In the world of collectibles, a license to produce NBA trading cards is a rare and valuable thing.
Despite interest from other card companies, especially after last season's success featuring Shaquille O'Neal, the NBA is not issuing more licenses.
"Part of the reason we have four companies is that we have a very close relationship," says the NBA's Donna Goldsmith. "It's more of a marketing partnership."
Goldsmith says the NBA's current licensing program began in the 1989-90 season with NBA Hoops. It goes beyond being able to use the NBA's logo, team logos and uniforms and being able to print trading cards. It means working with the trading-card companies in sponsoring NBA projects. Last year, Fleer sponsored NBA Jam (similar to baseball's All-Star FanFest), Upper Deck sponsored the stay-in-school project and Topps sponsored a laser tour.
This season, the TV show "Inside Stuff" will run for 52 weeks instead of ending with the NBA Finals, and Goldsmith says the NBA is offering an ad package to its card licensees that will enable them to advertise their baseball cards over the summer. "They understand that we need them in the summer months," she says.
The NBA's reach is not just year-round; it's worldwide. Goldsmith says Upper Deck is using the global appeal of the NBA and issuing NBA cards in Spain, Italy and Australia. But this is done under the NBA's supervision.
"We do this on a country-by-country basis," says Goldsmith. "They understand collecting in Europe because they collect stickers and pins." The trick is to translate the collecting mentality and interest in the NBA into card sales.
NBA licensing has another cooperative aspect. It is how the league guards against unlicensed merchandise.
Goldsmith says the NBA shares information with the other professional leagues and works with the dealer/manufacturer association SCAI/NASDAM, which allows only licensed products at its sanctioned shows.
"Our attorneys are always on the case," she says. "we're frequently in the market . . . looking for unlicensed products."
Breakfast of quarterbacks
John Elway, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon and Steve Young are featured on posters shrink-wrapped to 12-ounce boxes of Wheaties. The posters are available through December.
Fleer's 1993-94 edition of Ultra basketball features set spokesman Karl Malone in a 10-card career highlights insert set. Series I also includes the 200-card basic set and insert sets featuring All-Stars, defensive stars, last season's top rookies, award winners and scoring leaders. Cards are coated on both sides, and backs have two photos. Malone has autographed more than 2,000 of his cards. There is a mail offer for two additional highlight cards.
Collectors with formal wear and a big budget may be interested in the Johnny Bench gold card given to all attendees of the Nov. 18 Rawlings Gold Glove Award Dinner in New York. The card is the third in a series.
Today, exhibit "The Babe, The Birds and Baltimore: An All-Star Tradition" and exhibit on Rex Barney's 50-year sports career, with memorabilia from his Brooklyn Dodgers days, Babe Ruth Museum, (410) 727-1539.
Next Sunday, card show, Cromwell Bridge Holiday Inn (I-695, Exit 29S), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., (410) 239-7446.
Nov. 12, All-Star memorabilia auction to benefit Orioles Children's Charities (items include autographed All-Star baseballs, locker nameplates and Orioles jerseys with All-Star patches), Oriole Park at Camden Yards, preview at 6 p.m., auction at 7:30 p.m. Admission charge. (410) 547-6140.
CARD OF THE WEEK
Daily Racing Form is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a 110-card set packed in a collectible tin. Horse Star Cards is producing "100 Years of Racing," which includes 100 cards featuring the top racing story of each year from 1894 to 1993. Collectors can get a three-card promo set by sending a stamped, self-addressed business-sized envelope to HSC, Box 444, Buckner, Ky. 40010. Look for the cards in December.