Fanatics Edges Out Topps for Official MLB Baseball Card Status

A huge deal might transform an industry

Topps baseball cards
Topps' baseball cards from the 2016 season are on display during the "Open Topps Baseball Series 1 Cards " event at the Topps' offices on February 10, 2016 in New York City.
Kris Connor/Getty Images

The end of an era looms for the world of baseball cards. For over half a century, Topps has made officially licensed cards for Major League Baseball — which, in this case, means that their cards can feature team logos. If you’re an ardent card collector or someone with fond memories of picking up a pack or two to look for your favorite player, odds are good that Topps was responsible for the cards. (Or possibly Sportflics. Remember Sportflics?)

Topps’s time as the official licensed purveyor of baseball cards looks to be coming to an end, however. ESPN reports that Fanatics recently signed a substantial deal with Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association, set to make them the new exclusive manufacturer of baseball cards.

The deal is set to go into effect after 2022, the year the deals Topps and Panini have with both MLB and the MLBPA will conclude. And, according to ESPN’s Dan Hajducky, “Fanatics’ deal with MLB and the MLBPA is more than 10 times larger than any the union has ever agreed to.”

As NPR points out in its report, the consequences of this deal for Topps could be sizable, given that the company was planning to go public in the near future. It’s a significant shift in the industry, and one that could have consequences far outside of the world of collectibles.

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