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Upper Deck Isn’t Out Yet

Posted by houstoncollector on August 7, 2009

As many of us have guessed, even with Topps securing an exclusive contract with MLB, Upper Deck still had the MLBPA contract for the next few years, which led us to believe that Upper Deck would continue to make baseball cards, albeit without the team names or logos.  

It turns out we were right.  Going  by the press released Upper Deck sent out, they will continue to make cards with their MLBPA license.   “Looking ahead to 2010, we are 100% committed to building the highest quality and most innovative baseball cards in the industry,” said Upper Deck CEO Richard McWilliam. “We look forward to announcing more details on our product portfolio in the coming weeks.” 

 “Great cards of great players will continue to be the cornerstone of all Upper Deck products,” added McWilliam. 

“We’re looking forward to continuing the partnership with Upper Deck, a licensee that is clearly focused on the long-term growth of the trading card category,” said Judy Heeter, MLBPA Director of Business Affairs & Licensing. “We believe strong competition is generally good for consumers, and expect that our ongoing relationships with both Topps and Upper Deck will ensure consumer choices that lead to category growth.”

Now that the PR verbage is out of the way, here’s a suggestion to Upper Deck:  Innovate like you’ve never innovated before.  Trim the herd, get rid of products that simply do not work (Documentary, UDX, Spectrum and others), and concentrate on your core.  Do something to make Topps (especially with their presumed kid-centric focus) have nightmares at night.  Blow our socks off.  If you continue down the road everyone seems to be, with every box floating around $80-100 or more, and products centered around guaranteed ‘hits’ of white swatches from middle relievers and rookie auto cards of someone who is 32 years old called up for three games, then you’re just proving to the collectors just why Topps has the exclusive license, even though we know in our heads that it’s all about the money at that point.  

Look, I’ll be honest.  Most of us don’t want Topps to have an exclusive.  We either want Topps and Upper Deck, or Topps and Panini, or Upper Deck and Panini, or all three.  This is almost as bad as if Upper Deck bought Topps, or vice versa.  We don’t want a monopoly.  Yes, Topps had one for over thirty years, and I’m not going to say it was all bad.  And yes, when we went to three, then five companies, the glut of the late 80s resulted.  Here’s something to think on, though:  If Topps had maintained their monopoly from 1952 to date, odds are that the boom in the mid 1980s never would have happened.  After all, you wouldn’t have the chase for all three of the RCs of the major players in 1983, you wouldn’t have the exclusives in the Traded sets (Bonds and Canseco, among others).  You wouldn’t have the scarcity of the 1987 Donruss set to spur interest.  You’d likely not have autographs entering in 1991, or game-used in 1997 (both from Upper Deck).  Simply put, without the competition that two, then four, then at least five other companies gave Topps over the past thirty years, this industry would likely be dead.  While I look forward to seeing what Topps does with the exclusive, part of me dreads seeing what comes out of them next year.  Or the year after.  And I really want Upper Deck (and Topps) to step up to the plate, but I think this may end up biting us all in our collecting asses.

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