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Topps locks up MLB-exclusive license through 2020

By Chris Olds | Beckett Baseball Editor

Topps and MLB Properties are extending their exclusive licensing agreement for baseball cards.

Their deal is extended through the year 2020, according to an announcement made by the company today.

“Since making Topps our exclusive baseball card licensee, they have continually validated that decision by bringing clarity to the marketplace and reinvigorating the hobby, especially among young people,” said Howard Smith, the MLB Senior Vice President, Licensing, in a prepared statement. “Generations of baseball fans have grown more attached to the game through collecting baseball cards, and Topps is continually coming up with new and creative ways to reach the next generation.”

The longest-running manufacturer of baseball cards, Topps has made baseball cards since the 1950s and first signed its licensing deal with MLB Properties in 1969. Its current run as an exclusive licensee began in 2010. It will keep exclusivity on “MLB, Jewel Event and Club trademarks, logos and other intellectual property, for use on baseball cards, stickers and certain other product categories.”

Topps said it will aim to “improve the retail and collecting experience and make cards increasingly relevant to children” in its statement.

“Topps has been making baseball cards for over 50 years, and with the ongoing support of MLB, we will continue to produce the most innovative and exciting collectibles in the marketplace,” said Doug Kruep, Topps’ Vice President and General Manager, U.S. Sports & Entertainment. “We value our relationship with MLB and look forward to being in business with them for many years to come.”

Chris Olds is the editor of Beckett Baseball magazine. Have a comment, question or idea? Send an email to him at colds@beckett.com. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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41 Comments

Andrew McKay

I don’t have an issue with Topps getting a renewal they do some great things in the industry I would like to see some competition in the MLB license though instead of them having an exclusive. It could only improve the industry if multiple companies were given licenses.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

It is interesting that MLB thinks Topps is doing a good job. By whose standards? What metrics were put into place that would cause MLB to think that they are doing a good job as a solo baseball license. The best release by far was NT this year. Imagine that product with a license. I wish MLB and Topps would release more transparent details as why this exclusivity is good for the MLB, the hobby and the collectors.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink
Steven Robbins

I am ok with Topps, love there products! Not sure i am happy with only them allowed the license agreement, there are a few good card company’s out there (leaf, pannini and upper deck) as a collector I love Topps but I collect a variety of cards and purchase a variety of products! I hate that others have to use blank hats and jerseys as they have to with out the agreement. I think Topps are the best and they know it but I feel there trying to monopoly the card market giving other less of a chance. What’s the fun with out a little competition ? Not sure if I made a good point or if this is understandable in others eyes.. This is just how i feel about it.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
deeez

IN 2020 TOPS CHROME PACKS WILL HAVE 3 DIFFERENT COLORED REFRACTORS A PACK AND ONE BASE CARD
IN 2020 WE WILL STILL BE WAITING FOR 2012 REDEMPTIONS
IN 2020 WE WILL HAVE MORE MANUFACTERED “STUFF” THAN GAME USED
IN 2020 WE WILL HAVE ……………………………………………………………………………………………..

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink
Jesse Searfoss

An exclusive contract means that Topps not only paid for the rights they possess, but paid enough to convince MLB not to seek additional incomes by selling such a license to all other parties. That had to be expensive. Does Beckett have the means or pull to find out what this costs Topps?

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink
shawn davis

So bored. Going to new hobby

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
Doc

Topps needs to be very careful. They could single-handedly kill an entire hobby, or, alternatively, vastly improve it. They haven’t shown a need to improve, or innovate, or really move anything forward in the past two years. They’ve just done what they’ve always done and recycled more and more old ideas. It was an interesting experiment and we can all judge the results. Is anything Topps has done since 2010 a vast improvement over the past? It’s really as simple as that. If they haven’t done anything but maintain the status-quo, what’s the point in giving them a huge 10 year license? (hint: $$$)

Deals like this, and other things like archaic blackout dates and misguided TV rights makes me believe it’s the MLB, not necessarily Topps that are making all the wrong choices. Topps just benefited this time around. I don’t have anything against Topps. They don’t make “bad” products, and I still plan on collecting. I just hope they don’t rest on their laurels and we have nothing but mediocrity until 2021.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
Micah

I love the Panini Products, however I do wish they had the license like Topps does.
I would definitely buy more Panini Products if they had a full license however that doesn’t mean I will be spending less on Topps, primarily Bowman branded cards.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
Ryan R

I’d like it if panini got a limited license, meaning they could produce a few products with a license (for me elite, prizm, national treasures, something else high end.) But if they are only going to give out one I’m glad it’s topps, they represent tradition and have many more purchasable brands in my eyes.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
Randall

“Topps said it will aims to “improve the retail and collecting experience and make cards increasingly relevant to children” in its statement.” This is just talk. Why do we have Hobby packs when very few card shops can remain in business? Sell the same product at retail and hobby for the same price.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink
(Not) MLB's PR Department

Dearest Topps Company:

Congratulations, you have successfully pulled the wool over our eyes, yet again. We hereby grant you a seven year extension to our license, thus allowing you to continue to be as lazy and unimaginative as ever, specifically, 1) to provide, by far, the most shoddy customer service of any card manufacturer (employed solely by clueless automatons), 2) to allow your thousands of unfulfilled redemptions to continue to languish in your database, and 3) to maintain your monopoly over any other card company who might DARE to attempt to provide a licensed alternative to you, the Donald Trump of the card collecting world. It’s your way or no way, once again. Bravo.

Your puppets in crime,
MLB Properties

Posted March 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
Bill Lloyd

This is the same old song and dance we heard a few years ago when they first did the deal. Topps keeps putting out crappy products, and now look for a continuing spiral downward through 2019. What a country where we can be told which product to buy and how much we are going to like it.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink
Bill Lloyd

Also, get ready for more redemptions, because you can bet a deal was worked behind the scenes to make sure that the players aren’t put under too much pressure to sign cards. Probably more sticker autos to come also.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink
Rob Braxton

‘Competition’ (does not equal) better products. It just doesn’t, period.

Therefore, I’m glad Topps got the extension (& continued exclusive) deal, and I’m especially happy that they are promising to focus on kids. Kids are the reason cards are fun and valuable, period.

Topps does A LOT of things wrong, and I hope they will try harder to not make mistakes (deliberate or otherwise), but overall they own the ‘formula’ (with their base set) that makes collecting so fun (for me), and I’m very happy MLB did their part to assure collectors a consistent product. Now, I’m hoping Topps does THEIR part.

As for variety (i.e. ‘competitors’), I think in this industry ‘competition’ is vastly overrated.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
Robert Braxton

‘Competition’ does not necessarily equal better products.

Therefore, I’m glad Topps got the extension (& continued exclusive) deal, and I’m especially happy that they are promising to focus on kids. Kids are the reason cards are fun and valuable, period.

Topps does A LOT of things wrong, and I hope they will try harder to not make mistakes (deliberate or otherwise), but overall they own the ‘formula’ (with their base set) that makes collecting so fun (for me), and I’m very happy MLB did their part to assure collectors a consistent product. Now, I’m hoping Topps does THEIR part.

As for variety (i.e. ‘competitors’), I think in this industry ‘competition’ is vastly overrated.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink
Robert Braxton

@Randall, I agree completely. No more separating Hobby and retail. Give the kids the same chance to get cool stuff (at Target and Walmart), and stop catering to high-end collectors, whom, BTW, come to sites like Beckett’s and blast you with every breath they take (not that some of the criticism isn’t valid).

Enough with the variations (within the products). Parallels (IMHO) are largely stupid (if we’re being truly honest about it), and for my money ‘chrome’ is an experiment that has (for the most part run it’s course.

Leave all your ‘innovative’ (aka stupid) ideas for your Bowman product lines. I never cared for those sets anyways.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink
Robert Braxton

at Randall, I agree completely. No more separating Hobby and retail. Give the kids the same chance to get cool stuff (at Target and Walmart), and stop catering to high-end collectors, whom, BTW, come to sites like Beckett’s and blast you with every breath they take (not that some of the criticism isn’t valid).

Enough with the variations (within the products). Parallels (IMHO) are largely stupid (if we’re being truly honest about it), and for my money ‘chrome’ is an experiment that has (for the most part run it’s course.

Leave all your ‘innovative’ (aka stupid) ideas for your Bowman product lines. I never cared for those sets anyways.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
Mark

Competition may not always equal “better products,” but it does prevent one company from falling into the same old pattern year after year with no fear of losing market share from the majority of its customer base. The greatest innovations in the industry came from the competition era: more extensive use of autographs, game-used, expanded insert sets. Competition forces companies to be innovative to fight for market share. It is basic economics. Stay ahead of the curve to survive.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
Michael

This is just terrible for the hobby. The only Monopoly that is good is the board game! Taking away collectors right to choose is bad too, and doesn’t allow for healthy competition. Without healthy competition, the consumer gets the short end of the stick in terms of innovation, customer service, and overall product satisfaction.

Topps customer service has also completely gone down the toilet. If you need to get a hold of Topps for customer service, it takes for ever to do so. Then when you finally do get to talk to someone after being on hold for ever, they treat you like a crook. They treat everyone like it’s impossible for them to screw up, and anyone claiming they were shorted a hit, or received damaged cards are lying or trying to rip them off. Then, if you are shorted a hit on a box that cost darn near two days salary, they send you the crappiest card they have laying around, after they have already treated you like the bad guy.

Topps is way to comfortable turning out the same junk over and over again, just with a different year and slight variation in the design. Topps base brand is the same old recipe year after year. Some kind of retro insert set, gold parallels, SSP HOFer variations, a dual player insert card of some sort, and then the impossible to pull autographs which sell for a buck or two. It’s the same recipe year after year after year.

Finally, the biggest drawback of Topps exclusive deal is the lack of innovation. I see them running Facebook contests for consumers to design, or give them ideas for a new insert set for Bowman Sterling. Topps is out of ideas, and so much so they are asking customers for ideas for a high-end product. 2012 Bowman Sterling was a terrible and unattractive product. Ever since Topps has taken over the innovation has stopped. Upper Deck gave us Sweet Spot Signatures, By The Letter auto’s, acetate cards and more, and they were always bringing new things to the table. Donruss/Panini also had a lot of good stuff. Now its just Topps riding on what has already been done countless times and is way too comfortable.

We as collectors should have a say in who best represents our buying interests. We are the ones spending the money and paying Topps employees salaries. In a sense, we are their bosses and should have a say in who can make cards. If everyone would quit buying Topps it would send them a message, but unfortunately that won’t happen. People will still continue to buy over-priced/under-valued boxes and keep them going. Topps is killing off an already crippled hobby. The price of boxes just keeps getting crazier and crazier, and locking kids out of the hobby even further.

With Topps having a monopoly on baseball cards, the only one who wins is Topps. They have forgotten who they really work for.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

there’s a lot to say about this. I wish that this could be more competative, i don’t understand why its so hard to give more a shot at a MLB liecense. just put a cap on the product, card collecting is an escape for me sometimes, baseball is what i collect most, topps is good but way to many color variation’s of the same card, if they changed the colors up year from year that would be good, but 3 colors per, is more than enough i think. and as far as the retail i read most comments and, i’m not so sure that the kids would benfit that much with all the pack searching scum there is out there. man these people would be lining up at the door. It’s a shame to because these are the future of collecting if i can even call it that anymore

Posted March 18, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink
steve emerick

monopoly..

and my money isnt play money!

Posted March 18, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Permalink
Ron

Collectors take in the shorts one more time. MLB does NOT CARE A FLIP about collectors. As for retailing and bringing in kids to the hobby. Have you checked the prices for almost every topps product other than their base set? MLB knows we are sheep and will follow along! Another blow to the hobby.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

Sad day for collectors. MLB really screwed the pooch on this one.

Posted March 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

HI
Hasn’t it been proven that the only ones that win in a monopoly are the sellers?

Posted March 18, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
Gary

What a shame! It’s obvious doesn’t care about the actual people who will be buying the cards. Topps doesn’t deserve the sole license. Being told what we can buy is not good business. There are other companies fully capable of competing with Topps and could top Topps, too bad they won’t be given the chance. Topps is stale, just like the 1970′s until 1981 came along when the monopoly was busted up and Donruss and Fleer were ab;e to make MLB cards. This is clearly Topps buying MLB off and pushing back the people that matter the most in a business; THE CUSTOMERS!

I am done collecting and selling off everything I have. Card collecting is supposed to fun, and being told what to buy isn’t fun. The kids of today don’t care about cards because they are so darn expensive, and the stuff they can afford is absolute stale JUNK! Innovation is the only thing that is going to real the kids back in alkong with realistic pricing on product. Otherwise card collecting will die and lose to overpriced cards, I-pads, I-phones, video games, and all the other technology. MLB really blew this call, and like I said, I am done collecting after 35 years.

Posted March 19, 2013 at 12:46 am | Permalink
Andre

MLB what are you doing??? Oh well, Panini has shown that they don’t need a license to make an unbelievable product (National Treasures Baseball). #%$(#@ TOPPS. I’m saving up to buy National Treasures when it comes out next year or whenever. In the meantime I’ll be completing as many NT sets I can. I won’t waste any more money on Topps garbage. I’m also shifting towards another hobby and I’ll be spending a lot less on cards from now on.
Maybe I’ll come back in 2021.

Posted March 19, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink
GCA

There are just as many kids that are high-end mojo hunters like the adult collectors. Getting rid of high end products would plunge the bottom line so far down that even Topps would go out of business. And that’s all they’re concerned with. They’ve got a formula for what sells (and boosts the hype) and that’s what they stick with. Yes, the hobby needs young people to keep going eventually ,but they are not what supports the industry. Triple Play and Opening Day are not going to save the hobby. Better mid-range and high end products will. I don’t hate Topps, I just hate the exclusive deal. MLB officials like Smith are just corporate suits that put out PR pablum and don’t have any relevant ideas about the hobby. They make business deals and smile about it. They give Topps carte blanche to repeatedly over-parallel and super short print half their mainstream sets. They’ve taken the concept of Rarity = Value and perverted it into Intentional Over-Hyped Rarity = Super Huge Value and Extra Sales. They actually discourage sales to a large part of their target audience by concentrating on the gimmick items that most of us will never see and won’t bother chasing, instead of catering to set and team collectors a little more equally to superstar rookie prospect dollar value seekers.

Even if you say that competition doesn’t make better products, it does give the consumer more choices. That’s all I want. I want to see what Panini and Upper Deck (and some of the others in that last question, not just one) would come up with when they are able to freely design cards without all these ridiculous restrictions, like doctoring the photos, or cutting off heads.

The license extension reinforces the corporatization of a simple hobby. Between licensing, grading, and trademarking, I can see a day where the average card will be encased so you can’t touch it, and so obscured by legal notations and filtering, that you won’t be able to see the picture of the player or read his name without a disclaimer and certification.

Posted March 19, 2013 at 6:45 am | Permalink
Tom Waldron

Funny how these 2 stories Ud MlPA Agreement and Topps 10 yr deal should really tell us whats at the heart of the indusry. Money and thats just a simple fact Ud couldn’t have got off the hook for what it owed Players and the players Pay the Mlpa to represent them only them. Everyone wants a piece of the pie but no one cares wha the resulsts will be. Topps Is unbelievable they are certainly the WORST in the hobby at any customer relations (redemps etc..) yet somehow they can convince the MLB thaey are doing a good job.
No it’s just that they are good at paying up front and playing a shell game with the consumers.
I’m waiting for the CLASS ACTION suit on fraud all the companies are doing promise on the very product something is inside but find out it’s a redemption and then wait ……wait …. finnaly you find out said person didn’t sign. I Don’t know anywhere in the actaull business community this wouldn’t be called fraud.
But WE too are to blame we the consumers/collectors WHO chase the big hit fall for for it. Now with social media we should boycott these companies.

Posted March 19, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink
LJ

The empire grows!!!!!

Posted March 19, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink
Robert Braxton

I suppose I would be angry at Topps too if I only cared about trying to flip (forgive the pun) the cards for profit. All the high-end collectors here don’t care about Topps’ base sets, nor do they care a lick about kid’s collecting habits.

And yet, they expect Topps to provide them some kind of secondary income; ridiculous!! I’m so tired of hearing some of you whine about the same near non-sensical traits of Topps products. When I was a kid, we were GRATEFUL that ANYONE was making cards (because we were BASEBALL fans).

If you’re in it strictly to make some extra money, get a job!
I promise you the kids don’t care about your Bowman and other high-end products, and they are completely entertained by what’s in the (Target and Walmart) stores. Their idea of improvement is knock the cost of a pack down to a buck.

P.s. Topps get on that! Knock the damn price down to AT LEAST a dollar. You want to get kids more into collecting? Lower the damn price a little.

Posted March 19, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink
Kory Kasler

I really don’t think this is what is best for the hobby, though I understand that money talks and is likely what continued the deal.

I do like Topps, and the company puts out some great products, which I do spend money on. My concern will be with customer service, which will likely continue to lack as it has since they have been given exclusive rights. It’s already a challenge to contact customer service, and from what I have seen customer service problems are a recurring issue for Topps. Nobody likes sitting through the message from David Wright for an hour before someone from customer service takes a call.

I would challenge Topps to take responsibility for the hobby and not let this exclusive license be something that weakens the hobby with lesser quality products and poor service to customers. Basically, whatever Topps does essentially effects the entire baseball card collecting hobby, so I’m hoping Topps improves it’s level of customer service and develops new, quality products to keep the hobby alive

Posted March 19, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink
Earl Z

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am sick and tired of the way the hobby has gone. Cards are getting too expensive to purchase. Make the hobby more open to kids – what a joke!! The industry needs to get back to basics – lets cut out this massive amount of insert cards – especialy autographs and relics. I used to collect entire sets – not anymore I have limited my purchases to team sets. Do we really need to have all the parallel sets also – one parallel set is enough. let’s get back to cheaper cards, bigger sets, and less inserts!!

Posted March 19, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink
rick

I don’t get it. Didn’t I just see something on this site about Upper Deck getting a license?

Posted March 19, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink
Adam Shoemaker

I am pleased to see how many responses there are to this!!! I hate that Topps has exclusive rights! The hobby needs competition. Topps has been skating along since 2010. That means that I haven’t bought any MLB products made since 2010. That is horrible!
I had been collecting since the mid-1980′s UNTIL Topps got exclusive rights and completely junked up the hobby w/ manufactured MEM cards, garbage AU’s of players that mostly won’t ever make it to the MLB, and WAY too many inserts/insert sets that have way too many cards/versions.
Topps is producing mostly junk and they need competition to pull me back into the hobby.

I also hate that the last question in the Beckett poll only allowed one answer. I would have also picked Panini, but didn’t b/c I knew most people would pick it. I picked Press Pass b/c they are a GREAT company and would only get better with licenses. There is a reason they are the only licensed NASCAR card company. They still work with individual players in other sports, but are the only company willing to go through the hassle of signing all the drivers and teams in NASCAR. Topps won’t even bother with NASCAR b/c there is nothing like the MLBPA/NFLPA to deal with. Each team/driver/sponser has to be dealt with separately and that is apparently too much work for Topps.
I will never respect Topps again unless they allow competition or at least listen to the true collectors and make the cards we want to see instead of the cards they think we want OR know they can make money off of promoting in their boxes!

Posted March 20, 2013 at 1:10 am | Permalink
Ryan R

To the guy that said put the same products in hobby and retail, I’m definitely with you. The release week price of a topps chrome football hobby box at my nearest hobby shop was 140 bucks.

If I could have gotten them at 80 bucks a pop at target I’d have probably bought 5. As it is now when I get the itch I have to buy blasters, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t feel like a moron when that was over.

Posted March 20, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
Coimbre21

Since holding those first cards in my little paw in 1967, I grew up only knowing Topps so really this changes little for me.

Given the recent FBI report which mostly implicates Upper Deck for buying and distributing fake GU relics and given their Yu Gi Oh counterfeiting and the multi-million dollar debt to MLB and subsequent slow repayment (even missing a few payments) there’s no argument to substantiate that UD is a trustworthy business partner for MLB.

Even if new UD management is working on changing past integrity issues, I would need to see past, current, and future provenance to convince me that UD’s GU Relics pose no risk to the dollars I spend. In fact all card companies need to start providing provenance but UD appears to be the biggest offender according to the FBI report.

Posted March 21, 2013 at 10:25 am | Permalink
Coimbre21

No way you can separate retail from higher end card shop product . . . it would have to be locked up behind glass, higher cost associated with managing it that way. Target and Walmart want product out the door without additional labor. Thieves and pack pickers would be all over this stuff (just like they are for the cheap stuff today) and what kid can afford afford a $100 pack of Triple Threads anyway.

Better to swoop into the local card shop, like I do, after the box breakers sell their past or current Tributes, Five Stars, and Triple Threads and many others back to shop at a fraction so that they can make their next purchase. I then buy the repurchased/resold cards at a fraction of a pack.

My better purchase examples; 2009 1/1 Topps Sterling Silver Wade Boggs $14, 2009 1/1 Topps Tribute Printing Plate Ryne Sandberg $30, 2008 1/1 Topps Sterling Cherry Wood Tony Gwynn $35. Not as stellar but just this last week 2012 12/25 Five Star Relic Dave Winfield $12.50 and 2012 TTR Joey Votto 2/18 $10.

Posted March 21, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
JonathanI

Why don’t we allow only one baseball team in the MLB and see if the quality of competition changes the game? If you think it would be for the better, support the Topps dream. If you know that throughout history a lack of competition often leads to poorer quality, think before you buy.

Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink
Frank Drey

Terrible news!! I stayed with the hobby thinking that next year there would be better quality products available – I will be gone by 2020. The clarity Topps has brought to the hobby is the decrease in collector base.

Posted March 21, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink
chrisolds

It’s called the Yankees! Oh, wait … they need two teams to play a game. Dang it.

Posted March 21, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
Dominic Paulo

I havent bought any cards since Topps was granted their last exclusive contract-I was thinking about getting back in to the hobby but I guess I wont be now. No competition is unamerican and makes for a stale product.

Posted May 21, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

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