Panini America Behind the Scenes: Constructing the Cut Autograph

December 08, 2010

I happen to share a cubical corner with Carl Braun, so I can tell pretty quickly when the Panini America brand manager is engaged in something that might be of great interest to the collecting masses. 

Certainly that was the case last week, when I looked up to see him looking down, intently focused on inspecting the bulging batch of signed documents atop his desk. Turns out he was readying the selection of cut autographs that will appear in the forthcoming Americana release of 2010 Panini Century Collection.

As with so many aspects of the trading card process, this, too, was way more involved than you might think. I asked Carl if he wouldn’t mind detailing the process for collectors. Luckily, he didn’t mind.

“Awestruck doesn’t begin to describe what it’s like to see a collection of signatures of some of the greatest names in American history,” Braun notes. “Hall of Famers from all sports, the first American to orbit the Earth, iconic actors, Americans that have achieved the impossible. It’s truly a thrill to be on the front end of such a collection.”

Here’s how Braun describes the cut-autograph process:

  • The autographed items arrive in lots, assigned to a specific card in the set
  • Each item is labeled with a Reference ID Number and the first double-check is performed to ensure the correct items have been pulled
  • Each autograph is then individually measured to a) establish the size of the window on the card, b) ensure the signature will fit within that window sizing and c) to verify the number of cards desired can be produced
  • Desired autographs are then identified and separated from the others
  • These autographs are then photocopied for mark-up purposes
  • A window template is placed on the copy of the signature to double-check the fit and to mark exactly where the material is to be cut
  • The autographed item is then placed back into an airtight storage envelope along with the marked copy
  • Once this process is performed, the signatures are ready to go back to production to be hand cut, just prior to being embedded into a trading card

Gives you an even deeper appreciation for those cut autographs, doesn’t it?

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