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Topps to Produce Collegiate Athlete Trading Cards

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Topps, a leading sports trading card brand, is launching a line of cards featuring college athletes this fall in a deal that parent company Fanatics said will cut some players in on the profits and pair them up with school logos on cards for the first time.

As reported by CNBC, Fanatics, a sports apparel marketer that acquired Topps in January for an estimated $500 million, said the program will include more than 150 schools featuring both current and former athletes. The company also has deals with more than 200 individual student-athletes at those schools to use their names and likenesses, with the intent to add more athletes to the roster.

The majority of Power Five conference members are participating.

“We think this entire category is one that will not only bring new collectors into the space, but will also benefit student-athletes to expand product offerings available in the marketplace,” Derek Eiler, executive vice president of Fanatics’ college division, told CNBC.

Terms of the deals with schools were not disclosedbut most of the athletes at those schools will not get money, CNBC's Jessica Golden reported. Fanatics also declined to say how much the individual student-athletes with their own deals will be paid, but said compensation will vary based on their position, their public profile and how high they’re expected to be drafted.

Fanatics said it will be the first time school logos are licensed for use on trading cards. In other trading card deals with college athletes, school logos had to be airbrushed out.

“We are excited that Kentucky student athletes are a part of this exclusive new program with Topps and Fanatics which allows fans to collect official trading cards of their favorite current UK Wildcat athletes for the first time,” Jason Schlafer, University of Kentucky’s executive associate athletic director, told CNBC.

The deal also includes digital cards that can be produced quickly. Eiler said those can be used to capitalize on key moments or big plays during games.

Physical cards will be sold in packs and individually at Fanatics retailers, the Fanatics website, hobby stores and some college bookstores.

For Fanatics, the deal helps establish relationships with student-athletes before they reach the professional ranks.

“With Fanatics shrewdly leveraging the iconic Topps brand they recently purchased, their launch into physical and digital trading cards will simultaneously boost their own revenues while creating yet another avenue for student athletes to monetize their name-image-likeness,” said Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis.

Rishe said the deal could energize the autograph market for current and past stars. “Imagine what a card signed by Ed Pickney and others from the Cinderella 1985 Villanova basketball team could earn,” he said.

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