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Merch master Fanatics buys Topps for a reported $500M to bring trading cards into the future

Wednesday, January 5, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |
“I have the same jersey as an NFT” [RgStudio/E+ via Getty Images]

“I have the same jersey as an NFT” [RgStudio/E+ via Getty Images]

The MVP of sports merch… is now also the MVP of sports cards. This week, sports merch business Fanatics bought 70-year-old sports-card icon Topps for a reported $500M. Now, Fanatics owns the rights to sell trading cards of players in the MLB, NBA, and NFL. (BTW: Topps also owns Ring Pops and Bazooka gum, but its nostalgic candy biz wasn’t part of the deal.)

  • Partner powerhouse: Fanatics pays 300+ teams and brands — like the NFL, Manchester United, and Nascar — to sell their merch as an official partner.
  • Versatile player: Fanatics’ valuation nearly tripled to $18B last year, and it split into four companies: merch, trading cards, gaming, and NFTs.
  • MVP: Fanatics’ own cards biz is already worth $10B itself. Fanatics owns 80% of it, and players and investors own 20%.

The Tesla of trading cards… Trading cards have boomed during the pandemic, fueled by growing interest in digital collectibles like NFTs. To cash in on the collecti-craze, Fanatics first teamed up with the NFL and NBA. Now, by buying Topps and partnering with the MLB, Fanatics can also sell baseball cards, both physical and digital. Last year, Topps reportedly sold $560M of physical and digital cards in 100 countries.

THE TAKEAWAY

The Disney-fication of sports could be digital… Just as Disney turned its popular characters into park rides, video games, and stuffed animals, Fanatics hopes to milk its sports rights for all they’re worth. As Fanatics buys the rights to fan-favorite sports licenses, official Yankees NFTs and digital Tom Brady jerseys could be coming soon. Startup Top Shot has sold over $800M worth of NBA NFTs since launching in 2020, including a nearly $400K LeBron NFT. The NFT market is expected to expand more than 5X by 2025, with much of its growth driven by sports collectibles.