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Topps gets sued by the man on the moon ...


The estimable hobby news website reported the other day that Buzz Aldrin had filed suit in federal court against Topps over the use of Aldrin’s image in the 2009 American Heroes set.

The iconic photograph of Aldrin on the moon after the Apollo 11 landing, with Neil Armstrong’s image reflected in Aldrin’s visor, was used by Topps on the box of the 2009 American Heroes product (shown here), which is produced under the Topps Heritage brand umbrella.

I’m sure the lawyers can belabor all this ad absurdum, but it boils down to Topps insisting that this is educational material and Aldrin’s countering that California law (the suit was filed in Los Angeles) says the cards aren’t educational products.

See, that’s the joy of legal wrangling: in pursuit of a solution that neatly conforms to the law as written, you end up with counter-intuitive arguments like that. “The marketability and economic value of the trading card set is derived primarily from the fame of the various persons such as Dr. Aldrin and not from any transforative element to his name or likeness,” wrote one of the lawyers for the plaintiff.

I don’t know if the cards are educational (just kidding: they really are), but the lawyer’s blather certainly is. I had to look up “transforative.” Turns out, there’s no such word. So now my vaunted editing prowess has expanded well beyond its previously esoteric boundaries that included movie trailers, billboards, audio books on CDs and the “10 items or less” monstrosity at every grocery store, to add legal briefs to my domain.

But I digress (reading legal stuff does that to me). I haven’t a clue how this will come out (my guess would be a settlement to avoid unduly enriching the legal profession), but I can say with reasonable certainty that these cards are educational. And cool.

I just spent the better part of two weeks before Christmas making bricks of sports cards and wrapping them in cellophane for stocking stuffers that we give away every year. And smack dab in the middle of every pack – when supplies permitted – I would include a handful of these American Heroes cards.

I don’t know if the series is a big money maker for Topps, but I applaud the effort and the inclusion of such cards in the company’s products ostensibly designed to entice younger collectors. I am pretty sure if I got one of my own “bricks” in a stocking on Christmas morning and opened it up, I’d likely spend more time examining those things than the remaining 50 or so sports legends.

Any set that can claim to have Sojourner Truth’s rookie card is OK by me.

Ain’t I a collector?


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