Like a lot of things in my life, I have a love/hate relationship with the Topps Company. For one, I have been absolutely addicted to their Finest brand since 1996 and have been a Refractor junkie for almost as long. These days, I classify myself more as a nostalgia card blogger than a bonafide card collector. I’d much rather write about cards from the 90s than spend money on 2018 products, it’s just a fact. If I were to buy cards outside of my Jose Canseco collection it would most certainly be from a late-90s Skybox/Fleer or Pinnacle/Leaf release. That being said, all you need to do is look at some of my latest posts to see that I am a fan of Topps baseball cards. With that being said, I am very unhappy.
I am collector who lives for the days of being able to choose. I love pizza but if you were to serve me pizza every day of the week, well, eventually I would grow to hate eating pizza. The problem is that there are card companies out there with the means and desire to compete but are unable to do so because of Topps’ exclusive contract, which runs through 2020. I look at Topps’ flagship and I see a boring design and lazy photography selection. I also see them continuing to push set builders away with a dizzying amount of short prints and “super short prints” and parallel in the numbers that would make early-2000s Donruss, blush.
So out of curiosity, I went on Twitter and created a quick poll asking my 800+ followers what company they feel would make the best, licensed baseball cards to compete with Topps Company. At best, I expected I’d get 8-10 votes. Boy, was I off. In 12 hours, the poll received 300 votes. As big as a shock as that was, what surprised me even more was that Upper Deck grabbed the lead from the first few minutes and never looked back. I say this because around the time that their license was revoked, Upper Deck’s reputation among collectors was in the gutter. On card forums and social media, many collectors celebrated Topps’ victory in the card monopoly.
Which company would create the best LICENSED baseball cards to compete with Topps Company?
— Mario Alejandro (@TheWaxHeaven) February 6, 2018
I have had a very good relationship with Upper Deck from the early days of Wax Heaven when they became the very first card company to sponsor me. During the closing of this blog in 2009, Upper Deck sent me a very special gift to give away to the readers of Wax Heaven in a contest which brought in over 20,000 visitors in a 24-hour span. With all that being said, I am going to write something I have never dared to write. When it was announced that Upper Deck was out of baseball, I secretly rejoiced. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Upper Deck products but I felt with just one, official card company, the card industry could rebound and win back many lost collectors.
I’ve never been more wrong in my life.
The card industry, much like every other business NEEDS competition. Sure, 2008 Upper Deck products weren’t holograms and die-cut cards but that was my own prejudice. As much as I hate to admit it, the year 1997 and all those fun-loving brands from Pinnacle and Skybox are history and to most collectors, completely forgotten. Nostalgia is good in small doses and what this industry really needs is another competitor to take on Topps’ lazy products. We need a card company who LISTENS to our voices and yes, sprinkles in a little dose of nostalgia here and there to appease us geezers still dreaming of bustin’ box after box of ’97 Totally Certified.
The results are not quite in yet but with well over 300 votes and 60% of the vote, it is clear that collectors who participated in the voting want to give Upper Deck another chance. Maybe it is due to Topps burn out. Maybe it’s because Upper Deck owns the Fleer/Skybox license. Maybe it’s because for a very long period, Upper Deck made the best baseball cards, period. Whatever the reason for the voting, collectors including myself have discovered that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Much like everything else in life, Topps’ beautiful Refractors, the hype of Bowman Chrome, and all its other wonderful products are great when collectors also have other options available.
Furthermore, despite my love for Upper Deck baseball cards … as stated in the Twitter poll, my unofficial vote went to Leaf Trading Cards with Panini America coming in a close second. This isn’t because I am choosing one over another but because when the time comes for MLB to re-up, I want to see multiple companies earn a license including Leaf Trading Cards, simply for the jaw-dropping products they are putting out and Panini America because collectors deserve a true return of Donruss Baseball with baseball logos and correct colors on uniforms. Oh, and because Panini owns the license to Pinnacle Brands and well, that is and always will be my one, true hobby love.
Whatever happens in 2020, I hope that MLB realizes that having just one brand for every product is tiresome and turns off many collectors. In the age of internet and social media, there will always be something to bitch and moan about so you can’t base your decisions solely on criticism. However, if the card companies can come to an agreement and can prevent the over-saturation of the market, there’s no reason why we can’t have Upper Deck, Topps Company, Panini America, and Leaf Trading Cards all releasing their flagship brands in time for spring training of 2021. The key of course is moderation and a much more dedicated effort on customer service and quality control.