MLB Extends Topps’ Exclusive Baseball Card License to 2020

Earlier this evening news broke from the Sports Card Industry Summit in Las Vegas that Topps ‘ exclusive licensing agreement with Major League Baseball had been renewed until 2020.

In a prepared statement Howard Smith, MLB Senior VP Licensing, said –

“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. 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.”

So there you go!!

As the news steadily breaks over the internet and message boards/forums buzz with opinions of all shapes and sizes, I’ve been pondering myself as to what this might mean for the short-term and long-term status of our Hobby!

And truth be told, I haven’t really come up with anything ground-breaking yet!

I have to confess that my initial feelings were of immense disappointment. Not because it means that Topps will be the sole provider of licensed Baseball cards for the next several years, but because other companies weren’t given a fair crack of the whip.

Panini have produced two of the best Baseball card sets of the last 12 months in Cooperstown Collection and National Treasures, so it makes me incredibly sad to consider that they won’t be getting a chance to produce cards under an official MLB license! The potential excitement at seeing a new creative team let loose on MLB licensed cards has now been diluted down to a series of ‘what-if’ scenarios!

Further news has since broken from the Upper Deck camp that they have reached an agreement with the MLBPA to produce Baseball card products. You can read all about this deal here through Beckett Media. Interesting stuff!!

So where does this leave us now with Topps?? Bear in mind that we were already three years into an exclusive deal, which has now been extended by a further seven years! SEVEN YEARS!!! That’s an incredible amount of time. I’m curious as to how much Topps had to pay out to secure a deal for that length of time, and exactly how much extra Topps had to pay to secure their exclusivity!

Earlier, on Twitter, I spoke with Chris Olds of Beckett Media who confirmed that the seven years is around double the standard term for this type of deal, and his thoughts were that it was more than likely for longer-term planning and stability!


This stance has since been confirmed by Mark Sapir at Topps , and you can read more about this over at Cardboard Connection. What’s interesting is that Sapir points out that Topps has so far failed to entice more kids back to collecting, as they originally set out to to back in 2010 when the exclusive licence first started, but if this is one of their ongoing business strategies then this could be great news for the Hobby and the future! 

End of Update

I’m not going to use this as a springboard for having a go at Topps. If you want to question someone, how about we start pointing our collective Hobby fingers at MLB and try to fathom their motives in all this. Everything Topps has done is for their own benefit as a business! As a company there are a lot of things that they do well, along with an awful lot of things that they don’t do so well.

They continue to release a whole bunch of great looking card sets (although they try a little too hard sometimes with cramming in more and more content each year), but they have well documented problems with their customer service and their redemption program!

This deal could signal a crossroads for modern Baseball cards! Topps has the potential to either lift the Hobby to greater heights, or to maintain the status quo over the next few years, giving collectors a lengthy period to mull over how things might have been if there had been other players in the market!

Whatever happens from now on, whether you love the idea or hate it, officially licensed Baseball cards are once again the property of Topps, to do with what they will!

Personally I think there’s room for at least one more licensed manufacturer, no matter who it might be! Shame we won’t be getting the chance to see what someone else can bring to the table!


3 thoughts on “MLB Extends Topps’ Exclusive Baseball Card License to 2020

  1. Did it ever occur to anyone that sets like Cooperstown Collection and National Treasures would not have happened if Panini had a MLB license. The lack of a license has forced companies to be alot more creative with their releases.

    1. You’re exactly right Ian, and as a fan of the historical aspect of the game I have to applaud that!

      The only problem I can see over the coming years is that I’m sure there’s only so far that creativity can be stretched before repetition and stagnation set in.

      Panini have already been criticised for their use of head-shots where the image is cropped just above the brim of the players cap to avoid showing the team logo.

      And then there’s the fact that there’s still a stigma amongst some collectors with regard to non-licensed products.

      I just think it would have been nice to see what someone else might have done had they been given a chance with an official licence. Even if it was a limited license (7-8 products a year?)… but exclusivity puts paid to that ever happening for the foreseeable future, and I think that’s a shame for other card companies and for collectors!

  2. Both of you got it all wrong! Topps exclusive rights through 2020 was absolutely the correct decision. Upper Deck was aboslutely horrible when they were producing MLB cards from 1989 through 2009. Way too many redemptions, Horrible Hobby dealer program with the card shops. Horrible box value on every single product they produced. Upper Deck came very close to completely collapsing this hobby. I was embarrassed to stock UD products and encouraged customers to take their boxes home and open them….not in my shop. I completely gave up on trying to defend their product lines when these boxes got busted in front of me. Almost always short atleast one pull AND the pulls in the box were complete garbage! AND this was pre 2007 before the market got REAL TIGHT with collector’s and thier schitzophrenic collecting habits.

    Panini on the other hand might have done ok if they had an MLB license. Playoff Absolute, Donruss Classics and Donruss Elite I think would have certainly been respectable products for collector’s and welcomed into the market. Even National Teasures baseball with all the correct licensing would have been downright hot.

    Goodbye Upper Deck. And Good Luck with the MLBPA license….it’s better than nothing at all.



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