The loss of Fleer hasn't the hit the hobby quite as hard as the news that was handed down by MLBPA earlier this week:

MLBPA Confirms 2006 RC Designation, Loss of Donruss' License

The Major League Baseball Players Association announced that it has agreed to terms with The Topps Company and The Upper Deck Company on new licensing arrangements that will go into effect starting January 2006.

Donruss Playoff was informed on Tuesday by MLBPA that its license would not be renewed after the end of 2005. MLBPA said it had decided the current marketplace would be best served at the present time by two licensees. "Although we are confident that the trading card category now will be most favorably positioned for future growth, the decision to move forward with only two licensees was not an easy one for us to make." - Judy Heeter, MLBPA Director of Business Affairs and Licensing

Ann Powell, owner of Donruss said, “We are, of course, disappointed and sad about the future loss of our partnership with Baseball and understand it was a very tough decision to make. We will continue to produce and deliver the highest quality baseball products for the remainder of the year. All of us at Donruss love being a part of this industry and remain fully committed to the football and entertainment products in the coming years.”

Under the new agreements, baseball cards will be designed, marketed and promoted to attract kids and new consumers while still providing excitement and value to the current collector base. Promotional programs by licensors and manufacturers will have special appeal for baseball fans of all ages, and the presence of fewer products in the marketplace will reduce consumer confusion and clutter on retail shelves. In making the announcement, Evan Kaplan, MLBPA Director of Trading Cards and Collectibles, said, "Our licensees recognized the need to make improvements in every aspect of the trading card business. They are fully committed to building a wide spectrum of products that will meet the expectations of all fans."

With only two baseball trading card manufacturers, the new licensing landscape will focus on strong brand presence, longer shelf life and fewer, stronger products in the marketplace to simplify the retail experience for consumers. Emphasis on marketing, promotion and product development to attract new purchasers, especially kids, will bring renewed excitement to the category.

Fans will also be pleased to learn that as of Opening Day 2006, a new "Rookie Card" logo will appear on the cards of players who make their Major League debut. According to the press release issued by the MLBPA on July 21st, “No longer will a player's rookie card ("RC") be produced before he reaches the Majors.” Of note, Beckett Media LP is still within the process of gathering feedback from a wide array of sources on the future status of the RC designation.

"Improving the rookie card situation is just one of the many changes that fans will see as a result of these new license agreements," said Kaplan. "We are going to kick off the 2006 season with the launch of Topps Baseball and Upper Deck Baseball at the start of Spring Training with a promotional and marketing campaign that will go throughout the year."

"We couldn't be more enthusiastic about the prospect of a cleaner, more consumer-friendly retail environment", said Scott Silverstein, President of The Topps Company. "We believe this development will enable us to better serve our core customers and reach out to a broader base of new collectors with special emphasis on bringing back kids to the market."

“We are extremely pleased and proud to be given the opportunity to create a more comprehensive and robust marketplace to ensure the long-term preservation of our beloved hobby for future generations of baseball fans and enthusiasts,” said Richard McWilliam, Chairman and Founder of the Upper Deck Company.

"Although we are confident that the trading card category now will be most favorably positioned for future growth, the decision to move forward with only two licensees was not an easy one for us to make," said Judy Heeter, MLBPA Director of Business Affairs and Licensing. "We have enjoyed our personal and professional relationships with all the wonderful people at Donruss, we have the utmost respect for them and the venerable Donruss and Leaf brands, and we wish them all well."

MLBPA representatives said that more information would be forthcoming but collectors should expect to see calendars for 2006 releases, retail promotions and more developments in the upcoming months.-
This was quite possibly the worst decision that the MLBPA could have ever made. At this time, Donruss/Playoff is the only company that is turning out quality baseball product on a consistent basis. Topps is Topps, nothing new and innovative there. Upper Deck remains the same overpriced crap that it has always been.

MLBPA is worried about the market being saturated. And they have every right to be, because it most certainly is saturated with way too many products. But the solution is not the cut the number of companies producing cards, IMO. The solution is the limit the number of products that each company can produce with their license.

Both as a collector and a dealer (Was a true collector long before I started dealing), I'm extremely disappointed by this because it means no more sets like Donruss Diamond Kinds and Playoff Portraits which are truly beautiful cards.

The game used card craze has gotten way out of hand and the companies are running out of gimmicks. When the game used cards were scarcely made, they retained quite a large value, but now the market is so saturated with literally hundreds of different versions of these cards for each player that you can buy them in bulk lots for very little money.

Honestly, I'm not crazy about Upper Deck buying Fleer's remaining assets because it gives them more of a hold on the market. Upper Deck really started the premium brand craze back in 1989 when they started producing packs of cards that sold for more than $1 a pack. Who else has cards for $150-$500/pack? Upper Deck is partly what's wrong with this hobby and I really hope things are able to turn around before it goes completely into the ground.

I can only hope that we're entering a collector's age as Steel feels and it's not a hobby that has thrived for over 50 years coming near a halt. That would be devestating to a lot of people.