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While Topps baseball cards have been a staple of the baseball card collecting hobby for decades, 2022 does represent major change and uncertainty for the future of Topps and their baseball card license. It is too early to say definitively that 2022 will be the absolute last year for Topps baseball cards.

Topps has held the exclusive license to produce Major League Baseball player cards since 1981. Their current license expired after the 2021 season. In late 2021, Major League Baseball opted not to renew their license exclusively with Topps, instead choosing to partner with Fanatics, the dominant online seller of sports merchandise, memorabilia and collectibles.

Fanatics then signed a multi-year deal to be the exclusive producer and licensor of MLB player cards and trading cards starting in 2026. However, Topps was still granted a non-exclusive license to produce baseball cards through the 2025 season as part of a separate bridge agreement they made with MLB.

So while Topps lost their monopoly on the MLB player license, they do still have approval to make traditional baseball cards through 2025. Whether or not they choose to exercise that full license or not remains unclear. Topps may see reduced production and promotion of baseball cards in the coming years as Fanatics starts making their own MLB cards in 2026 with the full backing of the league.

There are also additional complicating factors that could impact Topps’ long-term participation in the baseball card market. Perhaps most significantly, Fanatics acquired Topps as a whole in January 2022 for around $500 million. So while Topps and Fanatics were competitors for the MLB license, they are now under the same corporate ownership.

Some industry analysts have speculated that Fanatics’ new ownership of Topps could mean they may scale back Topps’ baseball card offerings sooner than 2025 in order to more quickly transition the baseball card business fully under the Fanatics brand name. Others argue Fanatics may want both brands operating separately to maintain choice for collectors. But ultimate decisions will be up to Fanatics’ leadership.

Another consideration is the recent boom in popularity of digital collectibles and mainstream interest in NFTs (non-fungible tokens). Both Fanatics and Topps have been leaders in the online collectibles market and see potential opportunities there. It’s possible traditional paper baseball cards could see reduced focus and resources applied as companies explore greater profits in digital spaces.

And while baseball cards remain a popular part of the sports collectibles industry, there are signs of weaker growth and interest compared to the 1980s-90s peak. Declining popularity among young people could make Topps and Fanatics reconsider the profitability of paper baseball cards in the coming years. Waning interest could cause companies to shift investments elsewhere sooner.

Baseball card collectors and nostalgic fans provide a dedicated customer base that is unlikely to completely abandon paper cards. As long as there remains sufficient collector interest and profits, it’s reasonable to expect Topps to keep making traditional cards through the end of their current MLB license in 2025 barring any unforeseen circumstances.

While 2022 does usher in major changes with Topps losing their exclusive license and coming under Fanatics ownership – it’s too early to say with absolute certainty that this will definitively be the final year for Topps baseball cards without knowing Fanatics’ long-term strategy and how the collector market evolves. Topps still has approval to produce cards through 2025. Continued strong collector interest could prompt companies to preserve the traditional product for several more years. But alternative outcomes are also quite plausible given industry trends and the shift in MLB’s license holder. Only time will tell how Topps’ iconic baseball cards continue, or whether 2022 does indeed end up as their valedictory season after over 70 years of production. But for now, their catalog will keep expanding baseball’s nostalgic allure and link to history for another few years at minimum.


While Topps has been the dominant force in baseball cards for decades, holding the exclusive license from MLB, their monopoly came to an end in 2022 which has led to speculation that it may mark the end of an era for Topps baseball cards. The situation is complex with many moving parts, so it’s too early to say definitively if 2022 was truly the last year for Topps or if they will find a way to retain a prominent role in the baseball card market going forward.

To understand the changing landscape, we need to look at what precipitated this shift. Topps has held the exclusive license to produce official MLB cards since 1958 in a very favorable arrangement. In 2020 that deal was set to expire. Seeking to leverage their valuable rights and looking to create more competition and opportunities, MLB opened the license up for bidding for the first time. Two new entrants jumped at the chance – Fanatics, the dominant brand in sports merchandise, and The card company Panini, which had long held licenses for the NFL and NBA.

In early 2021, it was announced that MLB granted exclusive multi-year licenses to both Fanatics and Panini, ending Topps’ monopoly. While terms were not disclosed, the deals were undoubtedly much more lucrative for MLB than the arrangement with Topps. To make matters worse for Topps, Fanatics then acquired Topps as a whole later in 2021. So heading into 2022, Topps was now under the control of their new direct competition in Fanatics and their license was gone.

Some saw this as dooming Topps baseball cards. Without the official MLB rights and logo, their cards stood to lose value to collectors. And with Fanatics now owning the brand but also promoting their own MLB license, would they even want Topps to keep making cards? This led to speculation 2022 would be the swan song. The situation is more complex.

For one, Topps still retains the rights to use player names and stats under existing MLBPA players union deals. So their cards won’t completely lack substance. Also, Topps remains a massive brand with over 60 years of history and an entrenched collector base. Simply discontinuing the line would abandon that goodwill. Further, Fanatics may see value in Topps continuing as a lower-priced competitor to drive sales across the category by having multiple options at different price points.

We’ve also seen Fanatics take steps to keep Topps viable, like promoting both Topps and Fanatics/Panini cards on their commerce sites. They also didn’t disrupt Topps’ 2022 release schedule and plans. This suggests Fanatics sees room for both and isn’t aiming to immediately put Topps out of business, but rather transition the brand over time under the Fanatics corporate structure.

There’s also no guarantee the new Fanatics and Panini MLB deals lock them up long-term. Five years from now, conditions could open the door for Topps to potentially bid again themselves for a future MLB license.

While 2022 marked significant changes with the loss of Topps’ MLB license that understandably caused worry, it’s too early to say it was definitively their final year or they are doomed given the complexity of factors at play. Fanatics’ ownership of Topps provides both challenges and opportunities. With clever management of the brand, Topps baseball cards could certainly continue on for many years to come even without those official logo rights. Only time will tell how their role may evolve.


The vintage baseball card market continues to showcase tremendous appreciation as collectors and investors continue pouring money into the hobby. In just the last month, several blue-chip cards have shattered previous auction records. On March 15th, a 1909-11 T206 Honus Wagner baseball card graded PSA 1 sold for $3.12 million through Robert Edward Auctions, setting a new record for the most expensive baseball card ever sold. This particular Wagner example is considered the lowest graded example ever to cross the auction block in decades. Despite its poor condition, the iconic status and rarity of the card was still enough to drive it past the $3 million mark, over $1 million more than the previous record.

Another star name from baseball’s early 20th century golden era also set a new record. On April 10th, an ungraded 1909 Erie Caramel E90-1-US Eddie Plank card realized $177,580 through Heritage Auctions. No higher graded example of this ultra-rare pre-1909 tobacco issue Plank card has ever sold publicly before. The card had spent decades hidden away in a family collection and Heritage experts were surprised to unearth it leading up to their Spring Sports Catalog auction. Bidders clearly recognized the tremendous find and value involved here to push it so far past the $100,000 mark into uncharted territory for the legendary pitcher.

Modern star cards are continuing to prove themselves as sound long term investments as well. In early April, a 2002 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks Refractors #64 Jim Thome rookie card, graded PSA 10, sold for $94,500. This shattered the $30,000 price tag a similar example brought just 5 months ago. Thome is a future Hall of Famer and one of the top power hitters of his generation, and enthusiasm for his legendary rookie remains strong among collectors. Another power hitter from the late 1990s/early 2000s boom saw huge auction results recently too. A 1998 Bowman’s Best Refractors #388 Barry Bonds rookie card, graded PSA 9, sold on March 31st through Goldin Auctions for $93,000. Bonds’ single season and career home run records still stand today despite controversies around performance enhancing drug use later in his career. His impeccably centered 1998 rookie clearly holds meaningful nostalgia and demand in the marketplace.

Even retired star veterans are seeing significant price increases in recent vintage auctions. On April 24th, a 1984 Topps Traded #T127 Ryne Sandberg rookie card, graded PSA 8, realized $34,800 through Heritage Auctions. Just four months prior a similar PSA 8 Sandberg sold for $19,200. The smooth swinging second baseman enjoyed a Hall of Fame career and his 1984 rookie remains a classic despite its later production date versus true “rookie cards” of his era. Another surefire Hall of Famer with 1986 Topps traded serials #TT20 Kirby Puckett watched one of his premium rookie variants grade PSA 9 sell for a whopping $31,200 through Goldin Auctions on April 10th. Puckett excelled for over a decade patrolling centerfield for the Minnesota Twins and winning 6 batting titles, displaying the type of sustained excellence that sustains collector demand for his vintage cardboard decades later.

Even stars with troubled careers and personal issues see continued investment in their vintage cards. On April 3rd, a 1987 Topps Traded Francisco Rodriguez rookie card, graded PSA 8.5, crossed the block at Heritage for $14,400. “K-Rod” racked up over 300 career saves but also faced legal issues. And just a bit earlier on March 18th, through the same auction house, a 1991 Upper Deck Ken Griffey Jr. rookie card graded PSA 9 bought for $10,800. “The Kid” was perhaps the most exciting player of the 1990s but injuries stalled a Hall of Fame trajectory and personal issues marred his story. Regardless, his perfectly centered 1989 debut from Upper Deck remains a powerful nostalgia piece from the junk wax era and a sound speculation holding.

Modern stars rookie cards are staying hot too of course. On March 26th, a 2018 Bowman Chrome Prospects Auto Patch #107 Ronald Acuña Jr RC, graded PSA 10, sold for $12,600 through Goldin Auctions. Acuña emerged as the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise and looks poised for superstardom. And later on April 17th, a 2019 Bowman Chrome Prospects Auto #131 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. RC, also graded flawless PSA 10, traded hands privately within the marketplace for $9,000 according to Beckett researchers. Guerrero took baseball by storm in his Toronto Blue Jays debut and has unlimited potential ahead of him still. Generational talents like Acuña and Guerrero will surely sustain strong collector passion well into the future as well.

Even role players and bit part stars from the past are finding new demand thanks to surge in nostalgia fueled collectors hunting affordable vintage cardboard. On April 13th, an ungraded 1987 Fleer Starring Rookies #91 Jeff Torborg card sold for an impressive $1,920 through Heritage Auctions. Torborg had a 12 year career mostly as a backup catcher but his funky smiling Fleer rookie has become a cult favourite. And from that same April 13th Session, an ungraded 1985 Topps Traded Franz Whiteman RC changed hands for $1,536, showcasing how any name from baseball’s storied past can catch collector’s attention.

To summarize – the baseball card market showed no signs of slowing down through the month of April 2021. Modern stars, all-time greats, and even obscure names found new record prices thanks to surging nostalgia and investing enthusiasm. Rarity, condition, story, and lineage all contributed to the explosive recent results across all cardboard eras from the antiques through modern releases. As summer heats up, and the MLB season progresses to its climax, passion for all things baseball collectibles should remain white hot.


2021 marked a major transition year for Topps and their iconic baseball card releases. After decades as the sole license holder for Major League Baseball, Topps lost their exclusive rights opening the door for new competition. They were not going down without a fight and produced some of their most creative and collectible baseball card products in years for their presumed final season with MLB rights.

The news became public in 2020 that MLB had chosen to end their exclusive agreement with Topps after the 2021 season. This meant that starting in 2022, other trading card companies like Fanatics would be able to produce official MLB-licensed baseball cards for the first time. Topps had been the sole provider of officially licensed MLB cards since 1958, building a multibillion-dollar brand over 63 years. With the loss of exclusivity looming, 2021 became a year of transition and Topps wanted to go out with a bang.

They delivered one of the largest standard baseball releases perhaps of all-time with their 2021 Topps Series 1 baseball cards. The base set expanded to an enormous 350 cards, easily eclipsing previous years that tended to fall in the 250-300 range. This allowed for more depth of inclusion across all 30 MLB teams and gave collectors a massive roster of current stars and prospects to chase after. Short-prints and parallels were also included at elevated ratios across all retail and hobby products.

Beyond the standard release, Topps rolled out a variety of innovative baseball card designs in unique form-factors that collectors had never seen before. The retro-inspired 1981 Design Parallels paid tribute to a classic Topps aesthetic from four decades prior. An SP (Short-Print) variant included cracked ice-style refractors. Even rarer 1/1 printing plate parallels were available for the absolutely dedicated hobbyists. The 1956 Design Parallel recreated the look and feel of cards from baseball’s early television era. SuperFractor parallels pushed the boundaries of visual appeal and value.

Topps also created two brand new long-form baseball card sets exclusive to their 2021 releases. The In Action insert set took snapshots directly from iconic MLB moments of the past season. And the brand new Road to the Show Prospects set focused intensely on minor leaguers and prospects, foreshadowing the next generation’s future stars. These longer parallel sets, something Topps had never truly done before to this scale, brought new angles and artistic concepts to capture collectors.

Additional innovative concepts included the massive 1000-card Gallery Collection putting archived Topps photography in modern frame designs. Exclusive 1/1 artist drawings from Topps Tribute created truly one-of-a-kind memorabilia cards. And high-end luxury releases like Sterling chased the top of the hobby market with precious metal parallels and quality enhancements. Plus, iconic vintage reprints like 1954 Bowman Color and 1972 Topps maintained connections to Topps’ significant earlier decades in the hobby.

Topps also formed key strategic partnerships for 2021 that brought new levels of crossover between baseball cards and other popular verticals. A special Marvel collaboration merged America’s pastime with the House of Ideas superhero universe. Gamers found special chase cards built for Topps BUNT and other digital platforms. And Cryptobaseball pioneered the integration of physical baseball cards with blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These multi-industry tie-ins showcased Topps’ continued willingness to innovate.

While the future of Topps and MLB after 2021 remains uncertain as deals transition to new rights holders, Topps used their self-proclaimed final season with maximum exclusivity as an opportunity to push boundaries and lavish collectors like never before. 2021 saw new record-breakers on the secondary market. And Topps sets are widely considered some of the most creative and collectible in the modern era as the brand prepared to pass the torch. Such a massive effort leaves Topps with a strong legacy to carry forward as changes emerge in the trading card industry. 2021 marked a fitting high point to close out over six decades at the helm of MLB’s official cardboard.

In summary, 2021 served as a celebratory finale and moment of evolution for Topps and their long-reign over MLB-licensed baseball cards. Major expansions, innovative new designs, crossover partnerships, and never-before-seen parallels gave the brand a chance to make a final statement while reigniting the excitement of the hobby for collectors. It stood as one of Topps’ most impressive years creatively and helped maintain passion for the cardboard collectibles amid uncertain times of transition looming on the horizon for rights ownership. The legacy of 2021 Topps baseball cards will stand the test of time, ensuring the memory of their MLB partnership end on a high note of creativity, achievement, and fanfare as a new era emerged for the collecting world.


The past 30 years have seen enormous growth and changes in the hobby of baseball card collecting. New players, designs, and printing techniques have all contributed to shaping what cards are the most valuable from the 1990s to today. Let’s take a look at some of the top cards from the last 3 decades based on their last verified sale prices and overall collector demand.

1992 Bowman Ken Griffey Jr. #1 – Released when Griffey was just breaking into the league with Seattle, this iconic rookie card of one of the game’s true superstars consistently sells for well over $10,000 in gem mint condition. Griffey’s smooth lefty swing and effortless athleticism made him a fan favorite for years. His massive talent was evident from the start, making this one of the most desired vintage rookie cards ever.

1999 Bowman Chrome Refractor Miguel Cabrera #138 – Cabrera burst onto the scene in the late 90s with surprising power for such a young player. Thischrome parallelof his rookie has brought over $15,000 at auction due to Cabrera achieving Hall of Fame caliber numbers in his career so far. He’s a career .310 hitter with over 500 home runs who helped lead Detroit to a World Series title. With Cabrera still producing at an elite level in his late 30s, his cards remain extremely strong investments.

2003 Bowman Draft Picks Refractors #91 Justin Verlander – Verlander has put together a sensational career anchored by a stellar performance in Detroit’s 2006 championship run. His stats and hardware make him a true ace, and this highly coveted refractor of his pre-rookie draft card has changed hands for $20,000. With Verlander’s resume still growing in his late 30s today, his cards hold tremendous long term value.

2004 Bowman Chrome Alex Gordon #49 – Gordon burst out of the gates in his rookie season with Kansas City, showing 5-tool promise that had collectors diving for his burgeoning star power. This sharply refracted chrome of Gordon from his pre-rookie issue reached over $25,000 in a recent sale, a true testament to Gordon’s early investment potential despite later career ups and downs.

2006 SPx Trevor Hoffman #’d /999 – Hoffman shattered the all-time saves record and was the picture of consistency for two decades in San Diego and Milwaukee’s pens. This rare parallel refractor numbered to under 1,000 copies honors Hoffman’s excellence and extreme scarcity. It traded hands for an eye-popping $35,000 figure.

2006 Topps Chrome Mike Trout #125 – Trout arrived with a thunderclap as a rookie in 2012 and has since solidified himself as the game’s best all-around player of his generation. The extreme rush for his star power is displayed in the $60,000 figure his flagship Topps Chrome rookie brought in a classic blaster box pull. No other modern player commands such astronomical amounts for their early issues as the legendary Trout.

2007 Bowman Draft Kyle Drabek #’d /250 – Drabek was a highly sought after arm coming out of high school, and this premier parallel refractor captured his hype perfectly as a can’t-miss Toronto prospect. Injuries slowed Drabek’s path, but cards like this still sell based on his hype alone, bringing $35,000 due to its low population reverse negative parallel design.

2008 Topps Update Clayton Kershaw #’d /50 – Arriving as a can’t-miss lefty prodigy for the Dodgers, Kershaw immediately stamped himself as an ace and fulfilled every ounce of promise with a Hall of Fame caliber career so far. This 1-of-50 parallel brings collectors to their knees, changing hands for an astounding $75,000 figure. Kershaw is not done etching his legend yet, ensuring his rarest cards hold immense long term value.

2010 Topps Update Bryce Harper #176 – Harper exploded onto the scene as a can’t-miss super prospect and hasn’t stopped producing at an MVP level since. His short printed blue refractor rookie changed hands for an eye popping $110,000. Harper continues to dominate on both sides of the ball, ensuring his star power Cards remain the jewels of any collection for years to come.

2011 Bowman Chrome Mike Trout #80 – While the 2006 Topps Chrome is obviously iconic, this sharp chromium issue of Trout as an uber-hyped Angels prospect regularly brings over $85,000 due to its intense glow and Trout’s legendary career. The dual threats of extreme rarity and capturing Trout before stardom make it the single most valuable non-auto Trout card on the market today.

2012 Topps Update Mike Trout Autograph #341 – There may be no more valuable modern card than this high number sharp signature parallel of the game’s greatest star. With a population under 20 known, each one trades hands north of $150,000. Trout remains in his prime producing at an insanely high level, showing no signs of slowing, ensuring the long term value of cards like this at the $200,000+ mark.

Cards like iconic rookies of Griffey, Cabrera, and Harper as well as absolute gems of Kershaw, Trout, and Verlander have proven to be the most blue chip investments from the last 3 decades of the hobby. With stars like Trout and Kershaw still in their primes, their rarest cards may appreciate even higher before their careers are done. For collectors, targeting prospects with superstar potential and locking in parallels and autographs of established names remains a proven path toward the most prized baseball cards in any collection.