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Flagship Products: A Logical Perspective

Updated: Jun 28

Well, it’s officially summer! The grill has been put to good use already, the cornhole toss is almost perfected, and looking forward to fun in the sun as we begin preparations for the 4th of July celebrations. 

What are we celebrating? The signing of The Declaration of Independence. Freedom!

However, we are not alone. Denmark, Norway, Ireland, and Australia also celebrate Independence Day on July 4th. Many other countries have similar festivities, although perhaps not on July 4th, but the spirit of declaring their freedom is celebrated.

It may seem cheesy or patriotic, but my favorite part is packing up the car with lawn chairs, coolers, and mosquito spray to go to the designated park for fireworks. 

The community stands together, removes their hats, and hands over our hearts as the Star-Spangled Banner plays through an outdated PA system. Some applaud, some get teary-eyed, while others appropriately salute the American Flag. 

This month, I want to write about saluting specific flagship products. You know how we card-collecting nerds can draw analogies from just about anything. 

We are given so much freedom that we lose sight of tradition. The traditions of the 4th of July are beliefs, customs, and information handed down to us from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or practice.

Here’s My Struggle

Either our hobby forefathers could have done a better job of handing down certain traditions, or the younger generation could’ve done a better job of listening and understanding.

My struggle is with the term “FLAGSHIP” product. Somehow, after 2019, a switch flipped within the hobby, anointing Panini Prizm, the flagship product for basketball and football. 

Is it due to the popularity of the brand?

Is it based on monetary value?

Or is it the preferred product of the flipping community within the hobby?

As I see it, a flagship product has nothing to do with popularity or monetary value. These are vanity metrics that only hold up in the short term. Do you know what holds up long-term? Traditions based on principles. 

Know it or not, believe it or not, like it or not, there is an accepted rule of action for a flagship product. Are these once-relevant standards still holding up? Nope! They have been forsaken like many of the rookie card guidelines. [don’t get me started]

A flagship product is a slang term created by the hobby. It is the first product released by a major, fully licensed card manufacturer, and it represents that company's most important product with long-standing tenure.

Picture a naval fleet. They typically gather in row formation, a hierarchy of sorts. The “flagship,” also known as the Command Center, is in the lead position. All other ships get their directives from the Command Center or Flagship. 

Likewise, Topps Baseball Series 1 in February is the first product released and officially starts the new season of product being released. It leads the pack, and all other products follow it.

Remember that a flagship product should have three components: 1) First product released. 2) Long-standing tenure within the hobby. 3) And most important. All three elements must be taken into consideration. 

Flagship Products Worthy of a Salute

Baseball—Topps Baseball Series 1 is the flagship product for baseball. It has been around since 1952, which is 73 years of longevity. It is the longest-standing, most important, and first product released every year, making it a flagship product. 

Basketball—I believe it is NOT Panini Prizm, and here’s why. Prizm debuted in the hobby in 2012, a mere 13 years ago, and it is not the first product released. On the other hand, NBA Hoops is the first product released to kick off the new collecting season. 

Its tenure started in 1989 and only missed three years, 2007-2009. That’s 31 years NBA Hoops has been a hobby mainstay. For these reasons, it should be considered the FLAGSHIP product for basketball.

Football—Score has had a long tenure, 35 years, but it is no longer the most important product. It’s released in August and features rookies in collegiate uniforms. On the other hand, Donruss is considered by Panini to be a flagship product. 

It’s been in production for 26 years (minus 2005-2008). It has the beloved Rated Rookie logo. It is the first product released to kick off the football season and features rookies in their pro uniforms.

Hockey—one would logically think that O-Pee-Chee would be the flagship product, but it is not. Although it began producing cards in 1933, one would be mistaken to believe they’ve been producing hockey cards for the last 91 years. There were 27 years in total when O-Pee-Chee did not manufacture cards. 

They have been very hit-and-miss over the decades. They had a strong run in the 70s and 80s, but since 1990, a total of 34 years, Upper Deck is the flagship product today.


Once Fanatics entirely takes over, the flagship products for basketball and football may change. Depending on how the chips fall, products may be discontinued, and others may reemerge, changing the landscape of the flagship product. 

This Fanatics takeover is another reason why it should not be based on popularity and monetary flipping values. It doesn’t make sense! Using the first product released that is the most important and has a long tenure within the hobby is common sense! It is a logical formula that will weather the winds of change going forward. 

Until next month, be safe. Happy Independence Day!

Victor, The Rookie Card Specialist


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