Collecting baseball cards has long been a hobby for many baseball fans, despite the ups and downs the industry has seen in past years. Options have diminished in recent years thanks to changes that the industry has gone through, some of which were necessary for a marketplace that had been overrun by the sheer volume of options available, but one company has remained consistent through most of their efforts. Now it would seem the Topps Company has reached an agreement with Major League Baseball and the MLBPA to extend their exclusive licensing agreement as the chief supplier of baseball cards, according to details passed along by Chris Olds, the Editor of Beckett Baseball. Topps’ new deal runs through the 2020 season.
Topps, the longest running manufacturer of baseball cards, has been in business since the 1950s and first signed a licensing agreement with the MLBPA in 1969. They’ve long held a significant place within the industry and this deal ensures that they will continue to do so.
Howard Smith, MLB’s Senior Vice President of Licensing, released a statement on the new agreement:
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.
Since the 2010 season, Topps has been the exclusive retailer of MLB licensed cards – meaning they’re the only ones permitted to use team logos, player names, and the like. Other retailers, such as Panini America, have produced variations of cards in recent years (Panini received their license in September 2011) but have been left to focus mostly on retired players (who’s likenesses are no longer controlled by MLBPA agreements) and more non-traditional images. Upper Deck released a set of player cards early in the 2011 season but met a lawsuit by the MLBPA and Topps over their violating of the existing agreement between the two sides and infringing on trademark rights. Olds also notes that Upper Deck has once again come to an agreement with the MLBPA to produce cards, though these will fall under the same restrictions and guidelines that Panini must follow.