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Volume 22 No. 14
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By capturing the moment in MLB, Topps secures a new market

Among the most popular Topps Now products this season were Cubs cards and a Suzuki salute.
The Topps Co. during the 2016 MLB season sold more than a half-million baseball cards from its new Topps Now daily on-demand card service, helping reshape the company as it continues to seek a more dynamic presence among fans and collectors.

The New York-based trading card company in April introduced Topps Now as a platform to produce limited-availability cards sold in 24-hour windows commemorating highlights from each day’s slate of MLB games. It was Topps’ first coordinated effort to produce new cards over the course of an entire MLB season.

And after several prior company initiatives to develop digital products and special-issue card series, Topps Now found a sweet spot between being in the moment with sports events as they happen, and creating lasting collectibles. The Topps Now platform has since been expanded from MLB cards to several of the company’s other sports partners, including Major League Soccer, UFC, WWE and the English Premier League.

Some of Topps’ competitors, including Panini and Leaf, have also moved to create instant production card programs in the wake of Topps Now.

“This is something we’ve wanted for a long time, a way to turn product around very quickly and give fans something to remember events as they were happening,” said Jeff Heckman, Topps director of new product development and e-commerce marketplace. “We’ve finally refined the model, and it’s exceeded our wildest expectations.”

The individual Topps Now cards cost $9.99 each, with various volume purchase discounts and higher prices for larger team sets. The base product has also been supplemented with exclusive player autographed versions that have sold for as much as several thousand dollars each. But with more than a half million cards sold, the program has represented a mid-seven-figure revenue lift to Topps, including more than $1 million worth of autographed Topps Now product.

“This has been a very big growth area for Topps,” Heckman said. “We have clearly found there is a real power in the concept of now.”

Topps produced 665 different MLB cards during the initial season of Topps Now, with many points of the season receiving multiple cards to chronicle that day’s events, as well as team sets for each of the 10 playoff clubs. The most popular individual Topps Now card was one issued Aug. 7 when Miami Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 3,000th MLB hit. It sold 11,550 copies.

More recently, Topps has seen large sales around cards commemorating the Chicago Cubs’ run to the World Series title. Five Cubs-related cards issued during the postseason rank among the 10 most popular Topps Now baseball releases.

The Topps Now cards have also quickly found a vibrant collectors’ market.

“There was some hesitancy initially with this product, particularly if you look at some of the lower initial print runs early in the season,” said Brian Fleischer, senior market analyst for Beckett Media, which produces trading card publications and provides a card grading service and a marketplace. “But people have figured it out, and we’ve seen interest really grow around Topps Now. They’ve really hit on something here.”