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.
+ 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.