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Old 08-06-2009, 08:05 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Breaking News: Topps Gets Exclusive Baseball License

Topps Gets Exclusive Deal With Baseball, Landing a Blow to Upper Deck

Topps, and not its competitor Upper Deck, will become baseball’s exclusive trading card maker.


As reported in the NY Times this morning:
Associated Press
RICHARD SANDOMIR
Published: August 5, 2009

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.”

Sign in to RecommendNext Article in Sports (10 of 14) » A version of this article appeared in print on August 6, 2009, on page B16 of the New York edition.


Here is the link to the article in the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/06/sp...l/06cards.html

Last edited by blowoutcards; 08-06-2009 at 08:16 AM.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:07 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Wow. UD has been getting kicked in the junk a lot lately...wonder if they like how that feels?
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:09 AM   #3 (permalink)
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already posted overnight: topps gets mlb exclusive deal for 2010..

guess those who wanted panini to get a license back can go back to dreaming for a few more years...
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:14 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Good! Screw Upper Deck~!
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:14 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Maybe that's why Topps wasn't at the National. They were too busy trying to kick UD while they're down. If Topps is not at next year's National, MLB should take that license away and give it to someone that truly cares about the collectors.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:40 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blowoutcards View Post
Topps Gets Exclusive Deal With Baseball, Landing a Blow to Upper Deck

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.”
That's cool. I have been to his shop before. Really overpriced, but cool to see someone I know in an important article.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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This makes it less likely that upper deck will give up their hockey license exclusive without a fight. Chances are they'll never be another Topps hockey product in a foreseeable future.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:50 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mwheeler27 View Post
Maybe that's why Topps wasn't at the National. They were too busy trying to kick UD while they're down. If Topps is not at next year's National, MLB should take that license away and give it to someone that truly cares about the collectors.
I think Eisner cares more about shareholders than he cares about collectors. His history at Disney proves to me he's motivated by the quick buck and it'll be interesting to see if he continues to operate this way at Topps.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:52 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by KaraandMelliesDaddy View Post
This makes it less likely that upper deck will give up their hockey license exclusive without a fight. Chances are they'll never be another Topps hockey product in a foreseeable future.
Which is a total shame, I would love to see a TTT hockey product.
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Old 08-06-2009, 08:57 AM   #10 (permalink)
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I think Eisner cares more about shareholders than he cares about collectors. His history at Disney proves to me he's motivated by the quick buck and it'll be interesting to see if he continues to operate this way at Topps.
I completely agree. I don't think for a second he truly cares about his customers, or Topps would have been at the National. He can say he cares all he wants, but they're just words until he shows up and proves it at the biggest, annual "Sports Card" convention.
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