Another Blow to the Future of Topps?

Yet another blow has come to the Topps company as it was announced at the end of October that it will be losing yet another official license from its portfolio, WWE Professional Wrestling. Having already been dealt a huge blow to its license portfolio with the loss of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), the question on our minds is how will Topps survive?

In a weird twist of fate, the new licensee for WWE wrestling cards will be Panini, who was also dealt a severe blow when it was announced that the NBA and NFL were jumping ship and joining the MLB with exclusive licensing deals with Fanatics. Unlike the MLB deal which goes into effect in 2026, the new licensing deal with the WWE is almost immediate, with the licensing transfer occurring in the beginning of 2022, giving Topps mere months to finish rolling out any existing planned WWE product before Panini becomes the exclusive license holder.

Having lost the 70-year hold on baseball, and now losing professional wrestling as well, Topps has been left with only Major League Soccer, Bundesliga, and UEFA Champions League licenses, all sports which, although they have a strong following, are not as prevalent in the United States as baseball, or professional wrestling which enjoys a dedicated, almost cult following. Combined with Panini’s continued hold on FIFA, NASCAR and the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and Upper Deck’s hold on professional hockey, Topps is left with very little options in bringing on new sports card licenses.

In recent years Topps has ramped up production of non-sports and entertainment trading cards, including such titles as Garbage Pail Kids, Wacky Packages and Star Wars, while also maintaining printing of National Hockey League stickers (not trading cards as Upper Deck holds that exclusive license). So, where does Topps go from here?

In my opinion, Topps has a few options available to them that could see them through the storm and possibly help them keep their heads above water. The first option is selling of intellectual property (IP) to the new license holder of MLB and MLBPA – Topps maintains several brands in its portfolio which have become synonymous with collectors, including Bowman, Allen & Ginter, Archives, Stadium Club, etc. that could be sold to Fanatics who might be interested in maintaining the brand and capturing the dedicated collector following of these brands (I mean come on, everyone wants those 1st Bowman cards).

Topps could in turn take proceeds from those IP sales and use it to either expand their current production of entertainment and non-sports trading cards, or secure new deals with sports leagues or entertainment producers. One potential for adding a sports license to their portfolio would be for Topps to buy Parkside Collectibles, the current official license holder for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), or outbid Parkside for the official NWSL license. Considering Topps already maintains the official license for Major League Soccer, this move could put Topps as the reigning king of American Soccer, much like Upper Deck has maintained its hold on official NHL trading cards.

The last option would be for Topps to simply concede and sell entirely to Fanatics, including all its current licensing deals and intellectual property, allowing for Fanatics to decide what brands will remain in print, and which ones will be lost to history.

Regardless of which path Topps chooses to go, I think that one thing is certain – original Topps brands are going to see an incredible uptick in value after Topps stops producing MLB trading cards, which could be fueled even further if Topps decides to not sell any of its brands or IP to Fanatics, effectively ending all its iconic brands. In either event, stocking up on sealed wax product of Topps MLB products has probably never had more potential for profit than now!

*Disclaimer: Investing in trading cards, comic books, memorabilia, and any other item involves substantial risk of loss and is not suitable for everyone. Cardboard Prospector does not provide financial advice, and none of our articles or opinions should be construed as financial or investment advice. We do not guarantee results from your decision making based on our opinions and content. You should always conduct your own research and due diligence prior to making any investment.

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