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written or updated in April 2022.
We get this a LOT! A variation of this question includes "There are so many brands. How do you keep track of everything?". I'll cover both in this answer. First, there ARE a lot of brands. Given that most are produced by only Topps, Panini, and Upper Deck; it's amazing the number of choices there are. But instead of being overwhelmed by the number of products there are, I like to think there's a product for everyone (with many for some). Card buyers (hobbyists, investors, speculators, etc.) have different preferences; from everything including the look of the card, re-sale value, price point, number of players in the set, and whether stats are listed (to name just a few). There needs to be enough different selections to appeal to the different people that buy them. Let's take Baseball. We have some buyers who buy only Topps products. Some buy both Topps and Panini. Still others are prospect hunters and stick to Bowman (all of these product differences were discussed in earlier Q&A's). Within Bowman brands, Bowman Chrome has two autos per box, whereas Bowman's Best has 4 autos. Bowman Sterling has 5 autos, but not many base cards. Flagship Bowman has the coveted "Bowman 1st" cards
and lots of base cards. Each product arrives at different
times during the season, thus different prospects have
their first Bowman autograph card within different
brands. If you're not a prospect hunter, then these
probably aren't meaningful to you; nor is this whole
category of products (so, that lessens the confusion).
But if you're a Bowman buyer, then they're important.
As for keeping track of everything, products tend to
have a similar look and hit ratio from year to year.
If you buy Prizm Basketball one year, there likely won't
be any huge surprises the next year; so you know what
to expect. Similarly, if you're familiar with Prizm Basketball,
then you can predict what Prizm Football and Baseball
will look like. Many brands have an over 10 year track
history. There may be 30-40 products in a sport's line-up,
but only a few, if any, are new for that year. So, once
you've collected for a bit, it's not so overwhelming
(although, admittedly, if you're just getting back into
collecting after a long absence, it can seem daunting
A. I used to think there would
be a few more years of "business as usual" before Fanatics' deals took effect. Then Fanatics bought Topps well in advance of taking over its exclusive MLB license (which wasn't expiring until 2025). So now, it's uncertain what changes will take place and when they'll take place. Will Panini sell to Fanatics before their league exclusives expire? If so, when? Will Fanatics then bring back highly popular Topps brands under its NFL and NBA licenses? This seems almost certain (especially if collectors have anything to say about it), as Topps Chrome Football and Basketball (for example) would be welcome additions to the NFL and NBA card landscapes. It's another question with the same answer as the one below. Time will tell.
A...The short answer is that no one knows for sure.
Fanatics first made news in late 2021 when it announced
the exclusive MLB license (long held by Topps), effective
in 2025. This greatly weakened Topps' position in the
marketplace; and in early 2022, Fanatics bought Topps.
There is no official word yet on how things will change
with the new ownership. Will Topps cards look the same?
Will they become "Topps, by Fanatics"? Will different brands be added? There's been no announcement thus far on any of these changes, so time will tell. While physical cards haven't been publicly discussed, speculation is that, in part, Fanatics will aim to expand Baseball's digital and NFT markets.
A...There are two licenses needed to produce Baseball
cards...one from the MLBPA (Player's Association), which
players' likenesses, and one from MLB, which allows
team names and logos. Topps has the exclusive MLB license,
but both it and Panini have MLBPA contracts. This means
that Panini can produce cards with players on them,
has to obscure the MLB licensed names and logos. A
Bryce Harper card, for example, can say "Philadelphia" but not "Philadelphia Phillies", and his hat will be all red, without the identifiable Phillies "P".
Despite this limitation (and there are many Topps purists out
there who won't buy Panini Baseball products), Panini
does a heck of a
releases. Panini Chronicles is one of our favorites, and Panini
Immaculate and National Treasures offer some of the nicest
patch and relic cards
in the market. Panini products also have an advantage of sorts
in that they can boast
players that Topps products cannot. Topps doesn't put prospects
in anything other than its Bowman branded releases. So,
you must have
played in the
Majors in order to be featured in a Topps branded product. Panini
doesn't have that
same rule, so autos/patches of minor leaguers can be found in
in a meaningful way. Topps typically releases a "Hobby" and "Retail" version
of the same set that we carry (as well as sometimes a "Holiday" or "All-Star
Game" packaging, among others). The basic card set
is the same in each set. What varies is two-fold...the
packaging itself (color of box, players featured, etc.)
and possible bonuses that come with the set. The Hobby
and Retail sets (for the past 10 or so years) have each
had a DIFFERENT 5 card bonus pack. The hobby bonus pack
has been 5 random parallels from any of the cards featured
in the set (so, bonus packs can be different from each
other). The Retail bonus pack has been 5 rookies selected
by Topps for that year (so, each 5 card pack is the same).
answer got more difficult in 2006, when the
Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) changed
of what makes a rookie card a true rookie card (and added
a special Rookie card logo to each card falling within
their new guidelines as of that date). Topps' Bowman brand
historically featured many rookie players before their
major league debuts. Bowman scouts did a tremendous job
finding and featuring minor leaguers early on and producing
their first official rookie card in the Bowman set. The
rookie rules change in 2006 was multi-fold, and affected
the rookie classification of Bowman cards (among others).
The rules mandated that to be considered a true rookie
card, the player must be on the major league team's 40
man roster; so players now must be in the major league
to have an official rookie card. Bowman still features
the first cards of many MLB players. They just don't have
a true rookie classification. It's a confusing issue and
one not easily understood (or always agreed upon) by many
When in doubt, look up the card in a Beckett magazine.
True rookies should have an RC listed after their names.
difference varies by manufacturer. Generally speaking,
a RETAIL pack is one found at a mass merchandiser (Target,
Wal-mart, etc.) or convenience store (7-11, gas station,
etc.), while a HOBBY pack is found at a trading card store/hobby
shop (like ours!). Often, there is a different number of
cards per pack or packs per box in hobby vs. retail. Sometimes,
there is a hobby-only or retail-only insert set that you
can only get in one version. Still other times, the cards
themselves are different design-wise in hobby vs. retail
(different colored borders for example).
But the difference that seems to matter most to our
customers and what drives them into hobby shops is
often the markedly better odds of pulling "hits" (jerseys,
autos, etc.) from hobby packs (which is one of our
advantages being that we're a hobby store). Many of
our hobby boxes boast 3-4 hits per box, whereas the
corresponding retail box may not even guarantee one
hit. This also accounts for the cheaper retail pack
price in some cases (and why we carry certain retail
boxes in addition to our normal hobby). If you're curious
about the difference for a specific product, just ask
us. We usually know.
people get confused by this term. A relic card is synonymous
with a memorabilia card. For baseball, this could be
a card with a piece of the player's jersey, patch,
number, name, tag, MLB logo, button, bat or even dirt
from the field! For football, it could be a piece of
jersey, patch, number, name, tag, NFL logo, helmet,
shoulder pad, or game used pilon, goal post, or grass!
A "relic" is just a generic and all-encompassing
term for a piece of anything game-used.
worn" items are worn by a player, but not during
the course of a game. You mostly see event worn items
in the case of rookies. Because manufacturers want
to feature relic cards of rookies as soon as possible
(even before the rookies have been able to play in
their first pro game), they use "event worn" clothing
pieces (jerseys, patches, hats, etc.); often worn by
players at the rookie photo shoots.
of 2016, Panini secured an exclusive with the NFL.
All four major leagues have made exclusive deals with
manufacturers. Topps has an exclusive with MLB. Panini
has an exclusive with both the NFL and NBA. And Upper
Deck has an exclusive with the NHL. You'd be hard-pressed
to realize that only one manufacturer is serving each
market though, as each company produces many brands.
Topps, for example, produces regular Topps Series 1,
2 and Update; Bowman, Bowman Draft, and Bowman Chrome;
Heritage, Heritage High Number, and Heritage Minor
League; Allen & Ginter; Topps Chrome; and Gypsy
Queen (just to name a few) under their licensing agreement.
Each exclusive deal lasts a finite number of years,
at the end of which, other manufacturers could potentially
join the market (or try to negotiate their own exclusivity).