During a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, Michael Rubin, CEO of Fanatics, opened up about the company’s future plans for Topps and their dedication to innovation in the trading card industry. With their acquisition of Topps and the creation of Fanatics Collectibles, Rubin expressed great enthusiasm for this new venture while acknowledging the need for improvement and refinement in certain areas.
One of the notable initiatives led by Rubin is the Topps MVP Buyback program, which aims to boost business for hobby shops by offering collectors store credit in exchange for Topps Chrome cards featuring current MVPs. Rubin’s strong personal relationships with key figures in the sports world have been instrumental in enabling rapid and effective changes at Fanatics/Topps.
Rubin also discussed the MLB Debut patch program, an idea brought to life thanks to Mike Mahan of Fanatics Collectibles. The program, made possible through quick discussions with MLBPA President Tony Clark and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, showcases game-used patches from rookies’ first MLB uniforms, adding a unique touch to the collectibles.
However, Rubin admitted to facing a learning curve in the trading card industry, specifically around the issue of redemption cards. Taking the feedback from collectors and hobbyists seriously, Topps has successfully reduced the presence of redemption cards in packs by 75-80%, streamlining the process of obtaining player signatures more efficiently.
Addressing concerns regarding fairness of card distribution, especially the suspicion of breakers receiving preferentially “loaded” boxes, Rubin has taken a proactive approach by bringing in an independent auditor to monitor how Fanatics’ cards are packaged and distributed. This move demonstrates the company’s commitment to transparency and ensuring a level playing field for collectors.
Under Rubin’s leadership, the workforce at Topps has doubled since its acquisition, signaling a strong commitment to growth and development within the company. This increase in staff aligns with a larger strategy to enhance and evolve the Topps brand, catering to the ever-evolving demands of the market.
Rubin emphasized the importance of innovation in the industry, citing brands like Nike as examples of continually reinventing their offerings. This philosophy is reflected in Topps’ approach to launching their popular products, transforming them into significant and highly publicized events that generate excitement among collectors.
An upcoming release that epitomizes this innovative spirit is the 2023 Bowman Draft, set to be released on December 12. This edition is noteworthy for featuring autographs from top prospects and leveraging Fanatics’ endorsement deal with Tom Brady. Rubin’s personal connection with Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion and former Montreal Expos draft pick, hints at the possibility of exclusive Brady cards in the 2023 Bowman Draft, adding an element of exclusivity to this year’s release.
In conclusion, Michael Rubin’s conversation with Bill Simmons shed light on a blend of passion, strategic thinking, and a commitment to innovation in Fanatics’ approach to the trading card industry and the collectibles market. With initiatives like the Topps MVP Buyback program, the MLB Debut patch program, and a focus on reducing the presence of redemption cards, Fanatics is poised to reshape and enhance the trading card industry with fresh ideas and a dedication to the highest standards of quality and fairness.