This hobby has been my life for almost 30 years. For some people, that 30 years is child’s play, as collecting cards usually has a place with people for a long time. To put it into the context of my life, Topps has been in football twice as long as I have been a part of this hobby, and almost 25 years past the beginning of my life. Today, that comes to an end.
Starting tomorrow, Panini will seize control of the NFL after offering so much money for the exclusive deal that it would have been stupid for the league to turn a blind eye. Topps couldnt compete, and even if they wanted to, im not sure they were dumb enough to get for as much money as Panini threw at both the PA and the league. Its just an insane amount of money. Personally, I believe that it was done in the name of trying to push Topps out of business, but that is about as shortsighted a move as possible.
The legacy Topps has built in the top sport in the US is one that will stand LONG past the demise of their brands. The iconic cards from even the recent years will cast long shadows over the stuff Panini is going to have to churn out of their assembly line. The older cards, ones that I grew up longing to have in my collection, will forever be looked upon with nostalgia and happiness, as well as a latent curiosity of why the current state cant measure up.
Personally, since Upper Deck’s departure from the NFL in 2010, no one has made better looking cards than Topps. Their design team rarely had issues, and when mistakes were made, they werent made twice. They made their cards look so good, that I honestly was appalled at how far the gap was between them and Panini. Over the last few years, sets like Chrome, Five Star and others have set the standard for quality in visual appeal. Other sets like Definitive Collection might be some of the best made in this era.
With Topps, the cards rarely looked anything but amazing, and that is what drew me to their brands. To me, design and look is the one thing I dont look past. If the card looks like garbage, I dont even put a second thought into other considerations of the set. Thanks to the way they built their products, I rarely had to scoff at the sets like I always do with Panini.
Losing a brand or brands from a sport loses more than just the history. It loses another take. It loses perspective. Panini has a completely different way they approach building a product, and even if I hate their formula, the variety the exclusive deal prevents is scary. In the next 10 years we are going to get nothing but one take on football cards, from one design team, 31 times a year. Its going to be brutal. Its going to be so brutal that Im not sure I can continue to buy new football cards in box form.
I have commented numerous times on how negatively I think the Panini exclusive will impact football cards, and I havent wavered from that. Even if they made the best products in the world (they dont), the minimum guarantees owed to the PA and league are so high, that quantity will be more important than quality. Considering that Panini already has an ENORMOUS issue in creating good looking quality products, its going to get really bad.
Sadly, we are also losing the one brand in Football that people outside of collecting really know. Say Panini to anyone on the street, and its a grilled sandwich, not a trading card. Topps has brand power that expands past the normal collecting base.
Thankfully, Topps Digital will continue to show the world what Topps Football was and continues to be. The Huddle app will not be part of the exclusive, so they can continue to operate as normal. This is not just important in continuing the rich history of the brands, but also reminding people that the mind-numbingly awful products that are on the way werent always the only option.
Now that both Topps and Upper Deck, the best and second best cards in the hobby are both out of the majority of the four sports, we should all be pretty sad that things have been reduced to this lowest common denominator. Historic modern brands like Exquisite, Chrome, SP Authentic, and Finest are now one sport products, if that. Topps Flagship, the most popular set in the hobby has gone from a 4 sport set to a 3 sport set, to a 2 sport set and now its just baseball. Tides have shifted things in the wrong direction, and for 2 of the top sports, a company no one in the US really knows has taken over.
Its sad that the brands I grew up with in Football are pretty much gone. For the last 20 years, I have collected the top rookies from my favorite teams in Chrome and Finest. Every year, even when I wasnt collecting during my teen years. It was a tradition that transcended my personal preferences in entertainment. For the first time in that span, 2016 will no longer have that as an option for me in Football.
Rest in peace Topps Football, my childhood and adult experience with your products have brought immense joy to my life and my son’s life. The Topps cards in my collection will continue to be a treasured part of my memories, and I am making a promise to regularly go back and appreciate what your brands have accomplished over the years. I understand this sounds intensely personal, because for the last two decades, it has been. I love what Topps has done, and I am bitterly angry that they are no longer able to continue to be a part of the hobby I love. I doubt I will be the only one who feels this way.