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Topps, Upper Deck Still in Baseball as Competitors Axed

Bill Wagner - Babe Waxpak by Bill Wagner, "Babe Waxpak"
July 27, 2005

Like a bolt out of the blue, the number of companies licensed to produce baseball cards has been cut in half with just Topps and Upper Deck surviving.

The Major League Baseball Players Association last Thursday (July 21) announced its 2006 licensees - Topps and Upper Deck. Donruss/Playoff was dropped. This news comes on the heels of Fleer filing for bankruptcy and being purchased last week by Upper Deck.

It is obvious the MLBPA was responding to concerns about the number of products in the marketplace.

"The presence of fewer products in the marketplace will reduce consumer confusion and clutter on retail shelves," said Evan Kaplan, MLBPA Director of Trading Cards and Collectibles.

Kaplan said the goal is to have no more than 40 baseball products.

In addition, the MLBPA announced that starting in 2006, a rookie card logo will appear on the cards of players who make their Major League debut. Players' rookie cards will no longer be issued before they reach the Majors.

Of course, all this comes right after Upper Deck picked up the intellectual property of Fleer-Skybox International and the assets of Fleer Collectibles. There were reports that UD ended up paying $6.1 million. Upper Deck had reportedly offered to pay $25 million when Fleer was looking to sell to competitors. However, Fleer turned down the offer. With that kind of business decision-making, it's obvious what led to Fleer's downfall.

All this leaves us with some interesting plotlines.

Certainly one would expect Donruss to go after Fleer's basketball license. The license wasn't part of the bankruptcy court auction.

Also, the National Hockey League Players Association has only one licensee these days - Upper Deck. Pacific went out of business a couple of years ago and Topps dropped its license. Fleer did not have a hockey license.

Finally, Upper Deck's press release on its Fleer acquisition noted UD had also purchased the assets of Fleer Collectibles and would be taking a long look at the die-cast business, trying to figure out the best way to enter that category.

Dear Babe: I have some Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots drinking glasses. I have three that celebrate the Red Sox and Citgo being together for 50 years, two of the Patriots from Mobil and a Boston Celtics Mobil glass that lists their championships.
Helen Munson, Hudson, N.H.

I'm sure these have some value albeit not much to the right collector, especially if the Patriots glasses have the old logo showing the colonist. Interestingly, I did see an auction for three glasses - Pats, BoSox and Celts - that matched the description of your glasses. That one asked $10 plus $5 S&H. It ended without getting a bid. I saw a couple of individual glasses similar to yours that sold for $5-$10 with S&H.

Dear Babe: I have a baseball signed by the New York Yankees that we got from Tommy Heinrich. It is signed on the sweet spot by Lou Gehrig. Other signatures include Joe DiMaggio, Jack Saltzgaver, Bill Dickey, Chas Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Red Rolfe and Heinrich among others.
A.T., Massillon, Ohio

Pick a value. Over the past year, Lelands.com and MastroNet.com have sold several 1937 Yankees baseballs. They ranged in value from a high of $8,113 (Leland's December 2004) to a low of $1,600 (MastroNet August 2004). The other two went for $7,619 (Leland's June 2004) and $5,701 (MastroNet April 2005). Everything depends on the quality of the signatures, fading and the color of the ball itself and whether it is an official baseball. Unless your baseball is really pristine or in horrible shape, it should fall within the range defined by these sales.

Dear Babe: I have a few older baseball cards and a football card. They include Lou Whitaker (No. 320), Willie Randolph (218), Brian Harper (47), Paul Gibson (11) and Tom Brookens (342). The football is Rafael Septien (494).
Magnolia Bethea, Durham, N.C.

This is an interesting grouping, but unfortunately, not worth very much. Based on age only, the 1979 Topps Septien card probably tops the list at just 15 cents. The others are probably just nickel commons that would only be of interest to someone working on building a set. For the record, Randolph is a 1988 Fleer card, Brookens and Whitaker are 1989 Topps and Harper and Gibson are from the 1990 Topps set.

About the author
Bill Wagner is a veteran journalist with 37 years in the newspaper business as well as being a former Army combat correspondent in Vietnam. He developed the Babe Waxpak sports card column in the 1980s and took over authorship in 1993, expanding into sports memorabilia and autographs as well as answering questions on cards.

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