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These 10 Topps Releases Are Dead…For Now

Topps has made a few big announcements in the last few days, perhaps the biggest of which is some Topps products going on hiatus. What does that mean? Which products? And is it a good thing? Let’s dive in!

What happened? Also, where and when?

Topps announced that a number of baseball card products are going on “hiatus” for 2023 (and likely beyond). This announcement was made at the 2023 Topps Industry Conference at Chase Field in Arizona. The conference ran from February 26th-28th. The major announcements came on the last day of the event.

You can read more about some of the other announcements in our article Major Topps Industry Conference News: The Good, The Bad, And The Weird.

A little history

From 2010 through 2022, Topps had an exclusive license with MLB and the MLBPA to produce cards. While other companies can and do produce baseball cards, Topps is the only company that can use major league team names and logos on their cards.  

The Fanatics stepped in and bought the exclusive rights from MLB/MLBPA in a shocker to the card-collecting world. Then Fanatics bought Topps. So yes, changes coming aren’t a big surprise.

Topps was no stranger to having a near card Monopoly, having had one from 1956-1980. This represented the time from when they bought rival Bowman until Fleer and Donruss got into the game in 1981.

Good goal, poor execution

Why did Topps get an exclusive license in 2010? It may feel strange now, with the hobby strong as it comes off a Covid lockdown fueled high, but back then, the hobby was in trouble. Long gone was the heyday of what is now called the junk wax era. The aftermath of the strike, and too many brands producing too many products had the market stagnant.

The exclusive contract was in part intended to reduce the noise, as in, the number of products released. While the total number of products likely is down somewhat from 2009, Topps continued to produce a large number of products, upwards of 70 per year.

In retrospect, the exclusive deal should have had the minimum and maximum number of products per year. I mean 70 products is almost 6 product releases per month. That’s a bit much, especially when so many of the products feel repetitive or derivative. I mean, Chrome cards are cool, but how many variations do we need in a year?

What products are going Aaway?

Topps announced a number of products that will be put on ice, at least for the time being. One has to expect that the hiatus for many will be at least a few years, perhaps permanently.

The products that are going away, at least those we know about so far, are:

  • Archives Snapshots
  • Bowman Heritage
  • Clearly Authentic
  • Bowman Chrome X
  • Gallery
  • Fire
  • Gold Label
  • Opening Day
  • Bowman 1st Edition
  • Bowman Transcendent

The products here run across the full range of the Topps universe. Some, like Gold Label and Gallery, date back to the 1990s. Others, like Opening Day, are more entry-level products. Other are online exclusives or products that never really found their footing. Bowman Heritage hasn’t actually been released since 2021, so this is only making an existing hiatus official.

Is this a good thing?

If one of the products on the list is a favorite of yours, this probably feels like bad news. But generally speaking, I feel strongly that reducing the total number of products per year provides those that remain a bit more attention and airspace for those that remain.

An argument can be made that even more sets should be on the chopping block. 70 sets a year is way too many. Knocking off 10 sets is a start. But what is the right number of sets…50?

That’s still over four releases per month. 25? That’s still two releases a month. I found it hard to believe that that wouldn’t be enough. Will we ever get down to that few sets? I’d imagine not. But it’s nice to dream.

Final thoughts on Topps putting several sets on Ice

So, ten Topps products are going on hiatus, perhaps for a long time. While this may sting fans of these products in the short term, I think it’s a good move for the long-term health of the industry.

In fact, I’m hoping that they don’t stop here, but continue to thoughtfully trim the product line so it can grow stronger for the long term.

Mike D.

Mike D

Mike D. has collected cards for over 35 years, since he bought his first pack of Topps at the corner store in 1987. His fandom,  collecting interests, and contributions to Cardlines center around baseball in general and the Baseball Hall of Fame specifically.

Mike's collecting focus is centered on graded cards, mostly rookie cards, of Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers. Lately, he's been enjoying dabbling in graded minor league cards. A collector/investor with a "buy and hold" approach, Mike takes the long-term view with his collection.
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