Fanatics’ New Deal With MLB Set To Shake Up The Sports Card Industry

by Bryan Roberts

Topps lost their long-standing exclusive sports card license with MLB this week when the league and MLBPA agreed to an exclusive licensing deal with Fanatics.

According to reports from The Wall Street Journal and ESPN, a Fanatics-owned subsidiary (not yet named) secured exclusive rights to manufacture MLB and MLB Players Association (MLBPA) baseball cards. Topps current agreement with the MLBPA expires at the end of 2022.

The Fanatics deal also includes the NBA, NBA Players Association, and NFL Players Association, according to the same reports. These entities, along with MLB and MLPA, will all have an ownership stake in the new entity formed by Fanatics.

This development is a major blow to Topps whose business relies heavily, though not exclusively, on its license with MLB. Topps also sells UEFA, Formula 1, Star Wars, WWE, and other licensed trading cards.  

What does this mean for the sports card collector?

In the immediate term, this news likely won’t change much, but expect significant changes starting in 2023 when Topps’ and Panini’s agreements with MLBPA expire.

Specifically, Fanatics appears to be positioning itself to become your main outlet for all sports related products. Long-known for being a sports memorabilia retail company, Fanatics also recently launched Candy Digital, a sports-focused non-fungible token (NFT) company.

As a result, Fanatics will soon offer sports memorabilia, trading cards, and NFTs.

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