Saturday, February 24, 2024

In Competition For the First Time

Continuing our look at the Topps Annual reports received from Friend o'the Archive David Eskenazi we come to the pivotal year of 1981.  The specter of competition is imminent (their fiscal year ended just around the time the first wave of  Fleer and Donruss cards started flooding stores) and there are some severe economic headwinds affecting the company but, as we shall see, the results were a little better than the dire financials from fiscal year 1979-80.

The cover was even sparser than the one from 1980 but they slightly upgraded to a semi-glossy stock for it, although the interior pages were still uncoated.  This is all it showed:

It took some ten weeks after the end of the fiscal year for the report to be compiled, printed and distributed; these days the lag is closer to three or four weeks and it's all digital. This letter led things off and offered some semi-good news but dig those last two paragraphs:

The plant in Ireland was vexing Topps and we will revisit that in a minute. The news regarding the "baseball card litigation" continued on the next page and we all know how that turned out:

The history of litigation between Fleer and Topps was a lengthy one but Topps had bought out some 4,000 Fleer ballplayer contracts in 1966 after the sole count of a Federal Trade Commission complaint that went against them was overturned. In 1967, Marvin Miller, unimpressed with the grip of Topps on his constituency, tried to steer the player's union to Fleer but they were not (yet) interested and it's worth pointing out the terms were quite risky for them.  By 1975 their outlook had changed significantly and as seen above, they made it to market with a set in 1981, as did Donruss. The market, and hobby, would never be the same.

Here's some numbers to crunch on:

Sales and profit were actually down form the year before but Topps was quite effectively controlling costs, as earnings per share turned positive again, although the planned sale of their Irish plant did not occur.

Here's some more on the Fleer litigation; it would seesaw back and forth for years; Topps was never shy about getting lawyers involved in their business disputes:

Donruss really just piggybacked on Fleer but that's how the bubble gum crumbles!  We'll take a look at how the competition affected the Topps bottom line next time out.


Fleer Sticker Project said...

I've really enjoyed your reviews of the Topps Annual Reports. I've got the annual reports for 1978 and 1979 and will see about trying to post them at some point.

toppcat said...

Jon-that would be great-thanks!!