MLB will end 70-year deal with trading card company Topps

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2019 Topps baseball cards and 2019-2020 Panini Chronicles basketball cards.
Sam Rega

Major League Baseball will abandon Topps as its partner for trading cards, ending a relationship that’s been in place since 1952.

Fanatics, the company that makes sports apparel, is expected to get the trading card deal instead, according to two people familiar with the matter. Fanatics and MLB declined to comment.

MLB renewed its deal with Topps in 2018, and the existing deal ends in 2025. MLB Players’ Association deal also aligns with the league, so its deal would end too.

In the agreement with Topps, MLB gets a royalty on products sold with its intellectual property. Baseball departing is a blow to Topps as the powerhouse announced it would go public last April. The trading cards entered a SPAC merger with Mudrick Capital Acquisition Corp. II, which is listed on the Nasdaq, valuing Topps at $1.3 billion.

Topps was a public company before being taken private following a $385 million deal in 2007. The company was founded in 1938 and became well-known for its distribution of trading cards, including the 1952 Mickey Mantle card which sold for $5.2 million last January.  With MLB out, Topps is left with licensing deals with leagues including Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League.

Meanwhile, it’s likely MLB will turn to Fanatics in some capacity to produce physical trading cards. MLB owns equity in the company, and it recently give its NFT rights to Fanatic-owned Candy Digital. In addition, Fanatics already owns all of MLB’s e-commerce rights, and wants to grow its business outside of sports merchandising, and want to grow in areas including sports betting.

Earlier this month, Fanatics secured a $325 million money raise to expand and now valued at $18 billion.

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