Earlier this month, news broke out that Fanatics Inc. will soon become MLB's exclusive trading card producer, ousting Topps in the process. Soon after, a tweet from Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium revealed that the license to produce NBA cards will soon transfer from Panini to the sports retail company in 2026.
Now, the NFL is on its way to join them:
NFL Players Association is leaving Panini and signing a 20-year trading cards deal with Fanatics starting in 2026, per sources. And so the NFLPA is now joining MLB/MLBPA and NBA/NBPA in a new Fanatics trading cards company. All parties will have equity stakes in the new venture.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 25, 2021
The NFL Players Association has come to a 20-year exclusive deal with Fanatics to produce football cards starting in 2026. It remains to be seen whether the NFL's official license will follow suit after its Players Association reached this agreement with Fanatics, but the assumption is it will.
In a short period of time, the exclusive rights from the NBA, NFL, and MLB are now on their way to Fanatics. In the latter's case, this marks the end of Topps' decades-long tenure as the top brand when it comes to baseball cards. These recent moves will also signal the end to Panini's basketball and football card production, which started during the early part of the 2010s.
For their part, Panini is expected to focus more on soccer and UFC once their exclusive deals with the NBA and NFL run out. Topps, on the other hand, is being rumored to be purchased by Fanatics and absorbed into their operations in the coming years.
With the Big 3 of basketball, baseball, and football cards under their umbrella, Fanatics will be overseeing a potential monopoly soon. It remains to be seen whether these recent developments will bode well for the card market and the hobby itself when they take hold of these league's respective licenses in 2026.