SBJ/December 6 - 12, 2004/This Weeks Issue

Topps: Bonds in the cards

Topps has signed Barry Bonds to a two-year deal that will make it the only one of MLB’s four trading card licensees to have the reigning National League MVP on a card this year.

Financial specifics were sketchy, but a source involved in the deal said Bonds received a low seven-figure agreement from the trading card company, which would make it one of the largest, if not the largest, individual trading card deals ever.

The deal includes the rights to purchase game-used equipment from Bonds for use in memorabilia cards.

All of MLB’s licensees have had to seek individual agreements with Bonds since he exempted himself from the MLBPA’s group licensing agreement in 2003. Bonds’ divorce from the group licensing pact has meant that some of MLB’s biggest categories, console video games and trading cards, have sold 2004 product without the name or likeness of the game’s most feared slugger.

Looking to make up some ground, Topps plans to ship a limited supply of Bonds cards to hobby dealers before the end of the year, which will allow it to claim it had a Bonds card out this year.

Bonds enters the 2005 season with 703 career homers, 11 behind Babe Ruth and 52 short of Hank Aaron’s record of 755.

“Collectors are starting to look for Barry and that will be even more true in 2005 as his record chase becomes the story,” said Colin Hagen, MLB Properties vice president of hard goods.

Warren Friss, vice president and general counsel for Topps, said the company hopes to have 120,000 Bonds cards at hobby distribution by the end of the year.

Consumers buying any Topps product can get the Bonds card free with a coupon available online or at retail. “Obviously Barry is still free to sign with the other companies,” he said, “but he’ll do a lot for Topps whether or not that happens.” Topps will use Bonds’ image on boxes and packs of its cards next year, he said.

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