Fanatics Signs Contract with MLB and MLBPA | Are Topps and Panini in Trouble?
The hobby and sports card world were set ablaze last week as Fanatics announced their exclusive licensing contract with MLB and the MLBPA. For the first time in over 70 years, Topps may not be allowed to print baseball cards.
As if this news wasn’t huge enough, Fanatics then announced that they would also have exclusive licensing contracts with the NBA, NBAPA, and the NFLPA. The NFL looks like the last domino that will fall, and we expect that to happen soon as well.
Fanatics won’t exactly have a monopoly on the card industry, but it is about as close as it can get to one. Upper Deck still has the NHL and NHLPA licensing, and Topps and Panini still hold several throughout the sports and sports entertainment world including UEFA, UFC, MLS, and WWE.
Even if Topps and Panini continue printing those types of cards, losing the 3 major US sports will be a massive hit to their revenue. Topps and Mudrick Capital had recently announced a merger and that Mudrick would be taking Topps public. That plan was scrapped the day after Fanatics made their announcement.
Fanatics Signs Contract with MLB: What is the Future of Topps and Panini?
In the last decade, exclusive contracts have become more popular in the hobby world. Topps has had their exclusive contract with the MLB, while both Topps and Panini have contracts with the MLBPA.
This means that Panini has been able to print baseball cards without using MLB logos for the past several years. After 2022, that comes to an end.
Fanatics MLBPA contract begins after the 2022 season and it is exclusive, which means Panini will have to stop making baseball cards. Fanatics’ exclusive contract with the MLB begins after the 2026 season, which is when Topps will have to shut down their printers.
While the future of both companies is uncertain, there is still a chance that both companies could still be producing baseball cards. If Fanatics wanted to buy out either company, they could likely do so for pennies on the dollar after their contracts are up.
They don’t even have to buy these companies out, they could simply contract them to print their cards. We believe this is what will happen.
Topps and Panini already sub-contract other companies to print some of their cards and we think Fanatics will do the same. We simply can’t imagine a world where Topps gets completely cut out of the game. It’s a set collector’s worst nightmare.
The Future of the Hobby
Somehow, someway, we believe there will still be Topps and Bowman brand cards available. They are too lucrative of a product for Fanatics to overlook.
Panini’s biggest loss will be the NFL, with the NBA a close second. With as much as Panini Prizm, Optic, Mosaic, and Donruss produce revenue-wise each year, we also can’t imagine Fanatics overlooking them.
Maybe Fanatics decides to start from scratch though. Maybe there will be no more Topps Flagship, Bowman Draft, or Panini Prizm. As much as collectors are dreading this change, we can guarantee they won’t stop collecting because of it.
Collectors collect. That’s what they do. Regardless of the logo at the top of the card. Set collectors will find new sets to collect and card flippers will find new products to flip. There is no reason for the recent explosion in the hobby to slow down anytime soon.
Another Junk Wax Era?
As an avid card collector, breaker, and seller, the only part of this I’m worried about at the moment is how badly everything will be over-produced until the contracts switch over to Fanatics. Topps and Panini have basically been printing money for the last 18 months and they know it.
Hopefully, neither company decides to try and cash in while they still can and start making too many new products and over-producing popular ones. If they want their products to continue to hold value, they can’t make the next few years another junk wax era.
The truth is, we have no idea what will happen over the next few years or what will happen when Fanatics takes everything over. It’s fun to speculate, but also a tad scary.
Whether you are for or against this massive news, it is certainly a new and exciting time for collectors and hobby lovers. Not so much for Topps and Panini.
Want to catch more sports card collecting and hobby action every week? Tune into The Hobby Half-Hour with Lil’ Rik and DB every Friday evening at 6 EST. Catch the latest episode below for more Fanatics/Topps/Panini news!