Card of the Week: Howe Awful!

2014 Panini The National VIP #43 – Gordie Howe

“Jim, I need you to write a Puck Junk post about a card I found,” Sal said to me recently. “And you’re the only one who can do it.”

“Uh, OK,” I replied.

So he sends me the Gordie Howe card you see above, and my first reaction was not good. (WARNING: It really was not good at all.)

When I was able to put my nose back on with bond and duct tape, I had so many questions about why this card exists in the first place. But first and foremost, why is it so AWFUL? I mean, the obvious reason is because it is a card of Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe, wearing a Panini jersey. Only the beast that is Panini could have done such a terrible thing.

Saying this card looks like bad Photoshop gives it too much credit. Did the skin flint sandwich artists at Panini have a conversation to the effect of:

“We can’t afford to get Mr. Howe himself to pose for us; that man is just too busy making the world a better place just by breathing its air. Ray-Ray, go put on this flimsy jersey and hold this Sharpie like you are autographing something. Oh, and wear this lime green ski mask backwards. We need to green-screen over your face.” 

Then someone found a random picture of Gordie’s noggin and slapped it on Ray-Ray’s shoulders using the cutout feature on MS Paint.


Next, they take the image down to Kinko’s and ask them to print out the image as a life size cardboard stand-up that they can photograph later.  But just as the Kinko’s monkey behind the counter turns around to start the task, they stop him and quietly mention, “We….don’t want to pay a lot of money for this.”

These are the rage images that flare up into my head like a match igniting a whole book of matches. Somehow, someway, those hobgoblins at Panini managed to make a card featuring Mr. Hockey, a man whose presence was more than three dimensional, reduced to an image that is sub-2D.

I’m left speechless.

Feh, no I’m not! So let’s keep stomping on this flaming bag of dog poo!  How much would you pay for this card? Ten cents? Twenty? Or maybe you’re a glutton for punishment like Sal and paid an entire QUARTER OF A DOLLAR (U.S) for this miserable slab of hockey hooey! Let’s go see what other people are asking for this card over on eBay. Seriously, somebody wants $10 for this card?

But what simultaneously surprises me, and yet doesn’t, is that Panini used this image on a few different cards. Howe is one of the most photographed men in the history of this sport, you cheap bastards! Get a better picture. What darkened corner of Hades did this travesty come from?

You had to ask.

Every year, at the National Sports Collectors Convention, Panini throws a “VIP Party,” where some of their biggest blood donors money pits are allowed to attend. 

How does one get in? If you’re a dealer, you have to buy at least $10k worth of Panini’s substandard sport cards and memorabilia. But if you’re just a pedestrian like you and not me, you would have to show that you spent SEVEN THOUSAND, FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS of your hard earned money — or from your trust fund — on Panini cards. For that, you get…MORE PANINI PRODUCTS! WHOOOOPIEEEE!!! 

Special packs containing “VIP cards” are given out at the party. This Gordie Howe card was found in packs given at Panini’s VIP Party at The National in 2014— and in a quarter box at The National three years later. 

Yeah, you also get to hang out with a lot of other big-spendin’ collector types, and get autographs from and schmooze with some athletes in attendance. I guess you can trade chicken recipes with Wade Boggs or talk about that time you rolled a 20 on your level 4 Paladin with Tim Duncan.

But what if you want to go to the Panini VIP Party without having to buy a metric butt-ton of terrible cards? Don’t worry — Panini will just sell you a ticket outright for TWENTY F…hurp!…excuse me. FOR TWENTY FIVE TH….HURP!….hang on.  FOR TWENTY FIVE THOU–


$25 Grand! You can give that much money to Panini, and they will just let you right in! What the actual f***, people? I’m going to guess that must be the equivalence of 30 pieces of silver. 

So if you haven’t read my rants advice in my previous posts — if you haven’t gotten the general idea that Panini doesn’t care about you or me or our dog or our mom or her 1994 Nissan Quest minivan — Panini just wants to make the most money possible while putting in the least amount of effort. 

And what do you have to show for your 30 piece of silver? Cards like this one of Gordie Howe in a Panini sweater, that tear at the fabric of what we hockey and sports fans in general hold dear. 

Jim Howard is a Carolina Hurricanes fan and reformed baseball card collector who is trying to keep the hockey collection from becoming overwhelming. And while he wishes he could give Crosby the business with his mitt, he is in fact NOT the goalie for the Red Wings. 


Author: Jim Howard

Hockey enthusiast who pays the bills as a traveling geologist. More of a lover than a fighter, he's a fairly cheap date; just ask his wife. He'd prefer to be outside in the rain that stuck in the office on a beautiful day.

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