The story about the MLB-Upper Deck settlement this morning led a lot of people — even those who aren’t big fans of Upper Deck cards — to lament the fact that baseball has seen fit to give one company a monopoly over the baseball card racket. It’s a good point because monopolies, as a rule, suck.
Good timing then, that the website The Baseball Card Attic interviewed Topps about this recently:
You are the exclusive baseball card manufacturer for MLB, is this monopoly good for fans and the baseball card dealers’?
MLB felt that the best way to get rid of the clutter and simplify the message to baseball fans and collectors was to go exclusive with one manufacturer. There were too many products on the shelf and it was becoming difficult for consumers, especially kids, to understand trading cards. In the long term it will benefit all, because we can get back to a more common language of collecting trading cards and the stores will see new collectors because of the hobby’s back to basics mentality.
I’ll admit that I grew confused over the multiple — and often weird — products that showed up on the card market over the past 15-20 years or so, but I also admit that I’m an old, blind nostalgic fogey when it comes to cards.
If the “confusion” the Topps guy mentions was really a problem in the market, I assume that it would have meant for crappy sales of baseball cards. The fact that companies like Upper Deck competed like mad to stay in the good graces of MLB — in Upper Deck’s case, going so far as to risk a devastating lawsuit — suggests that consumers were doing just fine with things the way they were.