It looks like I am the last person to weigh in on Topps' exclusive license. Do I think it is good or bad? Well, it depends.
Not a strong stand is it. Let me explain. We don't know what Topps has in store for collectors next year, and with them being the only game in town most collectors feel that quality will go down. Next year should be ok as most of the product calender has probably been set for the year, designs approved, and plans finalized. I would expect 2010 to be more of the same as this year, maybe without the gimmicks (don't hold your breath). What will happen in 2011? don't know, but I hope that Topps listens to what collectors are saying when they open their products.
Do I think there are to many sets out there now? Yes, but I also thought that back in the late 80s. If you take the time and look at the number of sets available in 1989 you would be probably be amazed. Let's see: Base sets for Donruss, Fleer, Score, Topps, Upper Deck, and the ressurection of Bowman (6 sets). Add Topps Tiffany, Fleer Glossy (I don't know if Score did one) for 2 more. Donruss issued an All Star set (available in packs) and a "Baseball's Best" set available as a factory set for 2 more. Score put out Scoremasters later that year, bringing our total to 11 off of the top of my head. Now add in the stuff like Toys R Us, Kay Bee, Woolworths, etc. and you get a bunch more "smaller" sets. I did not add Scores 100 hottest stars/rising stars sets as I don't remember if they were issued in 89. Oh, I aslo jsut remembered box bottom cards, rack pack inserts, wax inserts (Donruss All Stars/Grand Slammers Fleer's All Stars) and the number of sets is increasing. Try and collect all of those back from that time period and you are looking at a lot of time and effort. Some of these you would just stumble on to at card shops and card shows. You might also throw in Starting Lineup, if you consider that a set.
See, the problem with the nubmer of sets is not new. People complained back then that you could not collect everything. So what can we do about it? Not much, other than hope that the companies read our blogs and value the customer's opinion.
I also understand why there are so many sets. It is because there are different types of collectors. We collect what we like. Some only collect the base sets, or retro sets, or high end sets. Nothing wrong with that. Your collection should be a reflection of what you like and of you. I am what they call a set collector, but I only like the base cards. I don't like getting inserts/SPs in my packs (unless it is something cool, then I will keep it for my personal collection).
What would I do if I ran Topps? I would only tweek things up a little. I would advertise up front that the base set would consist of 3 series, realesed in Feb, May and Sep. Why do this? So we know what to expect. We would expect the first series to cotain a few stars and rookies that were called up late in the prior year, the second series to contain rookies who made the team out of spring training along with players that changed teams during the winter (that means if the palyer was a free agent who had not signed by the press run deadline they should not be in the first series). Don't give me 2 Sheffields! The third series will round out the set, and you could get the early season call ups. As far as inserts go, make the team checklists insert cards, along with separate All Rookie and All Star player cards. Try and make this at an entry level price point.
Next you would still produce the retro sets (Heritage and A & G) and release them as normal. Put SPs and relic/autograph cards in these sets. This will allow for a more challenging set build.
Also have a couple of "high end" products for those collectors who like those types of products. The market is there, and it is probably signifiacant enough to warrant the issuing of these sets.
I don't want to address the Bowman line as I have not followed that set since 91.
What should Upper Deck do? Maybe enter into an agreement with soem food products and put cards packaged with food (thing Tombstone Pizza or Kraft Cheese). Yes, cards inserted in those products might help increase sales. When I was a kid I would beg mom to buy stuff at the grocery store if they had cards in them. I at a bunch of Ho Ho's, Twinkies, Frosted Flakes, Chewey Granola bars, Nestle Candy bars, etc. back in the day. Wish I still had my Hostess cards. I think they got thrown away when I was a teenager. Would kids want Cheerios if they had cards in them? I don't know, but I would.
That ends today's portion of random thoughts. I am going out to the local Red/White scrimmage soon.