July 22, 2008

On Upper Deck's 2008 SP Legendary Cuts

I'm at least a month late on this topic (what else is new, right?), but it's gotten me thinking. There have been a ton of errors and misprints that have highlighted card releases over the course of sports card history, but how many times have there been issues with the handling of image rights?

The two most famous examples I can think of are Ted Williams and Bowman in 1954, and the T206 Honus Wagner. It's more believable than the folklore of Wagner not wanting to inadvertently endorse cigarettes (Wagner had his own brand of tobacco).

There have also been a few instances where Topps recreated cards after the fact from lack of image rights at the time, like in a few instances for the MVPs subset from its 1975 set (Roy Campanella's card on the 1955 MVPs card was not in the original 1955 set as he was under contract with Bowman), and the fake 1962 Maury Wills card recreated for a Turn Back the Clock card from the 1987 Topps set (Wills was never offered a Topps contract until later in his career; his first Topps card comes in the 1969 set).

But I can't think of as serious an image rights problem in the last 20 years as the one going on right now between Upper Deck and Topps. If you're unfamiliar with the situation, it evolved from a contract Topps recently signed with CMG Worldwide, which grants the company exclusivity in creating cards with the likenesses of some of baseball's deceased all-time greats.

It's a major issue because apparently Upper Deck didn't get the memo: its 2008 SP Legendary Cuts product features cards (and memorabilia) of some of the players now under contract with Topps. Topps is suing Upper Deck over the issue, and has requested a halt to distribution of the product.

The problem? You guessed it: some of the product has already made its way to market. So while other sportscards sites were quick to dismiss SP Legendary Cuts as a lousy, overpriced set when the sell sheets came out months ago, you'd have to think that this will become a lightning rod set for the rest of the year.

Read more:

SP Legendary Cuts Preview (Wax Heaven)
Round 2? Topps Suing Upper Deck (Sportscard Daily)

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