Michael Rubin: Pioneering the Future of Topps and Fanatics

On a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin offered a glimpse into the future of Topps and Fanatics, sharing his enthusiasm for their venture into the collectibles market. Rubin’s insights shed light on their innovative initiatives, strategic partnerships, and commitment to driving growth and evolution in the trading card industry.

One notable initiative is the Topps MVP Buyback program, which aims to support hobby shops and engage collectors. Under this program, collectors can trade in their Topps Chrome cards featuring current MVPs and receive store credit in return. This ingenious scheme not only benefits collectors but also strengthens the bond between Topps, collectors, and local hobby shops. Rubin’s personal relationships with key figures in the sports world have played a pivotal role in driving rapid and effective changes within Fanatics/Topps.

Another exciting program discussed by Rubin is the MLB Debut patch program. This innovative idea, brought forward by Mike Mahan of Fanatics Collectibles, features game-used patches from rookies’ first MLB uniforms. Thanks to quick discussions with MLBPA President Tony Clark and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, this program has become a reality, further enhancing the value and appeal of collectibles for fans.

Rubin admits to a learning curve upon entering the trading card industry, particularly regarding redemption cards. In response to feedback from collectors and hobbyists expressing dissatisfaction with these cards, Topps has successfully reduced their presence in packs by 75-80%. This improvement has been achieved by optimizing the process of obtaining player signatures, ensuring a more efficient and fulfilling experience for collectors.

Addressing concerns about card distribution fairness, particularly suspicions around breakers receiving preferentially “loaded” boxes, Rubin has enlisted the services of an independent auditor to monitor and ensure transparency in how Fanatics’ cards are packaged and distributed. This move demonstrates Rubin’s commitment to maintaining integrity and fair practices within the industry.

Since the acquisition of Topps, Rubin has shown dedication to growth and development within the company. Under his leadership, the workforce at Topps has doubled, highlighting the company’s commitment to expanding their capabilities and evolving the brand. This investment in human resources is an integral part of Rubin’s overarching strategy to enhance Topps’ position in the market and meet the evolving needs of collectors.

Rubin emphasizes the importance of innovation in the trading card industry, drawing parallels to brands like Nike that continually reinvent their offerings. Topps has embraced this philosophy by transforming product launches into significant, highly-publicized events. This approach creates excitement and anticipation among collectors, ensuring that Topps’ products remain sought-after and relevant.

An excellent example of Topps’ innovative spirit is the upcoming 2023 Bowman Draft, set to be released on December 12. This release is generating buzz for its inclusion of autographs from top prospects and leveraging Fanatics’ endorsement deal with legendary quarterback Tom Brady. Rubin’s personal connection with Brady, a Super Bowl champion and former Montreal Expos draft pick, hints at the possibility of exclusive Brady cards in this release, adding an element of rarity and excitement for collectors.

In conclusion, Michael Rubin’s conversation with Bill Simmons offers valuable insights into the future of Topps and Fanatics. It highlights their commitment to innovation, growth, and the pursuit of excellence in the trading card industry. With innovative programs, strategic partnerships, and a genuine passion for the hobby, Fanatics and Topps continue to shape the industry and provide collectors with unique, highly sought-after collectibles.