It’s been an eventful year the industry, especially the current card market, which saw significant changes in who makes what.
Beginning today, Sports Collectors Daily takes a look back at the top stories of 2009. We start with the biggest items from Industry News.
It was a year of attrition for pro sports leagues and their trading card manufacturing partners.
The difficult economic times that plagued the country in the last half of 2008 continued into the new year and with market shares shrinking and revenues falling for the leagues, the hobby fallout was significant.
In January, European-based Panini Group, which had just purchased Donruss, set its sights on an exclusive deal. Their target wasn’t baseball, which had dropped the company a few years earlier. Nor was it football, where Donruss had found a market niche. The NBA is what Panini was after. Not long after landing the contract, Panini signed Kobe Bryant to be its spokesman.
That wouldn’t be the only change in the licensing arena, though.
Topps, which had battled Upper Deck on a variety of fronts in the courtroom, scored a huge win when Major League Baseball made the company its exclusive licensed trading card partner beginning in 2010. Upper Deck had just received a license renewal from the Player’s Association, meaning it could still produce cards, but not use trademarks or logos.
Topps lost another battle in November, though. That’s when the NFLPA left Topps out of its licensed trading card deal. The move left Panini and Upper Deck as the lone partners. Topps has produced pro football cards each year since 1956.
Topps sued over some of the designs in Upper Deck’s 2009 baseball card products. The card designs for some of UD’s OPC line bared a striking resemblance to those produced by Topps in the 1970s. The case was settled in November.
One of the hobby’s long-time authenticators was also in court for part of the year. Global Authentication attempted to file for bankruptcy protection, but the case was later dismissed by a judge. The company’s card and pack grading operations were purchased by long-time GAI executive Mike Baker who moved his operation to Iowa and renamed it Global Authority.
One of the hobby’s largest auction houses was dissolved when Mastro Auctions ceased operations in the first half of the year. The company’s assets were taken over by former Mastro president Doug Allen who spearheaded the formation of Legendary Auctions, still based in Chicago. The company held its first sale during the summer.
In June, another auction company filed suit against one of its consignors. Robert Edward Auctions took on an embattled former drug store owner named Bill Stracher. The state of New Jersey had charged Stracher with selling stolen prescription drug samples and using the proceeds to buy sports memorabilia. Stracher had already consigned over 1600 items in his collection to REA, which wound up battling both Stracher and the state after assisting prosecutors with cleaning up the whole affair. REA sued Stracher for breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation.
The FBI again had a presence at the National Sports Collectors Convention. Dealers on the floor of the I-X Center in Cleveland talked with agents who are apparently continuing their investigation into hobby fraud.
Nearly 700 stories from the sports memorabilia industry are in the archives.