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Monthly Archives: February 2010

COMMENTARY: MLB Properties vs. Upper Deck — MLBP's complaint

With the MLB Properties case against Upper Deck set for an April 19 court date, Beckett Media will be examining several aspects of the complicated and wide-scoped case through a series of commentary pieces. We’ll examine MLBP’s complaint, Upper Deck’s argument, try to address some key questions and more …

By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Baseball Editor | COMMENTARY

Part 2 … MLB Properties’ complaint

MLB Properties, which is the licensing entity for all 30 MLB teams — the organization that grants and approves the commercial use of the thousands of trademarks MLB owns — claims that Upper Deck is using those trademarks illegally in its three most recent baseball card sets, 2009 Signature Stars, 2009 Ultimate Collection and 2010 Upper Deck Series 1.

The sets do not use MLB logos as part of the card designs but do feature photographs where countless logos on helmets, sleeves, caps and other parts of uniforms can be seen in full or in part (top right) and are not removed or covered as has been the traditional routine for cards released without MLBP licensing (bottom right). It’s unclear whether those past cards would still be subject to possible trade dress violations today given recent arguments from MLBP.

Upper Deck does have a license to produce baseball cards featuring the players themselves, an agreement with the MLB Players Association, which was signed before the MLB Properties licensing decision was made last year. (Citing a shrinking marketplace, MLBP opted to give Topps the right to use MLB logos on an exclusive basis beginning in 2010. An MLBPA license does not grant a company the right to use MLB logos.)

MLBP owns these numerous trademarks and is claiming infringement as well as infringement on MLB’s “trade dress” — the design and look of the uniforms themselves — and dilution (a devaluing) of the trademarks and trade dress. It also is suing for breach of contract and unfair competition under the Federal Trademark Act of 1946.

Boiling it down to the basics, what does it mean? MLBP claims that Upper Deck’s actions after it was not granted licensing are in violation of MLBP’s trademarks — costing it money while wrongly making money off of its property — while devaluing its ability to protect the use of those same trademarks in deals elsewhere (other merchandise), including devaluing and undermining its deal with Topps and damaging the market for those products.

According to court documents, the hundreds of companies that have signed licensing agreements with MLB Properties have generated more than $10 billion in domestic wholesale merchandise sales in the last decade.

MLB Properties cites seven claims against Upper Deck and is seeking all profits from the recently released products, damages to be determined at trial, exemplary damages totaling three times Upper Deck’s profits or MLBP’s damages (whichever is greater) as well as punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Upper Deck’s defense isn’t a simple one based on its court filings thus far (it declined to comment to Beckett Media). Nor is it one that has been used before — and we’ll get to it in an upcoming piece. But first, we’ll detail more of MLBP’s arguments.

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COMMENTARY: MLB Properties vs. Upper Deck — Why just Topps?

With the MLB Properties case against Upper Deck set for an April 19 court date, Beckett Media will be examining several aspects of the complicated and wide-scoped case through a series of commentary pieces. We’ll examine MLBP’s complaint, Upper Deck’s argument, try to address some key questions and more …

By CHRIS OLDS | Beckett Baseball Editor | COMMENTARY

Part 1 … Why just Topps?

Details of licensing agreements — or details of non-renewals — are rarely disclosed in the industry as leagues prefer to keep their financial agreements and contractual timeframes confidential.

But when MLB Properties announced on Aug. 5, 2009, that it had signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Topps, that left some people wondering … why just Topps?

After all, Upper Deck had announced just a month earlier that it had a deal with the MLB Players Association. And, just two days after MLB Properties announced its deal, Upper Deck responded that it remained “100 percent committed to building the highest quality and most innovative baseball cards in the industry,” which set the stage for where we are today.

Where is that? On April 19, MLB Properties squares off with Upper Deck in court over alleged “trademark infringement, trade dress infringement, trademark dilution, trade dress dilution, breach of contract and unfair competition” with its recent release of three baseball card sets.

But what might have gone into the decision to not renew Upper Deck’s deal? A handful of details have been noted in court documents and others have been disclosed to Beckett Media by MLB Properties, while Upper Deck declined to comment on that decision or the case.

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Upper Deck reveals baseball SPs, two more "double take" variation players

Upper Deck revealed on Friday that there are four rare retail short-prints to be found for its 2010 baseball card set and that there are two more “double take” players with photo variation cards.

The four SPs include Sarah Palin, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Pete Rose and a five-time world New York Yankeees champions card featuring Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. The Palin and Rose cards are found in packs in Walmarts, while the other two cards can only be found in packs at Target stores.

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Product Preview: 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter baseball cards

Topps unveiled the basic product information and preview images for its fifth installment in one of its most-popular brands — Allen & Ginter Baseball – which will arrive in late-June.

Each 24-pack hobby box will include three autographs, Relics, Rip Cards, Cut Signatures or Printing Plates, while the basic set will consist of 350 cards comprised of baseball players, historic figures or World’s Champions.

Among the insert card offerings are the familiar mini cards — Wood, Framed Cloth, Bazooka Back, Allen & Ginter Backs, Black and standard mini — while a new inclusion for 2010 is the book card, a 10-card checklist that includes dual autographed 1/1 Relics.

Also back for 2010 is the Ginter Code, Rip Cards and the expected framed Relics and autographs, while new inclusions among the inserts include Lords of Olympus, Monsters of the Mesozoic, World’s Greatest Wordsmiths (no word on whether Tracy Hackler is included — but William Shakespeare is), National Animals, Sailors of the Seven Seas, This Day in History and Baseball Highlight Sketch Cards.

Among this year’s notable baseball autographs are Ryan Howard, Evan Longoria, Roy Halladay, David Wright, Tommy Hanson, Rick Porcello, Elvis Andrus and Madison Bumgarner.

See a full gallery and more after the jump.

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Box Busters Preview Gallery: 2010 Topps Heritage baseball cards

We’ll have a Box Busters episode for 2010 Topps Heritage Baseball up before it arrives in hobby shops next week, but we knew that the goodness that is the 10th-annual release in the Heritage line couldn’t wait.

See a gallery of preview images after the jump.

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Upper Deck maintains its support of Tiger Woods

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

With Tiger Woods’ first public comments about his transgressions on Friday, there will be plenty of discussion about Woods’ future with sponsors and with other business ties.

His largest tie that collectors would be concerned with — his deal with Upper Deck as a company spokesman — remains secure as the company will continue to support the golfer.

“Upper Deck continues to stand by Tiger Woods and wishes him all the best on his road to recovery,” Upper Deck Spokesman Terry Melia said in a statement on Friday. “Our exclusive autographed memorabilia contract with Tiger remains intact.”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Graded Card Investor. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an e-mail to him at colds@beckett.com.

First look: 2010 TRISTAR In Pursuit of the Majors baseball cards

TRISTAR unveiled its latest baseball card product this week, a 90-card box set named In Pursuit of the Majors, which will include a 75-card set and 15 additional cards in each box when it arrives on March 26.

There will be 24 boxes per master case and just 60 cases produced for the product, which doesn’t carry licensing from any leagues (all team logos are digitally removed).

Each set will include six autographed cards limited to 80 or fewer copies along with four parallel cards (50 or less), three short-print cards and two 2010 Obak preview cards.

Among the autographs are Pursuit of Excellence dual autographs, 1/1 inscriptions autographs and full name autographs where the players sign their first, middle and last names.

See more from the set after the jump.

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Apolo Ohno Trading Cards on the Rise

By TRACY HACKLER | BECKETT MEDIA EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

The face of U.S. speed skating on Saturday night became the face of America’s winningest Winter Olympian. Not coincidentally, Apolo Ohno’s autographed trading card is hot enough to melt the very Vancouver ice upon which he made history.

With a bronze medal in Saturday’s 1,000 meters, the 27-year-old Washington native ran his career Olympic medal total to seven to become the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all time.

And his 2004 Donruss World Series Fans of the Game autographed trading card, limited to just 300 copies, is selling for as much as 280 percent above its current value as a result.

The card carries a modest $40 price tag but has sold for more than $150 in recent days, a figure likely to be dwarfed as the international media attention grows following Saturday’s accomplishment and in advance of next week’s 5,000-meter relay.

More-plentiful unsigned versions of the card, valued at just $2, have been selling for more than twice that much since his second-place finish in the 1,500 meters on Valentine’s Day and Saturday’s third-place finish.

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2010 Topps UFC Main Event Packs Serious Punch

By TRACY HACKLER | BECKETT MEDIA EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

No matter how much they celebrated the shockingly good release of Topps’ maiden UFC product last February, there were those among even the hardest of hardcore mixed martial arts fans who feared that a UFC-exclusive trading card product lacked legitimate sustainability.

Supposedly, the UFC’s roster of truly collectible athletes was too limited. Supposedly, the lack of competition would prevent Topps’ product developers from continuing to raise the bar creatively and conceptually. Supposedly, the sport was too young/obscure/violent/nontraditional to develop a deep, savvy collector base. Supposedly, Topps – looking to capitalize on a hot property – would run this good thing into the ground too quickly . . .

One year and three products later, every one of those alleged concerns – and any others – has been waylaid, rendered utterly incapacitated like anyone trying to stand and strike with Shane Carwin or Paul Daley.

Clearly, this whole UFC-as-a-trading-card-sport experiment continues to deliver one knockout punch after another.

That much is refreshingly obvious from the very first pack of 2010 Topps UFC Main Event, the company’s third installment of the franchise that’s due out everywhere Feb. 24.

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Upper Deck Unveils New Saints Images

Upper Deck officials on Thursday unveiled the first images from the company’s March-releasing boxed-set tribute to the Super Bowl XLIV-champion New Orleans Saints.

“Never before in their 44-year history had the Saints made it to the Super Bowl, much less won the Super Bowl,” said UD Football Brand Manager Brandon Miller. “We’re just proud that Upper Deck is able to put together something special to commemorate the first-time achievement for the city of New Orleans and its rabid football fans.”

The 50-card boxed set incorporates several images from Super Bowl XLIV, including Tracy Porter’s game-clinching interception return touchdown in the fourth quarter and an MVP tribute to Drew Brees.

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MSNBC's Keith Olbermann prefers 1967 over 2010 Topps

Long-time collector Keith Olbermann recently opened his first pack of 2010 Topps on the air — a typical tradition of his in recent years — but he didn’t finish going through it because he was looking forward to tearing into a different type of wrapper.

It was one with wax paper and no autographs anywhere to be found.

What did he find in his pack of 1967 Topps? Check it out … click here to watch.

Checklist: 2010 Topps baseball short-prints

Just in case collectors are still looking for it, here is the list of the short-printed cards in the 2010 Topps Baseball set.

There are other variations to be found — Yankees pie cards as well as an Abe Lincoln variation that Topps has teased — and a few other card back variations that have been spotted but not yet detailed.

For now, here’s the list as confirmed by the company after the jump.

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First look: 2010 Topps Allen & Ginter baseball cards

Topps on Wednesday released some preview images of the fifth installment of its Allen & Ginter line of baseball cards.

Check ‘em out …

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Box Busters: 2009 Topps Unique Football

Dan Hitt and Tracy Hackler bust a not-entirely-unique box of 2009 Topps Unique Football. With no Players Inc license for 2010, this appears to be the last Topps NFL product for quite some time.

Watch the video to find out what this swan-song box delivered.

Alabama Crimson Tide heats things up on auction block & with upcoming appearance on NASCAR track at Talladega

Do you call yourself the biggest Alabama Crimson Tide fan? You aren’t without this…

The 16-foot wide logo from the floor of the national champions’ locker room from Bryant-Denny Stadium is up for grabs — and already has hit $7,600 on the auction block with more than six weeks remaining. (Click here to view the auction.)

The 13-time national champions have a partnership with Steiner Sports to bring game-used and other memorabilia to collectors (much like the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys). The floor logo is just the latest to be found in the “Alabama Collectibles by Steiner Sports” offerings.

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Behind the Scenes: A Beckett Magazine Planning Meeting

Ever wonder what goes on in a Beckett magazine planning meeting?

Well spend eight minutes watching the wheels turn and you’ll get an idea. While this particular meeting — to plan the April 2010 issue of Beckett Sports Card Monthly — wasn’t necessarily rife with definitive revelations, we do learn just a little about the next issue’s editorial lineup and why Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay might not make the best cover subjects.

– Tracy Hackler

McFarlane Toys Reveals First Signed Hockey Figures

By Russ Cohen

In NHL news, McFarlane Toys made a pretty big splash at Toy Fair over the weekend by following up last September’s announcement of autographed chase figures with a sneak preview of the first signed hockey figures.

I got a sneak peek of a Gordie Howe-signed base that had his formal name of “Gordon” with the “#9;” interesting to note that he didn’t sign “Mr. Hockey.” Figures all have a small white box on the side of the base and a limited amount of them will be autographed and randomly inserted into case packs. That figure is out now.

New York Islanders rookie John Tavares will be in the NHL 24 release along with Mike Cammalleri (Habs) and Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson (Leafs). Tavares will have autographs in the set and I suspect they will be an extremely hot commodity. There will be just 200 to 400 pieces total that have sequentially numbered autographs and the price point is still $9.99.

There is no way for the company to protect against “figure searching” so I suspect sometime in April when this hits the market, the sharks will be waiting.

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Sneak Preview Gallery: 2010 Famous Fabrics First Edition

Dr. Brian Price — the Canadian sports card manufacturer who’s delivered memorable products from such memorable brands as In The Game, Be A Player and Sportkings — recently unveiled a whole host of images from Famous Fabrics First Edition, the newest product from his newest company, Creative Cardboard Concepts.

True to the name of its front company, Famous Fabrics delivers a creative, multisport twist on the memorabilia card concept by presenting an extremely limited product with seemingly countless unique themes and pairings.

With an overall production run of just 400 10-pack boxes, every one-card pack of Famous Fabrics includes a slabbed memorabilia or cut-signature card limited to either nine copies (Silver) or one copy (Gold).

Due out Feb. 24, Famous Fabrics incorporates legends from a bevy of sports, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey, boxing, golf, track and field, horse racing, soccer, swimming and more. Such a wide talent pool helps the product shine on poignant themed inserts such as  The Year, Rookie of the Year, MVP and Cityscapes. In addition, Famous Fabrics includes a veritable locker room full of memorabilia types, including jerseys, trunks, bats, skates, cleats, hats and gloves.

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First Look: Upper Deck's 2010 NCAA Sweet Spot Football


Upper Deck officials on Monday released preliminary information and images on 2010 NCAA Sweet Spot Football, a brand new product releasing in June that takes full advantage of the company’s exclusive agreement with the Collegiate Licensing Company.

The product, a college-exclusive extension of Upper Deck’s popular Sweet Spot brand, promises six autograph or memorabilia cards per six-pack box, a 100-card base set and helmet variations aplenty for each player.

See more images after the jump and stay tuned to Beckett.com for additional information on this product.

– Tracy Hackler

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Inside the Topps Million Card Giveaway …

So Topps launched its Million Card Giveaway on Monday at www.toppsmillion.com, where slowly but surely collectors who found one of the contest cards in packs of 2010 Topps baseball cards could enter their code and win a card from the past.

Beckett Media‘s Box Busters review box yielded six of these contest cards, so armed with their trusty codes I ventured forth into the wild frontier of redeeming them … what did Beckett receive?

Card No. 1 … 1988  John Tudor

Card No. 2 … 2005  Ichiro Suzuki

Card No. 3 … 1966  Bob Shaw

Card No. 4 … 1976  Bob Coluccio

Card No. 5 … 1993 Mark McLemore

Card No. 6 …  1998  Francisco Cordova season highlights card

What a haul. They’re sitting in the Beckett account where they can be requested for delivery (for a fee), traded or … sit.

I got caught up in code-entering mania and launched my own personal account to see what I got from my pair of cards … a 2000 Orlando Cabrera and a 1972 Reggie Cleveland.

And then, once the time-out issues on the site subsided (it’s been a busy day there), I started poking around to see what others have found … and it appears some collectors have found plenty…

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