Trading cards have come a long way since the six-pack with a stale, wooden piece of gum inside.  But, the magic of opening the packet is still the same and Panini America is making that magic happen every day. 

“It’s the element of surprise,” say Panini America CEO Mark Warsop.  “It’s a close connection with the athlete.  You put it all into the packet then when you open it and Blake Griffin falls out of the pack it’s like Christmas Day!

Panini America is one of the world’s biggest trading card companies and these days finding a Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin card can be like hitting the lottery.

“We had a Blake Griffin card sell for $38,000 just earlier this year,” say Warsop.  “It is like hitting the lottery.”

The process starts with picking the players, shooting pictures of the rookies in all of the sports and then designing the cards and collections on the computer.  Then it’s time for printing and packaging.  There’s also a little luck involved especially when something like the Jeremy Lin thing happens.

“I know they use the word all the time but it really has been Lin-sane,” says Warsop.

For example, if you owned a Jeremy Lin rookie card when he was on the Golden State Warriors two weeks ago it wouldn’t have been worth much.  But, Warsop says, “If you were to sell it today, two weeks later, you’d get an 8,000-percent increase on your investment.”

Panini also likes to push the industry as well.  It was the first trading card company to make electronic trading cards with up to 20-minutes of video on the card.

“Each one was autographed and there’s actual video footage of him signing this card,” say Panini America’s Tracy Hackler.

Panini also produces cards made of precious metals.

“This is a 14 carat gold trading card,” says Hackler as he pulls out a solid gold Dirk Nowitzki card.  If you were to melt it down it would be worth about $500 and right now the gold cards go for between one thousand and four thousand dollars depending on the player.  They even put real diamonds in their trading cards.

But for some fans, a little piece of the action is more precious like materials from your favorite player’s jersey or hat that was worn in a championship game.

“One of our jobs at Panini America, one our goals is to bring fans closer than they’ve ever been to their favorite players,” says Hackler.

Warsop says it’s all about making that magic, ““And we’ll continue to find new innovations to build excitement so that Christmas day feeling never goes away when you open a packet.”