Reports: Topps Out, Fanatics In with MLB and MLBPA Baseball Card Deals

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Are major sports card changes on the horizon? According to multiple reports, Fanatics has landed both the MLB and MLBPA exclusives. And that could just be the beginning.

According to Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal, the MLBPA sent out a memo to players today informing them of the deal, Fanatics will be forming a new trading card company that the league and union would haveequity in. It also suggests that Fanatics might be in talks with other leagues.

Jacob Feldman and Scott Soshnick of Sportico are reporting that the new Fanatics card company will be headed by StockX‘s Josh Luber and that there have been discussions with the NBA, NBAPA and NFLPA as well. Panini currently holds the exclusives for both basketball and football.

Topps currently holds the MLB exclusive on baseball cards through 2025 so it’ll be a while before any licensing changes come into effect. For collectors, things should look the same for now, at least.

Fanatics is already a giant in virtually every facet of licensed sports merchandise with established partnerships across the professional and collegiate levels. The company is currently valued at $18 billion.

This year, Topps is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its baseball card line. They’ve been producing cards for the sport continuously since 1951. They’ve had the MLB exclusive since 2010.

Topps is also in the process of potentially merging with Mudrick Capital to form a publicly traded company. A vote that could potentially confirm the merger is scheduled for August 25.

This is a developing story.

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Ryan Cracknell

A collector for much of his life, Ryan focuses primarily on building sets, Montreal Expos and interesting cards. He's also got one of the most comprehensive collections of John Jaha cards in existence (not that there are a lot of them). Got a question, story idea or want to get in touch? You can reach him by email and through Twitter @tradercracks.

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17 comments

  1. Richard 19 August, 2021 at 19:28

    I don’t think this is going to be good for the hobby, but I hope I am wrong.
    Topps will likely have to individual signings and airbrushing the logos as they once did.

  2. Mike Bartosiak 19 August, 2021 at 19:29

    Wow. I wonder what’s the next move for Topps? Would they be trying to move to getting the exclusive for football or basketball? Those are growing and don’t have an ugly players / owners fight with a potential strike coming….

    With several years to get ready, maybe Fanatics will put out a good product. As long as they put out a reasonable cost product and don’t go all high end, this could be okay.

  3. Justin 20 August, 2021 at 10:24

    Such sad and depressing news. One of the things I love most about the hobby is tradition and this seems like the biggest blow possible to this great hobby. I’m not saying I won’t give Fanatics a chance but it just won’t be the same and to be honest this news makes my interest in the hobby wane.

  4. Matt Maldre 20 August, 2021 at 11:49

    I’m looking forward to Beckett’s continued reporting on this story. Open questions:

    1. What happens in 2023 and 2024 when Topps has a MLB license, but not a MLBPA license? Topps can make cards with team logos, but no players?
    2. When does the Fanatics deal start?

  5. JDonovan 20 August, 2021 at 11:51

    Why in the world does there have to be and exclusive provider at all? The people hurt by exclusives are the customers. Baseball cards without Topps will not likely work, at least not for longtime collectors. And I don’t see enough desire to collect anything other than virtual trinkets from the youngest generation. And they are not exactly falling in love with baseball as a sport. I will give it a chance assuming I am still around in 2025 or 2026, but I think this could be the death knell for baseball cards. I hope I am wrong, but I fear I am not.

  6. David Slade 20 August, 2021 at 16:17

    I’m done. Have collected Topps since the mid-60’s and all I can see is higher and higher prices.

  7. Jason Fenwick 20 August, 2021 at 17:05

    As a lifelong collector, I’m certainly disappointed in this news. I typically associate Fanatics with sports gear as opposed to baseball cards so will be interesting to see what they put out. Glad it’s still a few years away so going to take advantage of continuing to collect Topps/Bowman until then.

    With Topps out of the merger with Mudrick Capital and reading that Fanatics hasn’t officially set-up a baseball card division/company, it would be a wise move for Fanatics to at look into buying Topps. it appears they certainly have the resources. That way, they can take advantage of the Topps name and the momentum that’s been built from the brand in the past few years. This could also keep your traditional collectors, such as myself, engaged moving forward.

  8. Jeremy 20 August, 2021 at 17:47

    I agree with the previous person that these exclusives need to go away. It sort of made sense when they first started doing it but the hobby has expanded so much since then. I don’t know why these leagues think collectors don’t want some competition in the market.

  9. Alex Hartzog 20 August, 2021 at 18:06

    Definitely a shocker. All things eventually change but Topps baseball cards have been something you could always look forward to every year, ever since ripping open packs with my little brother 30 years ago. For them not to be the ‘flagship” brand of the hobby just seems weird and is not something I’m looking forward to. Are they going to resort to something like Upper Deck did with “Goodwin Champions”? (Laugher). Panini has pushed hard and done OK with their 1000 logo-less brands, but they still seem kinda “fake” in a way compared to Topps and Bowman. I guess time will tell. I can’t wait to rip into my first pack of Fanatics Chrome (not).

  10. TonyZ 21 August, 2021 at 12:15

    I have a feeling that Topps goes bankrupt due to this, then their IP gets bought by Fanatics and becomes a brand of their cards…so eventually there will be “Topps” cards again…

  11. JDV29 21 August, 2021 at 17:41

    Commenters have already touched on a couple of my points; i.e., that there is no reason that these deals need to be exclusive in an ostensibly free-market economy, and that Topps — whose deal with Mudrick has been abandoned — could be bought by Fanatics and become the card company formed by Fanatics.

    Two other points…as a 54-year collector of Topps, it is my opinion that Topps deserves to lose their relationship with MLB & MLBPA. I think they have ruined the hobby for youth, and it hasn’t been much fun for me either since the early 1990s. My other point is that this looks like another dangerous step in MLB’s love-fest with the gambling industry. How ironic that Pete Rose continues his lifetime ban.

  12. Bryan Fendley 21 August, 2021 at 17:45

    I think Fenwick is on to something. From what I have read, this appears to be an aggressive takeover of Topps by Fanatic that has stopped Topps’ merger with Mudrick Capital. This will force a sale to Fanatic, making Panini the odd-man-out with nothing. If this turns out to be true, other than Panini going “ka-poof”, very little should change for baseball cards. The prices were going to continue to go up because of exclusive licensing, but one does have to wonder if an increase over 10X (NPR, ESPN) for the exclusive contract will cause prices to grow faster.

  13. Lance olsen 22 August, 2021 at 11:03

    I fear this was done out of spite and that spite has a name ( Michael Eisner). I think after hearing about his personal & potential $600 million windfall from topps going public that mlb/mlbpa has struck back at him & ultimately the topps company . Also I believe since the “baby boomer” generation is now dying off this is a way of giving the “gen x/ genz et al , a fresh start by throwing tradition aside a chance to create there own tradition & have there own 1952 mantle rookie in the form of a new company / new cards…..which I don’t see them being successful as I predict the hobby is going to not only lose the traditionalists but the majority of collectors who drive the hobby with the resources/buying power that is proven by topps having one of there best quarters ever (by I believe 800 %)
    Your talking no more heritage product ( which looks like is going to now e n d on 1975) no more allen & Ginter no more gypsy queen no more chrome no more jersey/relic/dual book autos no more regular issue topps a 70 YEAR STANDARD
    Topps in my opinion should have been granted the exclusive rights to MLB BASEBALL CARDS IN PERPITUITY PERIOD !!! Topps not making baseball cards is like pizza without pepperoni is like changing the color for St. Patrick’s day or the animal for Easter . SHAME ON THE MLB AND MLBPA AS WELL AS NBAPA & NFLPA Like everything else wrong with this world just discard Americana past present & future. Hope it was worth it because I will never be on board with baseball cards if Topps isn’t involved never!!! and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that I assure you!!!!

  14. James Bohannon 22 August, 2021 at 19:46

    I’ve collected since 1980 and Topps was always there. I’ll give Fanatics a chance but I’m not expecting much.

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