There were a lot of long, stunned faces in the hobby in August of 2021 when news broke that Fanatics had been granted the exclusive rights to produce baseball cards … and football cards … and basketball cards.
It was the end of the hobby as we knew it.
Topps and Panini were dead.
The sky was falling.
And, while a lot of that may still come to pass, a huge weight was lifted off old collectors’ shoulders in early January of 2022 when (cardboard drumroll, please) … Fanatics acquired Topps!
Though we won’t know the full fallout from all this for years or decades, we can make some educated guesses right now, less than 24 hours after the latest new broke, about what this acquisition means for the hobby.
So here, as seen through the thick, thick lenses of an old dude who remembers why Don Mattingly and Donruss were more important to the future of the hobby than Upper Deck and Ken Griffey Jr., are five developments we might see in the next few years, along with the likelihood of those things actually happening:
1) 2023 Topps Baseball Cards (100%)
This is the biggie.
As things stood before January 3, 2022, Topps was set to lose their MLBPA license after 2022, while they were going to retain their MLB license until 2025.
What that meant was that Topps could no longer produce cards of current players beginning in 2023.
But, while Fanatics could produce cards of current players beginning next year, they didn’t have an MLB license — no logos.
So, we were likely looking at a landscape consisting of:
- Bowman cards that featured prospects who had never played in the majors
- Topps cards that featured retired players
- Fanatics cards that featured current players, but in Panini-esque, clean-wiped uniforms
Well, now, the pieces have been gathered under one roof, and all that’s left to do is to put Humpty Dumpty back together again, even before he’s been completely shattered asunder.
You can pretty much bank on there being 2023 Topps cards, then, as the whole reason Fanatics bought the brand was to lean on the history and swagger of The Real One.
NOT issuing full-on, current-player Topps cards would be akin to buying the biggest, baddest mansion on the block and then throwing a huge blanket over it while you went about building something you thought would be better over however many years that might take.
You can also count on Bowman continuing on, too, but that wasn’t much in doubt for 2023.
2) 2025 Fanatics Baseball Cards (50%)
Fanatics may or may not try to put out their own, non-Topps version of baseball cards in 2023.
The timeline seems tight, especially since they now have to figure out how to fold Topps into their mix and prepare for, um, other ventures.
But after a few years, by the time Fanatics was initially set to take over baseball fully, they’ll have a better handle on the market and very may well decide the world needs another card label or two.
If they do, the thing may or may not actually be called “Fanatics,” but that’s what it will be.
Now, about those other ventures …
3) 2026 Topps Football Cards (90%)
Hallelujah and pass the pigskin-flavored bubble gum!
Topps lost the right to produce NFL cards in 2016 to Panini, ending a 71-year gridiron run for The Real One.
With Fanatics now owning Topps, and with Fanatics owning exclusive NFL and NFLPA rights as of 2026, the existence of 2026 Topps Football Cards is all but a done deal.
Now, all Fanatics needs to do is figure out how erase what will be a decade’s long divorce.
And, speaking of cardboard divorces, you can also (probably) count on …
4) 2026 Topps Basketball Cards (90%)
Basically the same story here, except that Topps’ relationship with hoops cards has been pretty spotty over the decades, with enough of gaps in coverage that their current absence feel like a lesser affront than the lack of mushy brown cardboard (or its children and grandchildren) in football.
Still, wouldn’t it be nifty to have Topps basketball cards after nearly 20 years (by 2026) without them?
Yeah, and it would also be pretty cool to have …
5) 2026 Topps Hockey Cards (25%)
This one is the longest shot on my list, but it’s still at least possible.
As things stand now, Upper Deck has the full rights to produce NHL cards, but if Fanatics can outbid all comers for the baseball and football and basketball licenses, and if they can buy Topps, well …
You see where I’m going with this.
Not a slam dunk (or lacrosse goal), but not out of the realm of possibility, either.
And then, for the first time in a long, long time, the Big Four would be reunited.
If that happens, maybe this whole Fanatics deal will have worked out OK, after all.