The world found out what Fanatics Collectibles is up to on Thursday. What the eventual reaction will be to the player worn MLB Debut patch cards we’re going to see at some point later this year remains to be seen. That kind of depends on what the cards look like. Overall, though, the idea illustrates that Fanatics is trying to make some things happen.
MLB and Fanatics are certainly getting a healthy dose of publicity from the new initiative that will put a patch from a player’s first game jersey into a trading card product (when or what we still don’t know).
The general feeling from fans and collectors seemed to be positive on Thursday, but then again, just about anything announced on Opening Day gets a warm, fuzzy reaction from the baseball community.
It’s the type of thing you’d expect with Fanatics’ tight alliances with MLB and the Player’s Association. If they don’t “bring fans closer to the game” through cards and collectibles, they’re screwing up. I’d expect we’ll see similar ideas come to fruition as Fanatics continues to expand its foothold on the hobby.
Anything actually game-used from a modern player in any sport is welcome in a hobby where the origin of swatches has become more than a little murky. It seems to be what a lot of collectors want—no matter how small—but this is something much better than average.
The fact that baseball cards were as big topic of conversation on Opening Day is a huge win for Fanatics and for anyone in the hobby that wants to see it grow. They’re being talked about by those who cover the games —and you can bet MLB will encourage that. After a rookie goes 3 for 4 in his debut you can hear the announcer saying “well, that’ll be a valuable baseball card.” Because of the publicity, it’ll be in the mind of the general public—at least for a while.
Fanatics called it the “biggest innovation in a generation,” but it seems like the print-on-demand concept—one that included game-used relic cards and autographs from milestone moments throughout the season—might have something to say about that. Those cards put a ton of money into Topps’ coffers before the sale to Fanatics, too, at as time when they probably needed it.
One thing it should do is to put a little jolt of excitement into whatever later season products these wind up in. This idea got a lot of mainstream publicity but ultimately it’s a move done primarily with the collecting community in mind.
The thing is, though, we already have a lot of 1/1 cards. Sure, the Rookie Debut patch will be game-used and unique. It will most likely become that player’s most valuable rookie card (although collectors will ultimately decide that).
For collectors, the question may become whether the idea is eventually watered down by the number of rookies who will appear in games over the course of a few of years but don’t really make an impact. The primary target market for those could bring it all full circle: the rookie who originally wore it.