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Panthers fans break out their wallets in ways big and small

Scott Johnson watched the Carolina Panthers beat the New England Patriots in mid-November, smiled, and went to sleep.

The next morning, the Internet was abuzz with people talking about Panthers receiver Steve Smith, who ended a post-game interview with the words “Ice up, son,” directed at his opponent.

“I said, ‘Man, that’s got to be on a shirt,’” Johnson said.

The Toronto native is a digital media producer by trade but dabbles in T-shirt design on the side. He says it took 30 seconds to put the design together; then he posted it on Teespring.com, where it’s listed for $17.99.

It’s now become the most successful shirt he’s ever sold, with more than 3,700 sold to Panthers fans across the country, he said.

“It just blew up,” said Johnson, 27, now a resident of Mooresville. His job brought him to the Charlotte area after the shirt was born.

The Panthers’ best season in half a decade has led the faithful to break out their wallets in ways large and small.

Holders of Permanent Seat Licenses, which give people the rights to season tickets at Bank of America Stadium, are seeing renewed interest on sites like Craigslist. Packages there can fetch thousands of dollars – and even more when a playoff ticket is thrown in.

Home crafters are also beginning to see a place for Carolina Panthers-themed ribbons, bows and beanies.

Even the pets of Panthers fans are well-equipped heading in to Sunday’s playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. It’s Carolina’s first playoff game since 2008.

Amy Vitale quickly became a Panthers fan when she moved to Charlotte in September, just as the team was embarking on a winning streak.

So did her 3-year-old Chihuahua, Snooki. And like any good fan, the 14-pound pup needed a jersey to properly cheer on the team. With the team’s success, that proved easier said than done.

“We were looking all around here,” said Vitale, 36. “Because of everything selling out, it was hard to find.” She eventually was able to outfit Snooki with a miniature jersey she found on Amazon.

Predictably, hats, shirts and jerseys (for humans) have been big sellers this year as the Panthers reeled off 11 wins in 12 games to secure a home-field playoff game.

The Lids store in SouthPark mall has experienced a run on Panthers merchandise during the past few months, particularly its Luke Kuechly jerseys and shirts.

“We keep getting more and more stuff in because we keep selling it out,” employee Nicole Angelucci said. “It’s never been this hot since I’ve been here.”

Craft hobbyists are also getting in on the action. The website Etsy, which sells predominantly hand-made crafts, has had a torrent of Panthers-themed hats, ribbons, bows and more posted.

Sisters Kacie Justice and Kristy Dzurik of Charlotte have just launched their own home business crocheting. Panthers hats were the first two items they posted on Etsy.

“We’re really anxious about the game this weekend,” Justice said.

Two men who’ve been trying to sell their Permanent Seat Licenses said they’ve had their first interested buyers in more than a year.

Joe Talbot of Charlotte said he’s listed his PSLs on Craigslist for almost two years with no leads. Once he said the deal would come with playoff tickets, he’s had his first people call looking to buy them.

Tim Turner found himself in the same boat.

“The better that they’ve done, the more interest that there has been in them,” said Tim Turner, who lives in Lake Lure. “I think it’s building with the success of the team.”

Vitale said she tried to get tickets for Sunday’s game, but they sold out online in just three minutes. Instead, she and her husband will be watching from their living room.

“We’re going to all have our Panthers gear on,” she said. “Including Snooki.”

Dunn: 704-358-5235; Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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