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 (Toll Free)

It Was Like Topps Never Left

That didn’t take long.

Shoot, Topps was without a football license for such a short time it was like the company never left. Truth be told, it didn’t. Sure, it may have missed out on an early draft picks-focused product in 2010, but that’s about it.

Thursday’s announcement – after many weeks of speculation – that Topps was returning to football with licenses from NFL Properties and NFL Players means the granddaddy of sports cards will produce a football product for the 55th consecutive season.

Having Topps in football along with Panini absolutely is a good thing. Collectors – who universally jeered last November’s announcement from NFL Players that it was not renewing Topps for 2010 – are universally cheering the move to bring the company back (again, provided you believe they ever really left in the first place).

Despite the reason for this decision, or the seeming in-one-minute, out-the-next nature of it, NFL Players at least deserves credit for giving collectors what they want in this case. You’ll just have to excuse collectors if they’re all still a little bewildered by the ever-changing football landscape. Here’s a wild, woolly and unofficial account of the great football card licensing shuffle:

  • August 2009: The Collegiate License Company announces that it has reached an exclusive agreement with Upper Deck effective April 1, 2010, meaning that all other manufacturers can no longer use NCAA team logos on products after March 31.
  • November 2009: NFL Players announces that Topps’ license will not be renewed for 2010, presumably leaving Panini America and Upper Deck as the two companies producing fully licensed football cards; somewhere along the way, Press Pass lost its NFL Players license, too.
  • April 7, 2010: After months of turmoil that included countless rumors and well-documented court cases involving Konami and Major League Baseball, Upper Deck announces that it has failed to come to a new licensing agreement with NFL Properties for 2010, presumably leaving Panini America with a quasi-exclusive as the only company to have both NFL Players and NFL Properties licenses
  • April 29, 2010: Topps announces that it has reached a multiyear licensing agreement with NFL Players and NFL Properties, signaling the company’s long-awaited return to football cards following a four-month absence

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight: What was a three-manufacturer marketplace this time last year became a two-manufacturer marketplace in November. It remains a two-manufacturer marketplace now, only the second manufacturer now is the one who in November wasn’t going to have a license in 2010.

You got all that? If not, don’t worry. There’s almost certainly more to come.

Tracy Hackler is the editorial director for Beckett Media. Have a comment or question? Send an e-mail to him at thackler@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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