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Fanatics Gobbles Topps: Heartburn for Sports Retailers? eBay?

Fanatics Gobbles Topps: Heartburn for Sports Retailers? eBay?

As Fanatics gobbles Topps, does it spell heartburn for sports retailers? And possibly for eBay? CNBC reported that the Fanatics wants to sell trading cards directly to consumers. “For example, should collectors purchase a trading card, they’ll be able to insure the asset, grade, store and even put cards on a marketplace to sell or trade through Fanatics,” the publication wrote.

Fanatics explained in a press release announcing the acquisition (which CNBC said was likely in the $500 million range):

“Fanatics Trading Cards was launched in 2021 after the company secured exclusive, long-term trading cards rights from several of the leading professional sports leagues and players associations, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).

“The addition of Topps, which also has rights with Major League Soccer, Formula 1, UEFA and Bundesliga, significantly accelerates the buildout of the Fanatics Trading Cards business, as the company adds world-class expertise, infrastructure, an iconic brand and a broad range of capabilities from the industry leader.

“The deal jumpstarts Fanatics Trading Cards’ MLB and MLBPA rights to design, manufacture and distribute trading cards, which begins immediately versus the original combined start date of 2026.”

The acquisition comes despite a federal antitrust lawsuit last month from a merchandiser and consumer against Fanatics and the National Football League, which has a stake in Fanatics “claiming they’ve conspired to monopolize NFL product sales through Amazon.com Inc.’s third-party marketplace,” according to Bloomberg Law.

We’ve previously reported on the impact the relationship between Fanatics and sports leagues have had on legitimate retailers and sellers, such as this AuctionBytes Blog post from 2017.

As I noted at the time, there were rumors that the Justice Department might have been mulling an antitrust investigation. Fanatics is clearly not letting litigation and possible investigations interfere with its colossal expansion plans.

It’s possible that with Fanatics entering the direct-to-consumer trading-card field, eBay and its third-party sellers could be impacted. eBay has been pouring resources into the category as part of its much-discussed vertical strategy.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

2 thoughts on “Fanatics Gobbles Topps: Heartburn for Sports Retailers? eBay?”

  1. No surprise that they bought Topps. After all the exclusive deals with MLB, NFL, and NBA, Topps was pretty much a conclusion that Fanatics will buy the brand name.

    I do not like Fanatics, so my collecting of new stuff is over.

    Plenty of vintage cads to collect.

  2. Fanatics also needed the Topps printing and manufacturing plants. They had a bunch of contracts giving them the rights to make sports cards but no way to actually produce them. Fanatics might even choose to keep the well-known Topps brand for the cards rather than confusing buyers with a rebrand.

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