WHAT HAPPENED TO SCORE BASEBALL CARDS

Score was a brand of baseball cards produced by the Score Board Company beginning in 1951. They were the top competitor to Topps for many years as the two companies battled for dominance in the baseball card market throughout the 1950s and 1960s. By the early 1970s Score’s baseball card production was coming to an end as the company faced increasing challenges.

When Score first entered the baseball card market in 1951, they brought useful innovations like the inclusion of player statistics on the cards. This was a new development that made their cards more appealing to collector interests beyond just young kids. In their early years Score was also able to sign deals to use the likenesses of famous players like Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, helping them compete with established brand Topps.

Through the 1950s Score was generally considered the “number two” brand behind Topps as the two companies split the baseball card production market. The 1960s would see Score face new competitive pressures. First, licensing regulations were established in 1961 that required companies to obtain individual player and league licenses to use names and likenesses on cards. This increased costs for all manufacturers.

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Then in 1965, Topps outmaneuvered Score by signing exclusive multi-year deals with both major leagues that locked Score out of using team logos and league trademarks on cards. This was a major competitive blow, as Score cards from 1966 onward had generic team names rather than the real ones. With Topps dominating licensing, Score’s appeal and sales began declining steadily during the mid-1960s.

At the same time, Score faced rising costs to obtain individual player and league licenses each year instead of longer term deals. On top of this, the 1969 decision in a Milwaukee Braves case established players had rights to control use of their own images and stats, not just the leagues. This increased licensing costs further. Between competition from Topps and growing financial pressures, Score’s profitability was decreasing dramatically.

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The decline continued through the early 1970s. Then in 1972, Score made the decision to stop producing baseball cards entirely and focus on other sports where they did not face the same dominance from Topps. That year’s Score issue would be their last involving baseball. Without access to league/team names or coveted rookie cards of future stars due to Topps’ exclusive deals, Score had little ability to effectively compete.

While Score would go on to produce cards for other sports through the 1970s, their abandonment of baseball cards in 1972 marked a major shift. It ended over two decades of their competition with Topps for dominance in the baseball card market. Score’s decision represented how escalating licensing costs due to new regulations, along with Topps’ exclusionary tactics, had created a non-competitive business situation driving Score from the baseball card segment.

With Score departing, Topps became the clear market leader in baseball cards and has maintained that position ever since through smart license management and new product offerings. Meanwhile, Score moved on to other sports but was never again able to recapture its past competitiveness against Topps in their original field of baseball cards. Their withdrawal paved the way for Topps to solidify as the premier brand in what remains a lucrative industry decades later, all stemming from regulatory changes and business practices in the late 1960s and early 1970s that marginalized Score.

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Rising production costs from evolved player licensing requirements, exclusionary deals signed by Topps locking out usage of teams/leagues, and an inability to compete on equal footing with Topps due to these competitive pressures combined to force Score’s exit from the baseball card market in 1972 after over 20 years. It marked a major transition towards Topps’ long-standing dominance as the premier name in baseball cards.

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