Topps now has Major League Baseball’s preferred provider designation, but will it be better for the hobby as a whole?
Whispers had grown in recent months about the possibility of Major League Baseball selecting one company to be its official trading card distributor for 2010. While Upper Deck had been an MLB partner for twenty years, there wasn’t much question which company would get the nod to go forward when talk of a deal was discussed within the hobby. Topps’ longstanding relationship and history with MLB gave it a huge leg up as executives began to ponder a new trading card contract.
Thursday’s announcement of a multi-year contract agreement between Topps and Major League Baseball caused a big stir within the hobby. The story appeared on the Associated Press news wire and drew reaction from several angles.
Topps, of course, was overjoyed, trumpeting the news on its website with an exclamation point. The company is now as close as its been with MLB since 1980 when the company was still the sole provider of baseball cards
Upper Deck didn’t respond to a request for a comment about Thursday’s announcement, but its blogger claimed that Topps’ west coast rival wouldn’t stop producing baseball products:
"We sympathize with your concerns, but everything is going to be fine. Upper Deck still means the highest quality cards on the market, and Upper Deck is going to produce baseball cards in 2010. That is a stone cold fact."
As part of Topps’ plans to expand into the digital space, and to strengthen its connection with kids, the company unveiled a multitude of new and innovative products over the past two years including ToppsTown.com, an online sports community developed just for kids and Topps 3D Live trading cards, the first augmented reality consumer product. However, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell isn’t buying Topps’ claims that kids are the key to its future:
"If you go back to when things were exploding, kids were certainly in the game. I was one of them," Rovell wrote. "But if you ask any industry insider who drove the business, it was the 25- to 35-year-olds who were spending huge money at card shows hoping to cash in on the next greatest speculative investment of the rookie card."
Josh Alper, writing on an NBC affiliate website agreed:
"Sure, there’s a bucolic image of kids with cards in their bicycle spokes being presented, but that’s not what turned baseball cards into a cash cow in the 80’s and 90’s. It was adults, speculating on the future prices of cards in the same way as commodities traders speculate on the price of oil. It screws with the image, but it does wonders for the bottom line and there’s not much chance of Topps recouping their investment solely by selling to kids."
A collector writing on a popular hobby message board said the move should have been made a long time ago.
"After years of allowing the companies to overproduce products that the average collector could not keep up with, they decide that they want to introduce a business model from the 90’s? The industry did need a product cap, and the companies should have realized that producing high end baseball card products would not fair well for the future of the hobby."
Editor’s Blog: What Topps Should Do