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Topps Gets Baseball Exclusive: Redirecting Towards Kids?

Posted by houstoncollector on August 6, 2009

I think MLB has made a mistake.  Not because they gave the exclusive to Topps, but because they gave an exclusive license at all.  We already know the card companies have become somewhat complacent as far as card design and the overflow of “game-used” items on the market today.  eBay shows this quite plainly.  However, giving the monopoly to Topps stifles even the chance of competition from Upper Deck, Razor or Panini.  However, given that we know that Upper Deck has renewed their license with the MLBPA, we can say that there will be baseball cards from Upper Deck in at least 2010, just without team names, and probably with photoshopped uniforms to remove team names and emblems.  

However, here’s what gets me.  To quote Michael Eisner:  “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 aWal-Mart or a hobby store. It’s also been difficult to promote cards as unique and original.”

So, going by that logic, is Topps doing away with 90% of their product line?  Because, let’s be honest, kids simply cannot afford packs over $5 on a routine basis.  And if you don’t believe kids are as mad about ‘hits’ as the rest of us seem to be, look at Youtube.  Kids aren’t in it for the collecting.  They’re in it to get ‘mojo’ and sell them via Youtube or eBay.  They can be as big a Joe Collector as anyone else, if not more so.  Sure, there are probably kids who collect just for collecting’s sake, just as some of us are, but the population is dwindling.

However, let’s look at the 2009 Topps lineup, and look at per-pack pricing:

2009 Topps Heritage, Series 1 and 2 baseball, Bowman, Allen & Ginter, Updates & Highlights:  Kid-friendly, especially in a retail setting with blasters.

2009 Topps Finest:  Mid-range at $8-10 a pack.   Products in these ranges are not aimed at kids, to be honest.  There’s no retail version of the product, as well.  

2009 Topps Chrome / Bowman Chrome:  These are odd beasts.  The pricing is kid-friendly and includes a retail version, but at 4 cards a pack (3 for Bowman Chrome), it really isn’t a good value for kids.  Blasters of Topps Chrome aren’t a bad deal, though, to be totally honest.

2009 Ticket to Stardom:  This product honestly has failure written all over it, but as far as kids go, the pricing shouldn’t be that bad, at about $4-5 a pack hobby.  I’m not sure if it’s going to have a retail version or not, but let’s say no for now.  

2009 Triple Threads Baseball:  Totally, unapologetically high end.  Not for kids at all.  

Topps Sterling / Bowman Sterling:  Not announced, but likewise completely high end.  

Note: The one product explicitly designed for kids, Topps Opening Day, did not have a 2009 release.  What does that tell you?  Personally, I see this as a money grab by Topps and the MLB, and I view it about the same as when EA bought the rights to NFL games (and most other sports licenses).  

The MLB also made an interesting comment here, quoted:  “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.”

Here’s the thing though:  It’s MLB’s own licensing which caused too many products on the horizon.  in 2006, the limit was (I believe ) 13 products per company.  That was 26 products a year.  Damn right, that’s too many.  However, limiting it to one company isn’t the right option here.  Limiting products overall might be.  Granted, it’s entirely possible that Topps may use this opportunity to create a product that everyone can like, that gets away from the overuse of game-used and autographs:  I’m not going to hold my breath though.

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One Response to “Topps Gets Baseball Exclusive: Redirecting Towards Kids?”

  1. […] seems to have a reaction, and they’re mostly […]

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