Thursday, March 12, 2009

Exclusive Does Not Mean Better

Exclusivity has been the talk lately, and I must say, everything about the stories has me pretty worried. The reason that I like the hobby is because there is a shit ton of products from every company that I can give a chance. Don’t like the latest DLP offering? That’s okay, there are a lot of other products out there that have the chance to be what you are looking for. With exclusivity on a player, or even now a sport, all of that goes away and that fucking sucks. Here is my previous post on it.

As we speak Baskeball has an exclusive company with Panini, and the MLBPA is looking towards Topps as its singular provider. When I see that, all I can think about is how badly I feel for those people who love collecting those sports. What sucks even more is that the people who collect exclusives from each company like Jordan, Jeter, Kobe, Grif, and LeBron, don’t have anything they can do any more. You basically fuck them out of their favorite player's stuff. If you look at those names, you can imagine how many people are going to have a problem with that. It brings in another question though, what happens when Topps products blow donkey balls one year for baseball, or what happens if Panini doesn’t live up to what they promise? Where else do you go? Unlicensed products will be made, but all that will trigger is lawsuit after lawsuit for the people who get screwed on the fact that UD Basketball could probably outsell Panini, even without a license.

For the collectors, exclusivity will not bring back 1990, or even 2000. It wont work like that. The only thing exclusivity will bring is problems with the collector base. People will get frustrated when topps produces somehthing they don’t like because they will have to wait until the next topps product to come out for vindication. What happens if that second product doesn’t live up to expectations? You keep waiting. Then, with exclusivity, Topps may not need to produce as many sets as they had to in the previous market to stay competitive. You would think they would focus on things more now that they have free reign to do as they please, but that doesn’t happen. It happens all the time: a company comes into a better situation, and makes a whole bunch of extra money. Instead of putting that extra money into making products better, they just pocket it. Im not saying that is what will happen, but you have to imagine that a lack of competition will turn things in the wrong direction.

People talk about exclusivity as good model because of what happened with UD and hockey cards. Well, see, when you have 1/8 as many collectors as baseball cards do, there isnt as much demand for variety. Hockey cards never reached the level that the big three sports did in competition, so it wasn’t a big deal to most people who only lost 1 or 2 major products from the calendar. Its much different with Baseball and Basketball, especially when the company that takes over is NOT one of the two biggest producers in the key market. With Baseball, there are quite a few people, myself included, that wont touch baseball cards anymore with Topps as a primary provider. Those are usually the people who collect many sports instead of just baseball, so higher end stuff is more important to them. When Topps Sterling and Triple Threads become the only option, things will get dicey for me and those people. I know I am not alone in that feeling.

Im not sure why the NBA and the MLBPA are playing with fire, or at least what seems like fire to me. Hopefully it works out, I really do hope that it does, but the little voice inside my head has been trained for disappointment.


  1. I haven't read about this, but will take your word for argument sake.

    I think you would immediately see Upper Deck sue under anti-trust law. And legal precedent was set in the famous Fleer vs. Topps case that worked its way through the court system in the 1970s that ultimately said Topps could have a monopoly on cards . . . . with gum.

    So I would be interested on the legal strategy Topps and the players would have

  2. I completely agree with you. Anytime a monopoly is created, it does not lead to improvements at the consumer level, which is why there are anti-monopoly laws on the books. Creating a monopoly for licensing sports cards for a specific sport is not illegal from the monopoly-law standpoint, but will inevitably lead to less creativity and less customer-service, because, frankly, where else are you going to go? The hockey monopoly is not good for the consumer, as there are less choices for the fan, the basketball will be the same, and if baseball goes that way, regardless of the winning company, it will NOT be a positive for any consumer or fan.


  3. If topps becomes baseball were all screwed I only buy three products, 08 UD Premier, 08 UD Heroes, and 08 UD Elements without them I would have no collection

  4. I agree with you that a monopoly has the potential to cause problems, but it should not be assumed that it will deinfitely be a bad thing.

    After all, Topps had a monopoly for the better part of 25 years (1956-1980) and produced many wonderful products, including some of the best loved sets of all-time.

    The thing about baseball cards is they are a discretionary item, so if the product is bad people do not have to buy them. Many people, myself included, have stayed active in the hobby for many years without buying any new product. I didn't buy a single pack of anything from 1994-2002, yet probably spent several thousand dollars buying vintage cards for the sets I was working on and older wax.

    So even if Topps gets a monopoly and starts producing crap, all will not be lost for collectors. They'll just go back to buying older products.

  5. "Instead of putting that extra money into making products better, they just pocket it. Im not saying that is what will happen, but you have to imagine that a lack of competition will turn things in the wrong direction."

    Completely disagree with this. No company anywhere at anytime can afford to do that. The companies will have to actually try harder becuase the market could abandon them at any time with a bad product. And instead of going to an alternative and spending their money they will simply abandon the hobby.

  6. mfw - not everybody LIKES older products. I happen to like old cards and new cards, but many people just like to collect cards of current players. Besides if everyone stopped buying new cards, Topps wouldn't make any money and would go out of business.

    A monopoly would be an extremely bad thing, just as Gellman said.

    Here's the comment that I left at Wax Heaven about this same topic:

    "A monopoly on baseball cards by any company would be very, very bad for collectors - and I’m amazed that anyone wouldn’t understand that.

    I think that some people are overreacting to how “improved” Topps supposedly is in 2009. Sure, their base set is better, and Heritage is good as it always is, but what else do we have to look forward to? Allen & Ginter is stale, the Bowman brands have lost their luster with all of Razor’s exclusive deals, Finest will be filled with low-value auto’s, and we all saw what a debacle Stadium Club was last year.

    Finally, we all know that Topps’ high end products are a joke. Do we really want to live in a world where Triple Threads and Sterling are the only choices for high end collectors? I certainly don’t.

    Personally, I don’t think that there’s enough competition in the baseball card industry NOW. That’s why I want to see Donruss get a license again - to push Topps and Upper Deck to produce better products. If we go down to only one card company - it’s going to get worse and worse."

  7. NO THEY WON'T. I don't mean to be pissy, but there are already several boards for set collectors. I, for one, don't give a flying hairy shit about set collecting. Neither do most of the people who frequent this board.

    This cannot be a good thing. If Topps starts (continues) to produce crappy high-end sets, people will walk away from this hobby, period. There are 10's of 1000's of people who ONLY collect high-end, and high-end Topps is garbage.

  8. So even if Topps gets a monopoly and starts producing crap, all will not be lost for collectors. They'll just go back to buying older products.

    And for the majority of people in the hobby who would hate that? Where do they go?

    Seriously, does the whole blogosphere not understand that set collectors and vintage guys are the super-minority? People need to stop referring to the hobby as if its made up solely of those types of people. Its far from it, guaranteed.

  9. Upper Deck had their chance and they've been screwing the collector over 15 years. THIS is a change I can believe in!

  10. I feel bad for any high end collectors in baseball anyway, nothing has been worth it. If this happens it will only make it worse. It will also make it worse for every baseball collector in the long run. Gellman, you are so right on this especially with your recent comment saying vintage guys and set collectors are a super-minority. I was both those exclusively in the 90's and NO ONE I knew in person did that, they wanted shiny inserts, not much is different these days, but now with Heritage, and football I can get NT, SP Authentic, Gridiron Gear (my guilty pleasure) and some of the best looking on card autos in yes, Press Pass, I have a lot to blow my money on. My passion is still sets, but now I can get legit autos, cool designs with tons of options AND my retro stuff (yeah I know you don't like it but hell at least you don't want to limit peoples choices like everyone else these days) I have never been so happy collecting, even though everything except NT is overpriced.

  11. I don't think Upper Deck can sue Topps over the monopoly(or exclusive rights as the powers that be like to call them). UD could, but then Topps could point to UD's monopoly in hockey. Plus Donruss has proved you can make cards without a license - UD would just have to ensure they don't have certain logos.

  12. As an ex-worker for UD, I can tell you this. Richard (UD owner) does not pay his dues for MLB, and for any company/vendor he owes money to for that matter. He drags his feet along and constantly screws the vendors over who make the UD company what it is. The vendors are sick of not being paid and of his horrible business practices. I don't blame MLB or any vendors for looking some place else for their business.