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  • MLB gives Topps Exclusive Contract

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/sp...ards.html?_r=1

    The Topps Company will become the exclusive trading card maker of Major League Baseball next year in a multiyear deal that appears to seriously hurt Upper Deck, its primary competitor in the once-vibrant business.
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    By dropping Upper Deck, M.L.B. hopes that Topps, under Michael D. Eisner, the former chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, can invigorate card collecting, especially with young fans. The league also believes that one cardmaker can end the confusion of competitors selling multiple card series in hobby shops and big-box stores.

    “This is redirecting the entire category toward kids,” said Eisner, who acquired the company in 2007. “Topps has been making cards for 60 years, the last 30 in a nonexclusive world that has caused confusion to the kid who walks into a Wal-Mart or a hobby store. It’s also been difficult to promote cards as unique and original.”

    Upper Deck refused to address the Topps deal, which is to be announced Thursday. A spokesman for Upper Deck, based in Carlsbad, Calif., said only that it renewed its trading card license with the Major League Baseball Players Association last month and would keep producing cards. While the union license gives Upper Deck the right to use player likenesses, it will no longer have the rights to team logos and trademarks.

    The union did not respond to requests for comment.

    The old-line Topps, with roots in Brooklyn and its headquarters in downtown Manhattan, is associated with the stiff stick of chewing gum that once appeared in each pack. It is historically linked to children trading and flipping cards, and to the clatter created by inserting the little pieces of cardboard in the spokes of bicycle wheels.

    In the 1980s, as collecting cards for fun turned into the more adult pursuit of investing in cards for profit, Topps faced a corps of rivals like Fleer, Donruss, Leaf, Score and, most significantly, the innovative Upper Deck.

    Now, baseball has decided it needs only Topps.

    “There is a greater chance of organizing the marketplace with a singular partner,” said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president for business at Major League Baseball. “It’s a business that’s critically important to our mission, to make players icons to kids.”

    The business has shrunk drastically since the mid-1990s. T. S. O’Connell, the editor of Sports Collectors Digest, estimated that it was one-fifth the size it was before the 1994-95 players strike.

    “As draconian as it sounds,” to give Topps the exclusive license, O’Connell said, “there could be pluses to it. I’m not wishing Upper Deck out of the picture, but it’s difficult for the market to support the significant number of cards that are produced every year. You could see some stability coming out of this.”

    Since Eisner’s privately held Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn, a private equity company, acquired Topps, it has introduced 3-D cards, the ToppsTown trading and collecting Web site, and the Topps Attax game to appeal to young card enthusiasts and to develop new ones.

    “We’re going to be very aggressive in letting retailers, kids and hobbyists know that we are the card that represents it all,” Eisner said.

    Making Topps the official trading card of baseball follows M.L.B.’s business model. It has, for example, an official car (Chevrolet), credit card (MasterCard), soft drink (Pepsi) and cap (New Era). For that reason, Brosnan said, baseball does not believe there are antitrust implications in entering a similar deal with Topps.

    Typically, an exclusive license is more expensive to the company than a nonexclusive arrangement.

    Brosnan said that a recent federal court decision that backed the N.F.L.’s right to make Reebok its exclusive headwear sponsor affirmed baseball’s policy.

    The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of the case from American Needle Inc.

    Eisner said that Topps’s successful deals as the exclusive soccer cardmaker of the English Premier League and the German Bundesliga had proved that cards could appeal to fans 8 to 13 years old.

    “They’re buying them, trading them, the way I did when I was a kid,” said Eisner, a New York Giants baseball fan, who says that, like many men of his generation (he is 67), his mother threw out his collection.

    Dennis Gordon, who owns the Baseball Shop in Orleans, Mass., said he was confident that Eisner could alter what he called the “stale” market with the exclusive Topps deal.

    “Michael Eisner alone might make it more interesting for kids,” he said. “If he and his people can come up with a new-wave idea, go for it.”
    Ok this makes me mad. Tell me if I'm looking at this all wrong.

    We're the ones who are screwed. No real competition for Topps. Standards WILL decrease. Nothing good can come from a monopoly. Especially when the the company who gains the monopoly was giving a half-hearted effort before they were put in that situation. This pisses me off at MLB much more than the steroid crap, because that was the player's doing. This is the MLB saying "screw you" to the fans. We've already lost the competition Topps and UD had with Fleer, Score, Donruss. Now there is NO competition for Topps. They can roll out baseball cards with hotdog eating "athletes" on them and we'd have to buy them (Oh wait they already do that WITH competition.)

    I could understand an argument that I'm overreacting. But when we got down to just Topps and UD baseball card variety and quality suffered. Topps and UD seemed so awesome because Donruss sucked so bad. Now it's gonna be all Topps, all the time. Where does a disgruntled customer turn if Topps puts out garbage or their customer service gets even worse than it already is.

    Additionally, how is this gonna help kids get into collecting? If they want kids to get into collecting all they need to do is make a few kid oriented sets and and promote them widely. If UD and Topps were producing a few kids sets and COMPETING for the kids attention don't you think those kids would get a better, more attractive product at a more attractive rate? That's just how markets work.

    Topps just gave MLB an offer they couldn't refuse. MLB said "screw the fan" and took the offer.

    Hope I'm wrong and this rant turns out to be ridiculous. Let me eat crow.
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  • #2
    I tend to agree with you, EricDavis. If they wanted more clarity in the market and all that, wouldn't it have made more sense to have competition in the market, but limit each company to say, 3-4 sets a year? That way, the cream rises to the top and the company with the good product does well.

    This agreement must be hogwash, because it does nothing to address the issue they claim it will...Topps will still put out 20 sets next year, 18 of them crap. The fact that the article talks up stuff like ToppsTown and Attax as innovations rather than more clutter on the landscape makes me thing the writer is being fed his info from Topps.

    On a related note, I didn't know Eisner was involved with Topps. I shouldn't be shocked, I've been calling them a Mickey Mouse organization for years....
    Visit my card site at Mike D's Baseball Card Page.

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    • #3
      I was kind of thinking that Topps would eventually be the last card company around; atleast for baseball cards. Yea, not having a competitor could hurt the quaility of the product. I mean, Topps hasn't really put out the best designed cards in the last few years.
      I'll miss Upper Deck. I really liked Goudey and most recently the O-Pee-Chee cards. I want to know what kind of restructuring Topps will do once the competiton is nonexistent. I imagine a cut in products happening. Some will continue on while lesser sellers will be dropped.
      My collection of autographs: TTM Autos

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      • #4
        Of course, what's going to wind up happening is UD producing cards almost exactly like Donruss Threads and the like...plus now that they have no MLB license BUT they do have an MLBPA license, they might cut a deal with the MLBPA to avoid the infamous "rookie card rules" and start making prospect sets again with legitimate XRC designations (I can tell you right now that ever since Bowman has had virtually no competition in that area save Donruss' Elite Extra Edition and Threads sets, that their checklist quality has gone WAY down and UD could blow Topps out of the water if they do that). I say this because if they don't do it, then they'll barely keep themselves afloat.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Mike D. View Post
          This agreement must be hogwash, because it does nothing to address the issue they claim it will...Topps will still put out 20 sets next year, 18 of them crap.
          At a minimum

          <On a related note, I didn't know Eisner was involved with Topps. I shouldn't be shocked, I've been calling them a Mickey Mouse organization for years....>

          POST OF THE WEEK!! :bowdown: :bowdown:
          Last edited by RuthMayBond; 08-06-2009, 11:20 AM.
          Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
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          • #6
            They shouldn't have cut Upper Deck out completely. But it would be nice if they monitored the hobby more, maybe allow one premium set per year per company.

            Kids can't afford 150 dollar packs for 3 cards. Or trying to keep up with the hobby for all sports is next to impossible. Remember a time when you got a Don Mattingly Rookie Card, and you knew it was one? Now you have like 40 variations of a player's rookie card.

            Just my opinion. I used to love collecting cards but completely gave up years ago.
            This is decadent. And I once went to Miami with Darryl Strawberry.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by RaoulDuke View Post
              Just my opinion. I used to love collecting cards but completely gave up years ago.
              If it's just Topps, I am out of the hobby as far as baseball
              Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
              Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

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              • #8
                Originally posted by EricDavis View Post
                http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/sp...ards.html?_r=1

                Where does a disgruntled customer turn if Topps puts out garbage?
                I do not understand why you used the word "if"
                Mythical SF Chronicle scouting report: "That Jeff runs like a deer. Unfortunately, he also hits AND throws like one." I am Venus DeMilo - NO ARM! I can play like a big leaguer, I can field like Luzinski, run like Lombardi. The secret to managing is keeping the ones who hate you away from the undecided ones. I am a triumph of quantity over quality. I'm almost useful, every village needs an idiot.
                Good traders: MadHatter(2), BoofBonser26, StormSurge

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                • #9
                  Regardless of how they try to pitch this, this was a bad move for consumers. There was nothing preventing Topps from being creative and shaking up the market with a kid-friendly market before they got this license; if anything, the exclusive license is less incentive for the company to be innovative.
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                  • #10
                    So does this make UD's cards from this year more valuble? Some said that when Panini got basketball that UD from this year would be worth more. You guys think basketball dealing solely with Panini helped to cause this at all? Or it's just MLB being completely stupid.
                    I collect any and all Braves cards and memorabilia. I also collect baseballs and Pre-1060's Topps cards.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by xholdourownx View Post
                      So does this make UD's cards from this year more valuble? Some said that when Panini got basketball that UD from this year would be worth more. You guys think basketball dealing solely with Panini helped to cause this at all? Or it's just MLB being completely stupid.
                      Why would this have any impact on the value of UD's 2009 cards? Is MLB going to systematically destroy all the remaining UD stock or something? Sportflics has been gone for years, but their boxes of 1987 cards are worth less now than ever. Ditto Score, Leaf, Donruss, Pacific. There's no less of it out there just because they're not making more.

                      I'd love to see BBM from Japan get a license in the North American market and soundly thrash Topps' pathetic designs.
                      Clyde's Stale Cards - A blog about the international world of baseball cards.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by xholdourownx View Post
                        You guys think basketball dealing solely with Panini helped to cause this at all? Or it's just MLB being completely stupid.
                        That's a good question. Just two years ago, Upper Deck tried to purchase Topps. Topps brushed them off and went with Eisner and Co. even though UD was willing to pay more per share to the stockholders according to some reports. And now Eisner has eliminated UD from the baseball card market completely. Strange how some things happen.
                        My collection of autographs: TTM Autos

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Extra Innings View Post
                          That's a good question. Just two years ago, Upper Deck tried to purchase Topps. Topps brushed them off and went with Eisner and Co. even though UD was willing to pay more per share to the stockholders according to some reports. And now Eisner has eliminated UD from the baseball card market completely. Strange how some things happen.
                          Very good point. That is strange...
                          I collect any and all Braves cards and memorabilia. I also collect baseballs and Pre-1060's Topps cards.
                          Trusted traders - Rpollard86, duckydps, Mike D., Rockhound, Drillbit

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by DaClyde View Post
                            Why would this have any impact on the value of UD's 2009 cards? Is MLB going to systematically destroy all the remaining UD stock or something? Sportflics has been gone for years, but their boxes of 1987 cards are worth less now than ever. Ditto Score, Leaf, Donruss, Pacific. There's no less of it out there just because they're not making more.

                            I'd love to see BBM from Japan get a license in the North American market and soundly thrash Topps' pathetic designs.
                            That is true. But many boxes of 1987 cards in general have met the same fate.

                            I could see the UD cards going up in price. Not like 1.00 cards being worth 10.00. But maybe being worth 1.50 or 2.00. I think this because in the past few years, some of the discontinued sets have gained a little value because of their popularity. If UD is not making baseball cards anymore, people obviously like them, then they will increase, even if only for a short time. Kind of like when a player dies and their cards spike.
                            I collect any and all Braves cards and memorabilia. I also collect baseballs and Pre-1060's Topps cards.
                            Trusted traders - Rpollard86, duckydps, Mike D., Rockhound, Drillbit

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                            • #15
                              What do you think of Topps being the only company to produce licensed major league baseball cards next year, which means no Upper Deck?
                              I dont like it. To me, for quite a few years, Upper Deck has produced cards with better action photography than Topps, plus in most years the Upper Deck card design has a bigger picture than the Topps card design has.

                              Also, I feel the jersey insert cards are better by Upper Deck.

                              Plus, competition usually improves products and helps keep prices down.
                              I think the excuse that its for the kids, that when kids walk into Walmart they are confused with all the sets, is a bunch of bull. Anybody know the real reason for this?

                              I just hope Topps realizes there are adults who like nice quality cards with great action pictures and plenty of Yankees jersey and bat card inserts, and before you non-Yankee rooters give me helll for that statement, remember that the Yankees are the most popular team all over the country.

                              I hope maybe Topps will do the high quality Stadium Club cards again, and I would like to see large base sets and cards with multiple players on them (in interesting poses please!).

                              I grew up with Topps only, and if I didnt like the design in a particular year, I had no options. I hope it doesnt come to that again.

                              As to the possibility of Upper Deck producing cards without logo's on them, forget it, who wants that?
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