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Major League Licensor Clears Up Major Confusion

Previous definition of "Rookie Cards" misleads consumers and discourages baseball card purchasers

Responding to consumer confusion concerning the definition of a Major League rookie card, the Major League Baseball Players Association Thursday warned consumers to look for the Major League Baseball silhouetted batter logo and the Major League Baseball Players Association Players Choice logo on trading cards in order to determine whether the cards are officially licensed. As of 2005, the valuable Major League logos are authorized to appear only in connection with trading cards featuring players who have at least one day of actual service on an active Major League roster.

Many trading cards are published each year containing the names and images of athletes who are Minor League players or draft picks. In the other major sports, trading card manufacturers are prohibited from including Minor League or draft pick players in their officially licensed trading card sets, and a player's official "rookie" card is published only in the year of his professional debut. In baseball, however, manufacturers have been permitted in the past to commingle Major League and non-Major League products in the same packages and until this year, the licensors have authorized their logos to appear on the cards, thereby making them "officially licensed" products. This has resulted in the trading cards of minor league players--many of whom will never become Major League rookies--being widely perceived as "rookie cards,"" which are valued more highly in price guides than other cards of the same player.

"It is unfortunate that so many consumers have followed Beckett Publications and other price guides in buying cards they believed were valuable baseball 'rookie cards,' only to find out later that the cards were worthless because the players never reached the Major Leagues," said Judy Heeter, Director of Business Affairs and Licensing for the Major League Baseball Players Association. "The resulting confusion has made new purchasers reluctant to buy baseball cards, and we want to make it very clear, going forward, that a Major League rookie is the same as a rookie in any other sport."

All trading card manufacturers were notified last November of the new Major League policy and agreed to comply with it, subject to manufacturing schedules which made it impossible for licensor trademarks to be removed from a few of the products released in early 2005. Price guide manufacturers, including Beckett Publications, also were notified of the new policy. Because Beckett Publications nevertheless has assigned a "rookie card" designation to some 2005 cards of minor league players -- despite the absence of the Major League logos on those cards--the MLBPA felt it necessary to take additional measures to educate consumers and help avoid additional confusion.

Evan Kaplan, MLBPA Category Director for Trading Cards and Collectibles, explained that a new logo will be used in the future to clearly identify Major League rookie cards. "Licensees will include this logo on the cards issued for each player during the season in which he reaches the Major League level," said Kaplan. "We believe that this communication will add value and interest to these cards, identify them as the true Rookie Card, and help alleviate the problems we currently are experiencing."

The Major League Baseball Players Association (www.MLBPLAYERS.com) is the collective bargaining representative for all professional baseball players of the National League and the American League and serves as the exclusive group licensing agent for commercial and licensing activities involving active Major League baseball players. On behalf of its members, it operates the Players Choice licensing program and Players Choice Awards events, which benefits the needy and promotes volunteerism through the Major League Baseball Players Trust, a charitable foundation established and run entirely by Major League Baseball Players.

Source: MLB Players Association
Date: May 11, 2005

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