Golden oldies merged with new concepts in the new card market this year.
In the final installment of our "top stories of 2009" series, we take a look at some of the new issues making news in 2009.
There were plenty of developments on the business side of the sports card industry this year. More, maybe, than any year in history. Exclusive licensing deals, a few court battles over card design and trademarks and exclusive contracts all made headlines. But we’ve covered that stuff already in the industry review for 2009.
For collectors, the non-business news may not have been as sensational, but it proved the card companies are trying to meet the demands in a less than perfect economy.
Despite an overall cutback on new products, a few new sets hit the market and made a splash, with many having their roots in the wayback machine. Early in the year, Topps reached back over a century with its ode to the Mayo Cut Plug football series. Then, they gave a nod to the company’s own early football history with Magic Football. By the end of the year, it was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the T206 tobacco set. Topps’ T206 hit store shelves in time for Christmas.
Panini won the rights to produce basketball cards early last year and the company’s first issues were eagerly awaited. Top draft pick Blake Griffin and North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough came to the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland to drum up interest. Panini also signed Kobe Bryant as its spokesman as a new hoop card era began. Griffin’s potential impact was delayed by injury but collectors still gravitated toward the former Oklahoma star’s first cards.
Upper Deck celebrated its 20th anniversary by honoring the player who helped put it on the map in 1989. Ken Griffey Jr’s fans are all grown up now, but the future Hall of Famer was a big part of the company’s issues. Upper Deck also wrapped up a promotion that began in 2008 as a couple more collectors finished off the ambitious Yankee Stadium Legacy set. Not long after, Upper Deck announced plans to create a Michal Jordan Legacy issue, consisting of 1170 MJ cards inserted across various 2009 products.
In late summer, the football card licensees scrambled to produce the first cards of Brett Favre as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Favre’s MVP-like effort and quick start by the Vikies did help push the market for awhile, especially in the absence of many marquee rookies.
A possible 2010 Rookie of the Year candidate became the talk in 2009 when Stephen Strasburg appeared in Upper Deck’s Team USA inserts. Strasburg’s amazing college career has had collectors awaiting his first big league cards and Topps has already signed the pitching phenom to help push sales of its products next year.
Topps generated publicity in the tech world with its latest ‘augmented reality’ cards. A special online code would set up a marriage between the cardboard and the computer, offering an interactive way to experience sports cards. While the stories about the partnership with Total Immersion were generally positive, it’s unknown how many fans will become card collectors in the long term and whether young collectors will care. The company also continued its Topps Attax concept, which bring cards into a gaming product.