The Beckett Blog

Commentary: @#$%&# Exclusives! by Tracy Hackler
April 21, 2010, 5:38 pm
Filed under: Beckett Media, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL | Tags: , , ,


Go ahead and add this missive to the already-overflowing pile of “Man, all these exclusive license agreements stink.”

Since I’m a football-first guy, you’ll have to forgive the delayed reaction here. I wasn’t completely distraught – or even a little bit distraught – when the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball scaled back to one licensee because I wasn’t a devoted collector of those sports.

Sue me.

The fact is I didn’t feel the harmful effects of single-manufacturerism firsthand until just recently, when I took a second to sit back and survey the 2010 football landscape and found it to be – by comparison – glaringly barren.

What as recently as three months ago was a thriving pigskin pipeline full of a few unnecessary but otherwise vibrant trading card products is now yielding results with all the ferocity of refrigerated syrup.

It . . . is . . . a . . . slow . . . boring . . . trickle.

For the first time in a long, long time, football cards no longer seem to be a year-round commodity. And that just seems odd. Maybe that was part of the problem: Perhaps football cards should never have become a 12-month proposition

After all, if any category deserved to be penalized for having too many products on the field, it was football. The sport has long led the leagues in number of products produced per year, so a reduction was in order. But a ravaging?

Given the choice between three manufacturers and too many choices or one manufacturer and too few, give me the former with a side of additional choices, please.

The fierce, decades-long game of industry-wide manufacturer one-upmanship that took place from the late 1980s to the late 2000s is responsible for creating some of the greatest ideas in trading card history. That’s a good thing. Did we as an industry burn through a lifetime’s worth of innovation far too quickly as a result? Absolutely. That’s a bad thing. But the winners in that scenario always were the collectors.

Now, we’re winners only if we happen to like what the single-minded manufacturers and leagues decide they want to give us.

With multiple manufacturers largely competing for the same affections, it’s a virtual guarantee that at least one of them – and quite possibly all of them – is going to bring their “A” game. With only one manufacturer competing for those same affections, human nature dictates that perhaps the “B” game will suffice this time; next time, maybe the “C” game will.

I’m not suggesting an intentional decline in quality or content; but with no one there to push competitively, the desire to outdo becomes less a necessity and more a nicety.

Look, I understand that the card-collecting model in this country is broken – badly. It has been for quite a while and the repairs needed to mend it promise to be extremely painful in the short term. Coming to a screeching halt from three manufacturers to one in football simply illustrates just how jarring the beginning phases of the mending process can be.

Since I’m an eternal optimist by nature, I’m holding my breath that this whole season of “Biggest Loser: Manufacturer Edition” has a happy ending. That’s all any of us can do, really: Take it one product at a time and make a determination this time next year.

I just hope I can wait until the next product releases to exhale.

Tracy Hackler is the editorial director for Beckett Media. Have a comment or question? Send an e-mail to him at Follow him on Twitter by clicking here.


8 Comments so far
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Wow, seems like the only thing Beckett has been good at lately is rehashing stuff posted on other websites. Everything you just posted has been said more than a handful of times in better fashions on other sites. How about some original content instead of just free crap on friday and a few posts that are based on already posted viewpoints on widely written about topics.

Comment by Ugh

Ugh indeed. Thanks for your invaluable input.

Comment by Tracy Hackler

No offense meant to the Beckett Box Buster guru that you are, Tracy, but you’re just now noticing this? I understand that you didn’t care back when MLB went to Topps exclusivity. You didn’t worry when basketball likewise toppled. And you ignored the signs when NHL went down to one. Your co-worker, Chris Olds, wrote long posts on the huff and bother between MLBP and Upper Deck on licensing agreements, and as that was all going on, you didn’t figure that (gosh!) NFL products were next?

Collectors (yes, like me) have been saying everything you just wrote above for months now about how single-manufacturers hurt our chances at getting a product we like (for example, I am not really a fan of Topps Chicle products, and instead of anticipating a release from Upper Deck to coincide with Chicle, I get to wait until June for Topps Allen & Ginter baseball).

I mentioned this on my blog and as a comment to one of Chris Olds’ posts here before on Upper Deck, and I added that I feared that the solo card manufacturers would degrade the quality of the cards overall. If they get the exclusive license to produce, then why should they be anything but cheap about it?

I find it a bit ironic that you’re just now getting into this debate when others of us have been hashing over your argument since day one.

Comment by Andrew Meeusen

No offense taken, Andrew.

Of course I’m not just now noticing it — I’ve been covering this crazy roller coaster industry for the last 15 years. But as a hardcore football guy, it’s really hitting home right now for me.

By no means am I trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes; I’ve said many of these same things in previous posts, too. And as I mentioned more than once in this post, I’m by no means alone in feeling this way.

I didn’t try to portray mine as unique or revolutionary thoughts; essentially, I was just trying to convey that the time is right now when we go from the idea of one manufacturer in football to reality.

That’s all.

Comment by Tracy Hackler

less products = less work for beckett employees

please don’t lay off chris olds!! his valuable wwe insight will be missed by everyone!!

less products also leaves some blank pages in the beckett card monthly magazine. how will beckett fill those pages? more professional bull riding articles? fail. wait you guys have chris olds. more wwe articles!! YAY

Comment by President Obama

Obama, you could charm the snakes off Medusa’s head.

Comment by Tracy Hackler

Be careful what you wish for.

I’m one of those hobbyists who dropped out in the mid-90s because of the deluge in FB sets, chase cards, inserts, parallels, etc. I was one who wanted fewer choices.

But I certainly didn’t expect this.

Comment by Fred Goodwin

I feel your pain Tracy. As a high-end baseball/football box buyer I have to say good ole Bowman Baseball is looking good at this point. I cannot comprehend yet that there will be no more Exquisite, SP Authentic or Ultimate.

Comment by JR

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