VOLUME 2, NUMBER 204
(The Error of the error or the error in the air, see story below)
(UPDATE: BULLETIN: TOPPS SUES UPPER DECK OVER DEAD PLAYERS RIGHTS)
(UPDATE: BULLETIN: UPPER DECK RESPONDS TO TOPPS SUIT)
(UPDATE BULLETIN: DISTRIBUTORS ORDERED TO STOP SHIPPING UD LEGENDARY CUTS)
(UPDATE BULLETIN: TOPPS GETS TRO, UPPER DECK RESPONDS, DEALERS ?)
** TOPPS UNVEILS NEW ON-LINE REDEMPTIONS
** TOPPS DEBUTS EISNER PROGRAM: TOPPS TOWN
** GRIFFEY JR. HOT AGAIN
** NBA OFFERS FINALS GAME WORN JERSEYS
** NFL GOES FREE KIDS AT THE NATIONAL
** UPPER DECK TO DEBUT NEW TELEVISION SERIES
** GERONIMO JOINS UDA?
FYI: We are going on vacation so this will be the last TBR until mid-July.We hope to bring back some interesting collecting stories from around the world.)
Details on these and other stories in today's edition of TBR: The Brill Report...
(BREAKING NEWS: TOPPS SUES UPPER DECK FOR RIGHTS VIOLATIONS RE; DEAD PLAYERS)
(June 11, 2008) A federal court in Indiana has issued a Temporary Restraining Order halting the sale of 2008 SP Legendary Cuts by Upper Deck, it's distributors and agents immediately. Judge Richard Young issued the order June 10 and it lasts though JUne 20 or until it can be shown otherwise in a hearing. Topps and CMG, the company which owns the rights to a number of deceased players which Topps has licensed and which Upper Deck had previously licensed, is enjoined in the suit with Topps.
"Plaintiffs have shown that defendants (Upper Deck) conduct may cause irrparable harm and they are without adequate legal remedy for the conduct because of the irretrievable loss of good will, reputation, and standing with it's clients, customers and/or licenses if defendant is permitted to release defendant's cards into the marketplace," the request for the TRO states.
The cards were to be released Thursday, June 12, 2008, although some have already released into the marketplace. Companies traditionally stagger releases of products so those on the east coast get them the same day as the west coast. Distributors get them usually in advance and begin shipping to customers ahead of time so those customers can have them for release day. Some have already shown up on the Internet.
The court also ordered Upper Deck must notify by mail (email not included in the order) everyone who is to sell the product the court has issued the order. It must also stop advertising in every means this product. Upper Deck did send an email to customers today (Wednesday) stating the following...
"Upper Deck has become aware of the TRO ... regarding the advertising and sale of Upper Decks 2008 SP Legendary Cuts product. Upper Deck takes this matter very seriously and will comply with the TRO issued by the court unless and until it is lifted. Upper Deck requests that all other parties affected by the TRO do the same. Upper Deck is currently evaluating it's options, both legal and otherwise."
Interestingly enough, the order requires UD to be informed of the TRO and the order itself talks about not allowing the use or advertising by agents of Upper Deck, but nowhere does it specifically say the items cannot be sold by third parties, ie, dealers who bought and paid for and have possession of the product.
This leaves dealers up in the air as to the matter of the legality of selling the product. It might seem unlikely the court would go after such deales who have a box or a case and who sell it. It might all come back to UD rather than the dealers, but we are seeking more clarity on this matter.
Below are articles featuring what's been going on.
In what has become a hobby nightmare and will be for some weeks to come, some distributors had already begun shipping UD SP Legendary Cuts to their customers who are at least a two day ship from their facility. There are so many hobby stores who don't have the ability to walk into their wholesalers and who depend on product being on hand on release day (Thursday for UD SP LC) the distirbutors ship it to arrive on that release day.
A cease and desist order was issued via email by attorneys for CMG (See below) today to UD distributors to stop selling it. No word yet on what is happening on the Upper Deck side but it looks as if the bulk of the product has been shipped ready for release tomorrow. At this point UD had not communicated a response to distributors. A check of distributors shows some have stopped selling it, while others have not.
Some west coast accounts report having it already and the cost has gone up. Factory cost is $80 and normally what you would see on eBay is $85 or so but it's running about $100. Once word gets out fully expect the price to dramatically increase.
Now we pick up the balance of the story...
Topps Company has filed suit in federal court in Indianapolis against Upper Deck claiming the latter's use of certain players in its upcoming Legendary Cuts product, violates a contract between Topps and rights holder CMG Worldwide, Inc. Upper Deck previously held the contract for the rights of these key players with CMG but let the contract expire.
Topps negotiated the new deal with CMG and had strong plans to kick off the use of players such as Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and a few other players in it's Triple Threads product due sometime this summer. CMG joined in the suit filed in Indianapolis where it is based.
"Topps would not have entered into these agreements without having the rights to the legends intellectual property on an exclusive basis," the suit charges, further stating Upper Deck, "continues to knowingly, intentionally, willfully and maliciously infringe upon the exclusive rights purchased by Topps."
Other players in the HOF mix for Topps and CMG are Rogers Hornsby, Mel Ott, Jimmy Foxx, Thurman Munson, George Sisler and Johnny Mize. Upper Deck says it is still waiting to see the court filings and doesn't think the suit is accurate.
"Upper Deck has not been served by either CMG or Topps with a summons or complaint, nor has it had an opportunity to fully review the allegations contained therein," said a statement from Upper Deck. "Nonetheless, based upon the information available to it, Upper Deck believes that the lawsuit is factually and legally inaccurate. Upper Deck will vigorously defend itself, and pursue all remedies available to the law in this matter."
Things between Topps and Upper Deck hit their key boiling over point last year when Upper Deck tried to buy Topps out from under Michael Eisner. The two did battle in a Delaware court with rampant charges flailing back and forth between the two. The two sides were easily at their nastiest during the suit.
Topps eventually won out by selling the company to Eisner for $385 million despite a higher bid by Upper Deck. Topps said UD could not back it's offer and just wanted a look at exclusive contracts. It would have had those rights under due diligence laws where one corporation attempts to buy another.
It remains to be seen where this suit takes the two. It might also delay the release of Triple Threads from Topps especially among older collectors.
(TOPPS JOINS 21ST CENTURY REDEMPTION CYCLE, TAKES IT ON-LINE)
It took Topps a long time to get on board with the on-line redemption program but it's finally happened. Upper Deck got it's on-line program for redemptions together over a year ago. In this day and age most dealers, and collectors, will tell you there is no reason for a mail order redemption program. Topps made the move.
"Our number one priority is to completely eliminate redemptions from our products and although we have made progress in this direction, sometimes redemptions are unavoidable," said Marketing Director Mark Sapir. "We believe this new on-line redemption system will allow for a quicker, easier and improved redemption process for our collectors."
Starting with Series 2 Topps 2008 Baseball all redemptions may be redeemed on-line by by going to www.topps.com/redemptions. The good thing about the new site is it will send the collector an email when updates occur. Both UD and Donruss do the same.
"We believe this is a step in the right direction and we will continue to focus on improving our customer experience across all facets of our business," added Topps GM Warren Friss.
Customer service has always been the weak link for card companies. Too many variables and too many very picky customers which is the nature of collecting. However, for years the manufacturers have basically given lip service and in many cases ignored the customer when it came to the after sales experience.
All three companies recognized in the past five years this attitude had to change. No longer were customers spending $50 a box and needing a damaged card replaced. When customers started paying hundreds of dollars for a pack of cards, they realized they had to invest much more in customer service departments.
(TOPPS REACHES OUT WITH TOPPS TOWN)
Put Michael Eisner's name on this one. Topps new innovative web city of interaction is called Topps Town and is located at www.toppstown.com. The new site is a totally interactive site with on-line gaming, card interaction, create a kids own avatar and acquire items in the Pro Shop.
"Topps Town was created to meet the demands of today's youth," said Eisner, Topps owner. "As the media landscape continues to evolve Topps is committed to delivering quality on-line content that will innovate and reinvigorate the trading card industry and help establish this iconic company as a leader in the digital space."
The company says Topps Town will be a hot destination for kids and is a very interactive site.
(UPPER DECK MESSES WITH HILLARY AND OBAMA & VARITEK?)
The storied spin masters at Upper Deck took one on the chin from US News & World Report. The company sent all of us a news release stating the new caricature card in UD Baseball Series 2 shows Hillary Clinton (as a catcher) hoisting Barack Obama (the pitcher) high into the air just as "Boston Red Sox pitcher Jason Varitek hoisted pitcher Jonathan Papelbon after winning the 2007 World Series."
The only problem, points out USN&WR is it wasn't Papelbon with Varitek. And it wasn't Varitek catching the pitcher, but it was the catcher leaping into the arms of Alan Embree.
In the 2004 title game he jumped into the arms of Keith Foulke. The magazine jokingly took the company to task but the good news is the prestigious magazine did the story and that is good for the hobby.
What they didn't catch is the short-printed reverse of the card, which draws raves on line. See photo at top of the column. This was the card "pulled from production?"
The "pulled from production" cards are getting to be the same joke as the 1990 error cards. Most collectors and dealers in that day remember the nine Donruss error cards issued by the company, all variations of the same card. There was a yellow star, a white star, and whatever these errors were. None were errors but based on the surge in the search for the nearly $2000 (at that time) Frank Thomas RC Topps no-name on front card in 1990, every company produced "error cards."
Are these Alex Gordon, Barack Obama and other "Pulled from production" cards the same? The Brill Report lays the question out there for the manufacturers to ponder and answer.
(GRIFFEY JUNIOR SURPASSES 3900 ON EBAY)
Ken Griffey Jr.'s home run no. 600 is coming much later in his career than most anticipated when he was rolling to 56 homers in a season in Seattle not too many seasons ago. Then the trade to the Reds and the injuries and all of a sudden a 1989 Upper Deck Griffey RC went from $175 raw to about $40. It has not been an easy sell in recent years until now since he's been working around the 600 mark and of course eventually the Hall of Fame.
He will not surpass Aaron or Bonds but he'll get close. Close was not where fans and collectors figured he'd be back in 1993. They figured when it was over he'd be closing in on 800 homers in his career. Now, we have new life and this means over 3900 Griffey items on eBay including 146 of his Upper Deck Rookie Cards.
At one point a gem mint 10 could bring thousands. Today it's more like like $300 or as high as $400. Quite a drop.
The fascination with the card is simple. The photo was selected by then Upper Deck employee, 18 year old Tom Geideman who now is half owner of Sage Trading Cards. It was card no. 1 in the very first Upper Deck Baseball series and therefore the first publicly offered card by the fledgling company which would change the nature and course of trading card history.
It had a hologram which must be perfectly centered on the diamond on the back and without chipping to be a PSA 10. The card features the Kid, a fresh 18 year old face for a new era. He was the first second generation of the modern era to become a bona-fide superstar and everyone knew he was going to be there.
Short printed? Hardly. Using figures supplied by a former UD executive several years ago, TBR at that time figured there are probably in the neighborhood of 1.2 million legitimately released Griffey RC's released to the public. We say legitimately because there were others printed at the time which never made it into packs or factory sets.
Our source at the time said he saw about a dozen, 800 count boxes of the cards on the floor of the office of a top executive of the company. These obviously were not from packs or from the tens of thousands of factory sets which made their way into the market, or from the singles program the company had at the time.
It should be pointed out UD was not the only company with a singles program. Classic also had one. This is where dealers could buy large lots of single cards but usually had to take the same size lot of all the other cards in the base series. These came in lieu of breaking cases and were advertised in national publications for singles sales.
So the downfall in the price in the no. 1 card in the 1989 set can be attributed to more than just Griffey's injuries. However, while supply will always outpace demand, there is a growing demand for anything Griffey and this particular card.
(NBA PLAYOFFS OFFER GAME WORN JERSEYS GAME 1 & 3)
The NBA is going memorabilia crazy this week as at the tip off of NBA Finals Games 1 & 3 the league is offering each player's game worn jersey up for auction. Tip off signals the start of the auction as well at www.nba.com.
"This is a unique way for us to bring our fans closer to The Finals," said Lisa Goldberg, NBA Senior Director of Trading Cards and Memorabilia. "Giving fans the chance to bid on jerseys while the games are in progress is a whole new way to get exclusive memorabilia from the NBA's premier event of the season."
The Lakers-Celtics Finals is a coup for the NBA as the two storied franchises have played each other so many times, but not for years, it has brought back the casual fan who remember Bird and Magic and Wilt and Russell.
(NFL PLAYERS SPONSOR KIDS TOTALLY FREE AT THE NATIONAL)
Kudo's to the NFL Players Association and it's licensing arm, Players INC. The groups will sponsor kids free days at The National and this means all kids 12 and under throughout the five day show in Chicago. The National runs July 30-August 3.
One of the reasons many collectors say they don't go to the show is because of the combined cost of parking and getting and you always want to bring a youngster. With this move much of the cost is eliminated.
"NFL Players is excited to be a part of this great event that introduces kids to the hobby of collecting," said Karen Bush Assistant VP of trading cards and collectibles for the players group. "The new initiative combined with the opportunity to meet NFL athletes is sure to make this year's event for card collecting enthusiasts of all ages."
NFL INC will also provide two players each day who will sign exclusively for kids and the autographs will be free. The program is tied to www.nflrush.com, which is the player's kids interactive site. It was launched last year.
(REDS' BRUCE FIRST OF THE RED HOT ROOKIES)
Topps unveiled who is the first of the Red Hot Rookie Redemption autographs cards and while the former 1989 hot rookie plays for the Reds, the 2008 player is also a Red Leg. Cincinnati outfielder and hot prospect Jay Bruce is the first player in the series of redemption cards.
(UPPER DECK TO DEBUT MAINSTREAM TELEVISION SERIES)
(UPDATE: 4KIDS INTERNATIONAL GETS RIGHTS TO BROADCAST NEW SERIES)
Upper Deck is going to go great guns on regular television and while Topps has it's Internet Topps TV, this will be the first time a card company takes a series to the little screen. UD will produce and develop the series as well as handling world wide marketing for "Huntik; Secrets and Seekers." In an update 4Kids Entertainment has acquired the licensing rights for television with Upper Deck.
The program features a group of young Seekers who travel the world battling the bad guys who might be considered terrorists. The company is developing the project Rainbow SPA which is based in Italy with the product house Iginio Straffi. They produced the hit Winx Club. The TV series will likely debut in January, 2009.
"Upper Deck Entertainment has consistently been successful in marketing, creating and distributing kid products and programs," said one official. "With Huntik we are looking forward to bringing all of this experience to something we helped create."
The series will combine both 3-D and 2-D animation hoping to attract tweeners to the show. Look for card products as well at some point. UD will handle marketing in Europe, Asia and the America's.
This will be a real television series and gives UD a leg up on Topps which offers the Internet based Topps TV. Topps TV is an idea spun from You Tube and My Space. It is interesting to note while former Disney CEO Michael Eisner bought Topps it is rival Upper Deck which breaks into the commercial television market first.
(UPPER DECK SHIPS DUAL CUTS)
There are 23 versions total of the dual cuts sent out this past week by Upper Deck. These were the mystery cuts which when the collector redeemed them they were eventually going to be given a choice of which cuts they want. This was Dependant on first come first serve. The redemptions came from Ultimate, UD Black and Exquisite Rookie Signatures Baseball.
"These are some of the most unique cards Upper Deck has ever produced," said Joe Fallon, UD Director of Product Development. "The winners have all taken time to make thoughtful decisions on which cards to select."
The next question is will the sell or keep these 1-of-1 cards. They include a card signed by both PT Barnum and Tom Thumb, Robert E. Lee and Gen. Grant, King George V and Queen Elizabeth 1.
Of the 23 cards available all but 12 have been redeemed which means the others are likely in unopened packs.
(LAKERS CELTS SALES STRONG)
Lots of hobby stores, but mostly stores which carry sports items, are cleaning up on Lakers Celtics and all things NBA Finals. Reports are sales are strong and the NBA capitalized on the long running feud by releasing T-Shirts with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson on them.
The long running historical series is a natural and comes at the end of what was supposed to be a huge NBA trading card year, turned lackluster. The loss of Greg Oden, the lack of early interest and just plain flat sales had hobby dealers wondering where the magic went. With Kobe and the Lakers taking on the Celts in the finals, things have turned around. Albeit for the short term.
(UPPER DECK GIVING HAIR CUTS. GERONIMO?)
Believe it or not Upper Deck is offering a card carrying the signature and a strand of hair from native American warrior, Geronimo. The company will insert the card into packs of Legendary Cuts which releases very soon.
Geronimo, considered one of the toughest for the US Army to corral and one of the last of the warrior chiefs, died at age 79 at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma after being captured many years earlier. He died on the reservation fort in 1909.
"I was surprised at the reverence we felt, even keeping our voices down during the assembly process," said Martin Welling, UD's head of Creative Services. "I don't know if it was out of respect to the legendary individuals of if it was tied to the extremely nature of the assembly."
Topps was the first company to place a strand of hair into a pack. The firm inserted hair acquired from the family of the country's first president, George Washington. Washington helped establish the country, while Geronimo spent 25 years fighting the U-S Army trying to keep his tiny nation together.
(MOBSTER FRANK VINCENT OR IT IS BILLY BATS WITH THE BOBBLE HEAD?)
Tune into actor Frank Vincent's website (aka Billy Batts "Goodfellas" and Phil Leotardo "The Soprano's") and you'll find his latest sale features the Billy Batts Bobble Head. "Now go get your shine box."
The Shine Box comment was the one which got the gangster Batts killed in the film starring Robert DeNiro and his co-horts. Batts actually is linked to many great lines from Goodfella's but the shine box line is easily the most remembered.
Vincent also sells mugs, t-shirts and other items on his site with the line on it, as well as those without.
(MLB SNACK PACK INNOVATIVE)
Major League Baseball may not have licensed it but a company Norwegian Jakes released what it calls a Baseball Snak-Pack. The small plastic container includes a pack of Topps baseball cards, baseball shaped Double Bubble Gum, Kars Peanuts, Brachs candy, caramel corn all in a nice little lunch box. Not a bad idea.