Who Gives A Damn About Logos?

Lately, I have become somewhat obsessed with autographed buybacks. I don’t know when they were introduced into The Hobby but it was a genius idea and a great way to tug at the nostalgia heartstrings.

Take a worthless card from a forgotten player, have him sign a small number of them, include them into packs of new products. Now imagine finding a buyback of Cal Ripken Jr., Derek Jeter, or Greg Maddux.


To me, the greatest gimmick in collecting today is the autographed buyback. I’d pick it over a jumbo patch, triple autograph, or Superfractor any day of the week, even if it’s of some unknown guy.

What I find most ironic is that the company that produced the best autographed buybacks in the past, Donruss, and the company who made the best this year, Upper Deck, both have lost their MLB license.

That got me thinking a lot about our love for licensed baseball cards. Why  is it that we look down on cards that feature logos airbrushed out? I know I absolutely hated the 2008 Donruss releases for this exact reason.

Fine, I get that some teams have a certain mystique like the New York Yankees but does anyone really care to see an Orioles, Mariners, or Marlins logo on their baseball card? Perhaps baseball cards & logos are just too intertwined.

Can a non-licensed baseball card ever look good? Could Upper Deck find some way to keep Photoshop out of 2010 baseball products? Perhaps by finding an alternative to airbrushing logos. Even if they do, the days of autograph buybacks have more than likely come to an end.




  1. to me, it’s the quality of the airbrushing that counts. 2008 Threads was awesome, IMHO, the unlicensed cards from the 1980’s that I remember were horrible.

    Despite the airbrushing, I do like the unlicensed auto of Ernie Banks in my collection that I got for $5 rather than paying good money for a Banks auto on a Cubs non-airbrushed uniform. So it does provide some afforability sometimes despite the asthetics of the photo.

    As for UD in 2010, I suppose they can keep photoshop out of the product if they can catch a player from the side (so you can’t clearly see the logo on the hat or uniform) or if they have a headshot of a player who isn’t wearing his cap while cooling off or whatever or is wearing his cap backwards.

  2. We look down on airbrushed cards because for a long time they were an indicator of a bootleg product that was slapped together to make a buck. Now that Donruss and Upper Deck are out in the cold, hopefully they will put the time and effort into making the cards look good and reverse that impression. You can do ’em right and have the cards look really good or you can do ’em wrong and end up with a late ’80s oddball card. It CAN be done, you just have to finesse it. Look at Topps football cards from the ’70s and early ’80s. I don’t think they had a license to show NFL logos, but there’s a charm to those cards even though most consist of close up photos of football players sitting on the bench with severe helmet hair.

  3. Its much more then a logo when you really think of it.

    Its the diamondback and the tomahawk. Its the solid white A sitting on green & gold, and the classic NY with pinstripes. Its the Blue Jay, and the bold white ROYALS across a powder blue jersey. Its the halo, and the devil ray.

    Its also how we associate a player with a season, and a championship team from a loosing one.

    Its much more then a logo.

  4. Hats look pretty bad when the logo is airbrushed/photoshopped. I’m interested in seeing what kind of photos Upper Deck ends up with to prevent having to photoshop too many logos out.

  5. I’m surprised the licensing becomes an issue with the buyback. Donruss obviously had the license in 1984, and that can’t change. Just remove the new alteration of the cards so new copyright wouldn’t apply, and blammo, can’t you just re-release the same cards? As long as they’re not actually re-printing the card . . .

    Obviously, knowing precisely what the license allows would be important.

    Honestly, though, I think Donruss and Upper Deck should sue Topps/MLB for monopolistic/anti-capitalist behavior, like the European Union came down on Microsoft for its business practices. Publishing rights are a lot different from the sort of broadcast rights that allow any particular company from exclusive broadcast of, say, Monday Night Football, and shouldn’t offer exclusivity. It’s like if MLB exclusively licensed ESPN, so no magazines, including Sports Illustrated, could use the content.

    That would be lame. And ultimately, it’s not a blow to the companies.

    It’s a blow to us.

  6. If a company wanted to put out a great non-licensed product, they definitely could.

    Seeing as how UD has what seems like the entire GETTY sports library at their disposal, they’ll probably have at least 5-10 shots of even the worst player at an angle that doesn’t show a single logo.

    It’s a lot easier to put out a great unlicensed product when you’ve got millions of photos at your disposal. There are some great shots in Flagship that don’t show a logo, if I recall correctly.

  7. A lot of us are loyal to a team, rather than a particular player. Without the logo, where’s the connection to the team?

    Not to mention, most of the logo-less unlicensed cards look terrible.

  8. Here’s a crazy idea, why doesn’t Upper Deck just create their own logos for every team? They could make the logos and jerseys look like the old throwback uniforms with simple lettering. Like these hats:


    Or they could come up with a radically new designs. Like for Toronto, instead of using the blue jay head, they coukd just use the entire bird like in the Cardinals’ logo.

    They have manufactured patches, so why not manufactured logos? If done right, it would at least be better than blank hats and jerseys.

  9. Jayson,

    That is a great idea, however, Im not sure how MLB would react to that legally. There are laws that protect almost every aspect of a logo, and how it can be used. A similar logo cannot be used in reference to the original in any way shape, or form.

    The NFL, NBA, and NHL also follow the same strict guidelines.


  10. To me, the problem with airbrushed cards wasn’t the logo, it was the appearance. If you have a headshot of a player in a blank cap, it just looks odd. But, a headshot of a hatless player is just fine for me. If all the Red Sox players need to simply be from “Boston” I can’t see how it couldn’t be done well.

  11. So here is something that well may be dumb but a thought, if upper deck loses the license, and say put out a product like Scoreboard used to, no logos, but a vintage card in every box. The UD twist, base set that is plain, but inserts of old products, buybacks, even cuts and sweet spots. If Tri star can do it and Donruss did it, I don’t see a issue. Imagine 20 years of UD products inserted into products. Imagine pulling a 1993 Derek Jeter SP, or even a 2001 Ichrio, yeah they are lame as far as todays standards, but UD will still be in the hobby.

  12. The question to me isn’t whether or not a logo-free set works, it’s whether or not you can do a few sets a year without logos and continue to do so without the fan base getting tired. I think fans may go for it for a while, but then it will be pretty much a given what the photos will look like and the creativeness will go in the tank.

  13. I agree with the people who have said that a card loses some of it’s appeal if the logo, mascot, etc isn’t on the card.
    It just makes the set look and feel “cheaper.”
    There’s also a lack of that connection with your favorite team.

  14. Upper Deck could easily put out a great non-licensed product, just think back to the early to mid 90’s “Studio” Set, but not as lame. Pics, from BP when they wear hats backwards and the such, Press meeting photos and so on… Just a thought…

  15. …..Like WIll said, I gotta question if there is an infringement if they are inserting old cards that were bought back and inserted. Since they are not re printing or newly pressing the card, then it is already a legal card. Are you telling me that those packs of random cards of the various companies that you see selling at supermarkets are distributed by a “licensed” MLB vendor??!! Does the guy at the local flea market have an MLB license to sell a product, of course not, he is not producing a product, but distributing an already licensed item, thus UD an d Donruss would essentially be doing the same thing, distributing a already licensed item. I guess the question posed is if there is any alterations (foil stamping) to the card that would challenge the original license

  16. For me, it’s not that the logos are so important, in and of themselves.

    I remember collecting football cards as a little kid in the early 80s (the 1981 Topps Walter Payton #400 is still one of my favorites). I liked the cards well enough, but the lack of helmet logos and the overabundance of posed, helmet-off pictures just gave it a sense of unreality—almost a form of censorship.

    It’s like those advertising or art class projects where they make you remove all advertising and logos from a street or stadium scene. It’s like some kind of language neutron bomb hit the place. Even Soviet Russia or North Korea have had “advertising” or “logos”, even if all that was allowed was to promote Glorious Leader, Magnificent Peasant, or Communism itself.

    Once Topps regained the NFL Properties license in 1982, it was like a whole new world opened up, through a kid’s eyes. The player photos had helmet logos, the card design incorporated the logo, and many more action / field shots were now permissible.

    The cards and the images on them just looked more like the real world, as opposed to some slightly altered, not-quite-right version of it.

    I also am not hopeful with the “just find photos where the logos aren’t shown” as an option. Usually, that just leads to off-angle photos of the player as well, which is just a bad image to use entirely.

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