1981 Topps Coca-Cola: A Lesson in Co-Branding

1981 Topps Coke

The term Co-Branding is a relatively new term to business and occurs when two or more brands work in alliance with one another to create something completely unique from which both firms can benefit. This is done to strengthen the brands involved and create the perception of a more premium product and hence possess the ability to drive up the total cost to the consumer. The result is intended to build and strengthen a competitive advantage.

We see brands collaborating with other brands to create unique offerings all the time. Here are a few examples:

  • Doritos partnering with Taco Bell to create the perfect marriage that is the Doritos Locos Taco
  • Smucker’s Jam being included inside Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts
  • Airline companies partnering with credit card companies to offer mileage savings for consumers

Co-Branding occurs quite frequently within the hobby. In the ’80’s and ’90’s, many food brands tested their strength with the card collecting market; for which everyone wants a piece of the pie. Brands like Hostess, Moo-Town, Kraft, Cracker Jack, Post, Denny’s and even Jimmy Dean sausage have all had their way with Co-Branding at some point or another. It’s all fun and games, especially when you get a free baseball card with your frozen Tombstone pizza!

For this particular example, we have a join-venture between Coke and Topps, two classic brands, to help penetrate the market and strengthen competitive advantage. In 1981, for both baseball and football, these brands worked together in alliance, which created the sum total result of a more strategic product. The product created a stronger market buzz and increased secondary market value that’s withstood the test of time as collectors continue to search for these often hard to find Coca-Cola versions of 1981 Topps. According to the two main hobby pricing publications, as you’ll read below, in the baseball market, Yankees players are the toughest to locate and a this-just-in type of epic knowledge confirms the existence of a 1981 Coca-Cola Carlton Fisk sporting Red Sox gear. Keep your eyes out for that card because to my knowledge, only one copy has been found so far, not nearly enough to necessitate price guide recognition (too scarce to price).

Over the years, I’ve searched through hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of cards and the Gibson and Monk cards that you see here are two of just a small handful of examples from 1981 Coca-Cola that I’ve come across without using eBay or any online searches. Bottom line, these are tougher to locate than anything from Topps’ 1981 flagship release. Just a heads up the next time you happen upon these in the $0.10 cent bins at your local shop. They are often pushed aside as base so although they are rare, when you do find them, it’s possible to secure them for pretty reasonable prices. However, results may vary for the following players (if you can find ’em) The Reggie Jackson (Yankees), Rick Cerone (Yankees), Rich Gossage (Yankees), and Carlton Fisk (Red Sox).

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