Michael Eisner and Topps

I guess I couldn't stay away too long. On my plane flight, I read an aricle on Michael Eisner, the former head of Disney, and what he is doing now. As many of you probably already know, his company owns Topps. There are some interesting points made about the card company and its possible direction in the future.

(from the New York Times, November 23, 2008)

And at Topps, finding ways to make the brand valuable online — for example, with a virtual trading card collecting game for children — is important, but so is selling physical goodies.

“It’s like movies and theaters,” he says. “The theatrical movie is still the main distribution. You can put it on the iPod, et cetera, but movies in theaters are still the core.”

And these baseball cards would hardly be recognized by previous generations. After a boom in the 1980s and 1990s, when collectors overtook children as the target customers and companies flooded the market with newfangled varieties of cards, the baseball card industry has been in decline. “We’ve got to get the kids back,” Mr. Eisner says.

After a meeting last summer about Topps’s digital strategy at the company’s offices in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Eisner found himself in a closet-sized room draped with laundry. Babe Ruth’s and Lou Gehrig’s laundry. The uniforms were bought at auction — Mr. Ruth’s pants cost $90,000 and Mr. Gehrig’s $60,000 — and will be sliced into tiny pieces and embedded into cards.

Mr. Eisner, a serious art collector, is openly uneasy about the endeavor, but Scott Silverstein, the chief executive of Topps, explains that this gimmick is a big moneymaker.

So, it seems that Mr. Eisner is not comfortable slicing up the Babe's pants and the Iron Man's pants, but is willing to do it to appease the consumer base. Is this really what the consumers want? 

I'm torn (no pun intended) on the value of cutting up objects that may better be served by keeping them whole. Cutting signatures out of documents and taking snippets from clothing seems to devalue the object and obliterate its integrity, and could very likely eliminate any historical relevance that object may have had. Abraham Lincoln signature cut from a document is just that - his signature. His signature on a document, whether it was a love letter to his wife, Mary Todd, or on a presidential decree, or on a handwritten note to a colleague, sheds light on his life and endeavors at that time. Much is lost when these objects are cut apart.

The collector in me, though, thinks that "This is way cool!" at the chance of getting a signature of a famous person or a piece of clothing that a celebrity wore. (Well, maybe not so much the relic.) A signature of George Washington or John F. Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe is certainly something that an Average Joe like me would never be able to afford. 

In the end, the historical importance of the documents and clothing trumps the "gimmick," as they say in the article, of putting these in packages of cards. I'm against it.  

1 comment:

jv said...

I completely agree, Danny. The historical significance outweighs the "chopped up" collectability.

I don't like it.