• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Lessons from the king of baseball cards

Get PDF file

by on
in Business Etiquette,Workplace Communication

Few people noticed when Sy Berger died in 2014 at age 91. But the founder of the modern baseball card left a lasting imprint on American youngsters.

An executive at Topps Co. in the 1950s, Berger designed baseball cards that captured the imagination of budding fans. They sought cards furiously and often continued to treasure their collection as adults.

A visionary strategist, Berger’s success provides a roadmap for making smart business moves:

  • Sy BergerAdmit mistakes and try again. Berger’s first stab at developing baseball cards failed. They looked cluttered and didn’t attract collectors. And they came with caramel taffy that sometimes stuck to the cards. Undaunted, Berger learned to improve the cards’ size and design. He also replaced the taffy with a rectangular piece of gum.
  • Outshine competitors. In 1952, Berger released his first full set of revised cards with an eye on beating Bowman, Topps’ main rival. To stand out, he issued more cards and made sure they were bigger and more eye-catching.
  • Keep innovating. Berger resisted complacency even as Topps raked in profits. He reprinted each player’s autograph, added cartoons tied to each player’s biography (which he initially wrote himself) and helped invent 3-D cards in 1968.
  • Control costs. Topps negotiated a contract with each athlete to use his likeness. To contain expenses, Berger made modest offers to pay players but gave them dozens of their cards as an ego boost.  

When players complained about the low payments, he let them select a gift from a stamp redemption booklet. Examples included stereos and refrigerators.

— Adapted from “10 Business Lessons to Follow From Topps Baseball Cards’ Father, Sy Berger,” David Seideman, www.forbes.com.

Leave a Comment