Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin was a guest on the Bill Simmons podcast this week and part of the conversation toward the end of the show was about the company’s move into collectibles.
After buying Topps and creating Fanatics Collectibles nearly two years ago, Rubin says he’s “never had so much fun” but that “there’s lots of things to still fix.”
Rubin highlighted the Topps MVP Buyback program that’s driven business to hobby shops through the trade-in program that puts store credit in the hands of collectors in exchange for Topps Chrome cards of the current MVPs.
Rubin’s personal relationships with players and league executives that have enabled Fanatics/Topps to make things happen quickly.
He says the idea for the MLB Debut patch program that puts game-used patches from a rookie’s first MLB uniform came from Mike Mahan, who was hired to run Fanatics Collectibles. Phone calls to MLBPA President Tony Clark and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred about a year ago quickly made the deal come together.
Rubin admitted when he bought Topps, “I didn’t know what a redemption card was.” Collectors and hobby businesses relayed their displeasure with the current situation and Rubin says he made a concerted effort to change it. Topps has since been able to reduce redemption cards by 75-80 percent by working with the players to get cards signed and into packs.
In regard to complaints form collectors about breakers supposedly receiving “loaded” boxes, Rubin says the company has hired an independent auditor to monitor how the company’s cards are packaged and distributed.
Rubin says he’s also increased payroll.
“We’ve doubled the team at Topps since we bought the company,” he said.
He says Topps is using the launches of some of its most popular products and turning them into events that garner publicity.
“If Nike did the same thing every year and just did the same thing, the business would fade. We need to keep innovating.”
The company’s next major launch is 2023 Bowman Draft, set for release on Dec. 12. In addition to the top prospect autographs that are part of the checklist, Fanatics’ endorsement deal with Tom Brady—and Rubin’s friendship with the seven-time Super Bowl champion and former Montreal Expos draft pick—means Topps will have some fun with the annual release.
“We have some Brady cards coming that are going to be spectacular.”