So I've had a couple days to cool off after the announcement that Topps has locked up the official baseball card market for another 7 years. Sure Upper Deck and Panini will be able to put out baseball sets featuring players doing baseball things, just without logos and team names. That's good news because we don't need anymore cards like these...
And I'll be honest I'm a Topps collector. I still love putting my base set together and I'm a huge fan of Allen and Ginter, but I still miss those great Upper Deck cards and Diamond Kings.
As always the smoke being blown up my butt from the press release always kind of pisses me off. I'm not sure if their statements are meant to try and justify Topps' power grab or just meant for the general uneducated public, ie not baseball card collectors.
Let's look at one of Mark Sapir's quotes, "Having a deal in place, it allows us to invest in the business. It's tough when you don't know if the deal is going to end in a year or a few years. Having a long-term deal and a long-term partnership allows you to invest in the business and plan the business."
First off I don't think Topps was ever in danger of losing it's MLB license. Unless MLB truly only wanted one company to produce baseball cards, which is possible, then yes I can see a worry there. But Topps and MLB could have signed a 7 year non exclusive deal and that still would have given Topps the commitment for long term "investment" in the business. Would have letting Panini or someone else in the door been that bad? Obviously it would take away some business from Topps. Having an exclusive is a cash cow. Sure UD and Panini's MBLPA sets will draw a little business away from Topps, but lets be honest if you want current MLB stars in their uniforms your going to have to buy Topps. And that's what Topps wants. Let's remember Topps was the exclusive baseball card of the MLB for over 25 years. Until upstarts Fleer and Donruss muscled their way in and then Upper Deck and changed the whole game. If we hadn't had these other players in the market would the industry be where it is today? Would we have things like Chrome, refractors, relic and autographed cards, guaranteed hits, parallels, ect? For better or worse I don't really think so. In its 25 years of exclusivity Topps did introduce a few new products and concepts, but nothing that stuck and nothing too over the top and even when Fleer and Donruss came on the scene Topps still didn't upgrade it's card stock for over a decade, but I do miss that damn card stock.
The other laughable quote was this one, "We've struggled with getting kids back into collecting the way we'd like to. I think all of us would like to see more kids in collecting." I say it's laughable because this was the exact premise on why Topps said that last exclusive license was SOOOOO important and good for the industry and that getting kids back into collecting was priority one..
You've struggled to get kids back into collecting? Geez I don't see how you failed. How about instead of putting together a club exclusive for big spenders you look at putting together something for kids. And not just some crappy thrown together Topps Kids Club, something with some thought and follow through that kids might actually want, because I'll tell you what they don't want, ToppsTown. Instead of increasing the number of higher end products geared exclusively for deep pocketed collectors how about something aimed at the kid who gets an allowance and that they can afford and has some value. What might kids what? I have no idea. I can only tell you what I want. Topps if you want to know what kids want why don't you ask them. And if you want to know what I or other collectors want ask us. Because why we all have different ideas I think we can all agree that I'm tired of walking into my LCS and their shelves look like a Soviet era supermarket.
I've been following a lot of the great card sources down in Las Vegas at the Industry Summit. And the one thing that got me was some of the back and forth when dealers and card shop owners where talking to Topps about why they give retail giants exclusives, like those blue, red and purple bordered cards that you can only find at Wal-mart, Target and Toys R' Us. Steering consumers away from LCS's. Sure for some Wal-mart is their only card source for miles around, but unless we do something Wal-mart might be the only card source. Just saying.
I would also like to say after talking with owners and collector's up here they said how great a lot of Topps mid to higher end football was this year. Mainly because it had to compete with Panini. Or look at those great Hockey cards Panini and Upper Deck put out competing against each other. And I'm not saying that Topps hasn't put out and continues to put out great baseball, but there have been issues, most notably issues with damaged 5 Star Baseball and some of the thicker cards in Series 1 from this year.
So looking ahead......if you enjoyed the last 3 years I think you'll be in for a great next 7. If you're like me and didn't really think the last 3 years were all that great well, I don't know what to tell you. I hope Topps can pull it together. I hope Topps can get it's customer service up to a level that's acceptable, and I hope that in 7 years we still have a sports card industry.
It's not all doom and gloom. Topps flagship is still a great, consistent set that I enjoy putting together and collecting. Topps still has products that I like like Allen and Ginter and chrome. I think more than anything I worried that quality will suffer even more than it has and I worry that Topps will get complacent in their security of a 7 year deal. We'll have to see what the future holds.
Oh and go read Chris Harris' new post in over 3 month on this topic, in which he is much more elegant and uses lots more expletives, over at STALE GUM.