The positives I see are mostly for so-called “first world” collectors. Topps, Heritage, Allen and Ginter will continue as before in the short term. Out of the Upper Deck offerings only the base set really offered competition in this area. Goudey had too many short prints for set collectors and Goodwin has not established a brand identity yet (or even has been released). The Topps base set is a hit and miss proposition with design and execution, but hopefully Topps has learned to not include “mirror” inserts (Generation Now, Mantle HR history) anymore and recognized the futility of stealth parallels (red letters in 2007 and gold foil in 2008) and other gimmicks (Kazuo Uzuki anyone??, inverted rookie cards, etc).
Another positive is that Upper Deck won’t release another cross-brand insert set monster. It really discouraged me from buying most Upper Deck products the last couple years. Topps should not pursue this angle again, since, conversely, it kept me away from Topps products in 2007.
One negative, of course, is the lack of push from a competitor. This really is only effected on a year-to-year basis. The prime example is the change in format for 2009 Topps compared to 2008 to challenge the Upper Deck base. Topps may have to step up and fill the void left by SP Legendary Cuts, Sweet Spot, the full-bleed base set, and the high-end Upper Deck products. Are they up for the challenge?
The other is the potential tangleweb of exclusive contracts, both present and future. Are we going to be lacking Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols autos in Topps products? Or will other athletes sign with Upper Deck, Panini, Razor, etc to get higher individual fees? Luckily, baseball isn’t as bad as basketball in this regard.
The so-called “second-world” collectors are not in a good place with this deal. Triple Threads and Sterling have not returned value. Part of it is that top baseball stars don’t have the same draw and broad fan base as top stars in football. The other is that the design and packing out configuration of these products leave much to be desired.
It’s interesting because Topps has mostly been the company of nostalgia and the past while Upper Deck has mostly been branded the future, at least in terms of card designs and brand approach. And now it has been left in the past. As collectors, we adjust and buy what we like and that will not change.