For a full seven decades, Topps Co. has enjoyed a long-standing bond with Major League Baseball as the league's pre-eminent producer of trading cards. Those days are soon to come to an end, as a growing sports merchandise empire has acquired the rights to produce an integral part of baseball fandom.
According to a report by Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have struck a new exclusive baseball cards agreement with a company controlled by Fanatics Inc., an ever-expanding online retailer of sports merchandise and memorabilia. The MLB's new deal with Fanatics marks the end of an era in the baseball cards world, as the move comes at the expense of Topps, which has produced baseball cards since the early 1950s. The MLBPA deal begins in 2023, while the agreement with MLB itself will begin in 2026 following the end of the league's current agreement with Topps in 2025.
According to a memo sent to players by MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, other "significant sports properties" have also agreed to exclusive licenses with Fanatics' new company in the trading cards space. According to Evan Dreliich of The Athletic, Fanatics is also on the verge of partnerships with the NFL and NBA as well as their players associations.
In baseball, the deal means big money for Major League players: According to Clark's memo, the total value of the deal is "more than 10 times bigger" than any that the union has ever struck, and is also part of a series of recent deals expected to generate nearly $2 billion in revenue through 2045.
News of the impending end of Major League Baseball's deal with Topps Co. comes just as the company was set to go public. According to City Index, Topps Co. is expected to go public in Q3 2021 through a SPAC merger with Murdick Capital.