So that didn’t take long. This was always the most obvious logical move where rather than trying to start a trading card company from scratch Fanatics would buy Topps and acquire both a trading card manufacturer and the legacy of the brand that is synonymous with sports cards in this country. When the news officially broke officially yesterday there was a collective sigh of relief across the hobby as people realized that there was no longer a looming deadline followed by a big question mark about WTF was going to happen next.
It’s good news for the hobby. The collectors who appreciate the legacy being continued get to maintain that connection to the history of baseball. And the speculators who Fanatics looks to be courting get a certain guarantee of stability that things will continue on reliably.
My kids are happy. As should I be. Yet when I read about the announcement my initial gut reaction was one of disappointment.
That reaction caught me by surprise. I have a record of calling Topps the “card of record” and the idea of keeping losing that legacy—even though current Topps seems completely uninterested in embracing it—is what I hated most about the original Fanatics news. Sitting on it a bit, I realized that as much as I’m pessimistic about the direction Fanatics was going to go as long as it was run by a Sneakerhead, I had actually been looking forward to the upheaval.
I love the idea of Topps Flagship as a record of the nature of the game each season. Everything else though? I wouldn’t miss at all, especially the way Topps has been filing the unique edges off of every release and turning them into a mishmash of uninspired pack filler that gets tossed in the trash after the “hits” are pulled. So many of the current releases appear to just be churned out formulaically. No professional pride, just a desire to get stuff out because it’ll sell out no matter how bad or boring it is.
Not that I expect Fanatics to be any better here. Business after all is about making money efficiently not creating good products. But Fanatics has a different business model and distribution network. Creating products that support its existing infrastructure could’ve resulted in stuff that looked very different than what we’re used to. Which is really all I’m still hoping for in the next couple of years.
Fanatics is now making cards sooner than we all expected them too. They’re probably not going to rock the boat too much productwise to start whatwith lead times being close to a year. Distributionwise though I’m on alert and fully expecting some changes in that department—hopefully resulting in cards being more available again. And of course starting next year there should be some changes creeping in the product side.
Or at least I hope that there are changes. As reassuring as it sounds to say that nothing will change, we’re desperately in need of some change and fresh ideas.