As I started researching sets for the Oddball Archive, I kept coming across the initials MSA on many food regionals. For example, the 1978 Papa Gino’s Discs baseball card set has MSA printed in small letters towards the bottom of the back of the disc. It turns out that MSA stands for Michael Schechter & Associates, and in this post, I’ll share the little bit of information that exists about MSA and food issue collectibles.
Schechter was an entrepreneur who had partnerships with various Players’ Unions, so the team logos on many of these oddball cards are airbrushed out. It was cheaper to secure a license from this single source, rather than including Major League Baseball, for example, to include team logos (trademarked) on players’ uniforms or hats.
In an archived Baseball Weekly article, I’ve read that in 1977, Marvin Miller, who was the MLB Player’s Association president, signed an agreement with Schechter’s Tampa Bay, Florida firm to allow them to license players likenesses. MSA got a 10-25% commission on deals that purportedly generated more than $100M for the players union. Later there was a lawsuit, and in “1989, Schechter agreed to amend his contract, taking a 25% commission on licensing agreements made after Jan. 1, 1989, for the first three years, followed by a 10% commission over the next three years.”
The majority of MSA releases were in partnership with the food industry. The bigger brand oddball and food issues that MSA helped license were Ralston Purina, Kraft Singles, Jimmy Dean, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Slim Jim, M&Ms, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut. But Schechter also occasionally brokered deals with popular non-food brands like Sony and Sega.
Hardcore hobbyists may also recognize brands like Buckman’s, Crane, Dairy Isle, and FBI food. Bottom line, if it was a food release that didn’t feature logos, MSA was likely involved.
The back of a 1976 MSA Customized Sports Discs disc shows that they were available to advertisers with MLB players, NBA players, NFL players, tennis players, and other people, places, and things through MSA, Inc in White Plains, New York. The discs were manufactured through Gugler Lithographic Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
While most MSA products were in the baseball market, some other sport MSA products include the 1976 Buckmans Football Discs and the 1976 Coca-Cola Chicago Bears discs. And for basketball, the 1976 Crane Potato Chips discs were also developed in partnership with MSA.
I suspect there are so many more oddball MSA baseball products just because of the sport’s superior popularity, in the card market, compared to other sports, at the time.
And when it comes to oddballs, since most were regionally distributed, some MSA sets are far more challenging to find than others. For example, 1976 Crane Potato Chip discs are fairly common, while the 1976 Red Barn discs are very scarce in the same year.
Source information about oddball cards is already pretty tough to find, so information about a broker who licensed the cards, MSA, is unsurprisingly equally scarce. But from what we know, Schechter made a pretty good living for himself and the player’s unions by brokering deals to produce oddball sports cards.