Lets be honest here. This was a $20 fuck up at one point (the cost of that blank pf before anything started with it), but it went through cutting, printing, clear coating, prepopulation, population, being put in a game, and play testing... all with likely multiple QC steps alomg the way. stern at multiple steps decided to let this thing continue on down the line as it became a more and more expensive fuck up. They opted to then pass that on to a paying customer at the tune of at least a $500 resale cost to the end user. this is BAD and they need to have people push back.
This does NOT drive up NIB costs. This is something that should cost Stern as they need to rep,ace the game and now reimburse the distributor for shipping a defective product.
Now is the time to act! I assume you paid recently which means you can easily file a charge back. Once that time passes then things get harder. Call your distributor. If they don't fix this immediately then out them here and do not relent. This should be a nearly zero effort replacement and if it is not, then be sure you do the work to impact their future sales.
I let a lot os shit fly on NIB games but this is well above and beyond IMHO and I have likey unboxed more NIB games in the past five years than most people since I put them on route. That is by far the worst defect I have seen out of box. Other things come up after a few hundred plays but that is a bit different.
Good luck and keep us posted.