On a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, Michael Rubin, the CEO of Fanatics, shared exciting insights into the company’s entry into the world of collectibles. Following the acquisition of Topps and the establishment of Fanatics Collectibles nearly two years ago, 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. This innovative scheme aims to boost business for hobby shops by offering collectors store credit in exchange for Topps Chrome cards featuring current MVPs. Rubin’s personal relationships with key figures in the sports world have played a crucial role in enabling rapid and effective changes at Fanatics/Topps.
During the podcast, Rubin also discussed the MLB Debut patch program. This program, a brainchild of Mike Mahan from Fanatics Collectibles, became a reality through quick discussions with MLBPA President Tony Clark and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. It showcases game-used patches from rookies’ first MLB uniforms, adding a special touch to collectors’ items.
While admitting to a learning curve upon entering the trading card industry, Rubin highlighted his commitment to addressing collector feedback. One area of concern was redemption cards, which often left collectors dissatisfied. In response, Topps has successfully reduced the presence of redemption cards in packs by 75-80%, ensuring that player signatures are obtained more efficiently.
Addressing concerns about card distribution fairness, particularly suspicions of preferential treatment for breakers receiving “loaded” boxes, Rubin has taken steps to ensure transparency. An independent auditor has been brought in to monitor how Fanatics’ cards are packaged and distributed, ensuring a level playing field for all collectors.
Under Rubin’s leadership, the workforce at Topps has doubled since the company’s acquisition, demonstrating a steadfast commitment to growth and development within the organization. This increase in staff is part of a larger strategy to enhance and evolve the Topps brand.
Rubin emphasized the importance of innovation in the industry, drawing inspiration from brands like Nike, who continually reinvent their offerings. This philosophy is evident in Topps’ approach to product launches, turning them into significant, highly-publicized events that excite collectors and fans alike.
The upcoming release of the 2023 Bowman Draft on December 12 is a clear example of this innovative spirit. Apart from featuring autographs from top prospects, this release also leverages Fanatics’ endorsement deal with Tom Brady. Rubin’s personal connection with Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion and a former Montreal Expos draft pick, hints at the inclusion of special Brady cards in this release, adding an exclusive and coveted element to this year’s Bowman Draft.
In conclusion, Rubin’s conversation with Bill Simmons shed light on a blend of passion, strategic thinking, and an unwavering commitment to innovation in Fanatics’ approach to the trading card industry and collectibles market. As Fanatics and Topps continue to make waves, collectors and enthusiasts can look forward to an exciting future filled with groundbreaking initiatives and captivating products.