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Topps defends its monopoly

Mar 4, 2010, 6:45 PM EDT

Carl Yaz with the sideburns.jpgThe story about the MLB-Upper Deck settlement this morning led a lot of people — even those who aren’t big fans of Upper Deck cards — to lament the fact that baseball has seen fit to give one company a monopoly over the baseball card racket.  It’s a good point because monopolies, as a rule, suck.

Good timing then, that the website The Baseball Card Attic interviewed Topps about this recently:

You are the exclusive baseball card manufacturer for MLB, is this monopoly good for fans and the baseball card dealers’?

MLB felt that the best way to get rid of the clutter and simplify the message to baseball fans and collectors was to go exclusive with one manufacturer. There were too many products on the shelf and it was becoming difficult for consumers, especially kids, to understand trading cards. In the long term it will benefit all, because we can get back to a more common language of collecting trading cards and the stores will see new collectors because of the hobby’s back to basics mentality.

I’ll admit that I grew confused over the multiple — and often weird — products that showed up on the card market over the past 15-20 years or so, but I also admit that I’m an old, blind nostalgic fogey when it comes to cards. 

If the “confusion” the Topps guy mentions was really a problem in the market, I assume that it would have meant for crappy sales of baseball cards.  The fact that companies like Upper Deck competed like mad to stay in the good graces of MLB — in Upper Deck’s case, going so far as to risk a devastating lawsuit — suggests that consumers were doing just fine with things the way they were.

  1. Ken - Mar 4, 2010 at 7:18 PM

    I’m a child of the 80’s. Nothing but Topps, Fleer and Donruss and the occasional “Update” sets. That’s it…simple…just collect em and trade em.

  2. yankeh8r - Mar 4, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    I’d love to see it go to just a few groups like it was. There’s just way too many making cards to keep up with. And they’re getting so out of hand with prices that kids can’t afford to collect anymore unless their parents are rich. I remember the elation of opening up a pack of Topps cards with the powdered pink bubble gum stick and discovering a George Brett 78 all star card. Now you can just go online and find whatever card you want and pay out the wazoo for it – where’s the fun and joy in that? All the autographed cards, cards with jersey swatches, pieces of bats, gloves, balls, bases and even pitching mound dirt are cool but the kids can’t afford that stuff. They need to blend the old with the new and get back to what it’s really all about!

  3. pkswally024 - Mar 4, 2010 at 7:53 PM


  4. onesweetworld - Mar 4, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    Couldnt give like 3 companies licenses and let them compete against each other? So basically Topps can make a crappy product but what does it matter if they have no one to compete with?

  5. TimberLee - Mar 4, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    …and maybe sugar-free gum.

  6. Pandamonium - Mar 4, 2010 at 9:12 PM

    In the 90s it was all about upper deck. Topps cards were LAAAMMMMEE.
    Sure you would buy that box set of every Topps card from the year 1990 but you wouldn’t enjoy it as much as finding that rare, shiny upper deck card. This is a travesty. Confusion was never a problem in buying packs of baseball cards. The variety is what made it so awesome. Everybody had their own unique card.

  7. Chipmaker - Mar 4, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    Monopoly? Eh; disappointing, but fine if that’s how MLB wants it.
    But why Topps? Seriously? Been in this biz nearly 60 years and still puts out sets with errors. Enough!
    Kill the Topps license and hand one to Donruss. Now THAT would be innovative.

  8. Hender328 - Mar 4, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    I used to run a sports card and collectible shop. If they really wanted to do right by the fans they would get rid of all the different type of cards from the same company. To me this is what ruined cards when they had Topps, Topps Ultra, Topps Finest.

  9. Old Gator - Mar 4, 2010 at 11:58 PM

    And let’s hope there are no more versions of Bang the Drum Slowly either. I was really getting confused by those. Can you imagine if they remade It Happens Every Spring with some dweeb like Steve Carell in the Jimmy Stewart role (you don’t really want to see Nicholas Cage in that role after he plays Tim Lincecum in the remake of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, do you?).
    Then again, you wouldn’t want to see Pride of the Yankees remade with Nicholas Cage either.
    I suppose a remake of Field of Dreams would be nice, assuming you could convince people that any farmer in this economy in his right mind would clear a baseball diamond’s worth of ethanol corn because some ghost told him to do it. He’d be better off sticking to a game of Ouija Scrabble with Dad, especially with the kinds of winters we’ve been having due to global warming. Then again, if you could get Samuel L. Jackson to do the James Earl Jones role and drop N-bombs all over the place – you know, taking us back to those wonderful heart-n’-soul American yesteryears of segregated baseball and letting us know exactly what he thought of them – maybe it might make the investors some serious dosh. I’d love to hear him recite Ezekiel 25:17 to the ump and then blow him away. Just to see it done once. And do you mind if I have a sip of your tasty beverage, Bud?
    And I seriouslydoubt if you’d want to see Bull Durham remade with Nicholas Cage as Crash – although maybe a sequel about how Crash and Annie are getting on twenty years later would be cool (I guess Susan Sarandon would like something to do these days, what with all that dead time on her hands). Confusing, but cool.

  10. Stone - Mar 5, 2010 at 1:26 AM

    I like this. Now they need to limit the production of cards and create a collectibles market again. As a 34 year old, I might even buy a few packs and see if I can pull out a Jason Heyward or a Tommy Hanson rookie card.

  11. rosterman - Mar 5, 2010 at 2:20 AM

    Considering that Topps first produced the cards to sell gum…
    Yes, I will admit that I quit buying sets when it cost me more than $100 and I still wasn’t assured of getting a card of every major league player.
    I loved it when Topps did the seven series, with different cards each month…and no just a traded series for the price of a full set at year’s end.
    Yes, competition makes sense for more monies to players and such, and maybe even better quality (seems Topps is happy to reuse designs).
    And, sadly, with the way players act before games and in the mails, the only way to get an autograph will be those stickered things placed on cards. Go figure.

  12. Rays fan - Mar 5, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    “…it was becoming difficult for consumers, especially kids, to understand trading cards”
    Yes, a rectangular bit of cardboard with a ballplayer’s pic can be very confusing. Which side is the front? What do all those stats mean?
    Hender828 is right about multiple card sets by the same company, as that sometimes causes actual confusion–there have been sets that were so similar to others by the same company that it was a hard to tell them apart, and others where if you wanted certain “chase” cards, you could only get them from particular types of packages.

  13. Collector - Mar 5, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    There are many different brands and sets, so what? It is the reponsibility of the collector to choose what set they can afford to collect. The standard companies are still there for the ones that like the set building.
    Go to your local sports card shop and buy the cards “YOU” want.
    As for Topps and MLB… Shame on you for trying to take away the collectors right to choose.

  14. Todd - Mar 5, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    This defense from Topps would make a lot more sense to me if they didn’t have an overwhelming number of subsets within their regular issues. My dad printed off the card list for 2010 Topps and it was 21 pages long. Yes the “Cards your mother through out” idea is neat but all these subsets are confusing and fragment collecting. 1 set, 660 cards, or 792 cards, they can pick. But do keep it simple. I basically won’t buy cards now because of all this fluff and confusion.

  15. Virginia Pete - Mar 5, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    Competition is good for business. MLB wins, the card shops win, and the fans/collectors win. Unfortunately we’re seeing a trend in the business with different sports awarding their trading card licenses to just one company (NBA – Panini, NHL – Upper Deck). So far the NFL is still smart enough to allow more than one company to procude trading cards.
    Has it been a bit of overkill over the years with all the different brands and sets? Yes, a bit. But it gave the collectors so many more options. Want to build a set? Put together the original Topps set or Topps Total. Do you like shortprinted autographed rookie cards? Buy some SPx. Do you want 200 rookie cards in a set? Bowman.
    And if a card company puts out a bad product, they’ll pay for it. No company wants to seee their product linger on shelves. I imagine this trend of exclusive contracts by the four major sports league with card companies is only temporary. We’ll eventually see a return to where UD can make baseball cards and Topps can make NBA cards. Topps is paying a bit more for their exclusive contract right now, but MLB will eventually let someone else in the door and make more money from two card companies than they’re making with one.

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