss and Leaf were part of the same company.


Baseball card purchases should be limited to kids under 15 yrs of age.  Any older than that, and people start thinking they have value. Like Microsoft stock, mineral rights for land, Beanie Babies .. all of those things that have true value.


So it would cost Panini less than 22k to keep cards that are worth, according to Bayne, and according to my calculations, 25 times more valuable than a signed Panini card? What's the margin in the card industry? I never got into card trading in terms of cashing out. I kept a ton of cards but rarely had any worth more than .50.

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