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Thursday, August 19, 2021

MLB and Players’ Union Trade Topps for Fanatics in Deals to Shake Up Trading-Card Universe

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have struck new exclusive baseball card agreements with a new company controlled by online sports-merchandise retailer Fanatics Inc., breaking the decades-long grip that incumbent icon Topps Co. has held on the trading-card market, people familiar with the matter said.

The deals signal the beginning of a sweeping reorganization of the trading-card universe. In a memo sent to baseball players Thursday, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said “other significant sports properties also separately have agreed to exclusive licenses with (the new Fanatics company) in the trading cards category” but didn’t name specific leagues or players’ unions.

The MLBPA deal begins in 2023. MLB’s current agreement with Topps runs through 2025.

Clark wrote in his memo that the undisclosed total value of the MLBPA deal is more than 10 times bigger than any deal the union has ever struck. He added that it is part of a series of recent deals that will generate nearly $2 billion through 2045.

Topps did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 03:46 PM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball cards, topps

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   1. The Duke Posted: August 19, 2021 at 03:53 PM (#6035176)
Wow - a world without Topps. That kinda sucks
   2. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 03:56 PM (#6035179)

Topps was in the process of going public via a SPAC, with the special shareholder meeting to approve the deal happening next week. Should be interesting.
   3. The Duke Posted: August 19, 2021 at 04:14 PM (#6035185)
Other companies also issue playing cards - can Topps still do that?
   4. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 04:50 PM (#6035191)
Other companies also issue playing cards - can Topps still do that?

Not sure if this is what you're asking, but my understanding was that Panini (Donruss) and Upper Deck had licenses from MLBPA but not MLB, so they were allowed to put out cards with the player likenesses on them, but they couldn't use team logos. If Fanatics got the exclusive license not just from MLB but the MLBPA, as the article says, then I don't think Topps or those other companies will be allowed to produce any cards with current player likenesses once the existing agreements expire.
   5. JJ1986 Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:00 PM (#6035193)
I loved Topps, but to be honest they are awful now. Bad card designs, bad pictures and all of their focus is on inserts or short-run cards with no care for the base set or for getting a good number of players.
   6. salvomania Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6035195)
I still think the reliance on all "action" images is a mistake; the more "portrait"-oriented sets, with the occasional action image, provide much more memorable cards to me, whereas after a while all the action photos tend to look the same. And because with action shots you have a harder time actually seeing a guy's face, you don't get a good feel for what the players really look like.

Back in the day I knew what ever player (who had a card) looked like. If I experienced the game through cards (as I did as a kid) today I don't know that I'd really have a good sense of what the players looked like.

   7. salvomania Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:07 PM (#6035196)
delete
   8. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:09 PM (#6035197)
all of their focus is on inserts or short-run cards with no care for the base set or for getting a good number of players.
That’s not a Topps thing, that’s a market thing that will only continue and likely worsen under Fanatics.
   9. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:14 PM (#6035198)
Gonna put "NOW WITH FANATICS" on all my Topps cards.
   10. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:20 PM (#6035200)
That’s not a Topps thing, that’s a market thing that will only continue and likely worsen under Fanatics.

Precisely. Card collecting isn't the hobby any more. Card gambling is. Box breaks, razzing, and whatever other gambling games have sprung up around it. OOOOooooo!!!! I hit a 1-of-1 purple-border reverse-back alternate-image throwback-jersey no-number-on-back-"error" chrome super-mega-retro-refractor Bryce Harper! Quick, let me get this to PSA so I can throw it on eBay and have some moron pay me $1000 for this rare and treasured collectible.
   11. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:23 PM (#6035202)

People complained about these trends when I was still collecting cards 25+ years ago. I feel like that ship has sailed.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:28 PM (#6035203)
I feel like that ship has sailed.
...and keeps getting further and further from the shore.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:51 PM (#6035207)
and keeps getting further and further from the shore.

Or we keep getting further and further away from our births.
   14. Voodoo Posted: August 19, 2021 at 05:58 PM (#6035209)
The so-called 'junk wax' era of the 1980s was precipitated, as I understand it, by anti-trust measures against Topps' monopoly on the market. Many new players emerged (Fleer, Donruss, Score, et al) and while those cards are all pretty much worthless because of the massive supply, it was a glorious time to be a kid and be able to buy three packs of cards for a buck. Anyway, how did it come to be in subsequent years that one company again has total control over the market?
   15. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 06:05 PM (#6035210)
Anyway, how did it come to be in subsequent years that one company again has total control over the market?

I think during the junk wax years, the players unions were handing out licenses to anyone who had a print shop but over time they realized a single manufacturer would pay more for an exclusive license than 10 companies would pay for non-exclusive licenses.
   16. The Duke Posted: August 19, 2021 at 09:54 PM (#6035240)
Topps annual sets aren’t very good for the reasons discussed but their throwback sets are magical.
   17. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 19, 2021 at 10:40 PM (#6035253)
Topps annual sets aren’t very good for the reasons discussed but their throwback sets are magical.

Even those are corrupted by greed. Until 1974, the relative scarcity of the high numbers was due to market realities of fewer cards being bought toward the end of the season and the short prints were a way to get more players into the set into those final series. Now in the Archives sets, the short prints of all the star and rookie cards are nothing more than a cash grab through manufactured scarcity for set collectors chasing the key cards, and the short-print variations are pointless lottery ticket filler for the razzers and breakers. I mean, who the hell is paying $150 for any Jonathan Villar card just because he's pictured in a throwback uniform? Some bigger fool did.

The only modern set I have with short prints in the base set is 1998 Upper Deck because they waited until the 3rd series to short-print some star cards, and I was too deep into it by then. The rest of them I boycott on principle even though I'd really like the 1965 and 1968 Archives sets... or Heritage... or whatever they call it.
   18. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 19, 2021 at 10:44 PM (#6035256)
I'm honestly kinda surprised to learn enough people still buy baseball cards to sustain a market worth selling exclusive rights to.
   19. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 19, 2021 at 11:06 PM (#6035260)
… it was a glorious time to be a kid and be able to buy three packs of cards for a buck.
For a nickel (same price as a candy bar), we got 5 cards and a stick of bubble gum.
   20. dejarouehg Posted: August 19, 2021 at 11:53 PM (#6035268)
Although I agree with many of the criticisms of Topps, I loved the throwback Topps Heritage sets. I usually buy the full set each year but they really have lack design creativity for quite some time. Even so, I will miss the tradition of looking forward (and usually being disappointed) in the next year's design.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: August 20, 2021 at 12:14 AM (#6035270)
For a nickel (same price as a candy bar), we got 5 cards and a stick of bubble gum.

the nice cashier at Turner's drugstore made a deal with us so that if one of us somehow acquired a whole QUARTER, we not only got the 5 packs of 5 cards each - she'd throw in a 6th pack for free.

good times.

in the past decade, I bought some of the Topps Archives packs which not only featured card designs of three different years (and three different decades), but lots of Hall of Famers - some going back more than a century.

I can't really explain the dopamine rush from seeing, say, a Ty Cobb card in a set design (front and back) from when you were a kid.

but Topps has always been weird, frankly.

if any of this inspires you to go to Topps.com to see what 2021 cards might be worth buying - yeah, that's not gonna work. one of the few companies, perhaps, with a core product that they don't market to those who visit the website.
   22. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: August 20, 2021 at 08:01 AM (#6035280)
As a kid in the 70s, I collected baseball cards for about a month, mostly to get the stats on the back.

Then I discovered Who's Who in Baseball.
   23. McCoy Posted: August 20, 2021 at 09:06 AM (#6035288)
Collected from 1986 to 1991. Those cards mostly looked like trash. Upper Deck came out during that time and they looked better and pretty much everyone adopted their look or closed up shop.
   24. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 20, 2021 at 09:14 AM (#6035290)
Yeah, one reason there are fewer card companies today is that some of them went out of business. I believe Fleer went bankrupt and got acquired by Upper Deck.

Anyway, Topps announced this morning that they are scrapping their plans to go public via a SPAC.
   25. McCoy Posted: August 20, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6035292)
I bet
   26. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: August 20, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6035293)
Topps still has card designers, and distribution channels, and printing presses, and a name that might be worth something. But they can't do anything without a license. If I was to hazard a guess, the guess that I'd hazard is that Fanatics will buy Topps for pennies on the dollar, and Topps will keep printing cards.
   27. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 20, 2021 at 10:04 AM (#6035295)
Can Topps switch to MMA or Australian Rules Football or something?
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 20, 2021 at 10:26 AM (#6035297)
it was a glorious time to be a kid and be able to buy three packs of cards for a buck.

For a nickel (same price as a candy bar), we got 5 cards and a stick of bubble gum.

And the two most valuable Topps sets (1952 and 1953) came with 6 cards in a pack along with that stick of gum. At our local chain of drug stores, where they sold gum for 6 packs at 19 cents, you could buy an entire case of 24 packs for 76 cents.
   29. The Duke Posted: August 20, 2021 at 11:34 AM (#6035304)
I don’t understand the legalities of selling likenesses. Newspapers, blogs, etc take pictures of players and publish them all the time in a for-profit newspaper. Why can’t Topps take pictures of the players and sell cards (without MLB or MLBPA logos)?

   30. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: August 20, 2021 at 11:53 AM (#6035308)
For a nickel (same price as a candy bar), we got 5 cards and a stick of bubble gum.

My kindergarten level allowance of a nickel a week was just enough to buy a pack of 1957 Topps.
   31. salvomania Posted: August 20, 2021 at 11:55 AM (#6035310)
I don’t understand the legalities of selling likenesses.

I've wondered the same thing. There's an artist named "Gypsy Oak" who does extremely cool limited-edition card designs, baseball and other sports, and I actually emailed him once to ask if he had to procure licensing for his likenesses (and I never heard back). I was wondering if an "artwork" is somehow different from a photo, even if that artwork is based on an identifiable photo.
   32. DL from MN Posted: August 20, 2021 at 12:21 PM (#6035312)
https://www.owe.com/resources/legalities/7-issues-regarding-use-someones-likeness/

With respect to artwork, the courts have generally considered works of fine art to be expressions of the First Amendment rights of free speech, and thus immune from liability for violation of privacy or publicity rights. Only commercial reproductions of the artwork qualify as goods under this standard. Thus, the original painting of your husband would not be a violation of his rights of privacy or publicity. However, if the artist subsequently reproduces the painting on t-shirts, postcards, etc., those items would be considered “commercial” goods, and that would violate your husband’s rights of privacy and publicity under this standard.
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 20, 2021 at 12:23 PM (#6035315)
I don’t understand the legalities of selling likenesses. Newspapers, blogs, etc take pictures of players and publish them all the time in a for-profit newspaper. Why can’t Topps take pictures of the players and sell cards (without MLB or MLBPA logos)?
In addition to DL’s post above, there is also an exception for news reporting.
   34. sunday silence (again) Posted: August 20, 2021 at 01:35 PM (#6035330)
Quick, let me get this to PSA so I can throw it on eBay


you're going to wait a long time. My understanding is that the current queu is taking over a year.
   35. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 20, 2021 at 02:44 PM (#6035349)
My understanding is that the current queu [For PSA grading submissions] is taking over a year.

Indeed it is, even with incredibly high fees (the cheapest tier currently accepting submissions is $200 per card), underscoring just how much this mindset has infested the hobby.
   36. WokeeRedneck(WR) Posted: August 20, 2021 at 03:12 PM (#6035354)
>Can Topps switch to MMA

Has the added bonus of not having to negotiate with any kind of athlete union. Just make the check out to Dana White, he'll tell the goons where to stand for their photos.
   37. DL from MN Posted: August 20, 2021 at 04:13 PM (#6035359)
Why wouldn't the card companies put out their own pre-graded cards? It sounds like that's where the profit is in the hobby - grading and slabbing.
   38. sunday silence (again) Posted: August 20, 2021 at 04:36 PM (#6035362)
headline reads like the next Marvel Super Hero movie.
   39. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 20, 2021 at 04:42 PM (#6035364)
Indeed it is, even with incredibly high fees (the cheapest tier currently accepting submissions is $200 per card), underscoring just how much this mindset has infested the hobby.

What's even crazier is that grading is now extended to magazines like Sports Illustrated. In 2018 this one had a hammer price of $1,135.25, and it wasn't even signed:

11/14/83 Sports Illustrated Vol. 59, #21 with Dan Marino 1st Cover Appearance - CGC Graded 9.4
   40. Papa Squid Posted: August 20, 2021 at 04:43 PM (#6035365)
Really surprised at this. Don't really love the base set, but enjoy Allan & Ginter, Gypsy Queen, and Stadium Club. I like Archives more than Heritage. Between all the sets, it adds up quickly. Won't shell out for the more expensive stuff like Tribute, Museum Collection, Gold Label, or the various Chrome sets, or even Bowman. It's pure gambling. You can get the whole 150-card base set for like $50, why am I gonna shell out $300 or whatever for a box? I guess opening packs is fun, but not that fun. If there's a certain card I want, I'll just look for an ungraded version on ebay. Basketball cards are a whole another level of ridiculous. The prices of cards seem to fluctuate based on if a guy is on a hot streak, which seems nuts to me, but I'm not at all a flipper.

The market, at least in Canada, seems to be softening. A year ago, you had to pre-order everything or else it would be sold out. This year, I'm seeing lots of stuff still available. My local Wal-Mart is perpetually empty, though.


   41. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 20, 2021 at 05:40 PM (#6035375)
I love the non-Topps classics myself, but rather than spend all that money on archival sets, I settled for this fabulous book:

Classic baseball cards: The golden years, 1886-1956
   42. dejarouehg Posted: August 20, 2021 at 05:50 PM (#6035380)
Don't really love the base set, but enjoy Allan & Ginter, Gypsy Queen, and Stadium Club.


The photography on SC is great. A&G and GQ are too similar to me and I can't stand the A&G inserts.

You're right about the absurdity of basketball and I too buy the (ungraded) cards I want now on EBAY.

That cards fluctuate with players' immediate performances just shows a) how imbecilic many collectors are these days, and b) how trading cards have become commoditized as a new asset class.

   43. Walt Davis Posted: August 20, 2021 at 05:59 PM (#6035383)
Clark wrote in his memo that the undisclosed total value of the MLBPA deal is more than 10 times bigger than any deal the union has ever struck. He added that it is part of a series of recent deals that will generate nearly $2 billion through 2045.

That's interesting. "Nearly" $2B over 24 years sounds an awful lot like $80 M a year AAV. Assuming there's some adjustment for inflation then it probably starts at (say) $50 M and finishes at $120. That AAV can't be 10 times bigger than any previous deal, can it? I'm guess Clark means that the biggest deal they've previously signed was around $200 M total, as in they've never been able to get more than a 5, maybe 10-year deal on anything before.

Regardless, the number 10 is a big number however Clark means it. Now I wonder is this enough money to provide a disincentive for a union work stoppage?
   44. McCoy Posted: August 20, 2021 at 08:00 PM (#6035406)
I would guess this is a nice war chest for a strike or lockout.
   45. The Duke Posted: August 21, 2021 at 03:46 PM (#6035481)
WSJ is reporting that neither the union nor the league ever told Topps what was going on or gave them a chance to counter. Also, former Disney chief Eisner was at the helm of Topps when this happened.

We can have Bally but we can’t have Topps
   46. KronicFatigue Posted: August 22, 2021 at 09:04 PM (#6035634)
This thread has blown my mind. Had no idea adults still thought about baseball cards and/or had strong opinions on brands and styles. I would love to read something on the history/politics of the industry. If anyone has any recommendations on articles, please link.

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