Brand Loyalty Lost in Sports Card Industry Shuffle

We still haven’t gotten official confirmation that Topps has lost its NFLPA license, but assuming the news from earlier this week is indeed the truth, it’s another blow to long-time collectors.

In a never-ending bid to right a ship that began listing in the early 1990s, the powers that be in sports continue to tinker with the trading card industry. There’s no doubt they have to do something. Sales are down for the most part for a variety of reasons. There are still too many products for average collectors to keep anything straight, let alone newcomers dipping a toe into the discount store box display.

Baseball is now a one-manufacturer licensee business. Hoops too. And hockey. One thing that seems to be lost in all of the attrition is the issue of brand loyalty and tradition. Many collectors grew up on Donruss. The company produced iconic rookie cards (at least for the day) like the 1982 Ripken. 1984 Mattingly, 1985 Clemens, 1986 Canseco. They did the popular Diamond Kings set. When Donruss went away, some baseball collectors lost interest. Upper Deck made its mark in baseball first, but also became known for its basketball cards. Now, they’re gone. But the biggest boot to the backside of tradition will come if Topps loses football.

They started putting out football cards just four years after their first baseball release. Since that time, they’ve produced some kind of football card set every year. I personally own every one of them from 1955 through about 1988 when expansion came to the market.

Some collectors buy only Topps products. Others simply collect them because they like having one set from each and every year and Topps has been at it since 1956. That history is nothing to sneeze at–unless you’re the NFLPA which apparently is going to sneeze all over those 44 years of tradition. I wonder how many collectors they’ll win over by streamlining the market? I have a feeling they might lose just as many who’ve seen their old standby kicked to the curb and think it might be a good time to get out.

Hunt Auctions always seems to garner a lot of media attention for its All-Star Game week auction and the one at the Lousville Slugger Museum and Factory that takes place this weekend. We’ve got another piece of video–actually two in one—from the company’s guest spot on WHAS-TV’s morning TV shows. It’s great PR for the hobby: