At the end of 2009, the baseball market was in a state of flux, with licensing situations sending it to a place it had never been before. The companies able to produce licensed cards were reduced to one for the first time in half a century, and a lot of people were angry. Upper Deck, a company with some of the most popular brands in the hobby, didn’t take it lying down, much to the chagrin of the powers that be. They started the shipment of 2009 Ultimate Baseball with logos and teams only partially obscurred, starting one of the biggest lawsuits in the history of baseball cards.
Although UD eventually lost the lawsuit, the product was one of the most popular of the entire year, mainly for one specific reason – jumbo patches. Baseball has long become a set collector’s market, and high end rarely does anything unless it has something that has never been offered before. Because set collectors reign supreme, the use of jumbo logo patches is few and far between. Jumbo swatches did exist, but rarely in a way that collectors found as appealing as they did in Ultimate. Most of the jumbo patches were so rare that every day collectors did not have access to them like what was available in Ultimate Baseball, and that is where people freaked out and paid through the nose for their favorite players.
Fast forward to 2011, with the release of Topps Marquee. For this product, mixed reviews are a nice way of putting it. On the other hand, there is one part of the set that seem to be going nuts in a similar way to Ultimate did back a few years ago. Although I am not a fan of the overall design, these patches are selling for crazy money. The jumbo logo patches seem to be just what baseball collectors have wanted, even though I believe the look of the card leaves a lot to be desired. However, with a swatch THAT big, I guess it is tough to make it look good. Just goes to show that collectors value the patch in the card over the way it is presented.
Here are some of the recent auctions:
As you can see, the patches in the cards are certainly impressive, as reflected by the prices the cards received/are receiving. There are a lot of people who believe high end has no place in baseball, but this evidence speaks to the contrary. I understand that its tough to drive a high end baseball product without the availability of true rookie cards of first year players like is available in the NBA and NFL each year, but I think this shows there is potential if done right. Tier one is coming soon to a store near you, and maybe there will be improvement where Marquee fell significantly short.