The Topps Exclusive – Notes, Fallout, & More

On Monday, I posted a story about Topps’ exclusive deal being renewed after several conversations with two hobby inside sources. My original plan was to post the story on July 1st but with collector disgust at an all-time high on Twitter after a stinker Topps Series 2 flagship release, I pushed the story up.

As it turns out, it didn’t matter when the rumor/news story dropped because on Monday morning, collectors started discussing and sharing the story fervently. As someone who isn’t an “official” member of The Hobby and doesn’t regularly hold contests for free cards, the hundreds of notifications in a 24 hour span came as a bit of a shock.

Here are some important notes & updates on the story:

My Background

A decade ago, when blogging was still considered fresh, I had lots of pull in this industry. I took part in weekly discussions with all the main card manufacturers and was inundated with 8-10 free boxes to review every week. Unfortunately, after a two and a half year run, I shut down the site and have participated in the hobby only sporadically over the past 7 years.

While my ties to this industry are almost all gone, since my return to collecting and blogging I have been in contact with Upper Deck, Leaf, and Topps Company regarding questions I had for potential articles. My relationship with Panini America and specifically with Tracy Hackler and Scott Prusha, has never been strong and is non-existent today. The other three, however, have all been very helpful.

It appears that is no longer the case with Topps Company. I reached out to them on Monday to see if they would like to comment on the story and as expected, did not receive a response. What was a first, however, was that I was completely ignored. It is understandable as this industry caters ONLY to those who choose not to ask the tough questions. In return, you get lots of free product to do with as you please.

An Angry Text Message

On Monday, as the story was generating huge traffic, I was contacted by Brian Gray of Leaf Trading Cards. It appears he took great offense to being called “the biggest loser” in regards to the exclusive. Brian is a very passionate business owner and a lifelong collector but if you re-read the article it basically states my opinion that Leaf has a great history in baseball and I believe their current unlicensed work puts Panini America to shame and could easily compete with Topps.

I didn’t mean any disrespect to Leaf or Brian Gray. I was simply frustrated because like many collectors, I was hoping for a return of a true Leaf Baseball product but it turns out the baseball card market is not necessarily on their radar as the company has thrived without an MLB license and has grown in double digits percentage each of the past five years. Clearly, Leaf is happy and successful doing their own thing. Should they ever pursue an MLB license, I would be first in line to support it.

A Giveaway and Contests

My plan for this story was to give away some kind of prize to collectors who were unhappy with the Topps exclusive but because I ran the story ahead of its scheduled date, I was not fully prepared. What I can tell you is that one collector has donated (4) unopened, non-Topps hobby boxes which are coming to my home by Fed Ex and expected to arrive on 06/25/18.

I have a few ideas on how to give these boxes away but I am no expert so I will take any and all suggestions and ideas. What I expect is a very busy week on Twitter so make sure you’re following to be eligible to win these prizes and hopefully once enough attention has been brought our way, perhaps even get one of Topps’ competitors to pony up a prize or two for collectors to win in the future.

For the record, I collect Jose Canseco and nothing else. Any items donated will be given away to collectors … even if it were a rare Shohei Ohtani autograph. Can you imagine the type of buzz THAT giveaway would generate? Maybe we could finally break Twitter for good this time. All I can say is stay tuned and keep reading because there is a lot more coming but only in small doses. After all, I am a full-time, working single-dad.

The Shocker

Not every item fit into the original story but I somehow managed to leave out the biggest shocker of all (sort of). Both my sources, who come from different card manufacturers, revealed the exact same thing in our conversations: Topps is for sale. Not only is Topps losing money in the sports cards market but they have been up for grabs all of 2018 with not a single buyer showing any real interest.

Interestingly enough, my main source told me that if Topps’ price comes down even they (this source’s employer) would be interested in purchasing Topps’ sports cards division. Could this mean we could possibly see one of Topps’ biggest rivals releasing Topps official MLB-licensed cards under their own company name? That would probably be one of the most shocking things this hobby has ever seen.

Well, at least since the day Upper Deck lost its baseball license.

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7 comments

  1. Mario, Topps putting themselves up for sale is not news. This has been reported since this past March. They’ve been trying to find a buyer for quite a while now as private equity companies like Madison Dearborn Partners and the Tornante Group do not hold on to companies for long periods of time. The goal is to buy, grow, and then sell. Unlike the last time when UD tried to buy Topps, they are just trying to figure out if it would be better to keep the card and candy divisions together, or split them.

  2. That’s why I made sure to include the “sort of” in the sentence. I think it’s crazy that a company that may have been awarded another exclusive extension could easily be sold at any point this year.

  3. I think, and this is just my opinion, that Topps’ increase in their online exclusives just shows how much they are trying to keep themselves self-sufficient. They can only put out so much in the Hobby shops and retails stores. The online stuff is just another revenue stream for them. Somewhere along the line, they have to be doing something right, otherwise they’d have slowed it down, if not stopped all together if it hasn’t been working.

  4. Just look at the numbers for the Living Set, they are huge. So I agree, they are doing something right. This was never an attack on Topps. What I wanted, was at least another official brand to compete and push Topps.

  5. As I’ve said before, I have no problems if another company gets back in the card business. I think competition is great. My only want is that Topps stays in the business. If another company buys them out (let’s say Panini or dare I say UD), it is my hope that they let the company stand on its own. If the potential buyer just wants the brand names (like how Score is a Panini thing and Fleer is a UD thing), and tries to use it as a legacy thing, that’s when I’m going to consider my Hobby mortality, aka when do I stop buying new product.

  6. Oh dude, listen … I am a Topps fan boy for life. I live for Chrome and Refractors. Always will be my first love in this hobby. I’d never want Topps to go away. Personally, I just want ONE more option and maybe less products from Topps so hopefully they can improve where they need to. Unfortunately, that exclusive costs them an arm and a leg and they have to release new stuff constantly. From what I read on Twitter … there are three releases just next week.

  7. I’m a Topps fan boy too. It’s disappointing to hear that the MLB has decided to continue an exclusive contract… and also charge an arm and a leg. Baseball cards could be a way to attract new fans. MLB’s decisions could end up really hurting the hobby in the long run. If they just opened it up to one, two, maybe even three more companies… and then limited the number of releases. Card companies would be forced to produce quality and well thought out products… which hopefully would result in nicer products and less mass produced garbage. Lol. At least that’s my 2¢.

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