Leaf is Just Existing

As a lifelong baseball card collector (and opinionated blogger), I believe I’ve earned my stripes. I’ve spent 31 of my 42 years on Earth engulfed in this hobby. As a writer, I’ve studied the trading card industry for fifteen years and have written over 3,000 articles on the subject. During that time, I’ve addressed industry scandals, new product previews/reviews, and covered the secondary market extensively. I cover the hobby fairly and right down the middle. If anything, Panini America has perhaps the worst coverage on my website because quite honestly, they are the biggest cardboard criminals around, but it’s always Leaf or more specifically, their C.E.O., Brian Gray, who I have the most interaction with.

For those who aren’t familiar, Brian Gray once paid a hell of a lot of money to sign 42 MLB draftees to exclusive trading card deals for the debut of 2008 Razor Signature Series. This move was a big deal, as Brian was looking to take on the establishment, AKA Topps Company & Upper Deck and for a while, there was quite a bit of hype thanks in part to a popular forum shilling Razor products on overtime. As it turns out, not even Freedom Cardboard could help as 2008 wasn’t the best draft class and what ultimately would be that year’s most accomplished player, Buster Posey, didn’t sign an exclusive deal and appeared in Topps’ dominant Bowman products.

Unfortunately for Brian, through no fault of his own, Razor failed miserably. Upper Deck’s debut may have toppled (see what I did there?) Topps in 1989 but in 2008 the card market was a different beast and there was no way a newcomer would be able to survive without logos or an elite design team and Razor had neither. By the end of 2009, Razor as a baseball card company had been lapped by Topps & Upper Deck and was somehow even worse off than Tristar. Something had to be done to wash the bad taste Razor left in the mouths of collectors, so Brian went and purchased the Leaf Trading Card brands and that brings us to modern day, as in 2022.

If baseball cards with pictures of jerseys are your thing, you are probably a diehard Leaf collector. If sticker dumps with dying legends barely able to sign legibly and disgraced gambling degenerates are your thing, you probably LOVE Leaf. If baseball cards that look like they were designed on Microsoft Paint by a 40-year-old who still listens to Korn & Limp Bizkit in 2022, Leaf is your go-to company and you will defend them as if your paycheck depended on it. I believe Brian had an amazing opportunity to put his company in a place to be able to compete with the establishment but instead decided to live off the hard work of a brand he had absolutely no involvement with.

Twelve years after Razor became Leaf (in name only), I still see only one great thing the company has done in its time and that is Leaf Memories, which gave us buyback rookies not available anywhere else of players such as Frank Thomas. Again, the only credit I can give to Brian here is the booking of talent to sign and the small Memories stamp all the cards carry because the design and photography belong to the original Leaf company and even the signature placement was the player’s decision. It reminds me of a new record company releasing and re-releasing a legacy band’s greatest hits over and over again. It’s special but only thanks to the hard work produced prior to the money grab.

Years ago, I was optimistic that Brian’s version of Leaf Trading Cards would one day become something special, maybe even battle for MLB licensing but after seeing over a decade of bland, forgettable products, I’ve come to the realization that Leaf (in name only!) will always be a poor man’s baseball card company. If Topps is compared to Target, Razor/Leaf would be the equivalent of the Dollar General outside of the ghetto that has all the stock in boxes down the aisle and just one employee running the entire store. Yes, there will be customers, but collectors aren’t exactly picky and, in this climate, at least for another 3-6 months, everything will sell out, even this trash.

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