Fanatics Trading Cards to Change the Hobby Landscape for MLB, NFL & NBA Collectors

Fanatics Trading Cards to Change the Hobby Landscape for MLB, NFL & NBA Collectors

Big changes are on the horizon for the hobby now that Fanatics has reached an agreement with Major League Baseball (MLB) to produce cards, ending Topps' exclusive. Through the newly-created Fanatics Trading Cards, the apparel company also has long-term card deals in place with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). Each group holds equity in the new Fanatics card company.

The shocking development marks a big shift as all three professional card licenses are currently exclusives. Topps holds the MLB/MLBPA license and Panini holds the MLBPA, NBA/NBPA and NFL/NFLPA licenses.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Fanatics-MLB talks have been ongoing for months, but Topps was only officially informed on August 19, when the news initially broke. The MLBPA has already passed along early details to players about the arrangement, which is 10 times larger than any previous deal for the union.

Topps, the iconic baseball card producer since 1951, had made plans to go public via special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Mudrick II, but this was quickly terminated following the news about the Fanatics deals.

Despite the sudden shift of power, these changes won't take place immediately. Fanatics' MLBPA deal reportedly starts in 2023 and Topps' MLB exclusive goes through 2025, leaving a period of uncertainty as to exactly how Topps will proceed during the overlap. Meanwhile, the Panini NBPA deal ends in 2025 and Panini's NFLPA deal finishes in 2026.

However, once Fanatics takes over, it seems that the licenses aren't going anywhere for a long time as the NFLPA deal reportedly lasts for 20 years. It appears that the other deals are also of similar length (15 to 20 years).

Fanatics holds more than 80% ownership of the new card company, Fanatics Trading Cards, with a valuation of $10.4 billion. The remaining ownership is held by the leagues and unions.

In terms of leadership, Josh Luber is on board as "co-founder and chief vision officer." Collectors might recognize Luber as the co-founder and former CEO of StockX, a sneaker reselling website.

According to CNBC, "Fanatics’ plan for the physical trading card space is to expand it by opening the market to leverage it more via direct-to-consumer offerings, according to people familiar with the matter. For example, should collectors purchase a trading card, they’ll be able to insure the asset, grade, store and even put them on a marketplace to sell or trade — all through Fanatics."

Already a major sports apparel retailer, Fanatics has gotten into sports memorabilia in recent years, including signing many player exclusives. Michael Rubin, the majority owner of Fanatics' parent company (Kynetic), is also the co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.

UPDATE (1/3/2022): Fanatics has reportedly reached an agreement to purchase Topps.

Fanatics Trading Cards to Change the Hobby Landscape for MLB, NFL & NBA Collectors 1

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Trey Treutel

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Trey is a lifelong sports fanatic. He is a huge fan of the NBA and NFL, as well as soccer, college basketball and college football. As a kid, he collected football and basketball cards. In more recent years, he started collecting basketball cards again on a whim and has since expanded to other sports and entertainment options.

User Comments

  1. Awful, like walmart back in the days coming into a town and putting all the mom and pop shops out of business. Might as well be Amazon buying up all the licenses. What a shame.

  2. Big news I guess…passing of Baton…I don’t care where I get my cards and honestly Topps has been mailing it in lately.

  3. Surprised that MLB was willing to throw away 70 years of tradition, but then with Manfred as the commissioner nothing surprises me. Between their never ending greed, political stances, and now throwing out tradition not sure where they will be in the next few years. And all of this with an impending work stoppage when the CBA ends this winter. I fear baseball may not stand the test of time anymore….

  4. This seems to be headed by the Players Association MLB, NFL, NBA

    2023 Baseball card season should be interesting in that Topps cant make cards of individual players

  5. This is just sad. Anyone who has dealt with Fanatics over the years knows what a joke they are…My returns always missing a few bucks here and there, the quality of product, paying for returns and most of all overpricing.
    A sneaker pimp as President? Go look at Stockx on Reddit or Better Business Bureau. Great reviews.
    The sportscard business got cancer the past few years with all the scalpers and binge pricing. With the loss of Topps. It is dead.

  6. And this deal with the players association will be the death of Panini as well. We wind up with one company with no competition giving us whatever crappy product they want at whatever price.

    Too bad MLB can’t see that Topps has been good for baseball for a long time. For many of us that’s how we knew players and stats, from their cards. That in part is what made us fans.

  7. Sure will change the landscape. For collectors like me it means we concentrate on older cards and are finished buying new stuff. Fanatics is a lousy company and greed by players and leagues are ruining the hobby.

  8. This sucks for Topps & all baseball card collectors, Topps card designs have sucked over the last few years, 2021 is the worst design since 1962. I read that Topps still has a license to make baseball cards up to 2025. Hopefully Topps final base set will be cards from every year 1951 to current year or 2024. I just hope that people(especially flippers) don’t buy every Topps card they see & leave some for others.

  9. I have collected team sets of the Detroit Tigers and KC/Oakland A’s since 1964. I will no longer collect any baseball cards when Topps officially stops making MLB cards and spend my money on something else. And no, it won’t be overpriced tickets, parking or streaming pay-per-view baseball games. Greed will put an end to my interest in my favorite sport, baseball.

  10. Topps can still make MLB cards through 2025 right? The MLBPA license isn’t exclusive? I can’t imagine MLB would have green-lighted a deal where there are no MLB (or MLBPA-only) cards for three seasons…

  11. Topps has the MLB license through 2025 and already confirmed it will continue to make licensed cards. The issue is losing the MLBPA license, which will impact player selection.

  12. Not good. At least we have older Topps cards to catch up on. I will not be buying stuff from them as I have already been burned by past purchases. Sad.

  13. Fanatics means my years of buying new will be ending. The market is already crazy with LCS’s not being able to get cards so breakers can do their thing online, Wal-Mart and Target having to ration or go online only for their sales. Now fanatics is entering the market, and all you get from fanatics is average-slightly above average clothing with little customer support and higher than expected prices.
    Topps IS Baseball Cards. What a shame the MLBPA got so greedy.

  14. What a bad deal, why can’t mlb have more than 1 license for Topps & other card companies to make baseball cards. Maybe Topps final year of baseball cards they can do cards from every year in there final set. Changes need to be made instead of issuing over a dozen products for each sport by Topps, Panini & other card companies.

  15. It’s so crazy how Fanatics has taken over everything. I don’t believe they care about the hobby, the collectors, the trading card shops, show dealers, or case breakers who have helped build this market. They are a greedy, power hungry company that has to own it all, at the expense of everyone else. Our only hope now for the future of the hobby is that they purchase at least one of the major manufacturers and retain some staff that actually understands the trading card industry.

  16. I won’t buy fanatics cards I will concentrate on Topps vintage card

  17. As primarily a Heritage collector, this is heartbreaking. I always envisioned carrying my Heritage collection into 1980s versions, which would match the cards I collected as a kid….but I guess that will be no more. At least they should get the 1975s released, which I have been looking forward to for years.

    I guess I do not understand why there has to be one license anyway….generally speaking, it is never wise to “put all your eggs in one basket”….and if MLB is getting a piece of all of the action, what is the big deal? Guess I do not have a good understanding of the business.

  18. Fanatics spent a whole lot of money to get those agreements and will look to recoup those initial large investments as fast as possible. I can see them brokering some sort of deal with one of the grading services, say PSA and preslabbing all those coveted 1/1 and other low numbered cards and SSPs then putting them up for sale on their website. Gone will be the days of buying a $200 to $400 dollar box with the hopes of pulling a $1000 card. You want that low numbered or SSP of that hot new roookie, well Fanatics will have it for you, already slabbed PSA 10 with a $2000 price tag. Flippers and Breakers beware. They are going for it all. And they will probably get it.

  19. Finally – we have the root cause of Topps inexplicable lack of customer care, QA/QC issues, 3 year redemptions, no longer replacing damaged cards and in my case, trying to clean print lines and scratches with a chemical on a card I returned for replacement that now has an oily prism looking sheen on it due to Topps attempt to “restore” the card. THIS EXPLAINS WHY TOPPS HAS QUIT ON THE CUSTOMER. Nowhere to go but up – good bye and good riddance to TOPPS. Anything is better than they are now. Great news!

  20. Topps will continue to produce current MLB players until its license runs out. Fanatics will take over for Panini and produce cards minus MLB logos and team nicknames.

  21. The current card companies (Topps Panini) have a horrid marketing plan and customer service. They are all about the money! hope Fanatics do not do the same but we will see. Say bye bye you two, I love this news.

  22. We have seen the impact of near or total monopolies on price – especially during COVID. I have a feeling that Fanatics might be regretting their deals if paying 10x but we will see. If anything I can see true hobby COLLECTORS turning back to older issues. The thing I worry about more in this is the natural attempt at vertical integration that would include grading and dictating at their shows what can and cant be sold

  23. Anyone get a feeling that Fanatics with their huge deal is going to ruin the hobby? I’ll be done with the hobby after Topps is gone. MLB really messed this up.

  24. Back too the basics of collecting vintage cards for me. They have withstood the test of time, and high quality singles will continue to do so moving forward.

  25. If cards become easily available in stores and/or online, having Fanatics in charge is a good thing.

  26. I honestly can’t believe some are quiting the hobby because Topps is getting regulated. Topps is not baseball cards. They have done some great things, but are also directly responsible for much of the bad that has creeped in. How many years in a row have they produced 15 variations of the same junky cards, all while overpricing most out of the hobby. I’m not overly pleased that it will just be essentially another monopoly taking over (i think its best by far when several companies are competing for our loyalty), but Topps has dug their own grave.

    IMO, being done with the hobby cause Topps just got smacked is like not watching baseball cause Nike makes their uniforms now.

  27. It’s amazing how many people think because they are new, they will be saving the hobby. They are in for a rude awakening.

  28. Just sad.
    I will be willing to bet that they will eventually due away with any wholesale accounts, and that will finally spell the end of the local sports card shops. This is what Fanatics has been trying to due from day one!! Guess my collecting days are numbered. I refuse to give Fanatics any money!

  29. I agree with Tbdrshaw. My hobby spending on new products has reached $0, with the exception of Heritage and Archives. Bought my first in 1978, and was really looking forward to seeing my childhood sets become new again. The last bit of fun in the hobby has been dying a slow death anyway.

  30. 2021 topps design SUCKS you cant even read the name of the player on the front – who’s in charge? Im looking forward to see what fanatics produces in future.

  31. This is a monopoly, and its going to ruin card collecting. being the only brand to produce sports cards their going to control the market. What ever happen to good ol’ competition? Want more business make better products!

  32. I know this is probably not a concern to most people who appear to be primarily interested in Baseball, but does anyone know what the status of wrestling cards like WWE or non-sports cards like Star Wars that Topps makes will be?

  33. Panini takes over WWE in 2022. Nothing new on Star Wars so far.

  34. Not sure this is all going to work out the way that Fanatics envisioned. Fanatics inked their deals at the height of the market when almost everything cardboard was selling at big $$. Topps is no joke as a company and they understand the hobby quite well. that comes with 70++ years in the business. For Fanatics to reportedly sign a deal with MLBPA that was somewhere in the 10x range of what Topps was offering seems like a bad idea. The card market has quite obviously slowed significantly and I would bet that Fanatics will be challenged to reach their lofty expectations. After all, it isn’t the card companies who control the market. It’s the end consumer….the collectors, the investors, the hobby shops. All of which have supported and driven this hobby for decades. Hobby shops, local card shows, regional shows, the national….. those are the places where the hobby thrives. Direct to consumer looks great on paper from a business stand point and has a place to an extent, but by itself it won’t sustain a healthy hobby or business model.

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