Topps, Inc. was dealt a potential deathblow in 2021 when it was announced that Fanatics was taking over baseball card production for Major League Baseball. The deal wrecked a merger that looked almost set in stone until August of 2021. Now the brand and/or the efforts of Topps in the last 70+ years in sports cards will be saved and looks very likely to become stronger than ever.
Fanatics is now acquiring Topps to become the foundation of Fanatics Trading Cards business. The terms of the deal were not made public, although media reports pegged the acquisition at about $500 million. Where this leaves Panini remains to be seen.
This move may act to be a saving grace for some of the serious concerns that have been around modern sports cards. It may even be a welcome wagon to the industry’s top grading companies. The remaining questions will have to be answered as they unfold.
According to the press release from January 4, 2021, all of Topps’ 350 or so sports and entertainment employees will join Fanatics Trading Cards. Topps has been the dominant player in baseball cards for 70 years and the move will give Topps access back to being the leader position in baseball, basketball and football cards. Countless other efforts will now continue as well.
Fanatics Trading Cards secured exclusive long-term trading cards rights from several of the leading professional sports leagues and players associations in 2021. These included:
- Major League Baseball,
- the Major League Baseball Players Association,
- the National Basketball Association,
- the National Basketball Players Association,
- and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).
Topps was ultimately going to lose its current deal with the MLB in the coming years, but Topps also brings in rights with Major League Soccer, Formula 1, UEFA and Bundesliga. The new Fanatics Trading Cards for baseball will begin immediately rather than its original combined start date in 2026.
This news may have come with some extreme pain for Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corporation II (NASDAQ: MUDS) in August of 2021, but the news is going to be an absolute relief to modern era sports card collectors in the United States and across the world. The news will unite the printing of cards and the digital efforts and it will keep a consistency that collectors and collectibles investors were unsure of before this news.
Outside of the feel-good comments around any merger, this is what sums up the united effort between Topps and Fanatics means according to the release:
Fanatics’ data-driven, direct-to-consumer expertise, which includes a database of more than 80 million sports fans globally, will enhance and expand Topps’ existing digital capabilities and grow the market opportunity for all participants. Additionally, Topps’ world-class quality, product development and manufacturing capabilities, along with their commitment to collectors and hobby shops, will ensure products are more readily accessible, positively impacting current and future collectors and partners.
Michael Eisner’s Tornante Company and Madison Dearborn Partners, after completing the sale of the Sports and Entertainment division of Topps to Fanatics, will include the confections and gift cards efforts and will now be called The Bazooka Companies, Inc. In addition to continued ownership of The Bazooka Companies, Tornante will have the rights to produce movies and television shows of certain Topps properties such as MechWarrior/BattleTech and Garbage Pail Kids.
Whether or not there are ethical issues in busting up a go-public merger (Mudrick was Topps’ special purpose acquisition company vehicle to go public in 2021) remains to be seen. That said, collectors and the sports card investing crowd are probably feeling some serious relief after this news.