Fanatics Purchasing Topps is the Best Possible Outcome for the Hobby
How could Topps Baseball not exist? It’s what we were asking ourselves since this summer.
Now, we won’t have to find out. Last night, reports came out that Fanatics has reached an agreement to purchase Topps’ Sports & Entertainment Division. The deal means that Topps baseball cards (and conceivably, football and basketball cards, too) will continue for years to come, which eased the hearts of many long-time collectors.
Regardless of your feelings on Fanatics and its flurry of license acquisitions this summer, this was the best possible outcome for everyone.
Fanatics: It gets Topps’ brand equity, history, and allows it to start making cards right away
Topps: Ownership gets money that slipped out of their grasp with the SPAC deal fell through (although reportedly at about half of what they were going to get), and current employees get to keep their jobs for, at least, an extended period.
Collectors: We get to be in a world where Topps Baseball lives on. We also potentially get the return of Topps brands such as Chrome and Finest in NFL and NBA in a few years when those licenses kick in for Fanatics.
To be clear though, it’s not as though Topps is living on as the brand we know. In fact, the Topps cards we currently collect aren’t the same, either. This isn’t the era of the Shorins and Sy Berger. The current iteration, adrift under former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, will soon be under the Fanatics umbrella.
Topps is just a name. But a name that is wholly important because it is synonymous with trading cards, especially baseball. Every year since 1952, there has been a fully licensed Topps baseball card release, making it the longest running annual card partnership between a company and sport.
This deal ensures it will keep going and the Topps name will live on.
There’s a reason though the deal needed to happen now rather than a year from now when the Topps/MLBPA deal expired.
Card companies work nearly a year ahead of time. The lead times on the current sets is about 11 months. So, when 2022 Topps Baseball Series 1 hits shelves on February 9, a week later the Topps Baseball brand team will be sitting down to talk about 2023 Topps Baseball.
Fanatics execs might have their thoughts as to what they want the 2023 product to look like, and now is the time to have those conversations. However, we likely won’t see the Fanatics effect for months to come. Topps has been soliciting product into the summer with Topps Chrome Baseball already being sold to distributors and dealers, and it isn’t due out until late July.
That’s not to say things can’t and won’t change. But there is a lot of money tied into the more than a dozen products already on the calendar. I don’t expect the boat to start rocking for at least six months.
At least Topps and Baseball will stay together for years and years to come. One good thing for collectors is we don’t have to imagine a world without it.
What do you think of Fanatics purchasing Topps?
This is probably the best possible outcome-Fanatics gets the brand, IP, designers, infrastructure, and fans get to have Topps continue.
I agree that this is best case scenario for us as collectors. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I do agree that we will likely see the return of Topps Chrome and Finest and Stadium Club for Basketball and Football but I'm excited to see their creativity bloom in what new products they create. I will say that I will miss the old brands that Panini had absorbed and used like Absolute, Crown Royale and National Treasures as well as Flawless and Immaculate which they did create. But again, this is a win. Upper Deck and Topps is still in the picture and for us old timers that's our bread and butter!
I will say that I am interested to see the actual agreement if it ever comes to light as I honestly believe there is more at play than just the money. Also, in a perfect hobby world it would be so amazing if Upper Deck and Fanatics could share the licensing in some way to restore the power of creation to it's full potential. We shall see what our future holds...