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Michael Rubin Discusses Future of Topps and Fanatics, Innovation

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On a recent episode of the Bill Simmons podcast, Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin shared insights into the company's foray into collectibles, following their acquisition of Topps and the creation of Fanatics Collectibles nearly two years ago. Rubin expressed great enthusiasm for this new venture, while acknowledging that there are still areas that require improvement and refinement.

A notable initiative led by Rubin is the Topps MVP Buyback program. This innovative scheme boosts 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 pivotal in enabling rapid and effective changes at Fanatics/Topps.

Rubin also discussed the MLB Debut patch program, an idea conceptualized by Mike Mahan of Fanatics Collectibles. This program, which became a reality thanks to quick discussions with MLBPA President Tony Clark and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, features game-used patches from rookies’ first MLB uniforms.

Coming into the trading card industry, Rubin admitted to a learning curve, specifically around redemption cards. He took seriously the feedback from collectors and hobbyists about their dissatisfaction with these cards. As a result, Topps has successfully reduced the presence of redemption cards in packs by 75-80%, by ensuring player signatures are obtained more efficiently.

To address concerns regarding the fairness of card distribution, particularly the suspicion of breakers receiving preferentially "loaded" boxes, Rubin has brought in an independent auditor to monitor how Fanatics' cards are packaged and distributed.

Under Rubin's leadership, the workforce at Topps has doubled since its acquisition, demonstrating a commitment to growth and development within the company. This increase in staff is part of a larger strategy to enhance and evolve the brand.

Rubin highlighted the importance of innovation in the industry, akin to brands like Nike, which continually reinvent their offerings. This philosophy is evident in Topps' approach to launching their popular products, transforming them into significant, publicized events.

The upcoming 2023 Bowman Draft, set for release on December 12, exemplifies this innovative spirit. The release is notable for incorporating autographs from top prospects and for 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 element to this year's Bowman Draft.

In summary, Rubin's discussion with Bill Simmons revealed a blend of passion, strategic thinking, and a commitment to innovation in Fanatics' approach to the trading card industry and collectibles market.

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