Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It's (Still) In The Cards

As a sports card collector, I'm feeling some trepidation about the coming year. Last week, Topps began their first year since 1980 as the sole manufacturer of MLB-liscensed baseball cards. It won't be a flashy start to the year, it's merely Series 1 of their base brand release, though it's the first harbinger of all the sweeping changes that rocked the card industry last year. For those of you who don't follow trading cards anymore, here's a short recap:

In March, the Panini sticker company was granted an exclusive licensing deal by the NBA, and shortly afterward they bought out Donruss so they wouldn't have to start their trading card operations from scratch. In August, the MLBPA announced that because of the shrinking market only one company would produce baseball cards for the 2010 season; after a contested battle, Topps got the nod over Upper Deck. Three months later, the tables were turned when the NFL denied Topps' offer to produce football cards in 2010, leaving UD and the newly christened Panini America as the sole manufacturers in that category. Later this year, the NHLPA's exclusive deal with Upper Deck will expire, leading many to suggest that Topps might re-enter the hockey fold after a six-year hiatus.

While all this tightened licensing will result in fewer options on the market, I won't have as many headaches keeping track of the myriad number of brands that come out every year. Nevertheless, the jilted parties are improvising; Upper Deck may no longer have full MLB licensing, yet they're still releasing a handful of baseball products this year, albeit with no mention of team names (i.e. "Matt Kemp - Los Angeles (NL)") and obstructed logos in lieu of chintzy airbrushing (see above). In reality though, it's hard to tell who the real winners and losers are; every major company has whittled their product line down to one or two sports (to stay afloat, Topps also makes UFC trading cards). I wouldn't call it the death of a hobby, though I can't imagine anyone is benefitting from all this consolidation, either.

Other notes:

+ Very few things can make me shout "What the hell?!?!" in a public setting. This would be one of them. Luckily, I was in a crowded bar at the time, so my rare outburst barely even registered.

+ Was it a mistake to not mention the Lt. Governor's race in my Illinois Primary blog last week? I didn't vote for Scott Lee Cohen, yet I still feel blindsided by these shocking allegations. His press conference Sunday night was held in a pizzeria, evidently symbolic of the level of class and grace he showed while he tried to salvage his campaign. Good luck to the Illinois Democratic Party as they find a running mate for Governor Quinn that doesn't wear their checkered past on their sleeve.

+ Just a friendly reminder that pitchers and catchers report in one week.


  1. Update: Major League Baseball is now suing Upper Deck for copyright infringement: http://www.bristolpress.com/articles/2010/02/08/sports/doc4b6e4fa3164f5125397000.txt

  2. Baseball cards without team logos blow. Reminds me of Kelloggs cards or old Topps cards. Had I known what I know today, I wouldn't have blown all that allowance money on cards back in the late 80s & early 90s. I think I told you what happened to my early 90s Upper Deck cards: the tops yellowed even in a ring binder sleeve. What would you say is your favorite baseball card design of all-time? Mine would probably be 1985 Topps (yes, even over the beloved '87) & would probably pick 1987 Fleer as second.

    Didn't watch the Super Bowl. Two teams I don't care about, and sat through too many boring games & commercials in the past & too much party crap & corporate waste. The only time I'll watch is if the Bears are in it.

    That's kind of mean to pizzerias, Stu. Some of us really enjoy our pizza. I still even have my Pizza Hut Relief Pitcher circa 1990.

  3. Funny you say that. I read an article on the Wall Street Journal website stating that trading cards actually did a better job of retaining their value in the past decade than most of the stock market. On the other hand, that $1 card you bought 20 years old is now worth... $1.

    1987 Topps was okay, though it evoked the slightly superior 1962 Topps set. I think my favorite baseball card designs of all time are 1952 Topps (which the company has recycled ad nauseum, but for good reason), 1955 Bowman (the "TV" set), and 1971 Topps (always bet on black). 1985 Topps is probably my favorite of the '80s though, with 1989 Upper Deck a close second.

    I have nothing against pizza, Mark; it just seems like a weird place to have a press conference. That's like announcing you have a secret love child at the laundromat.

  4. Sorry, that should say "20 years ago."

  5. lol. Ah the pressures of no-edit commenting. It drives me crazy, too. Too much spell checking, too much proofreading, too much pressure!

    My knowledge of baseball card design pretty much stops at 1993. Upper Deck had a massively superior design (and a $1.10 to $1.20 per pack price tag). Did the other's catch up? I think my lowest moment in baseball card collecting was that I actually tried to eat the gum in a pack of 1986 Topps...that I bought in 1992. It went as well as Milhouse once said, "Ow! I cut my cheek!" That was also the same day I bought a 1987 Greg Maddux Donruss rated rookie card for $2.50. I still regret not buying that Tony Gywnn Fleer rookie card at $28 back in the late 90s but I couldn't bring myself to shell out the dough (I was more of a packs guy than individual cards).

    I don't find anything odd about doing things at pizzerias. Never hurts to be very near cheese.

    And now, here's an angry reminder that pitchers and catchers report in one week, assholes!

  6. Tho this isn't card related Stu, it is baseball related. Somebody contacted me looking for a 1994-99 Texas Rangers jersey sized large (I'm sure XL would work too), either a home or road version. Surprisingly I couldn't find a single one for sale on the net & only found a game used one at a sport's auction site. This was the uni the Rangers opened The Ballpark at Arlington with & has red letters with blue trim & red placket & sleeve piping. In some warehouse there probably are dozens of these just collecting dust that didn't sell in the 1990s. Stuff on the back of the jersey is fine because it's going to be replaced & customized anyway.