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MLB Agrees to Trading Card Contract With Fanatics, Ending 70-Year Topps Partnership

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 19, 2021

Rain drops cover the Major League Baseball logo before the start of Game 3 of the American League baseball championship series between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Kansas City, Mo. The Royals lead the series 2-0. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum )
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Major League Baseball and the players association have reportedly agreed to provide exclusive trading card licensing rights to Fanatics, according to Darren Rovell of Action Network.

The MLBPA deal will reportedly start in 2023 while the MLB deal begins in 2026.

This deal would seemingly end the league's longtime partnership with Topps, which has been making baseball cards since 1951. The card company paid the players' union $20.4 million in 2020 for the players' likeness rights, making it the biggest licensing agreement for the MLBPA, per Rovell.

According to Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a memo that the MLBPA deal is 10 times bigger than any previous agreement. Clark noted it is part of a series of deals that will bring in $2 billion through 2045.

Rovell reported Topps was given the opportunity to match the offer from Fanatics but declined.

Fanatics began as an apparel company in 1995 and has continued to grow with its licensing rights. Starting in 2020, Nike and Fanatics became the exclusive supplier of uniforms and footwear in MLB. 

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani signed an exclusive memorabilia deal with Fanatics last month.

The move to trading cards continues the trend while getting into an industry that has soared in recent years. Earlier this month, a Honus Wagner card sold for $6.606 million to set a record for a sports card.