Saturday, March 2, 2024

Gum Kind Of Wonderful

This will be the penultimate look at the four annual reports sent to me last year by Friend o'the Archive David Eskenazi.  The numbers can get pretty tedious with these things so I'll focus more on developments at the company and its business this time out.

The fiscal year ending on February 27, 1982 was a good one for Topps and its investors, a very good one in fact, as competition from Fleer and Donruss focused a lot of media attention on baseball cards.  The cover of the 1982 annual report continued the austere look of the past two years, although a significant upgrade in paper quality signaled prosperity was just around the bend:

For the second year in a row, Topps ran this little blurb on the table of contents page:

The technology described is non-specific but over the ensuing decades Topps would develop things for their own use then market them to the world at large as the nature oi their business evolved.

The 1982 Shareholder's Letter had all sorts of good news to share.  Sales had increased by seven percent over the year prior and there was a massive jump in working capital:

One of those new products mentioned would be the 1981 Baseball Stickers, which were followed by  a gridiron version in the fall. Leading off page two we see the Fleer anti-trust suit against Topps had run its course and that Topps had ultimately prevailed, sort of.  What this meant was that competitors could not sell their cards with confections in the packs.  This may not seem like a big deal but I'm wondering if it meant companies like Fleer and Donruss lost access to the traditional tobacco/confectionery jobbers that distributed a large portion of their cards.

Here's a little more on the Fleer suit and their  unsuccessful appeal to SCOTUS:

Fleer responded by pulling the gum and adding stickers to their packs:

While Donruss went with puzzles instead of the sticky stuff:

Here's the crunched numbers-the cost of sales at 67.3 percent was, if I'm not mistaken, pretty swank:

$2.79 Million in net income was an excellent result. The explosion in popularity of baseball cards was real and Topps was positioned better than any other company to take advantage, as we will see next time out.


Bo said...

Interesting how the Fleer lawsuit may have actually helped Topps.

Anonymous said...

Just wondering if there was any insight in the decision to turn basketball and hockey cards into a gimmick (the perforated tri-cards of basketball and the scratch-offs of hockey in 1980-81 and the regional sets in 1981-82) followed by the decision to discontinue basketball and hockey altogether, despite what seemed like obvious popularity surges led by Magic/Bird/Lakers/Celtics and the Gretzky Oilers and Islanders dynasties? Were there any numbers showing a drastic decline in sales and no strategy to market these better, given the two sports' popularity, and the young stars figuring to continue to drive the popularity even higher for years to come?

toppcat said...

I haven't seen any specific comments in the Annual Reports on the specifics of the Basketball or Hockey sets. Topps was kind of entering scratch off mode again when that hockey set came out and I assume they were just experimenting, same with the 1980 Basketball card panels. My recollections from reading SCD and BHN at the time are that neither sport was profitable enough for Topps at the time and they were happy, in the case of hockey, to just produce cards they could license to OPC. They did try a sticker set for Hockey in the US but it didn't sell well. As for basketball, the dearth of major sets until Fleer came along seems to support the lack of profitability at the time. And I don't think Fleer sold all that well the first couple of years.