On a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin shared his insights into the company’s exciting foray into collectibles, following their acquisition of Topps and the creation of Fanatics Collectibles two years ago. Rubin’s discussion with Simmons revealed a blend of passion, strategic thinking, and a commitment to innovation in Fanatics’ approach to the trading card industry and collectibles market.
One notable initiative 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 of current MVPs. Rubin’s personal relationships with key figures in the sports world have been instrumental in enabling rapid and effective changes at Fanatics/Topps.
Another exciting program discussed by Rubin is the MLB Debut patch program, an idea conceptualized by Mike Mahan of Fanatics Collectibles. Thanks to quick discussions with MLBPA President Tony Clark and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, this program became a reality. It features game-used patches from rookies’ first MLB uniforms, adding a unique and special element to collectors’ items.
While entering the trading card industry, Rubin admitted to facing a learning curve, particularly around redemption cards. He took the feedback from collectors and hobbyists seriously, considering their dissatisfaction with these cards. As a result, Topps has successfully reduced the presence of redemption cards in packs by 75-80%, ensuring that player signatures are obtained more efficiently.
Addressing concerns regarding fairness in card distribution, specifically suspicions of breakers receiving preferentially “loaded” boxes, Rubin has taken steps to ensure transparency. An independent auditor now monitors how Fanatics’ cards are packaged and distributed, ensuring equal opportunities for collectors.
One remarkable aspect of Rubin’s leadership is evident in the growth of Topps since its acquisition. The workforce at Topps has doubled, highlighting the commitment to growth and development within the company. 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 parallels to brands like Nike, which continually reinvent their offerings. Topps follows a similar philosophy when launching their popular products, treating them as significant, publicized events. This approach generates excitement and anticipation among collectors.
An excellent example of Topps’ innovative spirit is the upcoming 2023 Bowman Draft, set for release on December 12. This release stands out for incorporating autographs from top prospects and leveraging Fanatics’ endorsement deal with Tom Brady. Rubin’s personal connection with Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl champion and former Montreal Expos draft pick, hints at special Brady cards in this release, adding an exclusive and enticing element to this year’s Bowman Draft.
In conclusion, Michael Rubin’s discussion with Bill Simmons reveals his passion, strategic thinking, and commitment to innovation in Fanatics’ approach to the trading card industry and collectibles market. Through initiatives like the Topps MVP Buyback program, partnerships with key figures in sports, and a focus on growth and development, Fanatics is poised to make a significant impact in the industry.