While it’s not the most talked about aspect of the NCAA’s new name, image, and likeness (NIL) laws, one thing we have seen crop up more and more in the last calendar year is football and basketball cards of student-athletes who are still in college.
Before, whichever company was producing these cards (usually Topps or Panini) wouldn’t be able to create licensed cards of any athlete unless they were a part of either the NFL or NBA Player’s Association, who had exclusive licensing rights. Other companies – like Leaf – would make unlicensed cards pretty regularly, which didn’t include any images of the team’s logo in order to avoid licensing infractions.
Now, because student-athletes are allowed to profit off NIL, companies can approach individual athletes and pay them to sign autographs on their items, and the process does not have to go through a Player’s Association.
This is of course another benefit for student-athletes, as we have now seen Gonzaga players like Chet Holmgren, Hunter Sallis, and Julian Strawther all have autographed cards released before their time in college was up, giving them some extra money in their pocket while allowing card collectors a chance to get in early on some of the game’s next star players.
Of course, not all card companies are created equal, and without as much oversight on these pre-professional cards we are bound to see some mistakes.
Take Strawther’s latest Leaf autographed card. It’s a nice design, with what looks like a license plate saying “1STRDBND” and a crisp JS signature on the bottom right.
The problem? Well, as Strawther noted on Twitter, the picture isn’t him:
Oops! It looks like the folks over at Leaf used a picture of Anton Watson for their autographed Strawther cards in this set.
No word if the company will re-release Strawther autographs with a correct picture or if those items will become collectable in their own way, but this is one of the perils of trying to have the first collectibles for a player, as opposed to making sure the quality of your product is taken care of first.
Host – Locked on Zags Podcast
Writer – Ducks Wire