This morning's news, that Topps will become the exclusive trading card of Major League Baseball, means only one thing to me: I can finally stop buying Upper Deck cards.
I have always bought Upper Deck cards with a bit of reluctance. With the exception of 1993 UD and some other sets here and there, my interest in UD rarely hovered above the curiosity stage. I bought Upper Deck to see what they offered, often didn't like it, then only bought it for Dodgers I could pull.
Upper Deck and I just didn't see things the same way. I like cards with design. Upper Deck often went with as minimal a design as possible. I like well-thought-out, well-researched card backs. Upper Deck went the pictures-and-stilted-text route with its card backs.
For a long time, Upper Deck's strong point were its photos. They were different, creative, sharp. But after awhile everything got to be the same. And, this year especially, I got the impression that Upper Deck was mailing it in.
Maybe they were mailing it in because they knew this was coming -- that Topps had administered the final knock-out blow and would become MLB's exclusive card maker.
Upper Deck says it's still in the game, that it will continue to manufacture baseball cards of today's players, just without MLB logos and trademarks. I believe UD thinks that will still fly with collectors because the player is more important than a "logo." Well, I am more about the team and tradition and history than the player, and that means I have little interest in buying packs of cards in which logos are airbrushed off of caps and jerseys.
Being able to focus on only one company's cards certainly sounds attractive.
But I know this may lead to issues that I haven't thought through at this early stage. I do know that lack of competition is never good. Collectors have immediately expressed concern that Topps will grow lazy and stale. Speaking as someone who collected during part of Topps' monopoly from the late 1950s to the early 1980s, I never thought things were as stark as collectors make it seem. But I eye Topps' exclusivity warily.
I will miss a few things about Upper Deck: the pictures on the back, its willingness to include overlooked relievers and other fringe players in its sets.
And, I'll miss another thing: UD was the first to regularly put "night cards" in its set. Look at the sets from 1989, 90 and 91. Many more night photos in those sets than anyone elses.
But, unless something changes, I'm finished with Upper Deck. Does that make me happy? I don't know. It's more like a feeling of relief, combined with concern, wariness and curiosity.
So, maybe I was a bit abrupt at the beginning of this post. News of Topps' exclusivity could mean more than one thing to me. And who knows? Maybe in 2010, I'll be buying Upper Deck again. But on Aug. 6, 2009, I don't see that happening.