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Card Collecting Category Cold, Card Collecting Category War Hot

August 8, 2009: With the news over the past few days that MLB had named Topps the official card of Major League Baseball and that Upper Deck said it would continue to produce baseball sets under a deal with the Major League Baseball Players Association, the card collecting category is attracting more interest than it has in years. Topps' deal with MLB gives the company exclusivity on MLB, jewel event and club trademarks, logos and other intellectual property, for use on baseball cards, stickers and certain other product categories featuring MLB players beginning Jan. 1, 2010. Upper Deck said its deal gives them the rights to feature "current Major League Baseball Players on their trading cards, including the game's most collectible and sought-after superstars."

Upper Deck, beginning in with its 2010 baseball set, will have to come up with creative ways to show players and not make it seem as if the logos, team uniform designs and other trademarks are missing. The task is not without precedent. According to SportsDesignBlog.com, "Topps did not always have permission from the major sports leagues to use their official logos. Many times their card sets were only approved by the Player's Association, so the team logos could not appear on their cards... Many [Topps] cards from these years used photos of the players with their arms covering the logos in the photo. Others just used tight close-ups to avoid showing the team logo on the jersey. This solution however, is very entertaining and a great example of sports design on trading cards in the 1970's.

"Looking ahead to 2010, we are 100% committed to building the highest quality and most innovative baseball cards in the industry," Upper Deck CEO Richard McWilliam said in a statement. "We look forward to announcing more details on our product portfolio in the coming weeks."

Upper Deck said it has committed "more than $21 million to increase kids' interest in baseball cards through annual television advertising campaigns, numerous retail promotions and online initiatives such as Upper Deck's Kids Rewards and the current UpperDeckU.com virtual world." Household penetration of kids collecting sports cards went from 8% in 2005 to a reported 44% in 2008, per Upper Deck. The overall industry has not fared as well. Since the mid1990's the number of baseball card shops in the U.S. have dropped from about 10,000 to 1,500. The problem as MLB and Topps expressed when they unveiled their alliance is that kids were driven out of the collecting category in the 1990s when investors moved in. More recently, Topps has unveiled such products as ToppsTown.com, an online sports community developed just for kids; and Topps 3D Live trading cards "offering an unprecedented level of interactivity for kids, fans and collectors."

Beckett Publications, which publishes monthly sports collecting magazines cover all major sports, shows its demographics as being 70% 25-54 with a household income of $25-K-$67K. Ablut a third (34.3%) go to hobby shops for their sports cards, while nearly 60% use online auctions (eBay, etc.) and online dealers, not what the industry needs to generate users among kids.

According to Upper Deck, its license agreement with MLBPA still provides the company access to more than 1,200 current MLB players. "Fans can look forward to finding cards featuring autographs and pieces of game-used equipment from the biggest names in baseball including Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ken Griffey Jr., and hundreds more. Great cards of great players will continue to be the cornerstone of all Upper Deck products," said McWilliam. Back to Home Page