Fanatics’ Topps is putting Tom Brady on a Montreal Expos trading card

Tom Brady Baseball Card

Courtesy: Fanatics Topps

When sports platform Fanatics acquired trading card company Topps in January 2022 for roughly $500 million, part of the investment thesis for Fanatics was that there was an opportunity to not only create more products for the already passionate collector, but also for the wider group of sports fans that had little exposure to trading cards and collectibles.

That has included some new sales experiments not traditionally seen in the trading cards market, like jersey patches for prominent rookies and livestream shopping, with high-profile collectors opening packs at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

One of the most anticipated yearly releases for baseball card collectors is the Topps Bowman Draft set, the first time MLB draftees are featured on a card. While the odds of a prospect making the majors are historically low, the chance for collectors to get the first card of a potential Hall of Famer makes it one of the most popular trading card sets under the Topps umbrella.

But there was one MLB draftee who was a lock for the Hall of Fame, albeit in another sport: Tom Brady.

Brady, well-known for his NFL career, was drafted in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB Draft by the Montreal Expos. When Mike Mahan, CEO of Fanatics Collectibles — the arm within Fanatics that oversees Topps and its cards and collectibles business — heard that Brady never had a baseball card, it fit perfectly into what the company is trying to do with trading cards.

“When we think about our products and brands, we really think about product segmentation; we think about something for everyone,” said Mahan, who was previously the CEO of Dick Clark Productions prior to joining Fanatics in June 2022. “But as we think about what we want to do, we just want collecting to be fun. … have fun and do so in a way that we think is authentic and fits within the narrative and storytelling that we do,” Mahan added.

LINWOOD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 30: (L-R) Travis Scott, Michael Rubin, Kevin Hart and Tom Brady attend Fanatics and Topps ‘Hobby Rip Night’ Event with Michael Rubin, Tom Brady, Kevin Hart and Travis Scott on September 30, 2023 in Linwood, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Fanatics)

Dave Kotinsky | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Releasing on Tuesday, the Topps 2023 Bowman Draft set will have 162 Brady cards randomly dispersed across packs, with 81 of those featuring autographs. Fanatics Collectibles is also creating a variety of Brady-related content linked to what his career would have looked like if he had chosen baseball instead of football.

Leaning further into the broader Fanatics ecosystem, retro jersey producer Mitchell & Ness (acquired by Fanatics last year) will also be selling No. 12 Brady Expos jerseys. “We want to do things that are unique and differentiated, and when you gain that trust of the athletes, leagues, and partners, it just completes the circle and that helps us make things feel bigger and more important to really galvanize not only the collecting community but the sports community at large,” Mahan said.

Fanatics Collectibles is on track for a record year, Mahan said, pointing to the strength and growth of the card collecting industry even as there are larger challenges in the economy. While Mahan declined to comment further on the financials of Topps, the company had previously reported record sales of $567 million in 2020 (at a time when it was preparing for a later scrapped initial public offering), then a 23% year-over-year increase.

“I think that this industry is growing; it may not feel like it compared to Covid, but for our business in particular, the things that we are doing are working across our portfolio very well,” Mahan said.