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  1. #1




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    How did Upper Deck get a monopoly on hockey cards?

    Ok, this whole monopoly nonsense started after I got out of the hobby in 97/98 or so and before I got back into the hobby in 2016. So what exactly happened over that 18-20 year span?? I mean I have read about it but it seems confusing because the articles I have been reading aren't very detailed provide the information I am seeking, the articles are written in a very vague "matter of fact" way, so I have a few questions... How did Upper Deck obtain OPC, Parkhurst etc and what started this "dividing of the pie" and why did these companies choose the sides/sports they did? and why the hell was this allowed in the first place??..
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    I find it crazy that Topps sold or perhaps leased (I've heard both) the rights of OPC to Upper Deck considering OPC was a subsidiary of Topps for 50+ years, and the same goes for Parkhurst who I believe Pro Set revived in the beginning. Of course you have Bowman which exclusively does baseball now, and Fleer and Painni, I mean what the heck happened? it's like a civil war broke out in the industry when I was gone or there was a "franchise wars" of some sort, lol...... Oh and then of course you have BAP which bounced around like a pinball, and I don't believe they still exist unless Leaf / ITG is still producing BAP...

    I mean I'm opposed to all of this monopoly nonsense and once again why was it allowed? I mean I would figure one of these companies would have filed a lawsuit stating that this is a monopoly, if one of these major brands didn't then this isn't only a monopoly but clear cut collusion, and why was Leaf / ITG left without licensing???

    And what the heck happened to Donruss?... Leaf used to be a subsidiary of Donruss..

    I would really appreciate any info or any links that anyone may have that could answer my questions. Or if someone could just bluntly break it down for me that would be excellent too..

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    I get it, but what took Leaf/ITG so long to sue and what started this monopoly and clear collusion nonsense beyond a handful of corporations greed?

    From what I read these card corporations are claiming the sports card industry is essentially "one giant pie" - hence splitting the sports card industry as a whole 4 ways isn't "technically" a monopoly, hence violates no antitrust laws because the sports card economy isn't purely dominated by one corporate entity, oh and they also have the audacity to claim that their subsidiaries are "independent"... Wow, that takes some brass balls when the Upper Deck hologram is on the back of every hockey card along with their trademark... Of course they're also citing the First Amendment and "freedom of association".... I don't even know how they could possibly deny this is a monopoly and at the same time attempt to justify the monopoly?? it's hilarious - they're throwing crap at the walls and will go with whatever sticks.... Unbelievable!!

    I hope that not only is this racket broken up but that Leaf gets damages hence monetary compensation to boot. Not only that but the NHL along with their colleagues in the other 3 major professional sports get a slap on the wrist as well for going along with this nonsense... Does the NHL have the right to deal out exclusive rights to any company/brand they want in a specific industry? sure, but it's not a good look - at least to the fans that are aware of this ongoing litigation between the smaller card companies..

    Quite frankly Leaf should try to lease the rights or even buy exclusive rights to manufacture "air fresheners" and manufacture their cards that way and issue them as packs of "air fresheners" - I get it tho - it's not about that - it's about principle and the fact that a handful of card companies conned and colluded their way into a monopoly while leaving Leaf / ITG the odd man out for some reason.

    SMH....

    But yea I would love to know what happened to these companies and what started it all?? and how did Leaf split from Donruss, why is Upper Deck producing cards under OPC and Parkhurst, what happened in general, lol....

  2. #2




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    The rumor is that Upper Deck threatens vendors not to sell Leaf products. If they do then they won't do business with them. And seeing that UD is still the go to card for hockey card collectors, vendors have no choice but to sell only UD products.

    I'm not an expert in this subject what I think simply happened was that UD paid a large amount of money to be the exclusive right holders. Without licencing rights all of their competitors thought it was probably pointless to make cards anymore, so they sold their name, logo, and likeness to UD.
    Last edited by cjb; 02-28-2021 at 01:37 AM.

  3. #3




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    The rumor is that Upper Deck threatens vendors not to sell Leaf products. If they do then they won't do business with them. And seeing that UD is still the go to card for hockey card collectors, vendors have no choice but to sell only UD products.

    I'm not an expert in this subject what I think simply happened was that UD paid a large amount of money to be the exclusive right holders. Without licencing rights all of their competitors thought it was probably pointless to make cards anymore, so they sold their name, logo, and likeness to UD.

    From all that I have read and gathered it appears that UD has become a tyrannical monopoly that essentially destroyed the competition with questionable tactics then "bought them up", however some sources say that UD is only leasing the rights to OPC and Parkhurst while other sources are saying Upper Deck bought them outright...

    That's why I posted this thread - because I don't know which source is right, however I am certain that Upper Deck is indeed a monopoly that's taking out 2 sides of its face.. Leaf/ITG filed an antitrust lawsuit against Upper Deck in Texas back in 2017 alleging that Upper Deck was a monopoly and to no surprise Upper Deck filed a lawsuit against Leaf in California alleging all types of frivolous nonsense that holds no water.. I mean it really appears that Upper Deck essentially sicks their lawyers on anyone that dare challenges their monopoly... And like I said they're talking out 2 sides of their face, Upper Deck is seriously and simultaneously trying to argue that they're not a monopoly while trying to justify themselves being a monopoly ... It's really weird and the more I read the more respect I lose for Upper Deck because their tactics are essentially "Corporatist Mafioso" strong arm tactics.. It appears that Upper Deck is doing everything in their power to drag this lawsuit. I mean Leaf is trying to bring the litigation to summery judgment but UD is doing everything possible to delay that. The legal team for Upper Deck keeps on filing motions to delay and continuances over and over again.... I mean if Leaf can get this lawsuit to discovery Upper Deck's monopoly may be over.... And it could be very soon..

    There is absolutely no way Upper Deck would proceed any further with this case if they lose summery judgment, because then the case goes to discovery, where essentially all of Upper Decks dirty laundry will be aired, UD brass will be forced to provide depositions which in turn could land them in prison if they lie because they will be under oath, hence perjury at the very least if not conspiracy among other charges... I've read some of the briefs and they're pretty spicy... Upper Deck is in deep crap... I mean Upper Deck is dragging this case and praying that Leaf goes bankrupt pursuing this lawsuit and that is a possibility, tho right now Leaf without question has the upper hand and it's only a matter of time before summary judgement is ruled on and if they rule in favor of Leaf then Upper Deck will be forced to settle... Now I don't know what I settlement would look like because I didn't look into the damages, tho without question Upper Deck will be responsible for paying Leafs legal fees - that much I know - but I don't know if Leaf is seeking a remedy, resolution or monetary compensation... I would assume Leaf wants a remedy and monetary compensation which could really strangle Upper Deck depending on what Upper Deck would be offering ..

    Wow, very interesting case and I hope Upper Deck loses because they're shady crony capitalist greedy clowns that thought they could bully, collude and buy their way into a monopoly...

    We'll see what happens, but I really like Leafs chances if they can hang in there... I really hope that Leaf's legal team is dedicated to this case because I would really hate to see dirty corrupt Upper Deck walk away from this due to legal fees, but that's what Upper Deck is hoping for..

  4. #4




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    Paid Exclusive so consent from NHL for monopoly not for making best product but paying for exclusive.

    Only way i think we can have competition again is if the Fans-Hobby people make NHL change it to a more open Liscense convince NHL that they can make more money with multiple liscenses and more sales

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    To my knowledge, it's actually the preference of each sports league to deal with only one company when it comes to granting licenses so it ends up going to the highest bidder. I don't know if its simply an administrative headache for the league to deal with multiple companies. I for one would love to see Panini back in hockey to create some competition with UD and force each manufacturer to do better with quality control, pricing etc. not to mention giving the consumer I wider range of products to choose from. So when UD gets blamed for having a monopoly, at least some blame has to go to the leagues for offering exclusive deals in the first place.
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  6. #6

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    This isn't a hockey thing, but an entire sports card industry thing......

    There were multiple licences though the end of the 2004-05 Lockout, but when the NHL came back for the 2005-06 season - that's when UD's Exclusive (first) started.

    They were the exclusive license holder for five years, and then Panini was brought in starting with the 2010-11 season, and ending in the 2013-14 season (they had a license for four years). Since then, it's just been UD.

    As far as Brands go..... I'm not sure if Topps sold the OPC name to UD, or if they're just licensing it. I could see that going both ways. Topps has not produced hockey cards since the 2003-04 season, and I'm assuming that the OPC name doesn't really move the needle in Baseball. I could see that Topps would have sold it outright, I could also see them leasing it, depending on what their long term plans were. They are making NHL stickers - so there is definitely still corporate ties to the NHL.

    Parkhurst was a brand that Dr. Brian Price owned in the 90s, and licensed to Pro Set, and then Upper Deck. Eventually he started ITG, and produced cards under the Pankhurst name himself. I believe he sold the brand to Upper Deck, but I could be wrong.

    Donruss is a brand owned by Panini. The current company "Leaf" has nothing to do with the old company from the 80s & 90s. I think you're right, and Donruss was the parent brand. At some point the Leaf brand was available, and Brian Gray bought it. Up until then, he'd been making cards under the "Razor" name. Since buying the Leaf tradmarks, he's also bought ITG, and the child brands under it, and more recently they acquired Pro Set.

    As for the monopoly.... I'm not a fan at all, but I don't anticipate it changing anytime soon. Why would it? Look at the four major sports in North America: Football (Panini), Basketball (Panini), Baseball (Topps), and Hockey (Upper Deck) all have exclusive deals. Why is this? Because it's simpler for the PAs to deal with one partner than two.

    When it comes to "unlicensed" hockey cards (Leaf & Panini are both making cards of NHLers, with no logos) - There is no reason they can't continue to do this..... there is nothing about UD's agreement that prevents Leaf from paying Mario Lemieux or Alex Ovechkin to sign autographs, paying them to authorize the use of an image, and paying to buy a GU Jersey to dice up. Of course they can't get a Penguins or Caps logo.... but that doesn't mean they can't make hockey cards.

    I am not a legal expert, but that the NHL & NHLPA choose to sell trading card rights to only one company, I can't imagine it's anything but a perfectly legal way to do business. They're not required to sell those rights to anyone. As far as it being "not a good look" - to whom, exactly? I would imagine that 90%+ of sports fans, do not care about cards in the least.... and of the remaining 10%, I'm guessing 99% of them don't care about the monopoly.

    UD playing dirty pool, and threatening to yank their products from dealers that stock Leaf products: That's something that, IMO, shouldn't be allowed to stand. If it is true they're doing that (or have done that) then I hope Leaf is able to take them to the cleaners.

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    @30ranfordfan regarding your last point - often the benefits far outweigh the costs of playing dirty pool for companies - I don't know the financials for that specific example but I'm reminded of a couple years ago when Intel got busted doing some illegal intimidation of OEM system builders (like Dell, HP, etc) to only build PCs using Intel CPUs in favor of AMD CPUs. They got fined big time but that "big time" was still far below what they earned by increased marketshare. They paid the fines and continue to do exactly the same things in the industry to this day.

  8. #8

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    @30ranfordfan regarding your last point - often the benefits far outweigh the costs of playing dirty pool for companies - I don't know the financials for that specific example but I'm reminded of a couple years ago when Intel got busted doing some illegal intimidation of OEM system builders (like Dell, HP, etc) to only build PCs using Intel CPUs in favor of AMD CPUs. They got fined big time but that "big time" was still far below what they earned by increased marketshare. They paid the fines and continue to do exactly the same things in the industry to this day.

    Totally. I believe that UD's side of the case, is basically that Leaf (or anyone) making unlicensed trading cards is causing damage to their business.

    I have a hard time believing that a shop is going to sell less SP Game Used, Artifacts, etc: Simply because they also stock In The Game Used, or other Leaf products - but I certainly can see UD believing that strong arm tactics, and using their exclusive license as a means to squeeze out their competition is good for business, even if they do risk financial penalties.

    The ironic thing is that Upper Deck continues to make unlicensed baseball, basketball, and football cards, much the same way Leaf does with hockey.

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    Totally. I believe that UD's side of the case, is basically that Leaf (or anyone) making unlicensed trading cards is causing damage to their business.

    I have a hard time believing that a shop is going to sell less SP Game Used, Artifacts, etc: Simply because they also stock In The Game Used, or other Leaf products - but I certainly can see UD believing that strong arm tactics, and using their exclusive license as a means to squeeze out their competition is good for business, even if they do risk financial penalties.

    The ironic thing is that Upper Deck continues to make unlicensed baseball, basketball, and football cards, much the same way Leaf does with hockey.

    Agreed. If I were a millionaire and I was still able to buy hockey cards, I'd never buy ITG / Leaf etc. They're ugly (my opinion) and no logos.

  10. #10

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    Agreed. If I were a millionaire and I was still able to buy hockey cards, I'd never buy ITG / Leaf etc. They're ugly (my opinion) and no logos.

    Yeah, and to each his own.

    Myself... I'll chase Leafs stuff when it appeals to me (and there are cards that do). If it doesn't appeal to me, I won't bother (granted, I would say the same thing about Upper Deck).

    A big part of my collection is Rookie Cards, and a card must be licensed to be a RC - so that leaves Leaf's products out of that component of my collection. I also really enjoy Game Used cards, and IMO - Leaf blows UD out of the water for GU stuff, and they bring in more unique players from the past. I'm an Oilers fan, and chase a Game Used card of anyone to have player for the Oilers (if he has GU stuff available, doesn't necessarily have to be an Oilers card). Leaf just put Kevin Lowe jersey cards into packs, something UD has never done. Willy Lindstrom was another recent one I was able to add, via Leaf stuff (last year's products). I get that those types of players don't move the needle for a lot of collectors, but that's exactly the kind of stuff I'm looking for when new checklists come out.

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