I have probably 100,000 baseball cards at my parents house, but they didn’t make the trip with me to Ohio. I spent every dime that I had buying pack after pack, in hopes of finding my favorite players and/or a pricey rookie card that I could trade for something else that I wanted, or more packs. I collected from the time that I was 5-years old until I was about 15 or 16. About that time, most kids snap out of spending all their money on baseball cards and spend it on gas money or going on dates. I still buy a pack or two every 6-months, but nothing like when I was younger. The Topps Baseball Card Company are introducing 3-D baseball cards, it could very well get me back into buying baseball cards once again.
Topps was one of the first major players in the baseball card industry. They have been around since the 1950s and have helped keep kids interested in baseball. The stats on the back of the cards have helped bring baseball to life, but now with Topps 3-D Live, it could change the industry.
If you hold a special Topps 3D Live baseball card in front of a webcam, you will see a three-dimensional avatar of the player on the computer screen. Rotate the card, and the figure rotates in full perspective. It’s called “augmented reality,” a combination of a real image with a virtual one. Here is a video of how it will look.
The baseball card industry is struggling in the age of the Internet. Today’s collectors, most of whom are still boys, can just as easily and less expensively find the sports facts they want online. The New York Times reported that the industry once had revenue of a $1 billion a year, but the market for sports trading cards has shrunk to $200 million. These facts are according to information provided by Major League Baseball Properties in a recent lawsuit against a former card licensee. (The players’ association licenses the right to use players’ likenesses.)
Michael Eisner, the former chief of Walt Disney, had a plan to help rebuild the industry. In 2007 his Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn Partners bought Topps for $385 million. Total Immersion, a French company, brought Topps the augmented reality technology. It has already been used in a theme park and for some auto design work. Using the technology, card collectors see a three-dimensional version of a player and can play elementary pitching, batting and catching games using the computer keyboard.
Mr. Eisner has also created Back on Topps, a 17-episode Internet comedy that spoofs his acquisition of the company. He is developing a movie based on another of the company’s products, Bazooka Joe bubble gum. He also wants to create sports films. It appears that he wants to make Topps into a multimedia corporation, similar, yet different to what Disney was when he was in charge. If you spread out the company into different media areas, the chances of future development and consistency are greater. The Topps 3D Live cards are a natural extension of the brand.
If you’re interested in purchasing some Topps 3-D Live baseball cards, they are affordable. Series 1 cards will cost $2 for a 12-pack while a $1 pack will contain five cards.